The pennywise perils of clinging to ancient tech

An IT contractor travels back in time to figure out a database problem on a decrepit system

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It was the same scenario with the company's legacy software and custom applications. One day the customer called to see if I could help with a database problem. When I got there, I learned it was a Microsoft Access database linked to the CRM. The person having the problem said things were working fine until he got a new computer -- a replacement when his old one finally quit. I allowed myself to think there was some small progress on the hardware side.

The database problem was most likely caused by a conflict with using current and very old software together. Given that this was a custom Access application, I asked if there was any documentation on it.

The user showed me an old worksheet about how to use the application, but nothing about the program itself. Nobody else knew of any, either, but one person offered a short history of the application, which had been created more than a decade ago by a former employee. They didn't think any documentation aside from the how-to cheat sheet had ever been created.

I took a look at the Visual Basic code but couldn't find any comments in it. Rather than go over all the code, I decided to start with the debug code and try to trace the cause of the issue.

I located the problem after a couple of hours. The Access application was "hard coded" to save a database to the root of the C: drive on the user's computer. This file was then imported to the CRM via Access. This Access application was written back in the Win95 or Win98 days, so saving it to the root of the C: drive was no problem.

However, because the user had a new computer running Windows 7, the operating system prevented Access from saving to the root of the drive. I changed the Visual Basic code to have it save to the server where the CRM was running, and things worked fine after that.

After making the change I inserted comments in the code to give some basic documentation for the next unlucky person called to troubleshoot. And on my invoice, I also suggested they upddate their software more regularly. Hey, we can only try.

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This story, "The pennywise perils of clinging to ancient tech," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more crazy-but-true stories in the anonymous Off the Record blog at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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