Thursday, December 28, 2006

you are my tech support

that is not me at the desk, or standing in the background. i did operate, for 9 months on graveyard shift, a system like this. then they put me on the day shift and set me to programming.

this is a geeky kinda post. i'm asking for tech support. you're all welcome to read everything, but the next three paragraphs might be a bit boring. you can skip down to the line of stars, after which i go for nerd humor.

i'm the volunteer bookkeeper for the local affiliate of habitat for humanity. i had thought that when we retired from paid work i would eventually volunteer to do carpentry for habitat. they build houses. i have built houses. it didn't work out that way. several months ago i saw an ad in the local paper asking for a volunteer to do bookkeeping for them. i responded. they accepted. i go to the office every tuesday for maybe two hours, sometime three. mostly i do data entry. they use quickbooks. the most creativity i exercise with quickbooks is in the area of special reports.

habitat also carries their own mortgages, and quickbooks is not amenable to the record keeping required for that. the previous bookkeeper, who carried the responsibility for eight years, created an excel spreadsheet for tracking mortgage payments. it works, but a spreadsheet isn't really the right, uh, framework?, software environment? to do the job. we agreed that Filemaker, a relational database system with which i have some experience, would work much better, but it costs several hundred dollars to purchase. i do have the, roughly comparable, microsoft database product Access as part of office 2000, so i'm working on a mortgage tracking system using it.

whew! that was a load of explanation. here's the rub. i haven't yet discovered how to manipulate Access to produce new records in a file ("table" in access talk) of transactions. this isn't straight ahead data entry. a mortgagee's monthly check is apportioned to taxes, insurance, reserve, and principal, and partial payments are allowed, so i have to calculate the apportionment. i can assemble all the relevant numbers, properly apportioned, on a screen, or form in access talk, but can't figure out how to build and record a transaction record of that data. i'm hoping that some one, or more, of you out there will be so kind as to lead me out of this wilderness. probably pointing to some way of doing this that every one else sees as obvious.


here's a programming story.........

long ago and far away, in oakland, ca. i wrote a large computer program in a very basic language (autocoder, for ibm 1410) that built and accessed a database on a harddrive the size of a volkswagen. it was encoded on "ibm cards," in hollerith code. there were enough cards to fill a file cabinet tray-maybe 30 inches. over two thousand cards. a lot of coding. the first thing one did with a program back then was to run it through another program called a compiler, which translated it into machine instructions, or not, if there were errors. to stop the program from actually running, should it compile without errors, i put an instruction right up at the beginning to go to the end. time passed while i eliminated errors, generated test data, and worked with other programmers coding other parts of this system.

when it came time to test the whole system of several programs mine wouldn't run. after several hours, and more than one day, of searching in vain for the hangup, in desperation i took a printout of my program to a colleague and asked him to check it. "why won't it run?" i pled. in less than five seconds, about the time it takes to focus on the page, he pointed at the very first instruction and said "oh look, you branch to end right here."

ok. this is chez bums after all, not some geek chatroom. bad puns and cheap humor at my expense will be appreciated. also any hints about my access problem.


don't forget those photos for "good planets." send them to divajood of journeys with jood whose email is jkblue at cox dot net in time for this coming saturday.

laura at somewhere in nj will be hosting good planets saturday photo sharing for january. her email is lc-hardy at comcast dot net.

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