Horrible ancient software that never seems to evolve, but you are forced to use...

I’m a graphic designer so … HTML?Piece of crap.

Sure, it was fine in 1994 as an extension of other crappy ftp type stuff, but today? There’s absolutely no good reason we’re not using something like Flash for every single page on the web.

Sorry. Just spent a long time trying to make a perfectly good Photoshop-designed web page work withour breaking HTML tables.

And then there’s the ASP…

Just encountered another icky piece of fetid steaming garbage…

You know those bar code scanners you see folks using in the aisles of the local supermarket? The ones that look like a gun, with a little keypad on top?

They are manufactured by Symbol Corporation, and are just what the doctor ordered when you need to track lots of little things (chemical bottles in my case).

They kindly offer a fine software solution called MCL*Designer to write applications for the scanners. This morning I had the privilege of loading a fresh code image on somebody’s scanner, so I was forced to use their nasty tool.

Back in the stone age of the early 90’s, we developed applications for the scanners using C, compiling with Microsoft Visual C++. The development loop was kind of painful since we didn’t have emulators, but they did provide a very nice library of C routines for managing the screen and keyboard. In the end, we had some very snappy applications that looked really nice on the little screen of the scanners.

Today, we use their horribly expensive MCL*Designer tool, which has Win3.1 controls, to write applications without ever being able to actually write lines of code.
You create a screen definition, call it “S_42”, set up some canned pre-processing and post-processing steps, and that’s it. The screens call each other by the canned post-processing – a typical post-processing step would be: “goto S_33”

If you want to do an “if” statement, you go to the screen definition, click on a special tab, and then fill in the text fields: “if {text field} then {text field} else {text field}”, kind of like how one sets up filtering rules in some e-mail programs.

It’s trying to be some sort of Visual Basic for these portable data terminals, but it doesn’t even come close. It’s such an awkward tool that it feels like writing code while wearing mittons. Bleach!

They must think that their application is absolutely indespensible since they protect it with a hardware key plugged into the parallel port.
If it weren’t for the fact that the code is already written, I would do the whole darned thing using C and be a much happier fellow.

I used to support an accounting package called Macola. Three years after I quit, I still get angry thinking about it. It was grafted onto a database application designed for printing companies. Despite the fact that they were bundled together, they never really worked together very well. I mean, what the hell kind of accounting package doesn’t allow more than one user to enter invoices at a time? You can’t enter costs in multiple currencies (this was a big deal for a Canadian company doing business in the US)? wtf?

Macola had obviously been written a long time ago in COBOL for DOS and had, at some point, had a half-assed, really shitty, windows interface pasted on and been “upgraded” to MS-SQL Server. It didn’t appear to have had any sort of coherent planning or design over the years either.

For example, the invoice table was largely a single, flat, file with redundant fields like “cust_no”, “alt_cust_no”, “alt1_cust_no”, “Amt”, “Alt_Amt”, “Alt2_Amt”. Why the fuck would you do that? It’s not like the interface allowed you to enter more than one customer, so why would it need to be stored 4 times in the database? Date fields were also a treat: rather than being of field type date, string, or even the number of seconds since 1980 or whatever, they were integers. So today would be stored in the field as 20040929. So for a report of sales by month, I would have to convert it to a string, take the first 4 digits as the year, the next two as the month, etc., format it as a date and then convert to a date datatype and group my report accordingly. Major pain in the ass.

I agree with you on the rest but that type of date field doen’t seem abnormal to me at all. For database files converted from a legacy application, that is the normal way that they are stored. There may be other,better ways to store it depending on the intended use but many applcations use that format. It is much better than storing dates in the form of “9/29/2004” because you can sort on it without any alteration.

I’m a radio astronomer, and I use a program called AIPS - Astronomical Image Processing System to reduce and analyse my data. It was written in FORTRAN many many moons ago, and whilst its been updated on many an occasion to account for increased capability of the instrument and better computers, its:

a) still written in FORTRAN
b) still uses a command line interface
c) still has a tekserver to enable you to display some things.

