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No excuse anymore November 23, 2012

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I went looking for some information on a website today. For a school. I won’t name the school. The name of the school’s not really relevant except that they are a school and not a web development company.

What is relevant, however, is that their website did not work. Broken links, and forms that did not work. Their “Student Absence” form was broken! And they even linked to the form saying that you can fill that in to notify of student absences. I’d hate to see how many students have been incorrectly marked as awol.

I’m a web developer and have been for over a decade. Previously, I would excuse bad websites by saying “they’re a X, not web developers”. No more. Decent web development is not that expensive, and attention to detail should be the client’s responsibility to make sure they’re getting what they paid for – not just broken links but content as well. I think that having a broken website is worse than no website at all. And it’s a reflection of your business.

Adaptability September 22, 2008

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I found this during work. I was looking for some simple way to add a prefix to every single item in a list or array. I had hoped there might be some built in function, but alas, no. However, my pathetic search string of “coldfusion modify every list item” to google gave me that article. I read it and realised it didn’t really give me what I wanted, so I proceeded to actually just put in some effort and write a one line loop.

That’s not what this post is about.

It’s about adapting to what you have, and making what you have adapt to what you need.
I’m a programmer. I work in web development, and have done so for about 95% of my work life.
I’ve worked for companies that will throw resources at you, give you whatever you need, whatever you want; and I’ve also worked for companies that give you a pen and notepad and expect you to maintain one of their main point of client contact applications.
I am now in my 6th year of developing in ColdFusion. While CF will run in linux and on macs, the companies I have worked for are typically Windows companies. My work machines have been windows machines, the system administrators have been MS administrators with a fear or aversion of linux. Couple this with a lack of desire to purchase or provide “strange” tools to developers, and one must learn adapt to maintains one’s effectiveness and efficiency. (Of course, that efficiency is not always for the benefit of the company – how else do you think I get to blog during the day?!)

The easyCF “tutorial” was written in 2003. I wonder how many people he has managed to inspire? And I also wonder how many people still would be sitting there, opening excel, waiting, rinsing and repeating?

In at least two memorable instances during my work career, I have encountered people who either do things manually when they could be (very simply and easily) automated, or refuse to share how they do something because of “job security”.

One was a requirement that I update (aka hardcode) in the file the ID of the latest promotion, so the latest one would appear each week, when the promotion was on. The ID came from a database, and I was even instructed to retrieve it from the database. So, the expectation was that I’d waste 5 minutes every Monday morning to do what I could code. I coded it. Never had to do it ever again. I could spend 5 more minutes eating my breakfast.

In my last job, I wrote a sql generator, that would general sql insert statements for me based on given criteria, or slight modifications to the generating code. Not the most brilliant coding, but it saved me hours of having to import data, or manually type data or sql. Sure, I could have made it also actually run the sql for me, however, there were many cases when I had no access to the db I needed to modify. So, I could generate the sql, save it to file and send it to others.

I also wrote a little utility that would, given an ID of a single, critical item, return me almost everything else I wanted to know about it. It would take that ID, select columns from a multitude of tables and subsequent tables and spit it all out on the screen for me. Prior to that, I would sit there and type query after query, over and over. I had way too many bugs to be investigating to be wasting my time typing queries.

I’ve got better things to do than do stuff manually, like blogging, or reading icanhascheezburger.

FireFox update kills me August 26, 2008

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I updated to Firefox 3.0.1 on my home pc by accident tonight. It wasn’t until I saw the huge back button that I realised what I’d done. :(

Thank goodness I’d already gone through this pain and found solutions for it all while I was at work.

Take THAT, userfriendliness champions for Firefox. When will you learn that there are some people who want to see the old style stuff?

User friendliness overkill August 12, 2008

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I have been suffering from a bit of bloat from firefox 2.x of late, so I figured, “hey, it’s been a little while, let’s try firefox 3, they should have ironed out any kinks by now”.

OMG! Thank god for the oldbar addon! It restored the “Awesome Bar” of firefox 3 to the neat, compact and still useful bar of firefox 2.

And also, thank goodness there are people out there that make compact themes and non sucky themes for firefox 3. Have you seen how GINORMOUS that default theme’s back button is? You’d think that they want people to always hit the back button. I’m running iFox Smooth. I’d have chosen the macfox II but it doesn’t work on firefox 3. :(

Enough with the pandering to the lame n00bs who don’t know what a back button is, or can’t find the delete key. That, or at least give power users the ability to restore things to a non pandering setting.

Olympics fakers! August 12, 2008

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Fakers! They faked it! No wonder it looked SHIT! I bet that one firework that actually looked like a footprint was the only one that was really from a camera.

from http://www.smh.com.au/news/latest-news/olympic-ceremony-faked-organisers/2008/08/11/1218306780009.html

A PART of the spectacular Beijing Olympics opening ceremony was faked, it has emerged.

