Archive for the ‘Technical’ Category

Printing Maps

Printing with Google Maps used to be easy. That was many moons ago. I’m thinking it was the original Google Maps website. There used to be a Print button on Google’s webpage. It would bring up a print preview-type box, and you could scroll and zoom the map in that to make sure your map printed just how you wanted.

Fast forward a few years from there, and Google “updated” their maps service so that it didn’t print anymore. If you wanted to print, you had to use your browser’s Print Webpage function. No longer could you make the map preview match what you wanted. No longer was it convenient to print different sections of a route. But, someone thought it was progress, so that’s what we got.

Fast forward a few more years, and Google “updated” their maps service to include more bloat features. That’s where we are now.

My problem now is that Google Maps won’t even print. I press ctrl-P to invoke the browser’s print feature, and it sends it to the printer, but the printer doesn’t like it.

Why does every improvement make my life harder?

Do not fear, though, for I have found the solution.

Option 1: MapQuest. Yes, that site is still functional. And it plays nicely with the printer.

Option 2: Switch Google Maps to Lite Mode. Click the lightning bolt in the lower right corner of the website. Once I switched to Lite Mode, I magically had no problems printing.

Your mileage may vary, but if you’re having problems with some aspect of Google Maps, try Lite Mode. Now if I could just get them to add a button so I could switch to Original Mode, it’d be perfect.

Thus says the Lord, “Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, Where the good way is, and walk in it; And you will find rest for your souls. But they said, ‘We will not walk in it.’ “

Jeremiah 6:16

Partial STEM Ahead

In my previous post, I commented on how the push to include more variety into STEM education leads to a watering down of the initiative. If you make everything a priority, then nothing is a priority (The Incredibles is applicable again).

But now I want to look at another aspect of the STEM initiative: will it be effective?

The usual comparison is to the US back in the 1960s when the government responded to the president’s vow to put a man on the moon (or sound stage) in that decade. Thus began a STEM-like push.

The problem with that comparison is that it is backwards. The government in the 1960s didn’t push for schools to promote STEM. Rather, the government provided a project (fly to the moon) that got everyone interested. People wanted to be a part of it, so they saw what was needed and did what they could. Kids in school saw pictures of people working at NASA and had something to aspire to. They also saw clips on TV of rocket launches and were captivated. This was all new and exciting and promoted itself.

What is new these days? What can captivate the nation? What will catch kids’ attention and inspire them for their future?

That was meant more as a rhetorical question. I think we as a society have passed that point of national pride and interest. I don’t know that we can duplicate that effort again.

So in the 1960s, we had an exciting long-term program that kids could look forward to being a part of, if they went a certain direction in their schooling.

And now, we have schools trying to point kids in a direction and the kids don’t necessarily know why, or care. Yes, the programs might be fun, but what is driving the kids to continue through college?

I maintain that kids who like that kind of stuff will stay in it, but they would have already been heading that way. I don’t know that the STEM push today will have much of a long-term effect. People don’t have a higher purpose for their schooling now like they did back then. “You can be anything you want to be when you grow up!” That can be inspiring, or it can be ambiguous. Without an overall goal, there’s nothing to guide the ambiguity.

If the government (or industries) wants more college graduates in a certain field, you know how to get them? Good job offers. It’s like they got the supply and demand equation backwards. The STEM push is to increase the supply of STEMmy people, but what’s the demand? Some vague answer such as “The United States is behind most other countries when it comes to science and math knowledge.”

That is rather uninspiring.

My response to that vague answer is: yes, but we’re still the best country in the world, so what’s the problem?

If you want to increase the supply, then provide the demand. Want more math teachers in the high schools? Double their salaries and see what happens. I bet people will magically become more interested in being math teachers.

To throw an old saying in here: the STEM people are trying to lead horses to water. But the horses aren’t thirsty.

Then Jonathan said to him, “Tomorrow is the new moon, and you will be missed because your seat will be empty.

1 Samuel 20:18

Full STEM Ahead

First, there was normal school. Well, maybe not first. But first if we limit our scope to this generation. Kids learned a little bit of everything.

Now, there is STEM. Some people in the industry and/or government saw there would be a need for workers in the Science/Technology/Engineering/Math fields, and they started a push for students to be more involved in those areas so the pipeline of future workers would fill with people who were interested and competent in those areas.

