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Portfolio

Okay.  The truth is we never thought about keeping a portfolio until it was too late.  Now we frequently experience severe bouts of depression because we don't have a complete inventory of all the cool stuff we've done.  Unfortunately we don't work at the various places we used to and although we could easily hack in to access them we can't.  We are "white hats" and we have committed ourselves to the GHCC (Good Hacker Code of Conduct) prohibiting such deviant behavior.

 Sadly many of the systems we have written are no longer even in existence which clearly prevents us from ever publishing the plethora of programming we've produced.  Contractually we can't show you a lot of them either because we signed documents saying we couldn't (and if we did, of course, we would have to kill you).  Alas all we can show you is a small smattering of the software we have written.    

Suffice to say we have designed, written, and implemented literally thousands of programs - some big, some small, but all of them (like the cereal) Grrreeeeaaaaat!  Are we just about high level software?  No indeed we are not just about high level software having tons of experience in low level data communications, high level networking, and most areas in between (sadly no satellite acquisition or tracking yet). 

We have a lot of problems in our lives.  No. Seriously.  We are not joking.  We have a lot of problems in our lives.  And that is exactly why we like helping YOU solve YOUR problems; it keeps our minds off our own!  The reality is we like nothing better than spending our waking hours learning new technologies.  Nothing ... except chocolate, skiing, a warm fireplace on a cold winter night, teaching kids to love science, the beach, kayaking, biking, cold Coronas, with chocolate, while skiing. 

Webmaster Note: The staff of TechWorks does not condone any form or forms of mixing alcohol and skiing.  Alcohol and chocolate? Chocolate and skiing?  Absolutely. 

After careful retrospection it now has become apparent to us there are lots of things we like better than learning.  Still learning new things is way, way up there on our 'Like List'.  For instance, were you aware that the Aztecs used a monetary system in which one turkey cost one hundred cacao beans (translation: chocolate) and a fresh avocado was worth three.  We learned that recently and we are proud of it.

We are confident that we can program anything given the need to.  We have written apps for microcontrollers (the tiny computers which control little robots), embedded systems (phones, digital watches, MP3 players, watches with MP3 players), minicomputers (like Dec, Vax, Unisys - systems that don't really exist any more), mainframes (IBM megacomputers like Watson from Jeopardy), and of course, we have written apps for the ubiquitous microcomputer - our beloved PCs and Apples.  We won't detail the myriads of other hardware and software we have written apps for and on simply because they are too numerous to detail, although we could, in detail.

After the last count we realized we couldn't even count the numbers of languages we know and/or have written in.  Strangely this is simultaneously awe inspiring and awe fully uninspiring.  For example, what good is it now to have read every MS-DOS manual (some 3 or 4 times through - cover to cover)?  Or written programs in the Harris' Vulcan operating system?  Or what about IFPS, the Interactive Financial Planning System? Now there was a language.  Aye! 

Imagine if you had learned 1000+ foreign languages in your life, not just casually but so well you could fluently read them, write them, and speak them (sometimes even dream them).  Imagine having created various works of art written in each of those different foreign languages - each grammatically, syntactically, and puctuationically correct.  Each a standalone work on its own.  Mind you these are not just short stories.  These are not just quick one off cheap romance novels either.  Some of them are masterpieces; long and involved and completely logical, with no extra words.  In all the equivalent of thousands of hefty sized books.  And then the languages died and went to language Heaven and no one in their right mind would ever read, write, or speak them ever again. 

Can you see the uninspiring part of the knowing an awe inspiring number of languages and operating systems?  The truth is we love to learn and we continue to learn and we bury languages all the time.  Seriously - like every 2 or 3 years - everything changes and if you don't keep up you simply go the way of the old languages.

And now (finally) here are a few of the applications we have written.  The first two we don't even have screen shots for.  We included them because we liked working on them so much.  At a future point we will force the webmaster to add some of the hardware stuff we have done too.  So y'all come back.  Yah hear?

  • Card Maker - a system written for a "print shop" to calculate how much to charge for business cards considering how many cards, the number of colors, what finishes, what stock, etc.  The application was so simple we decided to add a database to keep all the customer and order information along and images of each card.  Still too simple, we added the ability to design and print the cards.  BTW: we had never used the language and we had never written software for the hardware we were on (FileMaker on a Macintosh) so we were having immense fun.  That's one reason we added all the other features.  The other reason was our software showed the printer was losing money on almost every business card job.  This was only obvious after we decided to keep track of the actual costs for materials (paper, ink, etc.), the costs for the graphics designer to do the card (if it took more than 27 minutes you couldn't break even).  We even tracked the electricity costs for "The Beast" (a high-end printing machine with typeset resolution).  In the end the printer started making money again - only because when customers came back for more cards it was a just a matter of clicking a button and entering the quantity.  We even printed the recent on the first card.

 

  • Financial Net - one of our proudest projects.  We were given full control over the project from initial design to final implementation.  The system we replaced had taken 5 people over 3 years to build and it cost over a half million to run each year.  We built the new system with 2 people in under 6 months and about 3K of hardware.  That's 15 man years vs. 1 man year to build and 3 orders of magnitude less to operate at $500/year vs. $500,000/year .  The system was responsible for the monthly communications and gathering of all the financial data for the over 250 worldwide entities of a Fortune 500 company.

Funny Accountant Story - The code for the above was so clever we were able to automate everything about the system.  It ran autonomously with zero user input.  Our clients (a lot of accountants) turned out to be very uncomfortable with this.  They needed control so bad we were forced (with turnscrews) to add a menu for them to select options.  Since we already knew what they had to do, and we couldn't let them hose it up, the menu had to have a bunch of extra code written solely to prevent them from doing the wrong thing, which as it turned out they did quite routinely.  Oh - not by mistake.  We're certain they were testing the system to be absolutely sure they got their money's worth.

The most impressive thing - The most impressive thing about the system was it ran on one lowly Compaq 386 PC with a 20 megahertz CPU and less than 2 megs of memory.  It could handle 8 concurrent remote sessions, sending and receiving 1000s of files simultaneously, all while it decided exactly what files could be transferred and to whom they could be transferred.  The "Corporate Financial Information Network" at Harris tied all of the legal and management entities together (translate: hundreds and hundreds) to perform the companies entities together And they said it couldn't be done!

 

And now, some of the applications we have engineered we are able to show you pictures of... 

 

The Customers of Blue Marlin Pools

The above is the main menu for an application written for Blue Marlin Pools.  We know what you are thinking.  That isn't software - that's art.  Well you are right.  It is art.  But behind that beautiful interface is an even more beautifully designed and constructed database that allowed our client to manage their all important customer data.  You can't tell from the screen shot but when the program starts up a gentle cool breeze is directed toward the user. 

This job also included setting up both a wired and wireless network on premises (a metal, wide, long, long, long area) and 10 new compact footprint Dell PCs.  When we were done at Blue Marlin Pools everything was just cool runnin' (clever pool reference).  We even got a marriage proposal out of the deal.  We do good work!  Seriously.

 

Sediment Tracker

Sediment Tracker

Sediment Tracker: sounds tasty doesn't it?  Well it aint.  We never expected to write software to track effluent - butt we did.  Strangely again we know exactly what you are thinking.  How did they make such an ugly subject so completely beautiful?  Admittedly it wasn't easy.  Admittedly we are not about easy.  We prefer the hard stuff.  Give us something to sink our teeth into and we will turn it into a work of art (albeit slightly chewed).  In fact in this case the client didn't really have a good idea of what he wanted and we had to guide him to the drainage ditch ... so to speak.

Sediment Tracker (the name was our idea too) basically tracks the amount of crud removed from somewhere before it cruds up our water.  For example, when a street is cleaned this software tracks exactly how much stuff was prevented from going into the gutters and then into the water.  Pretty simple effluent.  You probably already guessed this but when the software is opened the smell of a baffle box sediment engulfs the user.

 

Drawing Database

The Canaveral Port Authority has a lot of AutoCAD drawings of their facility.  Many of them are printed on big 24" x 36" pieces of paper.  Many of them are in digital format as 'dwg' files.  We converted the printed drawings into images using a giant Xerox scanner; specifically a Xerox 6050A.  Then we assigned various keywords to each drawing.  Then we input the keywords for the thousands of drawings into a giant database.  The result: A user could search through the entire database in mere seconds easily locating, for example, each fire alarm in the facility.

But we didn't stop there.  The real problem, which is commonplace in large facilities, is there might be more than one drawing of something.  There might be more than two.  Suffice to say there might be several drawings for the same thing and it might be very hard to actually tell which one is the most current.  For this we created a compare option which rendered two drawings side by side for easy online comparison; specifically for the purpose of determining which of two drawings is the most current.  Oh.  Did we mention that you could 'Mark Up' the drawings?  And plot them out?  Zoom and rotate?  Having a searchable database?  Good.  Having a searchable database with a tool to help you decide which drawing is the right drawing?  Priceless.

