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14 September 2004 @ 05:49 pm
Back to the saltmines  

We finally released a new iteration of the HealthProLink clients web app today. The big user-visible features are allowing end-users to remove patients from the cache with a "discharge" button and allowing site administrators to configure how long a "session" lasts on the website before automatically logging out users, ranging from 15 minutes to 24 hours. Of course, the larger session timeouts probably will cause major HIPAA issues, so we should probably put in a disclaimer about that.

I've been working on a new version of our conduit for UnitStock the past week or so. The prior conduit was written with JSync, which Palm was recommending for "network-based conduits". Since then, Palm has silently dropped JSync from their latest Conduit Development Kit, and the messages from Palm Developers on their board gives me little hope that there will be an updated JSync that works reliably on Windows XP anytime soon. So, I've been diving back into Windows C++, teaching myself the Wininet API (Ugh), and doing the massive Java-to-C++ translation.

On the Bright Side, this conduit will have some benefits to the UnitStock users:
  1. Works reliably on Windows XP: Jsync is only supported on Windows 98SE, NT 4.0 x86, 2000, and ME. With this new C++ version, I should be able to add Windows XP to the matrix of "fully supported operating systems". If any of our customers ever ask for it, it shouldn't take me long to create a Mac OS 9/X version as well.
  2. Automagically uses the Proxy Server configuration from IE We've had a LOT of trouble with proxy servers. Configuring a Java connection to use proxy servers involves some finagling with system properties, and we've had to create our own UI for managing proxy servers instead of just using the system settings. This will simplify things for many of our users with stricter IS departments.
  3. Window's built-in SSL authentication, so we shouldn't have to bother with the certificate chain nightmare of Java networking. A few months ago, we ran into problems because some of the root certificates recognized and redistributed by the JVM used in Jsync were expired. Since PalmSource has no intention of fixing known bugs with this platform, I had to hack around this by hand-editing a certificates file which we revise in the installer. Ugly, ugly hack
  4. .
  5. Significantly smaller download. From 10,894 kilobytes to 203 kilobytes. I think a few of our users are going to notice that.

Despite all this, I've had to do this entire project largely on the procedure of "I'm doing this because I say so" project management methodology. It's extremely hard to convince Upper Management to spend development time on anything that doesn't give Immediat, Visible (and Sellable) improvement to the end user. Also, I think it would be a real pain to explain this to them in a way that doesn't make us look incompetent or make it sound like we should be suing PalmSource. zThese things happen.

There's still a few odds-and-ends I'm working on, but I should be able to get a testable feature-complete version by early tomorrow, which will free me up to get back to the Formulary (DrugAtlas) project. This week, I think my timeline says I'm supposed to invent the search engine.