Fingerprint Logons

Someone here at the Faculty of Management just bought an IBM ThinkPad T42. It’s hard to find anything cool about laptops nowadays, but this one manages to implement something.

Fingerprint security.

It has software that allows you to scan in the print of one of your fingers and then assign the scan to a user account. Then when you boot up and come to the login screen, you just scan your finger, and if it matches, it lets you in. No username to type, no password to remember.

Even better, you can assign different fingers to different accounts. You could assign your pinkie as the admin account and the index finger as the general user account. In a experiment of antiestablishmentarianism, you could even assign your middle finger to your Microsoft hackor account.

How cool is that?

Netscape 8.0

Netscape has released a public beta version of Navigator 8.0.

It’s built on the Gecko engine, but users apparently have the option to switch to Trident (IE’s rendering engine).

I haven’t tested the features since I will be using it for testing purposes only, but this has to be the ugliest browser I have seen since the 1990s.

Judge for yourself

Google Maps Goes North

It looks like Google has extended its map database to include locations north of the 50th parallel. Now people can get travelling information for Calgary, Edmonton, Regina, Saskatoon, Winnipeg and the like.

Very cool.

There are a few bugs still. For example, Happy Valley-Goose Bay in Labrador does not have street names and you cannot zoom into the maximum amount. Other than things like that, it rocks. Can’t wait until it’s out of beta.

Now if they could just allow me to scroll with my scrollwheel.

Michael Jackson a Drunk?

Todd Dominey pointed out the oddity of E! Online‘s pseudo-logo for the Michael Jackson trial.

Is it just me or do your eyes fixate on the empty center of this Michael Jackson Trial graphic that E! has been plugging non-stop? Every time it comes on TV, my eyes nearly go cross-eyed. That space between the “L” and “J” is not just wide, but dead center in the layout, and I can barely look at it without feeling like I’m about to fall down a hole.

Personally, I think the dead-space looks like an upside down whiskey flask.

Firefox 1.0.1 Now Available

Mozilla Foundation has released version 1.0.1 of its most popular browser, Firefox. The new version consists of security updates.

“Regular security updates are essential for maintaining a safe browsing experience for our users,” said Chris Hofmann, director of engineering for the Mozilla Foundation.

Download here.

Misspelling My Name

Jason bemoans the ignorance of many persons in misspelling his name. While I certainly cannot say I have experienced the same issues given that I have a single last name, I have experienced many issues with my name.

My full name is Kim Jason Joseph Benoit Siever.

By far the most common misspelling of my name is people calling me Tim, Jim, Cam or Ken when speaking with me over the phone.

Another complaint I have is when correspondence I get has only my second name as my middle initial. The other two are rarely included. If you’re not going to include the other two initials, don’t include any. I’d rather be known as Kim Siever than Kim J. Siever. In fact, when I graduated from college, they had me down as Kim Jason Siever. When I arrived at the rostrum to walk across and shake the college president’s had, I requested that the announcer repeat my first and last names only.

I abhor filling out application forms that have a very tiny space for a single middle initial. I usually just leave it blank unless I can fill it all in.

Speaking of my last time. I once worked for a company in Vancouver that needed to set up a username and password for the call taking software. They already had a Kim working there, so my boss put me in the system as Jason. It wasn’t long before everyone—call takers, dispathcers, couriers, everyone—was calling me Jason. I got tired of it, and asked my boss to change it. I told him that if I was going to be called by something other than my first name, I would rather be known as Bubba.

My third most common issue is being referred to as Ms. Kim Siever. It has become so bad, that I have changed my email signature to read Mr. Kim Siever and to have my email headers to read Mr. Kim Siever. Now I come off as pretentious. So be labeled as pretentious or be referred to as female. I have to pick.

What’s very funny is when someone phones who has both me and my wife as account holders—like the bank, for example. If my wife is talking to them, occasionally she is asked, “Is this Kim”. If they think my wife is Kim, who do they think Mary is? Actually, I get customer service and account reps always confirming “Is this Kim” when I phone them, as if they are thinking “he doesn’t sound like a girl”.

For what it’s worth, “Kim” is actually a boy’s name. Always has been. It became attached to girls when Kimberly became popular. When Kimberly was shortened, it overshadowed the less used boy’s version.

Finally, I am frequently dealing with my last name being misspelled. It has been spelled in many different ways, including the following: seaver, seiver, sievre, sevier, fiever, liever, sieber and severe. My favourite was “sykes”. Not sure where that came from.

I feel sorry for my daughter, Sinéad Aurora Fève Siever. She has many of the issues I do but with the accents. At six years old, she is already correcting people: “With a D”, “Sheh-nay-DUH”, “There’s an accent on the E”.

What Do You Look Like?

I enjoyed the flurry of activity that Cameron Moll inspired by asking everyone to post cropped screenshots of their current projects (version 1 and version 2). I received a lot of inspiration from what I saw.

Veerle has asked for everyone to post photos of where they work. Some of the workspaces are very cool and I covet them. I am grateful for my workspace, but I sure could use a better desk and a chair with arms. 🙂

Anyhow, I was inspired while testing out our digital camera at work to invite others to post photos of themselves. Part of me wants to put faces to all of the faceless designers out there whose work I have been admiring and blogs I have been reading. Another part of me wants to see what people look like when they do not have time to freshen up.

To start things off and hopefully discourage others from prepping themselves before posting, here’s my photo.