However, they have built a graphics server into it, and the program can accept some limited input from the graphical interface, but its still mainly command line.

That’s true, it’s not totally stupid, but it was a pain in the ass. What I was trying to get at was that the software had had a half-assed update years before and that despite being billed as an enterprise level accounting package was really an ancient DOS program at heart.

I was replying to Shagnasty, btw.

Yeah, isn’t it the coolest? I had the robot blown up and taped on the side of my comupter in my old office. I also like how the system card is equivalent to “whappin’” a mule with a two by four. Gotta put it in terms the Texas farmboys’ll understand…

OMG! :eek:

I used to work for a company that did 3rd party support for a couple of hopitals that used a MUMPS system. We stopped doing 3rd party support several years ago due to not being able to get support from the original vendor anymore.
Egads - your system is OLD.

OTOH, I know someone who might remember enough MUMPS to help you out a little as a freelancer while you wait to upgrade. Email me if you’re interested and I’ll ask him how well he remembers MUMPS.

Yep, still using many mainframe apps. I still have to enter a bunch of obsolete codes that were originally designed to control card feed, punch read, card sort, etc, but are now entered only because the mainframe can’t be programmed to ignore them as the programmers have all either died or retired leaving no documentation behind.

We’ve been piecemeal converting them, but I still have a handful that I have to use on a daily basis.

pro/Intralink Database blows.

Man, and I always thought it was bad when I stumbled across some old Win3.1 shareware!

I work for a large mortgage lender and our primary software was first employed in 1984. It’s been updated here and there, but it really helps to know DOS to use it. Which no one does, of course. Keep in mind we are finance people, not computer techs. I mean, I have to attach documents to emails for my coworkers - and trust me, when I am the computer expert, you know this is a sad, sad situation. And then they set us loose with this ancient piece of software. It’s great.

I use SAS software which includes a programming language that took shape in the mid 60’s. It includes, for example, a CARDS; statement that you place before data lists to indicate that the following paper cards are just data (even though it’s typed into a Windows dialog box now). But these are its origins - it has continued to evolve. And I like its older characteristics best anyway. It keeps getting harder with all the Windows crap freezing up etc.

Also use the Norton Commander to manage files on DOS laboratory data acquisition computers. A mid 80’s version, V4 I think.

But both of these things are nice.

Now, Windows Explorer in XP, which locks up the entire machine so badly that I have to pull the line cord out of the wall socket - that I could do without!

I was going to come in here and bitch about the Microsoft Office suite, but never mind. I guess I have it lucky!

Why do we put up with crap software? Would the same companies put up with crap infrastructure, inventories, fleet, etc.? Why is software so often held to a lower standard than every other part of the operation?

Gah. And all this time I’ve been complaining about having to use Lotus Notes for my work email (I dunno how ancient it is, but it is INCREDIBLY non-user friendly).

In '98 I did a six-month temp assignment for an ancient attorney whose entire office was furnished with ancient electronics - a fax machine that still used that thermol rolly paper, Word Perfect 4 for DOS, etc.

This isn’t as bad as a mainframe app or MUMPS or a system that takes 1.5 sesconds to register each keystroke, but it was pretty bad.

About four years ago, a not-for-profit which operates a methadone clinic asked me to sit on their internal auditing board which monitored their compliance with state and federal regulations. I was offered a chance to come in and sit with their key players as they did their jobs, to see how their processes worked, to help me make a decision.

They bragged about their custom-made computer system, rolled out for them in record time by a “talented” young man (turned out he was 17!) at a cost of just (just) $12,000. This computer system maintained information about every client: from attendance to drug dosages to violations of the program… everything, was in this computer system that they’d just implemented two weeks before I came in. The maintenance of accurate records was not only important so that the clients were getting the medication and counseling that they needed, but because the law demands it. At any time, the DEA could swoop in and say “give us everything” and if they didn’t get it, goodbye program.

