There’s many a good tune played on an old fiddle

Tech Services recently passed me a customer request for help in processing ore oxidation data. It comprised lithology and analytical assay information stored as part of a full Vulcan Isis geological drillhole database.

The task required the ore-code classification of all lithological intervals in a database of around 100,000 records, and growing. The relevant information for this classification was contained across three different record types and required fairly detailed computation based on both empirical and derived assay values (around 15 values).

The customer had inherited a process that dumped the database into Excel and made the computation using VB (visual basic) scripts, which was taking around 16 hours to complete.  With such a long turnaround, attempting corrections on the scripts was proving problematic.

Maptek had initially been approached to replicate the process of the VB scripts. And I wondered if an old favourite, Inquisitor, could handle it better.

We wrote Inquisitor as a data reporting language for Isis databases back when Vulcan was sold on UNIX platforms. In fact it was released to customers at the 1996 Sydney Users Conference! As well as performing relational data queries within Isis, Inquisitor is capable of standard arithmetical computation and basic data manipulation such as field write and record deletion.

Using Inquisitor would do away with the need for exporting and reloading records, with all the inherent chances for data corruption. It avoided the nested loops of the VB script, which added significantly to the time taken to run. As the author of Inquisitor I was certain it would outperform the VB method.  

After successfully proposing this to the customer, we were provided with the details of the classification rules and responded with a fully tested Inquisitor script.

This script performs the required ore type classification on the described data in around 5 minutes, and produces a breakdown report of the classifications made. All in all a good result when compared with the previous 16 hours!

To my ears Inquisitor still plays as sweetly as ever. It is still offered in the latest Vulcan 10 release, 20 years after its introduction.

Maptek provides help on scripting as part of the standard documentation as well as training courses. And of course we are always happy to consult with customers to produce tailored scripts.


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Peter Shelton

January 22, 2016


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