Saturday, February 28, 2009

Photo Fridays

Sunset over Mobile Bay
Point Clear, Alabama

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Death to IE6

death to ie6Those of us who code web apps and web sites have had to deal with making the presentation layer work in IE6. Due to IE6's non-compliance with W3C Standards, this involves a ridiculous amount of extra work (i.e., hacks) to get the page to render correctly in this most outdated of browsers. We've all written CSS that contains something like this:

.foo { margin: 0px 10px; _margin: -3px 5px; }

just so things will render the same across all browsers. And don't get me started on the extra lines of Javascript needed to make things work with IE6's archaic DOM.

The problem is that these deviations from the standard now become the standard and increase the amount of time required to write and maintain code. For those of us who went through the browser wars it is, unfortunately, second nature to write in all of these hacks; for others, it's just plain crazy and not understandable. Unfortunately, since this ancient browser is still in use by a non-negligible amount of people (somewhere between 10 to 20% worldwide), we have to support it.

But not for long. There is a movement underway to rid the world of IE6. From

Several large websites in Norway have launched an advocacy campaign urging Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 users to upgrade their outdated web browsers.

Leading the charge is, an eBay-like site that is apparently the largest site for buying and selling goods in all of Norway (Finn is Norwegian for "Find"). Earlier this week, posted a warning on its web page for visitors running IE 6. The banner, seen at right, urges them to ditch IE 6 and upgrade to Internet Explorer 7.

While started in Norway, this movement has gone global. An international wiki site tracks the spreading suppport; you can also follow on twitter using the #IE6 hashtag; and show your support by joining the Facebook group. Even Microsoft is supporting the campaign, issuing a statement that they hope their users will upgrade to IE7.

A global, grass-roots movement -- very cool. IE6? The bell tolls for thee.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Did You Know? (Part Two)

Some more interesting facts I came across while wandering the tubes:

  • Ralph Johnson Bunche was a chief research analyst in the Office of Strategic Services (pre-CIA spy agency), the first African American to be a division head in the Dept. of State and he was with the United Nations, where he became the principal secretary of the UN Palestine Commission. Due to his work, Dr. Bunche (Ph.D. Harvard) was awarded the 1950 Nobel Peace Prize for mediating the 1948 Arab-Israeli truce.

  • Elizabeth “Bessie” Coleman, who moved to Chicago in 1915, was the first African American to become an airplane pilot and the first American of any race or gender to hold an international pilot license. In 2005, a small park in Hyde Park neighborhood was named Bessie Coleman Park.

  • The History Channel's website has a great interactive feature on black history timeline.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Nice Redesign!

Cabrini ConnectionsCabrini Connections has a new site design! The navigation makes it much easier to get around, to enter your SVHATS entrance and exit information (no excuses now!), and they even have some fun stuff like adding the Cabrini Connections theme to your iGoogle. Cool!

Go check it out at

Friday, February 20, 2009

Photo Fridays

City Grid
Chicago, IL

Thursday, February 19, 2009

CTA Bus Tracker Update

CTA bus trackerHaving previously written about CTA's bus tracker, I wanted to let you know that they're expanding their list of routes. Here's the list of routes that are currently being tracked:

3, X3, 4, X4, 6, 7, 8, 9, X9, 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, 20, X20, 21, 22, 35, 36, 38, 39, 43, 44, 47, 48, 49, X49, 49B, 50, 51, 52A, 52, 53A, 54A, 54B, 55, X55, 55A, 55N, 56, 56A, 59, 60, 62, 62H, 63, 63W, 67, 68, 69, 75, 77, 78, 79, 80, X80, 81, 81W, 82, 84, 85, 85A, 86, 87, 88, 90, 90N, 91, 92, 93, 94, 96, 97, 125, 126, 129, 145, 146, 147, 148, 151, 152, 156, 157 and 165.

As of March 2nd, these additional routes will now be available on

1, 8A, 14, 15, 24, 28, X28, 29, 34, 49A, 53, 54, X54, 57, 65, 66, 70, 71, 72, 73, 74, 76, 111, 119

Wednesday, February 18, 2009


We continued to learn about links this week -- specifically, how to create text links such as this:

visit Cabrini Connections

and image links such as this:

We also started to learn about applying the pseudo class of :hover to our links, both text and images, so we can show something different when a user hovers their mouse over the link. We are slowly but surely building an HTML/CSS vocabulary and, more importantly, learning that we need to be precise when we're typing!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Technology & Privacy

There seems to be a storm a brewin' with Facebook's recent changes to its terms of service. The new terms seem to state that anything you upload to Facebook can be used by Facebook however they deem fit, forever and ever, even if you close your account.