Then some people thought that was a good idea and expanded it to STEAM, with the A being Arts. Because things needs to be designed well, and the arts encourage creativity, and so on. There is some discussion on whether it should be STEAM or just left at STEM.

I’m wondering why stop at STEAM? If pushing for more education in those areas is good, why not bring other areas in?

All those fields are built on what people before us have learned and tried and developed, so it’s a type of history. We could throw H for History in there, so they would know the importance of history and not be intimidated by it. That makes SHTEAM.

But what good is knowledge of a subject if you can’t communicate it? The kids should be mastering Language as well, so they can write and speak to others about their STEM projects and why they’re important. SHTELAM.

A number of roadblocks to STEM problem solving have to do with government regulations or programs, whether federal or local. Or government can help with grants and permits. Either way, a good understanding of Civics is helpful for the future STEM workers. SHTECLAM.

There, now let’s start pushing for SHTECLAM programs. For short, we could just call it school.

Then a shoot will spring from the stem of Jesse, And a branch from his roots will bear fruit.

Isaiah 11:1

Updated Today

The weather had been iffy, so I decided to check if the game was still on. The organization’s website told me this:

image of website saying the weather was updated today

“Updated: Today”

That’s worthless. What if the website guy typed in “Updated: Today” yesterday and never changed it?

That’s one of the more annoying trends in web services: giving the relative time instead of absolute. For example, your inbox says it was updated 3 minutes ago. And it has said that for the last half hour.

Dear user-interface designers: try to give information with absolute times/dates, not relative. That way I know if the information is stale.

In my line of work, I deal with safety systems. There are all sorts of mechanisms for ensuring data is new and correct. I don’t expect rolling counters and checksums, just a normal date and time display. Don’t try to make my life easier by oversimplifying the data – you’re making it worse by making the data unreliable.

But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.

Hebrews 3:13

Missing String

I was using a certain device the other day and got this warning.

image of warning screen for a missing string error

For a second or so, I was confused. Then I realized what happened and I was amused.

I do believe it was a product that was still in development, so I can’t fault them yet. Don’t know if the error messages were copied from a previous project, or if a conversion from C to C# or from Java to Fortran wasn’t fully reviewed, or whatever.

For those not familiar with strings in programming, %s is a parameter that’s supposed to be populated with the actual text.

But nothing of theirs was missing, whether small or great, sons or daughters, spoil or anything that they had taken for themselves; David brought it all back.

1 Samuel 30:19

Animated Favicons

I realized recently that you can use animated GIFs for favicons. And if that sentence meant nothing to you, come back another day for a different topic.

In general, I’m a fan of animated GIFs. And I don’t care what anyone else says, I’m pronouncing it with a hard G. But animated GIFs don’t belong everywhere. And a favicon is one of those places because it looks like the page is always loading.

At first, it seemed like a good idea. It would set your webpage apart from the crowd. But people are so conditioned to having a repetitive movement near the tab bar mean that something is loading, so they would be annoyed with your page for not loading. If they paid close attention, they would see a difference between the loading icon and the moving favicon, but not many people are going to notice that detail.

In summary, don’t animate your favicons.

Now as for me, I said in my prosperity,
“I will never be moved.”

Psalm 30:6

A Quieter Google

Google tries to be helpful.

Take, for instance, the auto-complete feature of its flagship search engine. You start typing, and Google provides some of the most popular searches that begin with the letters you have typed.

Sometimes it’s helpful. And other times it has me scratching my head wondering what’s wrong with people.

What got me thinking about it though was that some of the suggestions were either rude or family unfriendly. And my kids will sometimes use my phone to lookup things. And I didn’t want them encountering questionable content because Google presented it.

So I found a way to disable that feature. Now if someone uses my phone to lookup something, Google will not suggest anything. It will just accept what you type and go with that.

To accomplish that, you need to go to your bookmarks (or favorites, or whatever your browser calls them) and edit the Google URL.
Instead of just plain www.google.com,
use https://www.google.com/webhp?complete=0

That’s the easiest way to disable Google auto-compete. Then you won’t be inundated with the world’s thoughts while you’re trying to find some information.

That URL was provided in text form so you could read/copy it as needed. Here’s a link if you need that: non-verbose Google.

All day long they distort my words; All their thoughts are against me for evil.

Psalm 56:5