Digging for answers

Frustration. While it feels like a waste of time and can put my stomach in knots, I think it can help me become a better person, in general, at least.

Lately I’ve been working on adapting this big open source server project for use for a client (sorry about the vagueness, but the stuff I’m working on is proprietary). In the best of all worlds, I’d deploy the client’s app on the server and it would just work. And it won’t surprise you to learn that we don’t live in that world. The world we live in has features like:

  • the server has an old version of the main framework that the client’s app uses, meaning I have to find the uses of the new features and back them up to older code
  • the server project has issued very little documentation. That might make me look for an alternative server, but it happens that there are only two alternatives and this one seems, from various viewpoints, to be the best by far
  • there is some problem

That last point might seem even more vague than the others, and believe me, I wish I could be more specific. But ya see, that’s approximately all the information I can get the server to give me about this particular problem. I try to run a tiny piece of code, and it tells me “Error: 500”. I’ve spent hours digging through the pieces of the server; it has load-balancers and caches and proxies and RPC servers talking to database adapters talking to databases, talking in HTTP and a few other protocols; it has components written in Python and Ruby, Java, and C; it has log files in many different places and with different ways to enable logging in each component; etc.

So far, all this digging has led me to the conclusion that yes, there still is a problem. That’s frustrating. But the process leads me to probe into the server components with various techniques, so I’m learning. Learned about ngrep, tonight, for example. Learned how to use the shells provided with the various databases to try to see what’s going on in them. Learned about the wonders of libvirt. Learned about some new network protocols.

At a higher level, I think these experiences teach me about patience, persistence and investigative techniques. Those abilities come in handy, and it seems I still somehow have less than the maximum amount of each of them.

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