Friday, September 30, 2011

Firefox 7 Review

This week Mozilla released Firefox 7, touting increases in HTML5 standards compliance as well as reduced system memory requirements. I downloaded it to try it out, and for the most part things are as advertised.

Firefox 7, or as I like to think of it, Firefox 4.3, is the 3rd release since Mozilla began it’s 6 week release schedule. I’m not really a fan of the schedule because of the strain it puts on Enterprise users, but I can see the benefits. One compromise I wish they’d have thought of is a hybrid, releasing .x increments every 6 weeks, and larger full number releases on a longer time table. It would allow businesses to take the slower upgrade path, while still getting updates into the hands of power users quickly. Also it would keep the numbers from getting overly large.

Read my full article at

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Some Happier News

A month ago I was approached by representatives of the Purdue Pre-Veterinary Medical Association, with a request for a new website. We looked at their old one, which was poorly designed, but also just broken, almost completely. From it though, we pulled out what was wanted by the client. I came up with a few designs, and they picked.

The general concept was a large central rectangle with rounded corners, surrounded by circular button links, one for each page. When on said page, the buttons would extend somehow to touch the central container.

Early Concept:

At the beginning I was thinking that the connection would appear on hover, as a different color (back when everything was one main dark teal color). But I didn't like it and I switched over to more of a subtle highlighting effect for hover, as well as a 3D active effect when clicked. To emphasize the pages, I switched to having each one be a different color.

One thing that I did which I don't really like is make extensive use of images for backgrounds. I wanted the website to be cross-browser compatible, and for rounded corners, images are the only way to do that. IE doesn't play nice with rounded corners, at all; no workarounds.

Last night I moved the site over to the PPVMA server, and it's now online. The pages for constitution and opportunities are still empty, because they don't have that information yet, but the site overall is completely finished.


I Call Shenanigans

Just to give you a fair warning, this is going to be a post in which I'm bitching about how something is unfair. In my defense, I think it really IS unfair. However, if you don't care, then move along.

I got my math exam back today. I was expecting a pretty good grade; there were 8 problems, and I figured I'd gotten 7 of them right, and a good bit of the last. I think it's pretty clear from the title that a good grade is not what I received.

Lets look at the one that I figured I didn't get completely. It was a substitution problem, and I knew I didn't have it all done. But I got the first part of it. And that was validated, because the grade wrote "close" by the part I had. Then gave me a 0/3. Nothing, at all, for being close. This is coming after the professor said that she was making it not multiple choice, so that she could give partial credit.

So yes, 0/3. And that leads to the other big problem, which is that the problems were all out of 2 or 3 points, so even if I did something tiny wrong at the end, I'd lose either 33 or 66% of that problem. Number 1, I went through all 8 steps correctly, on the 9th and final step, I forgot a t. Clearly correct in each step above. Because of the error in the last line, I got a 50% on that problem. Next one, there were 6 parts. Find 3 points, and then classify. I found all 3, classified one correctly, and flipped the other two classifications when I wrote them down. From my markings on the graph, it's easy to tell I understood but wrote them down wrong. Even so, and taking away full credit for both ones I flipped, I got 4 of the 6 parts right, so should get 2/3 points, right? Nope, I got 1 point, because each of the parts I got wrong was half a point, and they both rounded up. One problem seven, there were 5 answers to classify true or false, I got 4 of the 5 right. But it was only worth 2 points, so I got 50% on that one. And with the last problem, it was a story problem. I detailed out the drawing, translated it into an equation, a correct one. There was one step at the end which she didn't specify that was needed, which was to replace W with Winitial - 3 gal/min. I Put in W instead of 50 gal, (as it was on the in class review) because I knew it would change. But, she wanted that extra step. And so by not doing that last step, after doing everything correctly, I got a 50% on that one.

All the problems added together were 20 points. Had they each been worth 5 times more, 100 points, and I could lose points percentage wize, I'd have given myself an 80. Because we could only lose points in chucks of 5%, I got a 12/20, or a 60%. I call shenanigans, and I'm considering dropping the class. Right now it will be an incomplete (equivalent to a widthdraw), which won't impact my GPA. I can try to take it again next semester, or possibly over the summer online. This isn't material I will be using for my career, so I couldn't care less if I understand it, I just need the grade. The problem is that even with understanding it, this professor is going to fail me.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Been A Long Two Weeks

I'm half done with the first round of midterms this semester. Or done with round one, for the classes that have more than a single midterm. Thermo was last week, and I got a 96% (high was 97). Math was today, and of the 8 problems, I completed solved 7, and half solved the last, so an A is probable.

