Author Archives: David A.

Professionalism, Here I Come!

The PHP logo displaying the Handel Gothic font.

Image via Wikipedia

Despite my effort to focus my blog entries more on what readers would like to see, this post functions more as an update to my progress becoming a web developer. It’s me-time.

A few days ago, I posted on Facebook that I was available to design and set up websites for anyone who would like one. It’s free of charge, if only so I can build a portfolio to post here, on my blog. The idea is to create some killer websites that are completely automated in updates and simple to administer. I would provide the awesome interface on a free (or paid) hosting account for the client, hand them the username and password (read “keys”), and link the website to my homepage. My website, currently this blog,would then link back in the profile section to show potential clients/employers what my skills actually are.

So that’s the plan. Cool, huh?

First, I started researching the ways to automatically update websites. As a starting point, I plan to build websites using Drupal and WordPress, depending on the needs of the client. Upon doing some research, it looks like they can both be managed by SVN. The problem with this is that I haven’t found a free host the supports both SVN and Drupal/Wordpress. So the hunt continues…

I’ll be continuing my research, however I suspect I’ll have to write my own script in PHP to check the current version of the software, then update automatically when a remote location (RSS feed?) is updated. More on this later.

Linux Adobe

SVG Logo of Inkscape

Inkscape Logo

As my skills in web development, well, develop, I find it more difficult to work without software packages like the Adobe suites. Web Design Premium or Master Collection, I learn and use many of the pieces with each other. The primary difference between Adobe products and their open source alternatives are the lack of interaction between. Take the popular graphics alternative for Photoshop: GIMP. Now take the web development alternatives for Dreamweaver: Netbeans, Aptana Studio, or Bluefish*. What about the vector graphics alternative for Illustrator: Inkscape? All of these products alone provide comparable service with their Adobe doppelgängers, yet I don’t see Inkscape working with Bluefish, nor do I see it work with GIMP. It’s the interoperability that the open source versions lack, and that’s quite an important part!

Just today I went to a barbecue my friend was hosting and talked to a telecommunications major with whom I am also friends. He discussed taking a web development course this summer and how he took Photoshop files and exported them to Dreamweaver. He didn’t have to touch one bit of the code menu in designing for iWeb server, which is free web hosting offered to students here at Ball State. I’ve heard other examples of people exporting from Fireworks into Dreamweaver so they can focus more on the design, rather than spending hours getting the code to display exactly how you want. I get the feeling this is completely foreign to many open source advocates, since they still push the idea of using the alternatives.

The next generation of open source projects is starting to get the right idea. Take BlueGriffin for example. They create a WYSIWYG editor with a code view, based on the same Gecko rendering engine that Firefox 4 uses, and add built-in SVG-editing software. Is it Inkscape? No. Is this package perfect? Not by any means, but it’s a step in the right direction. BlueGriffin edits SVG files with another open source software, SVG Edit. The reason I’m not supporting this project more is because (a) I just learned about it while researching for this post, and (b) the developers charge for most of the useful add-ons. One of the major add-ons I see as a contributor for BlueGriffin being a Dreamweaver replacement is the ActiveView. It automatically synchronizes the Gecko-rendered WYSIWYG view with the code view. This is comparable to using Firefox’s extension Firebug to do a more permanent edit of the HTML and CSS. It would also be a great asset for those trying to learn HTML since they could toy with the appearance to understand how it changes the code. Another significant add-on is an adapted version of FireFTP, which increases the potential of adding similar website synchronization as Dreamweaver has had.

Adobe Dreamweaver

Dreamweaver CS5

Still these are just strides in the correct direction. What I would like to see within the next major revision of GIMP, Inkscape, and Bluefish is cooperation. I want to see GIMP output a file as HTML and automatically open it in Bluefish for editing. I want to see Bluefish edit an embedded SVG file by opening Inkscape. I am aware of some capabilities Bluefish has, however it shouldn’t only be up to Bluefish to bridge the gap. The individual projects are pieces that don’t yet completely fit together, but I feel they will soon.

Still, Adobe is about more than just web design; they also focus on video editing, flash programming, and more. We need to see some more of our renowned cooperation in the world of open source to truly offer the “open source alternative.”

* Bluefish wasn’t originally in my top choices for a Dreamweaver replacement, but upon further inspection I see how its features have changed since I last used it. I can also see this project being more useful than Komposer, and would like to see a few more features be merged before I’ll fully adopt it: (1) Cleaner WYSIWYG editing; (2) Using Firefox 4′s Gecko rendering engine to preview content.

Pokédroid

The player finds a shiny Zubat in Pokémon Fire...

Image via Wikipedia

A few days ago I received word the Pokédex application known as Pokédroid has been taken off of the Android Market. I remember when I first got my Nexus One (N1) in July of 2010, it seemed like one of the coolest apps ever. However the N1 has limited internal storage to the tune of 512MB, and only 180MB are usable since it needs some space to store the OS, but I digress. Space was at a premium so I uninstalled the app and installed ones I thought more important.

Not even a year later, The Pokemon Company decides to cry foul on one of the top apps on the Android Market, Pokédroid. They cried trademark violation and that this Pokédex application (among many others) wasn’t considered “fair use” under the DMCA*. As I look more into Pokédroid, I find a talented developer quaffed down by “the man” in an effort to push their own free product independent of him. They would hear nothing of cooperation on the app, merely that he would stop development on it.

Outraged, I scour the file sharing sites in hopes that I can find a backup somewhere**. Finally I stumble upon reddit discussion with links to personal backups of everything the developer released at last update. It was a miracle and I immediately installed it on my phone. Several things changed since I last used this app, including adding the latest generation of Pokémon (Black/White). This app had over 450,000 individual downloads in its lifetime and numerous users were heartbroken on its removal. I had to do something.

Even now as I type this sentence out, I find it tragic that the author didn’t open up the source code to the public. I’ll soon be asking him about requesting the official source code, though I have a plan on decompiling the application as it is. Would anyone be interested in seeing this project continue?

The developer’s blog has the rest of the story complete with outraged comments from Pokéfans.

** This is not an admission of piracy since the application (while normally available) was free and I have it on good faith that it is fair use of the Pokémon trademark. If you are a legal representative for Nintendo, Game Freak, Creatures inc., or anyone else currently laying claim to the Pokémon trademark, feel free to contact me regarding why it is not fair use.

Android Development

Due to recent revisions of the Android Developer’s corner, I’m looking more into creating apps for Android and trying to make some cash on the side. I’ve also been looking into ad servers such as AdMob (now owned by Google) and MoPub (open source and a recent startup) for free versions of apps I develop. Of course I would offer premium versions as well to get rid of ads, but I’d like to have some compensation for my time and the startup fee Google charges for new developers ($25).

My thought is that most users are willing to pay between $1 and $3 for a decent app with awesome functionality. If I find a niche that hasn’t already been covered, I could continue to update apps and get a ton of experience in a relatively new technology market. Great resume builder! At the same time, learning the Android SDK would allow me to develop apps for personal use and actually meet the needs of a part of the mobile web market.

These are just some ideas that have been floating around in my head as of late, but we’ll see if they go anywhere.

Notre Dame Gala 2011

I sit here typing out this post, hoping it will calm my nerves as I prepare for the coming performances. The Notre Dame Gala is just like any other competition for most of our club (read “class”). We prepare for it much like any good student would prepare for final exams. We spend hours in the studio drilling, practicing, praying we’ll get just one ounce better. Spending hundreds of dollars out of our own pockets to bring in a professional to whip us into shape. This is the life of a ballroom dancer.

Ballroom Dancers in Full-Swing

David McDonald and Ivana Gaddam dancing East Coast Swing at the South Bend Century Center

We don’t get class credit for doing what we do. We don’t even get a mention in the school paper. The only thing we do get is the satisfaction of dancing fantastically and spending a good time with close friends.

***

It’s now after the competition and I feel… interesting about how things went. Many of the Ball State competitors were ecstatic to hear our previously mentioned professional instructor, Godiva Gaultier, would be in the audience. I feel we were not fairly judged on our ability for a myriad of reasons: being a smaller club, having less money, our presence as a newer club, etc. Godiva was a calming presence who gave us insight on what a judge is thinking, looking for, and provided constructive criticism after each couple exited the dance floor. We’ve become closer as a group and consider Godiva to be not only a fantastic coach, but a close friend. In a nutshell, Notre Dame’s competition was a learning experience for all.

On another note, my parents were very gracious by providing food for all 17 of us (spectators included) on Friday night. During our late dinner of pizza from Pizza Hut, David McDonald surprised us all with personalized cards indicating his thanks for all that we’ve done, his praise for how much we’ve progressed as dancers (and as individuals), and a few other points that only raised morale. A few cried, others laughed, and I, for one, have never felt more unified than that moment.

The males stayed at my house while the females stayed at Laci’s. I can only speak for my experience the night before, but we had a lot of fun swapping stories while ironing shirts, pants, etc. We also played a massive game of Apples to Apples before sending the ladies off to Laci’s house for the night. All-in-all it was a fantastic weekend filled with much camaraderie and teamwork.

We’ve accumulated a large enough group of individuals I feel it’s the right time to transition to a sports club. We are currently classified as a special interest club, but our stated purpose is to compete in collegiate events, which sounds like a sports club, and sports clubs have access to many more of the university’s resources than special interest clubs. It’s a no-brainer at this point. My only concerns are if the other members of the exec board agree, and how we’d implement this change if Ball State doesn’t allow the switching of categories for student organizations.

