Friday, February 06, 2015

Sending emails automatically, continued

I finished my previous blog entry by writing someone [has just] phoned me and asked how she could send a customer a [PDF] copy of all the delivery notes for that customer for the previous (or current) day. Despite considering several hi-tech solutions, some of which would have utilised the new capability of sending email automatically, we plumped for an exceedingly low tech solution. As the delivery notes have already been printed, probably the easiest way of sending a PDF would be to scan the delivery notes on our combo printer/scanner; the address of the recipient is already stored within the machine, so the scan can be sent directly to the customer.

This reminds me of a story from when I was young (aged somewhere around 6). My family had traveled from Bristol to Bournemouth in order to see my grandparents (this is one way of dating the story as they died when I was young) and we stopped at a roadside restaurant in order to eat (a 'Berni cafe', IIRC). At the time, I was problematic in my eating habits and requested a simple omelette, with nothing added. When the omelette was served, it came with some addition (I don't remember what); when my parents complained, the chef came out and explained that it was beneath his professional dignity to serve a plain omelette. This is how I feel about the PDF solution. On the other hand, it achieves the target with minimal overhead.

Other circumstances lead me to think of another use of automatic emails: the costing program takes about eight hours to run, which is why it is always executed from the task scheduler. But sometimes, for unknown reasons, it crashes, normally soon after it starts (just after midnight). If I remember to check whether this program is still running, I only do so at around 9am. It occurred to me that the task scheduler could run a check at 6am to see whether the costing program is running; if it isn't, then I should be sent an email.

I found a way of doing this (the problem is checking whether the program is active) and it will be interesting to see how it works out. I decided to send the email both to my home address and to my mobile phone: I normally check emails at home at 6am, so the timing will be right.

This reminds me of Cliff Stoll and "The Cuckoo's Nest", a fascinating book which I read twenty five years ago. He was able to program his server to send a message to his pager when a certain event happened. It's only taken me about 28 years to catch up.

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