This was the summer of 2000. The computer system was running on Windows 95 (not even NT, even though there were about 50 computers on a network). The application was flat grey and cyan cyan cyan cyan. It had clipart graphics, fake bezeled “buttons” and was completely unintuitive. Once in a process, you typically had to complete the process even if it wasn’t what you wanted to do. Many processes needed a backout – the attendance card, once printed, indicated that a client had come in that day. The card printing was triggered automatically once the last digit of the client’s ID number was entered into the attendance field. If you made a typo with that last digit, the wrong client’s card would print and that wrong client’s record would be tagged with attendance for that day. The only thing that the check-in ladies could do was set aside the wrong card and hope that the client whose record had just been tagged would show up that day. (And sometimes – if they scored some street drugs – they did not.)

It was the ugliest, stupidest, most cobbled together, piece of crap software I ever saw. That it was meant to manage something so important scared me right away from the position on the auditing board. I didn’t want the headache or nightmare that may have arisen when that thing failed, and I didn’t see it as being long for the world.

(And in fact, it wasn’t. When the database hit a certain point, it started to fail spectacularly and had to be replaced with a big ticket software system made by a professional company, the one that runs the majority of methadone programs in the country. To run it, they had to upgrade all of the computers, because they had to upgrade their OS and couldn’t on the processors they had bought into. That debacle cost them nearly $100,000 when all was said and done.)

Typical graphic designer. There’s a good reason. In fact, here’s seven good reasons.
[ol][li]It’s most often not easily accessible to users with visual disabilities.[/li][li]It’s often equally inaccessible for those with motor disabilities who do not interface with their computers via keyboards and mice in the same way that the able-bodied do.[/li][li]It’s overkill for what is still the primary purpose of the vast majority of webpages, which is the presentation of text data to the end user.[/li][li]It doesn’t separate form from content.[/li][li]It would make templating and serving data dynamically extremely difficult if not impossible in many cases.[/li][li]Flash is proprietary and has no set standard. Want a return to the browser wars like we had back in 1995? That’d be a whiz-bang way of starting them.[/li][*]Flash – as implemented by graphic designers all around the web – annoys a helluva lot of people. We don’t need graphics that move and text that fades in and out, we need the data we’ve asked for, quickly and cleanly.[/ol]

Sequoia Textbook Partner.

It works okay, when it works. It integrates POS, Inventory and Shipping and Receiving, albeit not very well.

My favorite part of is when you click on “help” you have one choice in the dropdown menu. “About”.

Half the buttons don’t show up so you’ll have a window with ------------ or Cancel as your choices.

No matter where your computer is located in the system, only one printer can be selected at a time. So, if we, 40 miles from the main campus, are trying to print to our local printer (right here next to the tower) we have to wait until whomever is using the system on the main campus is done, switch the printer, print, switch back. If someone prints to us (say, a transfer sheet) and forgets to switch back and then sends 15 print jobs of 200 pages each (this happened last week) there’s no way to clear the jobs and we end up using a LOT of extra paper.

Reports: we often want price reports or inventory reports, etc. Some fields seem to be mutually exclusive such as TITLE and PRICE. So I can have the title or the course number, but not both and the price or ISBN. My coworker has told Sequoia techs what there reports can and can’t do, to the shock of the techs. It compiles the information, but it won’t perform functions on that information.

It’s updated fairly frequently, but it feels like a beginner Visual Basic student on crack designed the interface.

Excuse the hijack, but HTML exists to represent textual data using (supposedly) informative markup. It is not a graphic design tool, and it was never intended to be, but somewhere along the way people added just enough formatting to trick people into thinking it was. I’m constantly hearing about graphic designers who “design web pages” in Photoshop and then have trouble making them work out in HTML. This is because graphic design tools and web browsers/authoring tools aim to do entirely different things. Admittedly, this isn’t always very clear (though XHTML 2.0 does make some effort to make it much more so), but an awareness of the intended purpose of HTML goes a long way toward making it easier to develop sites which are both useful and aesthetically appealing.

As for using Flash for everything: I pity any users who are blind or merely want a solely textual view of all-Flash sites. And you’ll find a bevy of other complaints lodged against it elsewhere…

Sorry again for the hijack; I’m very touchy about these things. :wink: