Workaround to Gmail Manager Firefox Extension

Ever since we made the switch from hosting our own mail servers to using Google Apps for Domain, one of the Firefox extensions that I use on a daily basis is Gmail Manager. It allows me to easily view the inboxes for various email accounts that I monitor and gives me the ability to quickly launch any of those accounts into a new tab. The only problem is that the extension author hasn’t made any updates to it since 2007. While this wouldn’t normally be too big of a problem, Google in their infinite wisdom has decided to rename the username and password login inputs.

The result of the name change by Google caused the extension to stop retrieving email and auto-logging me in to the accounts. It wasn’t until I got suspicious of the fact that it didn’t appear that anyone was emailing me for a few hours that I decided to manually log in and investigate. Once I determined that the extension had broken, I went to work trying to track down an updated version or a quick fix to get it back in action. What I found was a forum for the extension with over 100 pages of messages in it.

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Posted in: Rants

Synapse Studios awarded Arizona State Board for Charter Schools Database Project

Synapse Studios is proud to announce that our proposal was selected for an enterprise accountability database project for Arizona State Board for Charter Schools. The project was awarded through Arizona’s SPIRIT e-Procurement system and Synapse Studios’ proposal was selected over six other web development companies who submitted proposals.

Our proposal received a 938 out of a possible 1000 points on their evaluation criteria, with the following comments for our Method of Approach:

Excellent five-phase method of approach; communication and progress reporting; timeline. Excellent case studies. Communication doesn’t appear to be a problem since it’s a local company and they are willing to communicate in person and by phone. Best Method of Approach proposed, meets and exceeds all Scope requirements.

The application will handle accountability and compliance tracking and management for the State Board. Synapse Studios is proud to add the State Board for Charter Schools to their roster of government clients. The project is slated to be completed by the end of 2008.

Posted in: Announcements

Highlighted Links and Improving Web Readability: People are lazy

Sometimes, people ask us about our decision to highlight our non-link text. You’ll notice that whenever there’s bold text on the site, it’s accompanied by a light green background. The reason for this is simple: People are exceptionally lazy.

The Problem: The eye is intimidated, to put it simply, by large, unwavering blocks of text. This can present a bit of a problem when you have a lot of information you want to convey to someone while trying to limit their tendency to skim.

Skimming is the enemy of basic reading comprehension. When a user is presented with a large block of text, it presents a few challenges: It’s incredibly difficult to keep your place once a block of text extends past, say, four lines of text. So people skim. They read the first sentence, they read the last sentence and they try to determine if the content within warrants a closer look.

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Posted in: Design

Meet Brandon Ching: Developer

Hello everyone. My name is Brandon Ching and I am the newest developer here at Synapse Studios. I recently relocated to Arizona from San Diego, CA to attend ASU. I am very happy to be apart of this company and hope that my contributions, both professionally and personally, will enable Synapse Studios to reach the next level of their business goals.

I can most easily be described as a life long student. I have a B.S. in Criminal Justice Administration, a Master of Public Administration degree and was recently accepted to the ASU Doctoral program in Public Administration where I will be researching the government’s use of Internet surveillance technologies as a means of control and coercion in the citizenry.

My technical background is a varied one. My specialty is anything and everything open-source; primarily Linux. I hold certifications in UNIX system administration and have been to a number of technical training conferences from organizations such as USENIX, LISA, and SANS and have been trained in areas such as: system administration, linux OS security, networking, computer and network forensics, and web application security. I am also a GIAC Certified Computer Forensic Analyst and enjoy computer forensics as a study and practice.

I have been developing under the LAMP stack for about 4-5 years now and have experience in everything from AJAX, object oriented PHP, and MySQL database design to the Google Maps API, Drupal, CodeIgniter, and more recently, Magento.

In my free time, I enjoy archery, shooting, competitive badminton, hiking, and photography. My wife and I are also expecting our first child in early November; we are very excited about that.

Posted in: People

Meet Edgar Hassler: Lead Developer & Office Miser

I’m Edgar Hassler, and I resent having to write an about me blog post. I’m miserly, misanthropic, and am to blame for a good deal of development at the Studios. After an unfortunate misunderstanding with Bob’s sister, the guys gave me the nickname “The Bear”. We don’t really know how long I’ve been here, but it’s been more than thirteen Linux is Ready for the Desktop Slashdot cycles, or roughly three earth years. In addition to being a developer I’m also a student in statistics and I am the captain of the Synapse Studios Step Team, “The Steppers”.

If I show up on the blog it will be either liquor fueled angry polemics that will undoubtedly be deleted by Chris once he finds them, or something about ECMA-262-3, or maybe tributes to John Singleton—I read about him a lot in GoF, Alur and Fowler.

I might also write about dive day, where we travel up main street looking for shady restaurants to have lunch in a form of adventure dining that almost never ends up with someone sick or us becoming unwitting accomplices to a “jacking”.

Finally, I’m also a fan of beards, including Doug Crockford’s beard, but especially the maestro—Ben Bernanke—and his beard.

Posted in: People

Meet Jeremy Lindblom: Intern

My name is Jeremy Lindblom, and I am the new summer intern here at Synapse Studios. Synapse Studios contacted me after reading my resume on the ASU Sun Devil CareerLink website. After an extensive interview and a very extensive waiting period, they brought me aboard. I’m excited to jump in to some enterprise-level development and really start to learn the exciting, and constantly-changing, field of web development.

This fall, I will be starting my senior year at Arizona State University. I’m studying Computer Science with a concentration in software engineering. My passions are definitely in the web development arena. I aspire to become a skilled developer, and to produce quality work that I get payed well for. I have also been accepted to the Integrated Masters Program, and will simultaneously start grad school throughout my senior year.

In the past I have developed mainly with XHTML, CSS, and PHP, and have done many projects over the past few years. Recently, I have been working with CampusSpots.com to develop their website and prepare it for expanding across the country. Other personal projects include Finding Restaurants and Regular Heroes (my band).

Though web development is fun, I often find my attentions divided to my other interests. I love performing. I love to participate in musical theater, ballroom dance, choirs, and other performing. Right now I play keyboard and sing backup for Regular Heroes. I also enjoy writing piano and choir music, lyrics, poetry, and fictional stories. Other interests include making funny faces, picking up loose change, religion, and dark chocolate.

I live in Mesa, AZ, with my lovely wife Penny, and we don’t have any kids yet.

Posted in: People

Synapse Summer Internship

We’ve brought on an intern for the summer and we’re excited by our pick: Jeremy Lindblom has been coding and working on the web for a few years and is looking to really dive in to high-end web application development and is ready to get his feet wet with some of the very advanced concepts we work with.

At Synapse Studios, we like to hire people who have existing side projects or personal web sites going. It represents a certain drive and passion for the technology and personifies the obsessive zeal we’re looking for in our team. Jeremy recently started Finding Restaurants, a kind of restaurant directory-directory. In talking yesterday, I suggested he consider making it a bit of a restaurant review site aggregator, ala MetaCritic. I’ll talk a bit more about our discussion that followed in another post. In the meantime, look for a proper introduction by Jeremy to come real soon.

Posted in: People

Meet David Bernal: Developer

My name is David Bernal and I’m one of the developers at Synapse Studios. I’ve been with the company for nearly 2 years, which, at this company is fairly long. I’ve been chest-deep in code since day one and have worked for various clients and on many personal projects before then.

As a developer, my primary contributions to this blog will be about enterprise patterns and reuse ability as we implement them in client projects and particularly in the Canopy Framework. One of my particular strengths is the wide variety of experience I have beyond the realm of PHP-based web development. In a previous life as a desktop application developer I worked primarily with C# and so I have experience with the things the .NET library does well and those which PHP does better. Based on this experience, I’ll be working with the team this summer to incorporate some exciting automation and reusability enhancements into the framework. Stay tuned, as the coming months promise to be exciting times for the web’s next best application platform. [That's Canopy, we think]

Posted in: People

A workaround to the WordPress 2.5.1 bug

Recently we upgraded our blog to WordPress 2.5.1 and have been battling a horrible bug ever since. When we save or edit a post most of our content is sometimes lost. Unfortunately, it isn’t occurring with enough frequency for us to track down the specific cause of the problem and we have enough projects lined up over here to keep us from digging through the WordPress code ourselves to solve it in any reasonable time. So we’ve opened up a ticket in WordPress’ bug tracker that outlines the problem in more detail and continue to wait for a response from someone on the dev team to let us know what might be the culprit.

In the meantime, the fear of not knowing if your post would be lost when saved forced us to saving the content to notepad before publishing. This is a less than useful solution to the problem because even doing this it seems that once a post starts truncating itself upon saving, it continues to do it every time. The only solution is to delete it and start anew. [We're noticing the problem crops up most often when another user edits an entry not their own. It truncates the post arbitrarily and then proceeds to reject contributions to that post past the truncated length. Needless to say, the frequency and creativity of expletives uttered in the office has spiked dramatically.—Ed]

So today, I took some time to hunt down remote posting solutions that allowed us to save our posts without needing to log in to WordPress directly. ScribeFire was the first solution I tried and has turned out to be an incredibly useful tool. ScribeFire is a FireFox extension that allows us to create posts directly in FireFox and saves them to our blog via the WordPress API.

There is still some functionality lacking: the ability to change post author, adding excerpts and making use of some of the plugins that modified our post entry page to name a few. But we see their release schedule to be rather efficient and hope to request some features that make it into the next release (or until WordPress identifies the problem that forced us to this solution in the first place). [It should also be noted that the extension on the whole is rather impressive considering that it's blog-engine agnostic and works for many different providers.Ed]

Posted in: Rants

Newest member to the Synapse Studios team

We are pleased to announce that we have recently added a new programmer, Brandon Ching, to our company. This will be his first full week (he actually started last Thursday). He recently relocated from California to pursue his PhD at Arizona State University. I’ll leave it to Brandon to tell you more about himself in his introduction posting.

We look forward to adding Brandon’s expertise to our group and are excited for his input on our various projects. We currently have him working on a few of our e-commerce client websites that we will be migrating from various platforms onto the Magento e-commerce solution.

On behalf of everyone at Synapse Studios, welcome Brandon!

Posted in: People