Tonight are info sessions for companies that are attending the career fair, and tomorrow is the fair itself. We've got over 50 companies this year, which is a small increase from last year. Nothing big, but it's still better than decreasing. Maybe someday we'll get back to the 140 rage we had before the economy crashed in 2008. The career fair ends at 3:30 in the afternoon, but I've got class from 2:30 to 4:30, so I'll be leaving then. Then possibly an interview the day after in the morning. Which means that in 48 hours, the busiest two weeks of the semester will finally be over.

In other news, two great things happened yesterday. One, I watched the season premiere of Boardwalk Empire, which was pretty interesting. Quite a few changes, so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next. Two, (and even better), I saw that Interstella 5555 has been remastered in HD and is coming out in BluRay. Woo hooo!!

For those poor souls among you who aren't familiar with Interstella 5555, it's basically a CD-long music video turned into a movie, with plot. It's awesome. Here's a taste. But you have to imagine it in HD, as it will be on Oct 4th.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Don't Like The News Facebook Newsfeed?

Facebook launched some major changes to it’s Newsfeed in the past week, in preparation for their upcoming developers conference, and as usual, many people are frustrated. Normally I’m not one of them. I try to embrace the new changes because there’s not much that can be done to change them. This time however, the change really frustrates me. I don’t like Facebook’s algorithms deciding which of my friends are important and which aren’t, I want to see the entire Newsfeed with all status updates.

Read my full article at

Monday, September 19, 2011

One Less Squirrel

I was in a hurry to get to work today; running a couple minutes behind. My bicycle, while the greatest invention since the wheel itself, doesn't move me instantaneously. It still takes a few minutes to get across campus. I was riding pretty fast, and while passing through the engineering mall, I ran over a squirrel.

In my defense, it ran across the sidewalk, I went sideways towards the direction it was coming from, to clear it. It then reversed and went backwards ... right under my rear wheel. I looked back and saw it lying on it's back twitching wildly, and now I am feeling sad for it, yet also thinking, what a dumb squirrel. If you are going to run in front of a bike, at least don't change direction halfway through. Maybe I'm doing the squirrel population a favor, cleaning out it's gene pool.

Though that could be a bad thing for humanity. 200 years from now: Planet of the Squirrels. "That blew it up! Damn, dirty squirrels! They blew it up and then buried it to save for winter.

What have I done!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Geekin' Out Tonight

In the past few days I've found some really awesome geeky songs, and I thought I'd share them.

Star Trek:





And finally: Lots of Nerdy/Geeky All Combined:

And unrelated .... 100th post for the year, woo hoo!

Friday, September 9, 2011

Interesting Homework

For the first time in quite a while, I had a homework assignment that was actually kinda cool. I had to go out and find two pavement problems around campus. Take a picture of each, and classify it. Since I bike around campus regularly, I didn't have to go find any, I just stopped by two places on one of my regular rides.I think the pictures are pretty interesting, so I'm posting them here.

The first is quite obviously a pothole. As cars drive over weak spots in wet pavement, the compression from the weight of the car forces water out, and the water pulls out some asphalt/concrete particles as well. Over time, a hole builds up under the surface where those particles used to be, and eventually it collapses down, forming the pothole.

The second is a longitudinal crack, which is a crack going along the lengthwise direction of the road, not crossing it. This one is actually pretty terrible, it's as wide as an inch in some places. If you also notice, the pavement isn't smooth at all, you can see lots of tiny holes and gaps. It's a pavement that is old and needs to be repaired or replaced, soon.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Busy, Busy, Busy

This semester isn't going to be a fun one. I'm taking Thermodynamics, which is universally (among Purdue CE students) considered the hardest class in our School. I'm actually working on homework right now, and it's not terrible, yet. But it's time consuming.