 

Remote Remote Control

Click the link below to see this application in all its glory (use your Back button to get back here when you are done):

The 1, the only, Last Remote Control Button Pressed Website

We would like to give you details about this application - but we won't.  We won't because we can't.  We can tell you that someone wanted to know very badly what someone else was watching on TV.  In fact they had us build a system which updated a website to reflect the last channel that was tuned to on a TV somewhere.  We can't say why this person wanted this information about someone else's TV viewing preferences.  We can't say if the information gained from our system was presented in a court of law during a child custody case or not or whether or not it helped our client get custody of their children or not.  We can't and we won't.  And 'yes' that is an exact picture of the remote being used, except for the little infra red bullets shooting out of it.

The last button this fictional person ever pushed on the Sony remote control was the channel nine button.  And that button was was pushed at 5:13:09 PM on 11-04-2009.  It is sad to say the software is no longer monitoring the viewing habits of any fictional people but happy to know the program did its part in getting the children.  If it did.  But we won't say it did.

 

KML - Pronunciation "camel" [kámm'l]

KML stands for, we're not kidding, Keyhole Markup Language (the Wiki here).  You might be thinking, Does the world need a markup language for keyholes?, Who would use it?, Who could use it (think how small a keyhole is), and Why would they use it?  All valid questions until you realize in 2004 Google acquired a company called Keyhole, Inc. and the first version of Google Earth was really Keyhole's 'Keyhole Earth Viewer'.  It's all starting to come together now isn't it?

KML was developed for use with "earth browsers" to allow a person to essentially "stick" things to our earth, like pictures, text, fancy icons and annotations, or whatever you can "mark up" (like pretty much anything you want to).  For your night time reading pleasure we give you Google's very own ~KML Reference Manual~ or Camel Manual as it is affectionately referred to.

Yes, oh webmaster, but why the keyhole?  Duh.  "Keyhole" is an homage to the KH reconnaissance satellites, the original eye-in-the-sky military reconnaissance system first launched in 1976. The italicized was lifted directly from the Wiki page linked above.  Is that legal?  Yes, because we 1) provided credit to the authors by way of the Wiki link above  2) have stated: the work is released under CC-BY-SA and 3) have a link to the CC-BY-SA license here.

Albeit KML is an international standard it is simple as mud to use. This is because you really just drag and drop what you want using a GUI (graphical user interface) ... you don't normally ever touch the actual KML code itself.

Point: No one ever uses the term "a gooey" by itself rather they say "a gooey interface" which then actually translates to a "graphical user interface interface". Sorry. I'm just saying. 

For our first whack at KML coding we took some CAD drawings (the electrical, mechanical, etc.) for Freddy Patrick Park at Port Canaveral and we overlaid their opaque images onto the satellite image of the park.  By just clicking the modest link shown here, , the Google Earth program would start up and then swoop down upon Florida's Friendly Freddy Patrick Park.  On the left side of the screen are links you use to select which drawing you want to see overlaid on the terrain (admittedly hardly visible below).  The observant reader will note these screen shots are actually of Google Maps, not Earth.  It even works in web accessible Google Maps.  How cool is that?

Here is a close-up after some major croppage:

 

To really appreciate this app you have to have Google Earth installed and you need to have the same TIFF viewer Port Canaveral uses (you don't).  I'll go back and change the code to use a more generic TIFF viewer after a bit so this will work for more folks.

Here is what it looks like in the right environment (pretty cool if you ask us).

to be continued...

   W A R N I N G           W A R N I N G            W A R N I N G

... And this is where we stopped for now...still need to put in the scream shot of the app in Earth with TIFF viewer showing drawing over park.

This section is Under Construncktion Houston!

 Closed for repairs, etc. etc. 

Now this is pretty stupid really but the webmasters at TechWorks have decided, after much weighing of the pros and cons (generally prose weighs less than perps), to just leave this work zone in the public domain.  Why?  Because it is easier for us and we are all about doing things the easiest way possible.  We could have said "the most expedient" but sometimes easiest is not most expedient and although we like to work hard we deplore ever working harder than we need to.  Rest assured when we are working for you we will select the option that takes the least amount of time (thus money)no matter how hard we have to sweat.

