You Can Never Go Home, or Can You?

Over the past several weeks, I’ve been picking up the pieces of a project that I thought I’d finished when I left the TAF back in 2005. However, it seems that my past has returned to haunt me, and I’m once again digging into a server that I’d implemented using VA Smalltalk’s Web Connect and Web Services frameworks.

It’s an eerie feeling returning to a project like this after six years, sort of like returning years later to the house you grew up in. A few changes may have been made here and there, but you can find your way around in the dark. In the case of my project, a couple of people have hacked on it during the intervening years, but the code was largely intact.

One of the biggest initial hurdles I had to overcome was the fact that someone had decided that a slightly different version of the code was needed for use in one of the plants at TAF. The server had been running happily unchanged for over a year. Normally, I would have continued to ignore for a while longer, but it was the last part of my Smalltalk upgrade project, so I had to be able to rebuild the server. This proved to be a challenge.

One of my hard and fast rules is that one should be able to load one single config map into a virgin image to create a specific version of a packaged image.In the case of this server, the specialized code was gathered into its own config map, but the config map itself had no required maps defined. As a guide for building the runtime, the map was completely useless. The map contained applications that were in more general config maps that built other images, but different versions with changes for which there was no documentation. Some of the code changes appeared to be gratuitous, and in other cases, there were methods that referred to methods that couldn’t be found anywhere in the code repository.

I eventually managed to shoe-horn the contents of this map into one of the existing complete maps to complete my migration, but we’ll never know what code was actually running prior to the migration. All we know is that things were working before the migration, and they continued to work after the migration. With the migration complete, I was free to concentrate on the more interesting problem of figuring out why some things that should have been working weren’t anymore, and adding some interesting new functionality.

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