In years past, I did a lot of Filepro
programming work. This goes way, way back: I worked on the first Tandy Xenix
version when it was still beta - so beta that it couldn't
even do floating point math reliably! I liked the product: it was
fast (still is), partially relational, and had enough features to
create decent applications. In the 80's and 90's I had quite a few
Unix Filepro customers. Some were apps I developed, but most
were things I inherited from other consultants. Over the years
these slowly dwindled away.. better commercial software made
home grown apps less necessary and less desirable.
I picked up a Windows Filepro
customer a few years back and still have them. That they are running it under Windows put me off a little, but what the heck. Once in
the FP code itself, there's not a lot of difference.
As is so unfortunately typical of FP code, it's pretty
bad stuff. That's not FP's fault, maybe it's not any body's
fault. The language doesn't encourage bad programming, but it
doesn't discourage it either. However, the stuff basically worked.
They wanted a few changes,
so for the past few years I've added little stuff here and there. The
last time I made any changes was about six months back, and that
was just a new report to produce CSV files.
Sudden problems. Lots of lock file errors. Lots of indexes
needing rebuilding regularly, big mess. Obviously couldn't
be from a recent code change because that was six months back.
I looked at it all and felt it
had to be a network or OS level problem. I and their Windows
tech pored through a lot of logs and did a lot of debugging type
tests but could not isolate anything suspicious.
Next, we contacted FP and hired them to look at the code -
I really didn't think this was the issue, but two sets of eyes
are better than one, and the code is messy. The FP programmer
agreed with the messy part, but still agreed with me that the
nature of the errors indicated a network or OS problem. Nevertheless,
he agreed to do some code changes to try to further isolate
He did clean up and streamline quite a bit, but the errors
didn't change. This was all extremely frustrating for everyone:
the users, the tech folk, even the FP programmer; we were all unhappy.
came back to me again and asked for another thorough sweep to
see if we missed anything.
I made a different suggestion. Let's move it to Linux.
I had several reasons for that. First, I felt it might
just plain fix the problem. Linux and Unix are inherently
multi-user, Windows had that functionality bolted on as an
after thought. Changing the OS might just avoid the problem,
but even if it didn't, I felt I could deploy more and better
debugging and analysis tools on a Linux platform.
So we commandeered a unused Windows desktop and I installed
Suse 10.1 on it. We got a demo license from FP, and I installed
the Linux version. I had some difficulty, but FP was very helpful:
Ray, the programmer who had been cleaning up old code, was taking
a day off when I sent email explaining my installation difficulty,
but called me right back and helped me get everything in place
manually. Now all I had to do was convert the Windows data.
This is a place where Filepro is a little weak. You'd think
that they could easily have had complete independence, that
Windows and Linux or any other platform would only need
appropriate binaries and you could just copy over the data files.
That's not the case, though. They do provide (at cost) a
FpTransfer program that you have to use. Originally designed
for serial communication, it understands nothing of networks
but fortunately can output to and read from a file. That's the
way I used it, transferring the files with scp and then restoring
them with FpTransfer on the Linux side. That took most of a
Sunday, and I set up a few users for testing on Monday. I did
rebuild all indexes and there were a few minor menu problems
to straighten out, but basically the system was ready for testing.
And the testing went very well. The users were able to "crash"
the Windows system at will: all it took was a few of them simultaneously
entering and looking up orders and the problems would pop up within minutes.
On the Linux box, however, they could not break it: no errors
So, things were looking good. Until.. well, this is long enough
for today. I'll finish the story tomorrow.
If you have an old app and need a Filepro programmer, I can help.
Got something to add? Send me email.
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© 2012-07-14 Anthony Lawrence