That certainly doesn't seem right, but until better legal minds than mine can parse through the lingo, it might be a good idea to review exactly what you have visible to the full public and what is restricted to your friends or to just you. Check out this article on Facebook Privacy Settings to see what settings you might want to change.

The same holds true for users of other social networking sites (MySpace, LinkedIn, etc.) -- while those spaces may not have modified their terms of service, you probably should review your privacy settings just to see what information is visible to whom. This is especially relevant to anyone applying to college or interviewing for a job -- yes, those places sometimes do search social networking sites to find out more information about you. And let's face it: you don't want them to have the same access as your friends. Just sayin.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Did You Know?

The 15th Amendment to the Constitution, ratified in 1870, affirms "the right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color or previous condition of servitude."

In 1872, Frederick Douglass became the first African American nominated for Vice President of the United States, as Victoria Woodhull's running mate on the Equal Rights Party ticket. He was nominated without his knowledge.

After the Civil War, the nation's new black voters overwhelmingly aligned themselves with the Republican Party, the party of Abraham Lincoln originally established to oppose slavery. Times have changed.

Pinckney Benton Stewart Pinchback, the son of a slave and her owner, set a couple of firsts. He was the first African American to become Governor of a U.S. state. He was also the first non-white Governor of Louisiana.

In Chicago on January 25, 1890, Timothy Thomas Fortune co-founded the National Afro-American League to right wrongs against African Americans authorized by law and sanctioned or tolerated by public opinion. This set the stage for the NAACP and other civil rights organizations to follow.

We stand on the shoulders of giants.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Photo Fridays

Photo credit: Maximilien Brice, © CERN

ALICE, A Large Ion Collider Experiment, will study the physics of ultrahigh-energy proton-proton and lead-lead collisions and will explore conditions in the first instants of the universe, a few microseconds after the Big Bang. The photo is the ALICE Inner Tracking System during its transport in the experimental cavern and its insertion into the Time Projection Chamber (TPC) at CERN.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Technology in the Real World

In an effort to look at uses of technology in the real world, I thought we'd look at the pairing of technology and a live event such as the Super Bowl, where technology is used not only in the game itself but also to enhance the overall viewing of the fans. From the headsets coaches use to communicate, to the computers used to calculate statistics to the HD cameras that record the contest for the viewing audience, technology is now an integral part of the game.

Here's how that integration breaks down into the details:

  • A Super Bowl Twitter feed was available as away to share a little bit of the flavor of the excitement gathering around the game with the fans before kickoff. Superbowl XLIII? Meet Web 2.0.

  • The site was designed, developed and available on the web. Online viewers were able to select from five different cameras filming the event and watch the player they wanted to see speak.

  • During the game, we saw 3D commercials -- well if you had the proper glasses they were in 3D. Why bother? Well, these digitally created commercials were a good test case for potentially running 3D trailers in movie theaters in the future.

  • Wireless bridge technology and Wi-Fi devices to support 4,000 journalists. Wi-Fi allows the NFL to streamline their costs by eliminating running lots of cable but still provide a reliable service. And obviously someone with a knowledge of infrastructure needed to setup those routers and networks so they could support roughly 500 simultaneous connections.

  • For game production and business operations, the NFL tech team built out an infrastructure with approximately 300 computers, PCs and laptops.

  • To support it all, the league and IBM used a series of four IBM BladeCenter S chassis, one at each of four venues the NFL has set up around Tampa: one for general media and PR, one for the league's offices, one for game-day media and PR, and one for credentialing and in-house security. These environments don't set themselves up.

Of course not everything in the Super Bowl requires technology -- the game still begins with the entirely low-tech flip of a coin.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

General Motors & Solar Power

Quick -- who owns the two largest rooftop solar stations in the US? If you guessed General Motors (yup, the car company), you'd be correct. Not content with that, General Motors also has the world's largest rooftop source of power from the sun at its plant in Spain. Who knew!