The professor is very angry man. He spends a quarter of the class each day ranting about how terrible the English system is (which I agree with 100%), but then gives us homework in it. At one point he threatened to leave and let us learn the material ourselves because people in the back were talking. He's also the only professor I've ever heard say "well, sucks to be you then". The most annoying thing though, is his attitude towards questions.

We got back our first quiz last class, and the average was around 50%. (I got a 13/15, woo hoo!) He gave us a speech about how this is unacceptable, and that is there anything wrong? If you don't understand something, you need to stop me and ask. So later that period, I wasn't sure about an example he was doing, so I asked a question about it. He explained, but then added about 10 seconds worth of yelling at me for not paying attention because he'd already said it once. Sorry, prof, you said ask questions, my bad, I thought you meant it.

He has some redeeming qualities though. He said that we might see him at the Cactus (local bar/club) on thursday nights.

So yeah, been busy with that. And also with DiffyQ. Yes, I said DiffyQ, a class I took a year ago, during that terrible fall semester. I'm retaking it because I got a D+, which isn't passing in the eyes of CIVL.

You might remember that as I got the D+, I failed hydraulics, which I then retook last Spring. I ace'd it the second time, which is because the material itself wasn't the problem. The problem was the professor, one Professor Lynn, who is the worst teacher I've ever had, at Purdue or elsewhere. Exam averages rarely were higher than 50-60%, and many times lower. When I retook it, I had a new professor, and I breezed right through the class; almost an easy A.

The problem with DiffyQ though, is that the reason I did poorly in it wasn't the professor, it was that I had a hard time with the material itself. And the material hasn't changed. I've got a slightly leg up because I remember some of it, but even so I'm already struggling. Gotta say, office hours are a godsend.

With those classes as well as pavement design and a soils lab, not to mention CESAC work, this semester has been extremely busy. Don't be surprised if my entry rate on this blog slows way down.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Always Get It In Writing

Over the summer I had to pay for my own utilities. Water from American Water Co, electricity from Duke Energy, and sewage from the city of West Lafayette. I called to start service at the beginning of the summer, paid every month, and then on August 2nd, called and canceled service for all 3, effective August 4th. I moved out on August 3rd, paid my bills for July and the first couple days of August, and then thought I was done.

Then I got a bill from Duke Energy, for August. (Aug 4th-Sept 4th). So I called them up, and they told me I never canceled service. Thing is, I did. But I can't prove it. When I called the cancel, I clicked through the phone options and eventually got to the cancel service menu on the phone. It's an automated system they offer, and I made the mistake of thinking it would work. Obviously it didn't, but since the machine didn't give me a confirmation number, I've got a problem.

So when I called Duke, they told me that I'd either have to pay the bill, or get the current resident to call them and tell them to backbill him for August. Will he do it? I can hope so, it would be the moral choice. I really have no idea though, and if he doesn't, Duke holds me responsible. I'm obviously not, since I canceled, and moved out. The question then is, which is more expensive. 50 bucks for the bill, or lawyers fees.

I can win if I really fight it. I hardly expect Duke to go up in front of a judge and say that they're charging the person who doesn't live their over someone who does. But, it'll cost me lawyer fees, way more than 50. Is that extra money worth saying screw you to Duke? They are lying and basically trying to extort money, so I'd say yes, it is. Depends on what the lawyer costs turn out to be though. I've got a booklet of coupons and a bunch of them are for free consultations around West Lafayette, so I'm looking into scheduling one to see what my options are.

The lesson here though: Always get it in writing, and never trust companies.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Depreciation Of Hover

One of my favorite effects to use when designing a website is hover. Changing the state of an object, normally a link, when the mouse hovers over it can create pleasing visuals. It can show which items on a page can be interacted with, before the user actually interacts.

Hover is dependent on a mouse though. A touchscreen has no way of telling if your finger is hovering over a link until said finger actually touches it. And since touching equates to clicking, there's no way to effectively display the hover. If you touch and hold down, it will appear, along with whatever active effect the designer has built in (active is the state when clicked), but most users just tap and go, and so never see the hover effect.

Because of this, sites built for mobile don't incorporate hover at all, instead placing their state changes into the active category. These normally consist of items getting darker to simulate buttons being pressed down, vs lighter to simulate highlighting, which is more common with hover. And active changes are great, I've got nothing against them. I'm just sad that in switching from the mouse to the touchscreen, we're losing half of our available effects.