Oct
27
2008
0

Two More Calculator Features!

Not a new calculator

Not a new calculator

Last week, at the request of a paid subscriber, I added a new permanent disability rating calculator feature.1 2 Prior users had asked about incorporating an automatic dollar value of permanent disability or “money chart”  For the reasons I described in that prior post, I just couldn’t think of a good way to incorporate an automatic calculation of the monetary value of permenant disability.

New Paid Subscriber Feature

New Calculator

New Calculator

Once I added this feature, I realized there were at least two more instances when an automatic calculation of dollar value of permanent disability might come in very handy: when calculating the Multiple Disabilities Table3 or Combined Value Chart4 values from combining one or more permanent disability ratings.

Now, when a paid subscriber calculates the CVC or MDT of multiple ratings, the calculated combined rating is fed to the dollar value of permanent disability calculator and the dollar value calculated.

  1. Old calculator photo courtesy of ansik. []
  2. New calculator photo courtesy of dan taylor. []
  3. 1997 Permanent Disability Rating Schedule []
  4. 2005 Permanent Disability Rating Schedule []
Oct
24
2008
0

WordPress Update to v2.6.3

Wordpress Upgrade

Wordpress Upgrade

Quick Update

or those of you keeping score at home, I’ve updated to WordPress v2.6.3 last night. 1  This version was released as a security fix.  Unlike other WordPress upgrades, this one took only a few seconds.

Less Quick Updates

Admittedly, prior updates probably only take about 10 minutes, max.  This 10 minutes includes roughly 9 minutes of backing the website and database up and 1 minute of actually uploading the new version.  Since the 9 minutes of backing up is essentially all processing/downloading time, there’s nothing for me to monitor which makes the whole process very painless.

Upcoming Updates

The kind folks over at WordPress have been hard at work on the version 2.72  If you scan through the above link, you’ll get to see what the new WordPress 2.7 control panel/dashboard is supposed to look like.

Best Thing About WordPress

(If you just can’t wait, skip down two paragraphs.)  Regular readers have heard me go on and on about the virtues of WordPress3  The interesting thing about new versions of WordPress is that any upgrades would be seamless to a website visitor. 4

A website that is easy to read is a function of the author

Website content is really all that matters to a website visitor.  Visitors don’t care about what software a website owner is using – just as long as the content is useful. 5

A website that is easy to write is a function of the program

The single best thing about WordPress is that this program makes maintaining a website a breeze.  I would recommend WordPress to absolutely anyone interested in creating a website.  For the novice, the program makes it easy to write, edit, and delete single pages or the entire website without any knowledge of programming.  For the tech-minded, the program makes it easy to install, upgrade, and personalize a website.

If you know a little PHP, MySQL, and javascript you could do some c-r-a-z-y things with WordPress. 678

  1. Talk about unnecessary decimal places. []
  2. I call them “kind” since a lot of these people are working for free. []
  3. You know, you three should really form some kind of support group for people who read unnecessarily nerdy and self-referential blogs. []
  4. I think its interesting, anyhow. []
  5. If they don’t care about what kind of software, they sure as heck don’t care its version 2.6.3. []
  6. You could even put together your own workers compensation calculators and EAMS search engines! []
  7. Am I going overboard with these footnotes? []
  8. The answer is “No, I’m not going overboard.”  In the immortal words of Ferris Bueller, “You can never go too far.” []
Sep
02
2008
1

Homemade WordPress 2.6+ Plugins

If you’re at all curious, I’ve written about four eight of the plugins for this website.  WordPress was specifically written to allow users to create their own plugins.  A “plugin” is a little piece of programming code that will modify how a program behaves.