In the U.S., their rooftop stations are located atop warehouse facilities in both Fontana and Rancho Cucamonga, California, and have been operational for a couple of years now. Electricity generated by the solar array, but not used by the GM facilities, is fed back into the electrical grid for sale to other area residents and businesses. During spring and fall, which in California are periods of high sunshine combined with low air conditioning needs, the system will generate extra electricity for the grid.

Last summer, GM began installing 85,000 solar panels on top of its Zaragoza plant in Spain, covering over 2 million square feet. These will provide over 10 megawatts of power from a renewable energy source that will not only be used by the factory (responsible for over 480,000 vehicles) but also by the local power grid.

Providing "green" energy to the local community's power grid -- and I thought GM just made cars.

Interested in the field of green technology and wondering what areas it might encompass? A good place to start is Chicago's Center for Green Technology.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Netflix + XBOX 360 =$$

part•ner•ship [noun]:

An association of two or more people who take part in an undertaking with each other, especially in a business or company with shared risks and profits.

Once upon a time, two companies formed a partnership. Two months later, one million Microsoft Xbox 360 video game console users have activated Netflix's movie streaming service. One Million. In two months.

With this service, Xbox LIVE Gold members who are also Netflix members can instantly view content from Netflix on a TV via the Xbox 360 system through its Watch Instantly video service. In the two months this co-service has been available, the Xbox LIVE community has watched 1.5 billion minutes of movies and TV episodes. That's B for Billion. In two months.

Showing movies and t.v. shows over the web has been talked about ever since the debut of the web. Bandwidth finally increased to the point where it's possible and now technology has caught up to the point where consumers feel comfortable about it. The Netflix/XBox partnership may be a blueprint for the future of streaming movies. Per Reuters:

Analysts have been watching for data on the alliance as an important gauge of the emerging market for movies delivered over the Web, particularly as traditional media companies like Walt Disney this week have reported declining DVD sales and said the traditional business for delivering home video needs to be revised.

Netflix last month said its stronger-than-expected quarterly results were propelled by growth in its Web video streaming service and that streaming was "energizing" its growth.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Dr. Herman B. White Smashes Atoms

Herman B. WhiteTech Club salutes:

Herman B. White
Particle Physicist
Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab)

Dr. Herman B. White has been a particle physics scientist with Fermilab for the past 34 years. His research has covered a range of topics in Particle and Nuclear Physics, as well as work with accelerators and particle beams.

In a 1997 interview, Dr. White made the statement that "[The physicist's] job is to advance knowledge and erase ignorance." His efforts to bring information, concerns, and focus about physics and physical science research have caused him to appear before U.S. Congress, the National Science Foundation, National Public Radio and others. Dr. White's next lecture is at the Adler Planetarium where among other things he'll bring us up to date on the progress of starting the world's newest particle accelerator, the Large Hadron Collider.

But lest you think physicists do nothing but deal with a bunch of stuff we can't even see, their problem solving filters over into our every day lives as well. The World Wide Web was an idea conceived and implemented by a group of high-energy physicists at CERN who wanted to instantly share their ideas and papers with colleagues across the globe. Thanks to their creative solution, the world has become a bit more interconnected.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

International Year of Astronomy

International Year of Astronomy
Related to this week's Photo Fridays' pics, were you aware that 2009 is the International Year of Astronomy?

Astronomy (from the Greek words astron (star) and nomos (law)) is the scientific study of celestial objects (such as stars, planets, comets, and galaxies) and phenomena that originate outside the Earth's atmosphere (such as the cosmic background radiation).

source: Wikipedia

In 2009, 400 years after Galileo first used a telescope to study the skies, the International Astronomical Union and the United Nations are honoring both astronomers and astronomical milestones by proclaiming 2009 as the International Year of Astronomy.

Celebrate the International Year of Astronomy by brushing up on your own knowledge of the skies. Visit the Adler Planetarium's site where they'll be posting a monthly Hot Topic to explore our understanding of the universe and updating their CyberSpace website with space science content and resources about each topic. Both NASA and the International Year of Astronomy also have sites celebrating this year.

To start you off, February's Hot Topic at the Adler is "Our Solar System" where you can read about what Galileo observed when he viewed the universe through that crazy new invention called a telescope.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Photo Fridays

Mars Photo
Postcards from Mars
Photo Credit: NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and University of Arizona

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Google Earth Gets Wet

A new version of Google Earth has just been released which now contains an undersea view of the world. This new feature includes maps of the ocean bottom, photographs and videos of underwater flora and fauna and even shipwrecks. But no pirates, argh!