   W A R N I N G           W A R N I N G            W A R N I N G

W A R N I N G           W A R N I N G            W A R N I N G

Below this line (from here to the bottom of the Internet) is: ___________________________________________________

OFF LIMITS

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This section has not been speel cheeked or inything.  Further it is just for testing stuff; stuff that may or may not be detrimental to your health.  So don't mess with this stuff unless you are brave of heart.  No holding us harmful.  No implied warranties.  No applicabilities to anything.  Nada!

Don't say we didn't warn you! ___________________________________________________

This will get you to Freddie Park in Google Maps: this

This, here, will get you to Fred's with selections on the left in lovely subdued tones (it all about the interface).  You can click to View the different drawings (as seen on TV ... or just above). 

If you have Google Earth (which crashes repeatedly and then won't run after a while) then click this, actually this, and Google Earth will open with all the swooping down from outer space and fanfare to display fair Fred's park.  Not only that but it will also show the electrical plan for the park.  Not only that but it will display it opaquely over the park.  This is just a jpeg image - and not a very good one we admit.  The point is you can (we can) place anything on a map in Google Earth and get you to it from a website.  Now that is really impressive considering all the things you could take a picture of, or get an image of, and then plop it onto our planet.

And if you have a TIFF viewer that works with Earth it can overlay the drawings right there before your eyes and on top of the land that it belongs to.  The updated version of this software featured an 'opacity' slider that lets you change how much you see of the drawings and lets you have more than one on at a time (with the right viewer).  Oh.  The link: LINK

 HyperLink  (for testing only-If I were you I wouldn't touch it)

 

In the Unrelated Category:

Click play for sound:      

Actually you can click anywhere in the graphic, like the STOP button for example.  Clever, huh?

Actually that is just a picture of the media player above...with a link to the sound file.  So that opens your local media player and plays the sound.  This is a fairly obtrusive way to play a sound but...no security questions come up - a Big plus.  And if you happen to have your player set to repeat...it just keeps going and going and going.  As opposed to ...

The following is a Windows Media Player control.  The theory is if someone didn't want to click the arrow they wouldn't have to...but when the page loads it does a security check to see if it is okay to load the player...which they are not going to use.  So if you had a picture of the player that when clicked on loaded the player control (aka on demand) then the security question would only need to be answered by those wanting to hear the audio.  Also, when the question comes up as they click the arrow the person would know it was related to the media player trying to play...as opposed to right when the page is loading when they person would have no idea what was trying to load or why.

       

And now, just below, see just how much fun a person can have with only 9 letters and a mouse (and an arm, and I guess you really need eyes too, and a nervous system, and ...). 

Seems like all anyone ever talks about is their nervous system; we feel people should give their calm system equal time.  Our systems are nervous systems most of the time.  It could always be a thyroid issue too.

 

 

 

(Sightly) Related Stuff

Websites are the worst kind of programming imaginable.  They employ arcane, let's say 'lame',  methods to get things done.  They're super restrictive and absolutely a total pain to work on.  Perversely it is this fact which makes us love doing websites. 

As an example of the lameness of website coding, this column, the very one you are reading right NOW, has to be here even though we don't really want it here right now, forcing us to have to spew verbiage just to fill it up.  Now that is dumb isn't it?

Why?  Because a good website has a 'master' layout which all pages must follow.  Since all pages on a site don't have the same content (hopefully) having one layout doesn't really cut it.  So the 'master' layout forces your pages into a very inflexible format (example, this column).  And thus you are being forced to read THIS.  Hope you like the spew.

And we know right now lots of readers are saying, "TechWorks is lame.  They can't even get rid of a column on a web page?"  We could get rid of this column (and likewise free ourselves from thinking about how stupid websites are programmed) but then we face the daunting task of remembering the stupid task of manually updating this page because we disconnected it from the 'master' format.

Let us hexplain.  Assume we add a new menu selection to the website.  We would do this on the 'master' page because it automatically updates every page on the website.  But because we decided to get rid of THIS column THIS page would not be automagically updated.  Instead THIS page would require manually adding the new menu selection.  And if we make other changes to other pages, disconnecting them from the master, we end up with a wad of dumb work to do, manually changing page after page after page after page.  What to do?  Don't stray from the 'master'.

We once worked on a website with over 6 thousand pages.  Each page was a separate page - there was no 'master'.  When you had to change the copyright date (roughly once a year) someone literally changed 6000 pages one by one.  So we installed PHP (a website programming language) and rewrote the site to make it far less stupid.  We reduced the number of page to less than 60 (2 orders of magnitude less), made it much cooler looking, added nice features, made it way faster, and made other major changes which allowed the business to operate way more efficiently.  And we did it in our sleep. We are kidding, sort of.

