Pushing PCs, Finding The Wall

Pushing PCs, Finding The Wall

We have had some fun here in the last several weeks.

1. A client asked us to look up 1.8 million IP addresses that are three years old, remove all duplicate, identify those no longer active, and make a pdf of the splash pages for all active sites.  Lacking the infinite number of moneys and PCs, our main man wrote a program to complete it.  What was interesting is that one of the MS display components accepted the 70,000 plus results without generating an error – but only displayed about 5,000 records.  Main guy says it’s a 16 bit problem – a “32768 error, a common limitation”, but he has never before encountered a control that didn’t generate an error or crash.  It merrily continued to clear the contents and restart.  A little reprogramming, and the problem is fixed — spurred on by thought and smell of all the monkeys we might need to hire, feed and clean up after.  After fixing some IPv4 vs. IPv6 issues, problem solved.  The lesson?  Sometimes even the layman discovers inconsistencies that have escaped the eye of the professional.  The difference?  When brought to the professional’s attention, they immediately recognize the problem and solution.

2. During a recent VOIP conference, we began sharing files.  Even though both of our services were rated at over 10 Mbps, our downloads were killing the VOIP connection about 15 seconds after hitting the Enter key.  This problem is becoming more common as VOIP is more widely adopted.  The solution is specific to your hardware configuration, but there are solutions.  To determine how to improve the quality of your VOIP conferencing, Google “reserve bandwidth for VOIP connection” and you will find specific solutions for your hardware.

3. Working on the preparation of a PowerPoint (ppt) presentation, I was assembling the document images and descriptions when I crossed some memory limitation at around 50 MB – then, bang … that was it.  This is where the computer displays what we used to call a pinwheel – that little animation indicating to the user that the computer is still running.  I don’t know why they’re still used when they are apparently not connected to the process they represent — the little graphic will spin forever, even when the program has crashed.  Further research reveals that ppt has somewhat arbitrary limits, and I had busted though them.  From what I found on the web, 35 to 50 MB is the limit, with just under 300 MB of images.  I had to break the project into 15 separate ppt presentations as a workaround.  Someday software will catch up with hardware – but I’m not holding my breath.  I am trying to avoid becoming a power-point ranger…but….

Overheard.  “Power corrupts – PowerPoint corrupts absolutely.”  I tend to agree.

4. The next challenge we expect to face is scouring thousands of HUD 1 forms in the investigation of a fraud we strongly suspect occurred (our hypothesis is phantom recipients of funds, or phantom checks).  We need to do this using a method that is both automated and dead nuts accurate.  We’ll see …

Trying to remain on the forefront of investigations and discovery, our work, increasingly requires us to experiment in unexplored areas, often developing software to summarize mountains of data.  This is not “cutting edge” work – it is often “bleeding edge” work.  All approaches come with limits, some known and some unknown.  Pushing the limit can be as much a part of the fun as it is the challenge – and it all has to be done within the known limits of time and treasury.

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