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Perl Programming The Military

An Army Medal For Coding In Perl 192

shocking writes: Arizona National Guard member Vivin Paliath was surprised to be commended for writing Perl scripts and Excel macros while his unit was deployed in Iraq. His work automated a number of previously manual processes that were part of the logistics processes of his unit. He wrote, '[A]s a programmer, I'm constantly looking for ways to make my job easy. I didn't want to sit and add qualifications, and print licenses one by one. I was too lazy for that, and worse, the whole thing was horribly inefficient. So I decided to figure out how to automate the process. ... I started writing Perl scripts to query the data. By the time we had reached Iraq, I had a working script that generated licenses as text files for all the soldiers. The script only took a second or two to run, and the longest part of the process was simply printing out the licenses. But I wasn't done yet. I was still annoyed that I would have to add driver qualifications manually. So I wrote another script that would go and add qualifications to drivers en masse. The script even had a configuration file where you could specify what qualifications you wanted to add and to whom."
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An Army Medal For Coding In Perl

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  • by cirby ( 2599 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @12:05PM (#47333529)

    One of the criteria is "meritorious service."

    Writing - on his own - a set of scripts that save that much time for his unit? Should certainly qualify.

  • by Chelloveck ( 14643 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @12:05PM (#47333533) Homepage

    Sounds like someone who embodies the Three Virtues [threevirtues.com] of a programmer: Laziness, Impatience, and Hubris. Well done!

    I'm always amazed at what non-programmers are impressed by. Code up some major application, and... Why doesn't it have this feature? Why does it have that workflow? What kind of colorblind dyslexic idiot designed this UI? But whip up a simple script to automate some repetitive, routine task and you're a genius!

  • Ah, lazy .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by gstoddart ( 321705 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @12:06PM (#47333545) Homepage

    I was too lazy for that

    More useful things have been invented out of an express desire to be lazy than I can even count.

    The realization of "WTF am I doing this by hand when I can write a script" sparks so many cool things.

    If he streamlined his job and got better results I don't see why he shouldn't get recognition.

    I'm sure the military hasn't introduced the Perl Star or anything, so I'm sure they've worked within existing stuff to say "damn, son, that's some fine work".

  • by Dutchmaan ( 442553 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @12:19PM (#47333679) Homepage
    Get this man to the VA stat!
  • Re:Ah, lazy .... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by c ( 8461 ) <beauregardcp@gmail.com> on Friday June 27, 2014 @12:25PM (#47333755)

    More useful things have been invented out of an express desire to be lazy than I can even count.

    Not so much a "desire to be lazy", but more about pre-empting laziness.

    Laziness is like entropy; it's gonna happen.

    Tedious manual processes are inherently error-prone. If everyone is conscientious and on-the-ball, things generally work, albeit less efficiently than we'd like. But that's not sustainable in the long term... eventually, people get into a groove and start getting sloppy.

    Designing, writing, testing, and rolling out (usually against the inertia of an existing process) a program isn't lazy. It maybe allows the programmer to be lazy later, but in the short term actually a lot more up-front work. It's just a shedload more interesting that the actual work it's replacing, which is usually the main motivation for doing it at all.

  • Re:This is dumb (Score:5, Insightful)

    by K. S. Kyosuke ( 729550 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @12:47PM (#47334011)
    Quoting: [pentagon.mil]

    President Kennedy, in a memorandum to the Secretary of Defense, dated 1 June 1962, authorized the award of the Army Commendation Medal to members of the Armed Forces of friendly foreign nations who, after 1 June 1962, distinguished themselves by an act of heroic, extraordinary achievement, or meritorious service.

    He used VBA and Perl in order to successfully speed up military bureaucracy - don't you think that qualifies as both heroic and extraordinary achievement, respectively?

  • Re:Illegal? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Blrfl ( 46596 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @12:52PM (#47334073) Homepage

    The government develops tons of its own software.

    What law says that everything has to be contracted out?

  • by Kaenneth ( 82978 ) on Friday June 27, 2014 @02:06PM (#47334679) Homepage Journal

    Years ago I was the IT guy for a local government budget office.

    After I stopped the servers from crashing any spending an hour rebuilding every day, and fixed the backup system so it actually backed up data, I had plenty of free time.

    Instead of hiding in my office looking busy while playing MUDS/Nethack I took the time to sit with individual users, and quietly //observe their workflow.//

    They spent most of the day comparing two columns of numbers (one from mainframe, one from SQL) for equality.

    After a quick VBA prototype, they ended up with simple daily reports of where the numbers didn't match, saving about 40 hours a day between the 20 analysts.

    The key thing many IT guys miss, is taking the time to fully understand what the users actually need/want; but instead jump to conclusions that everyone wants what a programmer wants.

  • Re:This is dumb (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday June 27, 2014 @04:42PM (#47336097)

    All the perl haters missed the whole point of the story. Someone in IT got appreciated who wasn't on the windows help desk! +1 for skilled employees! We used to have a sign posted at work stating, "Doing a good job here is like wetting yourself in a dark suit. No one notices but you get a warm feeling"

"Well, social relevance is a schtick, like mysteries, social relevance, science fiction..." -- Art Spiegelman