I’ll discuss them later on, but for the ravenously curious my plugins include:

  • A plugin that creates rounded corners throughout the website
  • A plugin that creates the “accordion” menu effect on the Links and Calculator pages
  • A plugin that adds AJAX effects throughout the website
  • A plugin that creates a “gray-out” screen over certain pages when you’re not logged in or a registered user
  • A plugin that redirects a user to the calculator page when they log in
  • A plugin that changes the look and operation of the registration page to be more user friendly
  • A plugin that makes lots of little tweaks to the site to make it look and act better (I’m constantly adding to this one)
  • A plugin that allows users to sign up for automatically recurring subscriptions using a credit card or their PayPal account (I’m still working to make this more user friendly)
Aug
25
2008
1

Inside the Calculators – Part IV – MySQL

I recently gave a brief overview of my permanent disability and workers’ compensation benefit calculators. In that post I wrote a little bit about how my online benefits calculators work. Since then I’ve posted about my use of javascript, PHP, and AJAX in creating these permanent disability and permanent impairment calculators.

As I mentioned in the prior post in this series, my first few versions of this website and its workers’ compensation calculators did not use MySQL.  The initial versions of this site only saved information – which meant I only had to use PHP to open a file on the server, add an extra line of information, and then close the file.  This had several problems:

  1. Once my website became more popular, it was not uncommon to have more than one user online.  That meant the server tried to open the file – but couldn’t since it was already open.  This caused the program to freak out.
  2. In order to view just a little bit of information, I had to download the entire file.  This got crazy pretty quickly.
  3. Each time the file got larger, it would take slightly longer to open, append with more information, and close.

MySQL is an incredible tool for storing, organizing, and retrieving a large amount of data.   Like PHP, it is also open-source.  This means it is:

  • Well supported.  There are lots of online resources and books to help you learn.
  • Secure.  Lots of people spend a lot of time thinking of ways to prevent security vulnerabilities.
  • Customizable.  You can configure or even rewrite it, if you wish.
  • Interoperability.  You can save it to just about any format – including MS Excel spreadsheets.
  • Free.  Unlike Oracle or any of the MS alternatives, it is totally free.

So, why did I avoid MySQL?  I didn’t want to have to learn a whole new programming language.  I had to learn how to set up a database, tables within the database, how to search for information in a table, how to put information into a table, and how to change information which was already in a table.  There was a lot of trial and error.  I ended up doing some pretty cool things in the process of learning this language.  Some examples:

  • Teaching others some of the basics of MySQL
  • Writing a program for cataloging books
  • Writing several programs which performed various calculations to track invoices, billings, etc
  • Setting up several blogs/websites

The end result of learning this language is a more interactive website.  One of the last incarnations of this site was a version that would show different color schemes, advertisers, and messages depending upon the user.  All of this was made possible by large amounts of data stored in MySQL.

Thus ends my technical overview of my workers’ compensation permanent disability calculators!  If you have any questions, please feel free to email me or leave a comment below!

Aug
20
2008
0

Javascript Games

Howie Mandell trying to look hard.

Howie Mandell trying to look hard.

Javascript appears all over the internet. You can be pretty sure that your favorite websites use a LOT of javascript. You see it every time a website creates a pop-up advertisement, sends you an alert, lets you bookmark their page, or interacts with you in some way.

I’ve written some pretty cool (in my nerdy opinion) things in javascript:

  • A blackjack strategy simulator. You tell the program how many decks, when you want to hit, stand, double down depending on the deck count, and it will run through a given number of hands – telling you how much your strategy has won/lost overall.
  • A “Deal or No Deal” odds simulator. The program calculated the average of the remaining unopened suitcases – to compare against the Banker’s offer. It made rudimentary guesses about how much the Banker would offer. There has been some incredible and complex analysis of how these offers are created.
  • A billing program. It had separate timers for different tasks, tallied time, expenses, ability to save reports, and create invoices for different clients.
  • A simple program for tallying points for gin rummy.
  • Several small programs for solving various internet website puzzles.
  • Several small tools which allow me to write other programs or web pages more efficiently.

I’ve written innumerable other mini-programs which either had a very limited or one-time use or which I never developed into an actual program. One example was a program that would help me quickly search muliple ebay auctions and compare the various prices. Another was a Sudoku puzzle solver which I never completed.

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