Odd Website Fact: Did you know making major changes to an existing website is physiologic-ally identical to having all your teeth pulled from your gums?  In many cases it is easier to start a brand new website than to change one.  Small changes - no worries. Major changes - major headaches.  Strange but true.

Believe It or Snot: We have seen our fair share of web masters (not so much mistresses) who purposefully make it hard for anyone but themselves to modify their websites.  We know.  Evil leaves no leaf unturned.

 

NEWS    F   L     A        S               H

As much as we deplore website technology we love Flash technology.  We like making things move and we like making buttons light up ... so Flash is just a natural for us.

We enjoy doing Flash work as much as we enjoy our kids!  Maybe more (kidding of course).  We are not kidding about being exceedingly proud of the work we did Flashing our TechWork's logo.  Our eyes tear up every time we watch it - which by now must be at least a million times.  You think it would have gotten old for us by now.

Truth is it is way too small to appreciate at the above size so you will want to click here to see it in all its full size glory.  Get ready to say 'oooouuuu' and 'ahhhhhh'.

 

We like to think the following Flash work is modestly clever.  Others are not so certain.

Speaking of Flash one of our favorite little programs is "SwishMax" from the fine SwishZone people down under. Who knew they could write software in Australia?   Click here, SwishMax, to see the features of this simple to use but very powerful software.  SwishMax is one of our Top 10 Fun Software picks. 

WARNING: The Aussie  program-mers are not so much about bug-free-ed-ness as they are about many-featured-ness.  They have lots of neato little programs to do lots of cool stuff.  Some of it works the way it should almost every time, a facet which is somewhat offset by the software's ridiculous low cost.

Here is something super simple we created with SwishMax.  This literally took 10 minutes.  We showed it to our client and asked them what they would pay for it.  Score!  Our hourly income for this Flash worked out to be about $1000 an hour. Goal!

SwishMax is so killer because you can start hacking out great looking Flash work right away only having to Flesh out 150 American dollars.  And their $35 Flash templates, shown here, are super sweet.  Great if they fit your needs.  FORE WARNING: If you buy a template it will be linked to the specific version of SwishMax used to create it.  You will forever need this version to modify it.  Don't try and modify it with a newer version.  We did.  Shrapnel all over the place.

SwishMax once saved our butts because we were able to use it to modify a client's existing Flash content without having to learn the first thing about Flash - and without paying a dime (we used their free download at the time).  We actually just like to sit and play around with it because it is so easy to turn out decent looking stuff as you can see.

 

Here is a colorful rainbow curtain we created for another site:

 

 

Here we have ... pretty lights:

 

Here are some Lego Robots (featuring the super sweet Lego MindStorms) performing their  ever popular synchronized dancing routine.

Important Note: It is supposed to look silly - sort of old-school. 

 

Here is Flash prototype for a screensaver featuring our own Environmentally Endangered Land property in lovely Malabar Florida.

 

 

Here is a simple logo we did for a company we like:

 

Here is a super quick rendering of an electric car with motors that independently control the direction of wheels:

 

The following was intended as a test of visual acuity.  Not really.  It was just something we had to do.  It wasn't super easy and we had to do something with it.  So here it lives in infamy waiting for you, yes you, to look at.  If you blink fast enough you can pick out four very distinct pictures, all very soothing.  It is hard to believe when you flash 1/4 of a soothing picture very quickly it isn't four times as soothing right???

And because it is so much more nauseating when it is larger, here it is larger.  You really should check out the larger version - it is quite unsettling.  If you are using IE (and what self respecting Microsoft PC user wouldn't) you should press F11 - one of those useless keys at the top of every keyboard.  This will invoke Full Screen Nausea mode.  To get back out of this mode just press F11 again.

 

 Every considered how much it costs to produce and dispose of keyboards with 12 extra keys that no one knows what do?  We have!

 

Before the webmaster's daughter went to college he/she created this to remind that daughter of the uncoming date. Specifically how many hours, minutes, seconds, and milliseconds.  Note: this was done over four and one half years ago ... so the countdown clock shows only zeros.  The picture at the end is her dorm in Mount Vernon.  I'm proud to say she graduated from George Washington University in 2011.

CONGRADULATIONS EMILY : )

 

Truth is we could keep going on and on and on like this but then this column would be longer than the page's main column.  Then we would have to add more to that column.  Then that column would be longer and we would be forced to add more again to this column.  You see the problem!

 

So this is, obviously, the end of this column.  Right now anyway!