The Boston Diaries

The ongoing saga of a programmer who doesn't live in Boston, nor does he even like Boston, but yet named his weblog/journal “The Boston Diaries.”

Go figure.

Friday, Debtember 29, 2006

Schlepping bits

It amazes me sometimes what we go through to move bits from one computer to another.

I wrote my humor column on an old Tandy TRS-80 Color Computer using VIP Writer. When the time came to put it online I had the distinct pleasure of copying the files, which involved the following steps:

  1. Creating a specialized serial cable to go from my Color Computer, which used a 4-pin DIN plug, to my Amiga 500, which used the more standard DB-25.
  2. Load up VIP Writer, and select the “Print” option.
  3. Load up a terminal program on the Amiga, open up a capture buffer and then hold down the space bar to fool VIP Writer on the Color Computer that indeed, it was talking to a printer. Once the column finished “printing” I then saved the buffer into a file. I did that for every column you see.

That was just to get the files off the Color Computer. I still had to get them to the webserver in question, which, at that time, was my workstation at FAU. That involved one of the following steps (which I don't recall, since it's been about fourteen years):

  1. Dial into the FAU modem bank (this was way back before ubiquitous Internet access like we have now) and connect through an intermediary system (the dialup modems were hooked into a terminal server, which didn't talk TCP/IP, but DECNET—the intermediary system talked both DECNET and TCP/IP—this was way back when there were other networking standards other than TCP/IP) and then to my workstation, whereupon I had to upload the columns using the Kermit protocol, which was dog slow, but it worked, unlike the XModem, YModem or ZModem protocols.
  2. Copy the files to an MS-DOS formatted floppy using a special program on the Amiga, which reprogrammed the floppy hardware (and caused the computer to act very strangely while doing so), then physically take the disk to FAU, where I then used a Sun Unix workstation in the Computer Science Department to copy the files off, and then use FTP to get them to my workstation, where I could convert them to HTML and so place them online.

Thankfully, such days are long past us, and the ability to copy data is indeed easier. I'm working on a project at The Company whereby we need to extract data from QuickBooks. This involves:

  1. A program running on the same computer as QuickBooks that talks to QuickBooks using COM, with the data encoded in qbXML.
  2. The same program will then package the data into another form of XML and use SOAP to transfer the data to a webserver.
  3. The webserver is running a program that can accept the SOAP request, then extract the qbXML from inside the SOAP request. It then extracts the data from inside the qbXML and then we can work with the data. Probably by passing it onto yet another program.

Yup. Nothing like wrapping data into two different XML formats, transferring it across the network like a webpage, then extracting the data from within two different XML formats.

Sure is easier than the old days.

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