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Upheaval

March 10, 2009 2 comments

Having recently become unemployed, life is full of excitement. Thank God for the WARN act, which requires companies to pay employees for a full 2 months after announcing a company closure.

It looks very much like we will be relocating regardless of what job I take. For Sheepology that means development will be on hold for a couple months while we re-pack and relocate. Things are going to be very crazy around here for a while.

Categories: Uncategorized

Final Edition

February 27, 2009 1 comment
Categories: Uncategorized

Sheepology and IE

February 6, 2009 Leave a comment

BTW, I don’t even know if Sheepology works in IE. Haven’t bothered to check. For now use Firefox.

More on Sheepology

February 6, 2009 Leave a comment

At the Rocky, we were beginning to create a number of geographically oriented applications (see our Holiday Lights). Lucky for us, GeoDjango had been recently rolled into the official release of Django. By simply installing the PostGIS extension to PostgreSQL, we had built-in geographic proximity search and much more. Here’s a sample that finds all addresses within 5 miles of the current address:

nearby = Address.objects.filter( point__dwithin=(self.point, D(mi=5)) ).exclude( id=self.id )
if len(nearby) > 0:
raise SomeException('Uh Oh...')

This type of feature not only makes it easy to find people who live near each other (presumably by small-group staff), it allows for improving data quality. When storing an address in the database, you can check to see if there is a likely duplicate (i.e. an address that is within a meter or so of another address) and prompt the user for an override if necessary. I have built this into Sheepology.

Something I have always been interested in is AI and natural language processing. So I was somewhat interested in making searches more fault tolerant. One problem we had at Crossroads was that we ended up with a lot of duplicate people in our database because searches failed. I wanted to improve the situation. I did a little reasearch and discovered an algorithm called soundex. While many databases have this built in, they do it on the fly, so doing a search becomes very slow. I decided to simply make an extra field that contained the soundex codes for people’s names. This way I am able to index the field and make the search fast. Python has a module called AdvaS that has the soundex algorithm and several other similar algorithms. So in just a couple lines of code I was able to have phonetic search. Try it in the demo if you want. Search for bryan and you’ll find brian as well. Or search for sherri and you’ll still find shari. In the main settings file you can choose your phonetic algorithm, but it defaults to soundex.

There is also a nice tagging module available for Django. It was remarkably easy for me to plunk this in and magically have tagging enabled on models I chose. In about 5 lines in my template I was able to create a tag cloud.

I had originally decided to develop my own UI for Sheepology, but decided to work on building the basic models first. What I found is that the built-in Django admin facilities are so extensible, that I may stick with the built-in admin rather than building a UI from scratch. I also added the Grappelli theme to jazz it up a bit. While I’d like to take credit for the look of the admin, for the most part it is a packaged theme designed by someone else.

What I have found with Django and Sheepology is that I am most effective as a systems integrator. While I have written a fair amount of custom code, what I am really doing is tying together a number of different open-source pieces to make a whole package. I can focus on my area of expertise (i.e. churchy stuff) and worry less about details.

I was able to build what you see as a one-man team in about 2 months. What I see down the road is nearly limitless. There are a number of Django open-source packages for doing such things as content management or accounting that could potentially be integrated into Sheepology for a comprehensive ChMS package.

On the immediate horizon I will be working on a graphical group hierarchy tool. I also see a need for an inventory tracker (portable churches desparately need this) and contact management.

Software Developer for Hire

February 4, 2009 Leave a comment

About 5 months ago I moved to Colorado and started work at the Rocky Mountain News. Two months ago the parent company announced that they were putting the Rocky up for sale as it lost about $15,000,000 last year. So I started job hunting.

The paper has not yet closed and I am still looking for the right job. My plan is to stay in Colorado somewhere along the front range.

If you’re interested, check out my online resume.

Categories: Uncategorized

Our Responsibility

September 23, 2008 3 comments

…true piety admits no other rule than that whatsoever things have been faithfully received from our fathers the same are to be faithfully consigned to our children; and that it is our duty, not to lead religion whither we would, but rather to follow religion whither it leads; and that it is the part of Christian modesty and gravity not to hand down our own beliefs or observances to those who come after us, but to preserve and keep what we have received from those who went before us.

– St. Vincent of Lerins

Categories: Uncategorized

A Sentimental Old Fool

August 26, 2008 1 comment

Well, I got what I wished for – a one-way trip to Colorado.

Little did I realize how hard it would be. As I sit here in a quiet house with the kids in bed, I look around and realize that this is the last night I will spend here. Shari and I built this house 10 years ago. Both our kids were born right here in this house.

On Sunday I said goodbye to my friends at Crossroads. It was my last regular visit. And though I’ll probably someday take a sentimental journey back, it will never be the same. It felt like I was leaving home… and I was.

Tomorrow I will say goodbye to the guys I have worked with at Math Reviews for the last 12 years. They’re more than just co-workers. They’re friends. They’re friends who would give you the shirt off their back if you needed it. Heck, my manager even loaned me his car when mine broke down. I’ll be camping with one of them Thursday and Friday before I embark on my journey. Because they are co-workers I took their friendship for granted and only now realize what I’m leaving behind.

I remember when my grandmother died. I watched my grandfather say goodbye to her in the casket. He leaned over and gave her one last gentle kiss before the casket closed. To this day I tear up whenever I remember that moment.

Life is full of both greetings and departures. Some are temporary and some are permanent. Some of them feel as though a part of you has been yanked out and left behind.

Lord, heal my heart.

Categories: Uncategorized
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