As the ceremony got under way with a drummed countdown, viewers at home and watching giant screens inside the Bird’s Nest stadium saw a series of giant footprints outlined in fireworks proceed above the city from Tiananmen Square.

What they did not realise was that they were watching computer graphics, digitally inserted into the coverage at the right moment.

The fireworks were there for real, outside the stadium. But those responsible for filming the extravaganza decided beforehand that it would be impossible to capture all 29 footprints from the air.

As a result, only the last footprint, which was visible from the camera stands inside the Bird’s Nest, was captured on film.

The trick was revealed in the Beijing Times. Gao Xiaolong, the head of the visual effects team, said it had taken almost a year to create the 55-second sequence.

Meticulous efforts were made to ensure it was as unnoticeable as possible. The team sought advice from the Beijing meteorological office on how to re-create the hazy effects of the city’s smog at night, and inserted a slight camera-shake effect to simulate filming from a helicopter. “Seeing how it worked out, it was still a bit too bright compared to the actual fireworks,” he said.

“But most of the audience thought it was filmed live – so that was mission accomplished.”

He said the main problem with trying to shoot the real thing was manoeuvring a helicopter to see all 29 footsteps in a row.

One adviser to the Beijing Olympic Committee defended the decision to use make-believe to impress the viewer. “It would have been prohibitive to have tried to film it live,” he said.

“We could not put the helicopter pilot at risk by making him try to follow the firework route.”

A spokeswoman for the committee said the final decision had been made by Beijing Olympic Broadcasting, a joint venture between the International Olympic Committee and local organisers that provides the main “feeds” of all Olympic events to viewers around the world.

“As far as we are concerned, we let off the fireworks. That’s what’s important to us,” she said.

Mr Gao said he was worried that technologically literate viewers who spotted the join might be critical. But the comments received online suggested admiration of the result.

Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony August 11, 2008

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StupendoMan and I watched the opening ceremony on tv on Friday night. Well, we saw up til the athletes started parading around. I’d already read in the paper that Australia wasnt going to appear on the tv until 1am our time, so I figured I’d just watch the first part.

Was it great? We couldn’t really tell all the time.

Now, I don’t claim to know how the set up of these things work, but I can imagine that the Chinese organisers did not let every single broadcaster send an army of cameras into shoot footage that could be broadcast. So, I assume they had their own little army of camera people in the stadium (who knew where to go so they wouldnt stuff up the amazing displays and knew which bits the viewers might be interested in seeing) and they sent these video feeds to each of the approved broadcasters for their own artistic directors to pick and choose.

So, Mister Artistic Directory (or whatever s/he’s called – the person who chooses which video feed to be broadcast to their viewers at any given time) :

  • chose lots of close ups of the performers – hello? it’s a MASSIVE display, designed to be seen from further away so you can see the whole effect, but not so far away that the entire stadium on your tv can be obscured by your hand.
  • chose the dumb angle for the “Footstep” fireworks – leading me to think that the Chinese fireworks people had slacked off and couldn’t make perfect circles from their fireworks anymore, but it wasnt until one chance shot closer to the stadium that was from below the fireworks that we could see it was ACTUALLY a footprint.

With the technology we have these days, it would be cool if we could get all of the feeds, and we could be our own artistic directors, choosing the shot we want to see. It would mean we could have seen the entire drumming effect instead of just those 20 guys over and over. We would have been able to see when the dancer left the paper scroll instead of her just disappearing all of a sudden. I could have shown StupendoMan the empty seats in the stadium behind where the flag poles were.

I must say however, the smiley-face fireworks were the best. :D

[update]
I think I must revise my thinking on how these events are broadcast – I just read this fake singer and the broadcast looks exactly the same as what we watched. I’m even more disillusioned now.

are you an iPirate? July 29, 2008

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I saw this in yesterday’s paper… iPirate.

(and incase they break the link…. the text:

MUSIC fans might soon have their iPods searched by Customs officers at airport checks and face jail if a large amount of pirated music is found on them.
The push for the unprecedented searches of travellers’ laptops and MP3 players has been revealed in a leaked discussion paper relating to a treaty being negotiated by the Federal Government.

It suggests criminal sanctions for infringements on a commercial scale.

That meant innocent pop and rock fans with huge song libraries could unwittingly be hit with jail for commercial piracy, according to Internet Industry Association chief executive Peter Coroneos.

“It talks about (sanctions for) commercial infringements does that mean one, 10, 20 or 1000 songs?

“It could be that people get sent to jail for being in possession of commercial-scale quantities of copied music.”
Foreign Minister Stephen Smith’s office has confirmed the Government was a part of negotiations for the international agreement, but Australia had not signed nor agreed to any aspect.

Choice spokesman Christopher Zinn said: “Searching into people’s iPods is out of order.

“We don’t need to suffer draconian regimes to protect intellectual property.”US music labels are keen for their government to sign up other countries to the zero-tolerance stance.

