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The "Real-Life" Story of the Month

So where do hotel movies come from anyway? It seems that there are businesses that contract for communications satellite bandwidth, negotiate deals with Hollywood execs for a package of movies, and install satellite dishes and computers in hotels to pick up the movies and route them to the rooms. When it is time to pay the bills, central computers dial up the PC's in hundreds of hotels, upload the viewing records, and generate invoices that are mailed to the hotels for payment.

Axian was hired when a client acquired a business whose central computer was a 1980's vintage VAX running C code under VMS. No reason to stay with the old hardware - we were brought in to port the data collection program and all of the telecommunications software to a Pentium-based system running NT Server.

It was a challenging project and needed to be completed fast.. before the VAX was unplugged and decommissioned. The C code ported fairly easily, but the communication protocol between the VAX and the local PC's was old and poorly documented- and turned out to have been "fine-tuned" in obscure ways in various hotels. And, it's tough to dial-up a remote computer and look at it's communication set-up if it won't answer the phone because it is configured wrong!

When you are doing a conversion from VMS to NT, don't forget that the port may well involve more than just the translation of VMS system calls into their NT equivalents; the code may need to be entirely restructured due to subtle differences in the behavior of these calls on the two different platforms.

And when it comes to modems, beware the subtle but important differences between devices claiming to be Hayes-compatible, and the nuances of configuring them. Also beware the bizarre behavior that a PBX can introduce!

Today, the NT system is on-line as the new host processor, with its bank of modems blinking away, and the VAX has been retired to the big scrap yard in the sky.


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