27 Aug 2006 alvherre   » (Master)

A nice gift beats dollars

Got a new book collection today. Yay! Huh, and that has to do with a PostgreSQL-related blog exactly what, you ask?

The story goes like this. Back in 2004, I went to Caracas, Venezuela, for a couple of weeks. During my stay, I was asked to do some consulting for a courier company that was using PostgreSQL for its mission-critical database. It was getting very slow, they whined, and had been approached by DB2 salespeople to replace it. The company that did the Linux support for them was not very fond of ditching their free database for some proprietary stuff, so they asked me if I could have a look and try to "make it faster".

Turns out they were running PostgreSQL 7.1, which was already quite old, and had some horrible queries and very big tables. Most of the queries did not properly use indexes, so their I/O channels were saturated by the constant seqscans. They needed a lot of tuning, caring, and query refining; but what they needed the most was an upgrade. So that's what I focused on at that time.

Of course, I was paid for this work.

When I got home, however, they were still having some issues, and on IM I kept giving suggestions on how to improve queries, pointing the appropriate indexes to create, suggesting FSM configuration improvements and proper vacuum scheduling, etc. This went on for almost two years. In those months I never saw a dime from them and I didn't really care, because it was entertaining most of the time, and a good experience; and I already had Command Prompt's wage, or EnterpriseDB's before that, so it felt a bit unethical to behave like we had a support contract.

A couple of weeks ago, however, they were having problems again, queries were taking too long, customers were starting to be annoyed and a pretty girl was starting to pull her hair out — so one sunny saturday her and I sat down and studied some of the problems and finally figured'em out. Just before I left, I tossed my (shameless plug) Amazon wishlist URL to give her an idea.

Today I got this:

For you the not-curious-enough-to-click, that's "The Complete Calvin and Hobbes". That's right, ten kilogram and ten years of Calvin and Hobbes in the most beautiful hardcover edition I can imagine. Who wants two years of support's money? I'll take a nice gift like this any day. This one will keep me busy for quite a while. Thank you Jacqueline!

Don't get me wrong — I, like most of you, need the dollars anyway for paying the rent and other mundane stuff. I also enjoy being able to eat :-) and will happily continue working on stuff I don't quite enjoy as much as doing PostgreSQL support over Jabber, just to have that privilege. I still have fun by hacking on the challenge that is Mammoth Replicator. But I'm a Calvin and Hobbes lover and things like these cannot be beat by mere checks.

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