Python Decorators – part 1


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26 Jul
July 26, 2012

One of the many reasons I like solving problems with python is its expressive nature – do more with less.

In particular, I find python’s decorators fun to use; they are a natural way to augment any function with additional behavior without changing the original. If you’re curious how they work, read on. They’re easy to understand and very useful.
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QA Testing in a Nutshell -or- One Man’s Descent Into Madness


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24 Jul
July 24, 2012

If I worked at a doorknob factory testing doorknobs, it would be safe to say that at least once a week the doorknob to the front door of my home would turn to ash in my hand.

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Insert Labeling


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19 Jul
July 19, 2012

Recently I was assigned the task of helping to create a solution to replace our current insert labeling process. Specific libraries request that their playaways and views are hand labeled with whatever information they want, for example a bar-code on the box to assist with checking the content in and out, or a spine label to help organize the content on the library shelves. The libraries were not able to facilitate this on their own.  It was a very manual process to get the data, print it out on labels, and put the labels on every unit being shipped. One of the ideas floating around was to try and incorporate all of this information right on the the playaway or views insert cover. The art department made a mock up of what areas on the inserts we could use and gave us a sample of how it could look. Once this idea was approved I started to design the application that would automate this process. I decided to write the application in c# and started to look for a library that would assist with the PDF editing portion of this project. The library I found was the iTextSharp library which allows for adding text and images to preexisting PDFs. The next step was to create bar-codes for the inserts. After doing some research and finding out what specific bar-code formats the library wanted to use, we purchased a bar-code creating software with c# libraries that could incorporated into the project. The bar-codes would be generated as an image, and the image could be inserted onto the PDF.

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Network Monitoring


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18 Jul
July 18, 2012

As a systems administrator,  you need to be proactive rather than reactive.  That is why we went out and purchased PRTG Network Monitor.  We needed to be able to monitor our bandwidth consumption and didn’t have a way to see real-time statistics until we set up PRTG.  PRTG is a great product and it comes at a relatively low cost.  In addition to bandwidth monitoring, PRTG also has hundreds of sensors to monitor every piece of equipment across your enterprise.  In addition to monitoring bandwidth, we also monitor our internal servers for disk space, cpu and memory utilization for both Windows and Linux platforms.  We are also able to monitor our Catalist Digital Servers, Ecommerce Servers and Web farm located at an external hosting facility across our dedicated site-to-site vpn tunnel.  With the proper tools, it makes the job a lot easier.

Magento Commerce Enterprise Edition Content Staging


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02 Jul
July 2, 2012

Introduction

Greetings and salutations. I am a Java, CMS, and UI developer of nearly 17 years (gasp!), who has recently found himself working with Magento Commerce and Jenkins CI. I have seen the difficulties of learning new technologies, and plan to blog periodically on the pitfalls I encounter, as well as recommended fixes as they arise.

This post involves a Magento Commerce EE feature that appears simple on the surface, but is surprisingly complex in actuality: staging CMS content from a staging website to a production website on the same Magento Commerce EE instance. At its best, this feature allows the content developer to work on content in a sandbox on the production (or other) server, while keeping pre-production code hidden from the public. At its worst, this is a largely undocumented and complicated process, and requires an understanding of what content staging does and does not do. Here are the steps as I understand them.

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Customer Service Phone Call Tracking


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29 Jun
June 29, 2012

At Findaway, we realized that one area that needed improvement was in tracking customer service phone calls.  Sales Administrators were taking several customer service phone calls on a daily basis. Other than putting a hash mark on a tracking sheet, there was no other documentation of the phone call. No details were being recorded and there was no follow up on issues. Also there was no reporting available on the phone calls other than the number of calls received.

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Moving from ColdFusion to railo


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22 Jun
June 22, 2012

Although ColdFusion is not our standard language when creating sites, we have often used it in the past to create small and easily configurable web pages.  These sites were all hosted through one hosting company and were serviceable in the early years of our company.  However, starting a year or so ago, we ran into a few issues with having our ColdFusion sites hosted at this particular company.

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Using the Google Map API to Display Customer Locations


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21 Jun
June 21, 2012

Libraries make up one of the larger purchasing segments for our products, but demand is driven by the patrons of those libraries. So a challenge is how to reach out to those patrons, and increase demand.

One marketing suggestion was to give library patrons a way to see where libraries were that ‘carried’ our products. Fortunately, Google Maps provides a very easy to use solution for mapping groups of locations.

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Another Python 2 Unicode Mystery Solved


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08 Jun
June 8, 2012

The challenges of Unicode with Python 2.x are decried throughout the internet. This little devil had me scratching my head for quite some time. The test script is simple enough:

#!/usr/bin/python
desc = u"The Quick Brown Fox Jumped over the lazy Dog\u2019s Back!"
print desc

One can easily see that a Unicode string is being created with a special character the \u2019 which is a right apostrophe. Python handles this just fine when run from the command line.
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Midwest UX 2012


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05 Jun
June 5, 2012

Last week I spent 3 days surrounded by all things UX (user experience) at the 2012 Midwest UX Conference in Columbus, Ohio. This relatively small conference was packed with valuable content, and populated with a crowd willing to share knowledge, tips, experiences and techniques.

After thinking about what I should write about for this post (and looking back over my 20+ pages of notes), there was one unexpectedly-awesome 20-minute presentation that is still at the top of my mind. What I took away from this short presentation is the thing that resonates with me the strongest a week later: the notion of UX practices being applied in broader, more creative ways.

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