Sunday, June 20, 2010

Northwestern Commencement 2010

On Thursday, I drove to Evanston for Northwestern's Commencement. There were ceremonies on Friday and Saturday. I took my parents with me, because I felt that they should be part of the celebration.

Before the main ceremony, the School of Continuing Studies (SCS) held a reception that we attended. As a distance learning student, I had not actually met many of my classmates. It was nice to finally meet some of them. I would recognize a voice in the crowd and walk over and introduce myself. I told the associate dean that I still thought that they might come to their senses and pull my diploma. He thought that was funny.

The main ceremony was on Friday at 6pm. At approximately 4:30pm, a thunderstorm hit the city, and we were drenched while we were on our way to the stadium. The weather cleared, and they were able to hold the ceremony outside, as scheduled. It was quite a sight. I was glad that I went. Mike Wilbon from ESPN and ABC (and a Northwestern Alum) gave the commencement address.

We went and had a wonderful dinner at Morton's following the ceremony. Another thunderstorm hit while we were having dinner, and we drove back to the hotel through downed power lines and traffic signals that were not functioning.

The ceremony for SCS was on Saturday afternoon at the Millar Chapel. It was hot. I was hooded and received my diploma. The drive back to Ann Arbor took longer than I expected, and I did not make it home until after 9pm. My brother Rob and Leslie were dog sitting for me, and we had steaks after I got home.

All in all, it was a wonderful weekend.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Restarting Interfaces

We recently changed five existing interfaces to "pass through" the Rhapsody interface engine that I am working with. These interfaces are made via a vpn tunnel between the two organizations.

That first day, one of the interfaces stopped working several times. I stopped and started the communication point on my end, and the connection was re-established and messages began to flow, again.

The next morning, one of the interfaces had not seen messages cross for seven hours. I again stopped and started the communication point, and messages began to flow.

I was told that "they do that all the time."

The next morning, three of the five new interfaces had stopped overnight. I restarted them, they connected and messages began to flow.

I have seen this sort of behavior with interfaces that cross through VPNs. When the interface is inactive, the vpn shuts down, but the receiving end still thinks that it has a connection. The sending end will try to re-establish a connection, but since the receiving side still thinks that it has a connection, the new connection is refused.

Being the cautious person that I am, I changed one of the three communications points to restart every hour. The interface would stop, reconnect, and messages would begin to flow, again. I wanted to see one of them work before I changed anything else.

Once I saw that this worked, I made similar changes to the other two interfaces that had exhibited similar issues. Two of the five original interfaces had not shown any issues. One was an ADT feed that constantly had traffic. The other received a "batch" of messages every morning. It would reconnect, deliver the messages, and then disconnect.

So far, the hourly re-start seems to be working. For years, these interfaces had failed. A trouble ticket would be opened, and an operator would manually stop and start the interface to get things working, again. Based on previous experience, I was able to diagnose the problem and implement a simple fix. This will save our business partner opening trouble tickets and our operators from manually restarting these interfaces.

One small step...

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Masters in Medical Informatics

I just completed the Capstone project for my Masters in Medical Informatics (MMI) program at Northwestern University. I have been working on this degree for two and a half years. This is a distance learning program, so I did all of the course work online. I found it difficult to say that I was "going back to school" while I sat in front of my computer.

I learned a lot in the program, and discovered that I knew a lot, too.

Here is my "portfolio" website that I created as part of the Capstone Project.