Google's partners in this new venture are the National Geographic Society, the Scripps Oceanographic Institution and the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration. In fact, a former chief scientist at NOAA, Sylvia Earle, once joked that Google Earth should be called "Google Dirt," because it omitted a majority of the planet's surface. That is no longer the case.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

{ color: red; }

Sean, Kaylin, Cazzie and newest Cabrini Connections and Tech Club member Elijah continued on with their quest to create websites.

Old pro Sean decided his text buttons were just too ugly for his site and quickly opened up Photoshop to create some cool looking graphics for his buttons. He and Steve worked on adding in some pretty neat effects and the result was worth the effort. Sean is just owning this project, which I can see as his site is moving forward.

Meanwhile, Kaylin, Cazzie and Elijah started learning the basics with HTML. We focused on an introduction to CSS, mainly taking about background and text colors. Specifically, we discussed:


and how to make a defined style be applied globally or just to one HTML element.

They soon had their first web page up and then spent some time changing colors and text in their code and seeing how it would display in a browser. There were some errors, but that's part of programming and after some troubleshooting, figured out their mistakes and the correct page was soon visible.

All in all I'm very proud of how quickly they've picked up on the essentials and look forward to seeing how they turn the basics into a site; and how Sean continues to build out his design vision. Tuesday nights at Cabrini Connections are very exciting!!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Track that Bus!

CTA bus tracker
Is there anything is more frustrating than standing at a bus stop not knowing when (or if) the next bus will come? I think not. To help alleviate that frustration, CTA has developed a very handy bus tracker service to let you know where the buses are on a specific route and when they're expected to arrive at their stops.

Not all bus routes have tracking on them, at least not yet, but those that are online have tracking devices on the buses that update the CTA servers with their location information. That information is then available to you so you can plan when you should start walking to the bus stop. Or if you should actually be running ... like right now!

Since CTA doesn't assume you're always sitting at a computer, you can access either from your computer or using a mobile device (such as a cell phone). So if you're already at the stop and your phone has internet access, you can check their site to see how much longer you'll be standing there. The site served up on a mobile device is text only and the navigation is very direct -- which is exactly what you need for a mobile device. You're first presented with a list of the bus routes that have tracking enabled. After selecting your route, choose a direction (e.g., northbound) and then choose a bus stop. CTA then displays the arrival time of the next bus and the one or two after that. When I used my phone to look up the #8 southbound to see when it would arrive at Halsted & Chicago, I was shown this information:

Halsted & Chicago (South Bound)
#8    To 79th    8 MIN    (Bus 1672)
#8    To 79th    15 MIN    (Bus 1226)
#8    To 79th    23 MIN    (Bus 1661)

When you access the site via a web browser, it has a much more rich interface but similar to the mobile device, you can look up estimated arrival times for a specific stop. In addition, the browser site has a very nice mapping feature where they integrated their bus tracking with Google maps. In this map view, they place an icon of the bus along the route so you can actually see where the buses are. The buses "move" along the map as their location information is updated. You can still view the estimated arrival time by clicking on a stop on the map, but in this view you can also set up a pop-up alert so you'll be notified when a bus reaches a given stop.

As someone who frequently uses public transportation, this is a great tool, and I hope it'll be rolled out to all the routes. Kudos to CTA for not only implementing, but also for creating a version for mobile devices. If you use it, let me know how you like it and how accurate you find the arrival times to be.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Australian Open Win

Serena Williams wins Australian Open
Serena Williams wins Australian Open
Photo credit: Getty Images / January 31, 2009

Over the weekend, Serena Williams won her fourth Australian Open with a 6-0, 6-3 victory over Dinara Safina in the final. Williams ran off 18 of the last 20 points in the first set to finish it in 22 minutes. That's impressive.

With this win, Ms. Williams' Grand Slam titles now add up to 10, making her only the seventh woman to have achieved double-digit Grand Slam singles titles. In addition, she's now the fifth woman to win four or more Australian singles titles and has once again reclaimed her No. 1 ranking.

This post has nothing to do with technology -- I just think she's a great athlete.