Kim Siever

I haven’t cut my hair since I shaved it in the summer. My winter beard has been growing since the last week in September. My wife keeps threatening me with a haircut this week or next.

For posting your photos, please be sure the photo is 300 pixels wide and 225 pixels high. Please also host the photo on your own webspace. You can use regular XHTML to post your photo.

Oh, and if anyone is shocked at my ad-lib photo, you can find a prepped me over here.

(Thanks to Jonathan Hollin for the hat tip.)

Database Integration with Flash

I had a project I was working on that required me to import events from a database and import them into a Flash movie. After searching for a long time for a method that was easy and quick, I discovered Getting Data Into Flash by Dennis Baldwin.

Dennis’ solution was exactly what I needed. Well, actually, not quite what I needed. His solution worked for getting the data from the database and importing it to Flash. That was the biggest hurdle. What it did not do was allow for importing separate records. So I modified it.

The first thing I did was to modify his ColdFusion variable line into a sort of loop (make sure everything between the cfoutput and cfset tags are all on line).

<cfset x = 1>
<cfoutput query="qDates" maxrows="5">
&eventDate#x#=#DateFormat(qDates.EventDate,'dd mmm')#
<cfset x = x+1></cfoutput>

The qDates query is the one that queries the database in order to pull the events I want. The maxrows attribute is how many events to return. If I only wanted three, I would change the “5” to “3”.

What the above code does is creates a very long variable line that includes the date, title and time of five events.

Now, we switch gears into ActionScript.

I took the ActionScript on the container movie clip in Dennis’ example and modified it to run another loop.

onClipEvent(data) {
total = "";
for(i=1; i<6; i++) {
eventDate = eval("eventDate" + i);
eventTitle= eval("eventTitle" + i);
eventTime = eval("eventTime" + i);
total += eventDate + " - " + eventTitle + ", " + eventTime;

You will also noticed that I assign the variables to the container clip instead of the root. In addition, I needed to evaluate the three variables because of the addition of the use of the loop’s index variable. If I had left it as eventDate = "eventDate" + i; for example, it would not have recognised "eventDate" + i as a variable.

Finally, I set the variable on my text field to be so that it will import the values from the container’s (in my case, I renamed container to mContainer) variables.

There you go, a simple way to import multiple records from a database into Flash.

Don’t Design for Full Screen

Stop making your websites go to full screen automatically! I mean it. Stop it.

People do not take into consideration how different website users set up their operating system, software and hardware.

First, making a window auto maximize without giving the user the option to do it or not is irritating.

Second, making a window auto maximize without giving the user notification what will be happening is inconsiderate.

Third, not every user has a single monitor. Many users have set ups with multiple monitors. It allows them to work on more than one application at a time more efficiently. When a window goes to full screen, it spans all monitors—not just one. Since most full screen designs are centred horizontally and vertically, the content ends up being split evenly between both screens, with the left half being on the left monitor and the right half on the right monitor. If the first two issues I listed above were irritating and inconsiderate, this issue is very irritating and very inconsiderate.

Don’t make designs that expand to full screen automatically. Give the user a choice. If you have to make it full screen, at least learn how to constrain it to a single monitor.

Creating VCS Files in ColdFusion

One thing I have been trying for months to do on the Faculty of Management website is to create VCS files on the fly. VCS files are what Outlook and other calendaring software use to pass calendar items between each other. When I added an event to our database with ColdFusion, I wanted it to create a VCS file that the user could then download to his/her calendar.

Earlier this week, I came across Chris Wigginton’s vCal UDF. This ColdFusion UDF outputs the necessary information to a string. All that is needed is to write the string to a file. I used the following code to accomplish this:

<cffile action="write" file="/root/folder/folder/file.vcs" nameconflict="overwrite" output="#vCalOutput#" mode="777" />

The cffile tag is used for creating, modifying and deleting files with ColdFusion.

The action attribute is pretty self-explanatory.

The file attribute contains a path to where the file is/will be stored. This is not a URL. It is a direct server path. It should also be noted that some servers will require a drive letter (such as C:).

The nameconflict attribute is used to tell ColdFusion what to do if it encounters a file named the same as that referenced in the file attribute. I used overwrite simply because I was using the cffile tag in an edit page. In this regard I was making changes to the event in the database, so I wanted those changes reflected in the VCS file.

The output attribute is what is sent to the file referenced in the file attribute.

The mode attribute is the permissions given to the file. Our server does some pretty funky things sometimes, so I gave read, write and execute to the owner, group and world. Anything else would probably result in a ColdFusion server error.

One other thing to keep in mind with VCS files is that times are based on GMT. In order for me to create times for the Mountain Time Zone, I had to add 6 hours to the start and end times. For this, I used the following code:

stEvent.endTime = "#DateAdd('H', 6, CreateODBCTime(FORM.TimeEnd))#";

The first parameter of the DateAdd function is which element of the date/time value you want to change. In this case, ‘H’ corresponds to the hour. The second parameter is the number of hours to use. If you live east of the GMT, you would simply use a negative value. The third parameter is another function that converts the time-only value I use in my database to a date and time value needed for the VCS file. If you use a date-time value in your database already, you don’t need to use the CreateODBCTime() function.

There you are. A complete solution to making VCS files in ColdFusion.

Update: For some reason, VCS files do not seem to currently work in Firefox.