What a load of shit. Do they even realise you can get a 160GB iPod and put (according to the apple website) about 40,000 songs on it? LEGITIMATELY? I really wish policy makers, governments and “authorities” would grow some brains.

Automation July 20, 2008

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I’m a programmer. I write programs to do stuff, so I don’t have to do it. It amazes me how many programmers still do stuff manually, on a daily, weekly, or monthly basis. What’s the point of being a programmer if you deliberately do not write a program that will relieve you from manual labour? I know I’ve got better things to do than do stuff manually – like ranting on my blog. ;) Like mentioned previously, if I could invent something that would let me blog by just thinking about it, I would. But I’m busy programming stuff so I can automate my day job. I’ll get there. One automated day at a time.

Computers July 20, 2008

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I like computers. Well, computers that are mine. I hate other people’s computers.
They’re set up wrong for me. They don’t work the way I want them to. They don’t work logically to my mind. I’ve found one person who kind of comes close to the way I work, but still, she has her windows start bar always displaying. I’ve stopped displaying mine because I like to have as many lines of code displaying as I can. Yes, that one extra line makes all the difference.
Same with mouse scrolling. Ever since I found out I could set the scroll to scroll page at a time instead of a measly 3 lines, I have had it set to that. It makes scrolling through huge pages of code so much easier.
Hidden extensions, simple folder view, hide system files, display inactive icons, show icons on desktop, large icons in start bar, show language toolbar, show quick start toolbar, hide status bar, use friendly http errors – all things I change. I like to be in control of the machine when I need to be.
Don’t waste my time being “friendly” – I need to know stuff, and don’t get in my way of finding out.

Moron design July 15, 2008

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More on moron design. The dumb mouse came as a bundle with a dumb keyboard. Well, not exactly. Just the connection was dumb – it’s bluetooth. Rather pointless, and after two instances of the key communication getting stuck (resulting in non stop communication of a single letter being sent) I determined I had to find a wired keyboard, or a standard wireless keyboard. Figured I’d pop out to the Dick Smith, or Office Works during my lunch hour and just pick up a standard keyboard. No “ergonomic” waves, no weird “smart” or internet keys, no weirdness – just a plain ol’ keyboard.

Ooooooh boy, was I mistaken!

Last time I bought a keyboard was in 2004. I bought myself a Logitech standard wired combo mouse and keyboard. Never had a problem with them. Went looking for one of them. Dick Smith first. Look at all those shiny boxes on the shelves… with pictures of the keyboards in them… with the keys of Ins, Del, Home, End, PgUp, and Pg Down in the new Microsoft vertical layout .

As opposed to the original, and -normal- layout

All of the keyboards at DS had the vertical layout. I did not want the vertical layout. So I moved on to Office Works, figuring they’d have a wider range on offer.

At OW, I noted that all of the logitech keyboards had the vertical layout. :( So I looked at the microsoft keyboards. I spotted one with the horizontal layout, but I still needed to feel the response of the keys, so I asked an OW guy if I could try it out. “The keyboards cannot be removed from their boxes.” “bye bye”, I replied. Not much good if I cannot feel what the key response is like. I spend a lot of time typing and I need it to not suck.

So, on to the last option – Harvey Norman. I see the same microsoft keyboard and the guy there is more than happy to let me see what the key response is like. He opens up the box, and puts it on a desk for me to play with. It seems ok, but then I notice the F keys. They do not have the F numbers as the primary labelling – they’re secondary labelling. The keyboard needs to have F Lock pressed before it will allow the F keys to function as F keys. I ask the guy if he knows whether the software will allow the F lock to be set to be on as default. The booklet doesn’t say. He connects it up to a computer and we see that the F keys do not work without pressing F Lock first (as if I didn’t know that already, but the guy didn’t know). I spot a logitech keyboard on another display computer – it’s EXACTLY what I want! Sell me that one! I say to the sales girl – the guy has been hijacked by another customer. The girl packs up the old keyboard and tries to find the one I’ve spotted. No go, sorry. The only keyboard that comes close to my requirements is this one:

I ask the girl if I can try it out – while it is flat, it still has a wave to the keys – I have to make sure I can type on it. While I can touch type, I use the wrong fingers.

It has only taken 1.5 hours for me to find a keyboard that is tolerable. Luckily, the mouse is also a standard size. VERY lucky.

So, back to the design – why did they change the design of those keys? I have seen this changed layout for the past 4-5 years, but the reason only occurred to me – Microsoft and morons. Microsoft because they require a user to type Ctrl+Alt+Del to log on (as obvious as going to the start menu to shutdown); Morons because they can’t find the Del key. Think about it – there’s NO other reason to make that delete key bigger. No typical user really uses the delete key – it works counter intuitively for the average person – they use the backspace key. Everyone knows where that one is. So, the only reason they would be looking for it, would be to log on. And what OS requires users to log on using that key combination? Windows. So, I blame Microsoft as enablers of dumb design.