2007/08/15 - Meal Booking & Maintenance Request Systems
As you're no doubt aware, neither the meal booking system nor the maintenance request system (both hosted on have worked since the University's admin server was upgraded over the weekend. The gist of the problem is that since the upgrade, mealserver hasn't been able to reliably connect to the database on the admin system. Users will have seen errors mentioning "SQL error: [unixODBC][OpenLink][ODBC]" from time to time.

During the course of this afternoon and tomorrow we intend changing the way the applications on mealserver work to try and resolve this problem. Whilst this means that we're closer to a solution, it also means that you're unlikely to be able to use these systems until Friday at the earliest.

For those interested in the technicalities of what's going on, the problem lies in the third-party database driver (OpenLink) that we've been using to connect the applications running on mealserver to the database on protea. We've been using this driver for a long time, but until the upgrade the server component was running on a Solaris-based machine. The University's admin systems now run on a Linux machine, and it appears that OpenLink's Linux driver doesn't work entirely correctly. We've spent the last couple of days in communication with the vendor trying to resolve this.

One of the side effects of the changes on the admin system, however, is that the OpenLink driver may no longer be necessary. We may now be able to connect to the database without the abstraction layers provided by this driver. We've tested this extensively on non-production systems and we're reasonably confident that it'll work. Our goal now is not to fix the broken OpenLink driver, but to do away with it entirely. This involves changing the operating system that mealserver uses so that we can make use of the database vendor's Linux driver. This should be technically reasonably simple, but will be time-consuming.
Both the meal booking and maintenance request systems are available again.

Given the changes that've been made to these systems in the past few days, it is possible that there will be some teething problems, but we'll address them as they're reported.