Sep
06
2009
0

I Just Make It Look Easy

Easy-to-make iPhone

Easy-to-make iPhone

A company once told me someone had offered to build permanent disability calculators for their website in three months for $7,500.  One said six months and $20,000.  Recently, another suggested it would take them a year and $40,000.  My response is usually some variation on “You’ve got to take that deal.  You’re wasting your time talking to me.”

It’s no big secret that building a great product takes a lot of work.  The important thing to remember is that just because something is easy-to-use, that doesn’t mean its easy-to-make. [1]

Real iPhone

Difficult-to-make iPhone

Let’s take the iPhone for example.  Everyone will concede its an easy phone to use.  However, it was released more than two years ago on 6/29/2007. [2]  In that time the other players – BlackBerry, LG, Nokia, and Palm have all been trying to catch up.  If this easy-to-use phone were easy-to-build everyone would have their own version.

Look, there’s no special magic to building a website like this.  Really, anyone can do it.  All you have to do is learn the calculations inside-and-out, deconstruct the math involved in the various calculations, learn some client and server side programming languages, learn a content management system, make it all work together, keep current on changes in the law, start all over again each time the law changes, and earn the respect of the workers’ compensation community.  Once done, you’ll have your very own workers’ compensation calculator website!

To return to the lesson of the iPhone, building a touch screen phone that can play music and surf the web is totally doable.  Doing it right is another matter entirely.

  1. Visit the link for a PDF of a cut-and-fold iPhone.  Thanks Gizmodo! []
  2. Wikipedia link. []
Mar
28
2009
2

New Ogilvie DFEC Rebuttal Calculator feature!

Getting an upgrade!

Getting an upgrade!

Late last week a user asked for a new feature.[1]  He wanted to be able to perform the Ogilvie DFEC rebuttal calculation and have the results e-mailed to him.[2] Well, I built it![3]

To e-mail yourself a calculation, perform the calculation as normal.  When the website returns your calculation, it will say “E-mail Me!”  Just click that button and it will send an e-mail to the address you used to register for this website.

However, here’s the cool part:  I’ve installed this new e-mail system into every calculator! [4] No more having to copy and paste!  Just click one button and your calculation will show up in your inbox![5]

Although I intend this to be a paid-subscription-only feature, I am going to leave it open for all users while I get some feedback.  So, what do you think?  Please leave a comment or shoot me an e-mail!

  1. Thanks Dennis! []
  2. Photo courtesy of Vernhart []
  3. Why, what did you do with your Saturday morning? []
  4. I haven’t installed it in some of the EAMS lookup functions []
  5. If you filled in the boxes for Applicant, WCAB #, and File #, it will include this information in your e-mail as well.  This is only for your convenience and not a requirement. []
Mar
27
2009
0

WordPress – Not Just For Kids Any More!

Wordpress

Wordpress

A friend of mine owns and operates a number of websites – all of which run on ASP/.NET/MS-SQL servers.  He knows what he’s talking about, but he’s fairly dismissive of WordPress, PHP, and MySQL.

All this time I’ve been raving about WordPress, telling him that you can basically do anything with it.  I’ve mentioned how easy it is to use, how easy it is to maintain, its open source, how many global corporations use WordPress to build their websites, how its the tool of choice for so many designers, and how huge the WordPress community is.

In the meantime, he’s referring to his millions of rows in his “real-SQL, MicroSoft SQL” database.  I believe he’s been stuck thinking of PHP and MySQL as “kiddie” stuff, just not ready for big time.

That is, he’s been dismissive of WordPress until about two months ago.  In the last two months other people (SEO consultants, professional designers) have been raving about WordPress to him too.

I think he’s finally coming around.

Dec
12
2008
0

Website Upgrade to WordPress 2.7!

Wordpress Upgrade

Wordpress Upgrade

I upgraded the website to WordPress 2.7 RC 1 over the weekend.

I generally do not bother installing the updates between the major upgrades.  My major concern in upgrading is eliminating possible security issues and obtaining additional program features.  I maintain a totally separate website from PDRater.com, also running on WordPress, where I install the very latest versions of WordPress and try out new variations on the look-and-feel of this website, new calculators, and new ideas about how best to present the current calculators.

Very late Wednesday night I upgraded this website to WordPress v2.7.  I’m not sure I fully appreciate how much better it might be than the various release candidates.

Thursday morning I discovered an unintended effect of upgrading is that it “broke” one of my plugins.   (Reza: Thanks for pointing it out!)  I had modified an existing plugin, EasyPayPal, to allow this website to accept credit card payments.  WordPress v2.7 changed the user profiles area of the website – and made it so that instead of seeing an option to become a paid subscriber, you just saw a cryptic PHP error.  This is nothing that would have compromised a credit card number or anything – it just would have prevented anyone from giving me money.

A little bit of bug testing, one new line of code and its back up and running.  :)

Nov
11
2008
0

Safer Software Practices

Wordpress

Wordpress

I’ve been upgrading to the latest releases of WordPress as soon as each one comes out.  And, its a good thing too.

Over the last week or two a website named “Wordpresz.org” ((I’ve edited the link so that it goes to WordPress.org instead.  I don’t want contribute to these hackers fooling anyone else.)) was discovered.  The people who created this website were using a vulenerability in WordPress version 2.6.2 to redirect users to their website.  Their website purported to release WordPress version 2.6.4[1].  The problem was that they had hacked one file in the installation package to create a bigger security vulerability.

This just goes to show that:

  1. Monitor for Updates. Many programs these days automatically check to see if new versions are available.  If the program does not have this feature[2] , its a good idea to check about once a month or so.
  2. Update Frequently. Not all software updates are equal.  If the program is being updated to fix security vulnerabilities or improve the program’s stability, you definitely want to install the update.  This website’s installation of WordPress was already “inocculated” against this kind of attack because I had alled version 2.6.3 almost as soon as it came out.
  3. Use Official Sources. WordPress is open source software built using PHP and MySQL.  Since the program is open source, its easier to modify the code. ((As Uncle Ben said, “With great power comes great responsibility.”))  The themes and plugins available through WordPress.org are reviewed by other users for malicious code and for possible improvements.  If you’re not certain how to examine source code for malicious code, its best to only use official sources.
  1. The latest version is 2.6.3 which is just version 2.6.2 with a small but important security fix. []
  2. Or if you turn it off, as I sometimes do. []

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