If it’s Sunday, this must be Vegas

On Saturday, we set out before sunrise to drive to the airport and begin our trip to Las Vegas. Some of you might think that this is a funny place to take a three-year-old, but we have reasons beyond the usual; Elise’s parents live there. We lugged the usual complement of books, toys and food to keep Andrew amused on the six-hour flight to Las Vegas. However, this time I had also stuffed some bike clothes and my pedals in my bag. Though biking is far from the primary purpose of this trip, the lure of 50° weather and clear-ish skies was too much for me to pass up.

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Google maps and the future of HTTP

By now you’ve probably seen Google Maps – I’m not sure when it debuted but I’ve seen multiple blog references in the past week or so. The service is certainly slicker than what I’ve seen on MapQuest or MapBlast, and I’m sure it will remain popular even after Google figures out how to monetize it. What really excites me about gmaps is not the map technology per se but how it’s delivered. I won’t go into the details here (jgwebber’s blog has a pretty good dissection) but it’s based on loading only the parts of the page that have changed. As Webber points out, the technique differs from Gmail’s mechanism, but the effect is the same. Instead of reloading the entire web page to perform an action, client-side logic retrieves data from the server and inserts it into the appropriate place in the page structure. This results in a much smoother user experience, not to mention reduced network traffic. This idea may not be original to Gmail but I don’t know of another mass-market app that uses it.
The approach isn’t without its drawbacks; it complicates the presentation layer and (potentially) introduces yet another stripe of browser-dependent code. But I think it’s a step in the right direction for web apps, especially those that deal with lots of complex relationships in persistent objects. I’m eager to apply the concept to a project so I can get more comfortable with the design implications.

Baby name visualization

Not that I’m shopping or anything, but the Name Voyager at babynamewizard.com is pretty cool. It’s not perfect; if you have one very popular name and a far less popular variant it’s hard to get your mouse positioned to see the details of the less popular name. A zoom/pan control might solve that problem. Still, it’s a useful visualization tool.
Vectored from the incomparable memepool, which I don’t see much these days due to its lack of RSS feed.

DVD Case Inserts: Deskjet’s Revenge

To my ever-increasing chagrin, I’m not done with the “Andrew 2004” DVD project. These were supposed to be Christmas gifts, and now it looks as though they aren’t going to make the Valentine’s Day shipping deadline. I’ve overcome – actually, given up on correcting – a couple of audio flaws in one of the movies. The discs are burnt and labeled. But once again, I’ve been undone by the case inserts.
Last year I had a terrible time trying to get the printed image to align properly on the form. This year I switched to new software, figuring that even if I didn’t fix the alignment problem I would at least get away from the bizarre UI of the original package. It took a call to customer support (at least this new package has it!) but I did figure out what’s going on with the alignment. Evidently whatever coordinate system the printer uses doesn’t originate exactly at a corner, so in switching from portrait to landscape I had to recalibrate the software. I did so, and got good results. Final step: print a bunch of copies, stuff them into the DVD cases and make a triumphant (if somewhat belated) trip to the PO to send them on their various ways. Easy like pie!
Of course, this would be the perfect time for my printer to run out of ink, which it did. With six copies left to print. Sorry folks, but it looks like I’m not going to finish this week.

When I grow up…

Another milestone for Andrew today: during dinner (while munching his second of three broccoli spears, no less) he announced that “when I grow up, I wanna be a pilot.” Hadn’t heard that phrase before, but I suspect we’ll hear it a bunch from now on. When I picked him up today he was sitting next to one of his buddies and they were flying their teacher to “Dinsneyland” so I think we’ve seen the start of a long-term fascination with flying things. Or at least I hope so; that could be tremendous fun for me, too!