I foresee a good outcome for our ballroom club in either event. These are growing pains necessary for a successful organization and I can see the next generation of officers already taking charge of that growth.

Ubuntu Netbook and Desktop Editions Merged?

Canonical recently announced some of their changes in Ubuntu 11.04, particularly about the merging of Netbook Edition (a.k.a. Netbook Remix) and Desktop Edition. Server Edition will remain as a separate entity. Canonical reported that this merger will reduce confusion for newer, less experienced users’ lack of finding a “Laptop Edition.” Read the rest of this entry

Hell Week 2.0

Here I sit in the university library, cramming for my Research Methods midterm tomorrow. My friend, Shayla, and I review for the test asking questions as confusion arises in the study guides. Silently I hope to have every answer memorized by the time we put our pencils to paper and take the midterm, or maybe my grade from the last test will be copied over to this one. At this point my mind is growing fuzzy and I haven’t even finished some homework for another class that’s due tomorrow, let alone started a paper we’re supposed to finish by Friday. This is Hell Week 2.0.

In the infinite realms of possibilities, I decided to be a psychology major, not following in my family trade of software or hardware engineering. My overall GPA isn’t fantastic and my departmental GPA isn’t even above 2.0 the last time I checked. Why do I continue with this goal? I don’t even know what I want to do with my psychology major. I’m not even sure if I want to go to graduate school or try to find a job when I graduate. Will I spend four or five years at Ball State working on my bachelor’s? I think all these could be better answered if I had a firm goal in mind, what career to work toward.

I can’t think about this today, there’s too much to be done. Another assignment is due Friday, another test to study for on Thursday, packing to be done by Thursday night, and three routines to choreograph before I leave for spring break for an upcoming ballroom competition. I’ll have no internet access starting at 3pm Friday until Sunday of the following week, so kiss goodbye any chance of doing web development on WordPress. Several textbooks to catch up on with the reading, but most of my time will be spent with friends. When is the relaxation supposed to start?

So much to do, so much pressure. If the end of this week doesn’t leave me with a feeling of release, I’m going to be more than steamed.

The Alpha Stages of Easymap

Summary:

Easymap is a web application being developed by Dr. Butler and his company in an effort to solve several issues with current test taking. Read the rest of this entry

I give up…

I tried to post my class notes every week, but it quickly became too much effort to edit, convert, and upload the files, let alone linking to them in each new blog post. I will keep to my promise of posting notes and the occasional summary, but I doubt I’ll be able to do so on a regular basis.

On another note, I found that professors like to sync up their tests to around the same time. I’m taking two 200-level courses, two 300-level courses, and one 400-level course so, mixed with my extra-curricular responsibilities, it’s just too much to try to document every week. This week, for instance, continues to be known as “hell week” for me. Today seems to be the only day since last Thursday that I haven’t had a test. On Friday of last week, it was a Research Methods test; Monday was a test in Advanced Statistics; Tuesday (yesterday) was a test in Sensation & Perception; Thursday (tomorrow) will hold a test in Industrial Organization. Before this weekend I have to prepare everyone for our exhibition at Late Nite, which involves making sure our AV expert gets all of the music we’ve chosen so he can cut each song to 2 minutes respectively, going over each routine with each couple dancing, and checking in on the progress of our fliers we plan to pass out.

To try to make this story shorter, those are just a couple of my stressors now. It leads me to feel overwhelmed at times, which increases my need to relax and not do productive work so as to forget my obligations for a few minutes. At the same time, it brings to light the downward spiral people can get into when the pressure is put on.

Spatial Theory

This past week has been pretty funny in that Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday were all declared “ice days,” which has totally thrown me off. We took our Spatial Theory test event though class was cancelled for the day we were to take it. It was taken online in the funky new format where we were required to use a mind mapping software, still being beta-tested by us. If you’re not familiar with mind mapping, it’s basically the visual outline you did in elementary school–you know, the one with the main idea in the big circle in the middle… The problem with this style is that the average sentence at the university level equates to about 8 connections, assuming the sentence doesn’t contain a list. More information on the mind mapping software can be found in my other blog post.

In short, I found it very difficult to determine what Dr. Butler was looking for, and how to best optimize my responses to reflect his objectives. Most professors in the 100- to 200-level courses stick to the regurgitation method of teaching, but Dr. Butler is the type who makes you think and come to your own conclusions. How do you test over that? That’s why he created this testing software.

It’s completely online, hosted on his company’s website with the ability to take the test from any location. Hopefully I got a good grade on it!

UPDATE: I got a 98% on it, even after he said the high score would never be higher than a 99%. Score!!

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