Growing It At Home: Building Your Own Tools
Short On Money?
Sometimes that is the motivation. Maybe the tool you want doesn’t really exist yet? For me it was those things and the joy of building something useful. I’ve built dozens if not hundreds of tools in the form of scripts, batch files and executable code. Did you know some of the tools you are paying your employers hard earned money for came up from the same roots? Someone needed a tool to do X, and lo’ there were others who were willing to pay for that work.
Great, Someone Has Written The Tool…
They also want something called money for me to use it. That may be the case but some for profit companies are very open about what they do. One of my personal favorites is Confio’s Ignite. They have NEVER been dodgy about the data they gather or how they gather it. I’ve seen them in presentations say things like “you can gather this exact data from these DMV’s” and show people the query to pull that data. They will gladly show you their schema and how to write your own queries against it. It seems like they are giving away the secret sauce! Yet, they have a very awesome product that I and others are happy to pay for. Sometimes it isn’t just gathering the data it is everything else rapped around the data that is the real value.
I’m Still Broke, Now What?
If you read my last few blog posts you also now know there are a TON of opensource alternatives for the majority of the tools you would pay for. Some are of better quality, some aren’t. Some don’t do everything you want but maybe two of them together do meet your needs. Again, there isn’t a direct cost in dollars but there may be an indirect cost in your time. For me it isn’t just about the time spent but the enjoyment of building something new or building on someone else’s work to meet my specific needs. My overriding mantra for most opensource tools is “Good Enough”. In general, it may not have the polish of X commercial tool but it is good enough.
What I’m Working On Now?
Isn’t that the question of the day. I’ve currently got not one but two irons in the fire. One is an extension of an existing opensource project another is a project that was all my own and now I’ve started to incorporate some work done by others into it.
This was a project I recently picked up based on a need I had at my work. As some of you know, I’ve got some experience with backup compression and encryption. We are a SQL Server shop. About 70% of my servers are still on 2005 at the moment. I also wanted to move our encryption to the backup level and not at our tape drive level. We really didn’t want to spend the extra money for one of the commercial products out there if we didn’t need to. Fortunately there was an opensource project that came close to meeting our needs. With a little work I was able to add some additional features like fast LZ compression and AES encryption. Is it as fast as all the commercial products out there? No, probably not. It is fast enough for us though. Does it have all the features of the commercial products out there? Again, that would be a big fat no. Right now though, we don’t need the extra bells and whistles that come with those products, if we do and I can’t find an opensource alternative and I can’t build the feature we need then we will look at the cost again.
Central Operations and Reporting Engine
I’ve been kicking this can around for the better part of 15 years. It really came it to focus at my time with The SCOOTER Store. At one point I came close to releasing a commercial version but the timing was off. That hasn’t stopped me from working on it and releasing bits of it in the form of my SQLDIY stuff. I’ve decided to quit just puttering around with it and go full bore again just to see what would happen. Previously everything was written in C# and T-SQL. It had it’s own scheduling engine, reporting engine and GUI. Most of it is woefully out of date now and I’ll be using powershell to do the heaving lifting where possible. I’m also working on a dashboard, web configuration tool and some other reporting bits to make it even more useful. When the project goes up on codeplex I’ll write a full post on it.