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  • Writer's pictureNick Lansley

Tesco Finder gets barcode scanner / remote support from remote countryside

I’m just back from one of my splendid ‘cycling and cider’ holidays in Cornwall – mountain biking through the fantastic trails set up around Calstock and Gunnislake in the day, delicious local cider procured from any one of a number of local cider farms in the evening (and it’s important to get it that way round).

While I was away, Apple finished quality-assuring the latest version of Tesco Finder, which now supports barcode scanning through the iPhone’s camera. Management and editing of product lists has been improved, too, such as being able to delete a shopping list even if there are still products in it.

It just so happened that the day following the launch of the update, our R&D server (that supports requests from Tesco Finder applications) rebooted inconsistently from a Windows Update event. At the time the hubby and I were out biking in the middle of a trail through the woodland across the Tamar river from Gunnislake where mobile signals don’t go. It was only when we climbed up next to the ruined chimney of an abandoned tin mine above the forest that my phone started alerting me that something was wrong.

Fortunately on that day the phone I had taken was my Google Nexus One which I have grown to love over the last few weeks despite its occasional glitchiness. It just so happens that some time ago I had downloaded a free app called “Remote RDP Lite” which acts as a simple Windows remote desktop client. Despite the GPRS-only data signal, I was able to reach the server / login / check a couple of logs / reboot it whilst I sat on the hillside. After 5 minutes I used the Nexus One’s web browser to check the admin web page for Tesco Finder and discovered that once again requests were coming in thick and fast – and being processed successfully.

You might wonder why it was that a colleague didn’t reboot the server? Yes I have wondered that too since an important group of them know where all the account and server login information is kept. It’s in a safe to which they have the combination, and inside is an envelope containing login information, on which I have written “Everything that has a Beginning… has an End”. This dark motto reminds me to ensure that we always have the ability to access the knowledge of any R&D project, in case one of us should be accidently terminated (for example, a losing a dimension having been hit by London bus, or mountain biking unexpectedly over a cliff).

Apologies to customers whose sparkling new Tesco Finder didn’t work for a few hours, and also to developers trying in vain to get the API to respond. I’ve stopped the server from automatically installing Windows updates and immediately rebooting – we’ll be doing that manually for a while.

On the other hand I have to admit to feeling a sense of immense satisfaction that technology has enabled me to support a leading application for customers whilst located in the technology-free remoteness of an abandoned Cornish tin mine overlooking pure countryside. If you want to see where I was located, click here

To celebrate, I felt a sip of local cider was in order….

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