Adventures of a Summer Intern: Volumes II-VII

As I make my second post in this series, we find ourselves deep into the hot, Arizona summer. The weekly posts suggested by Bob faded quickly into bi-monthly posts. So let’s get caught up, shall we?

Over the past month there has been a lot of action around here. We’re closing up several smaller projects and getting a move on a few new, larger-scaled ones. I’ve been able to contribute to six different websites doing various design and development tasks. I’ve created WordPress and Magento templates, worked on WordPress and Magento administration and installation tasks, written custom PHP for a few websites and worked a lot with CSS and simple designs.

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Posted in: People, Rants Our New Home or: More Than Just HTML

We’ve decided to get a little serious about this and brand our blog under the awesome domain. I know, you’re jealous, right? We’ll be changing some design elements to reflect the shift in real estate soon but get a head start and subscribe already using the nifty dropdown on the left. You can add us to iGoogle, Google Reader or about two dozen other subscription aggregation services you’ve never heard of.

In the mean time, expect more posts on bleeding edge web development concepts, quick and easy how-tos and the nitty gritty into the languages and tools we use every day. We’re going to be attacking things across the spectrum skill-level wise so there should be something for everyone. And yes, we’ll be covering nearly everything web dev—far more than “just” HTML.

Posted in: Announcements

Zip Codes in Web Apps: A Tutorial on Validating Cities & Calculating Distance

[Editor's Note: This post was authored originally in 2006. Edgar will be writing an update shortly, but some things have definitely changed in that time.]
As a web developer, I’m constantly having to deal with zip codes, with almost terrifyingly frequency. These experiences no longer leave me in cold sweat; instead, I’ve warmed to the concept as it’s nice to be able to validate someone’s zip code based on the city and state they entered. (Or to autopopulate their city and state based on a zip code.) This can be a major headache saver if you’re doing bulk or CASS-certified mailings as the cost increases for each unverified address. Ensuring the accuracy of your data at the data entry point is always a good idea and is a relatively simple endeavor. Follow us after the jump for a look into what can be done about zips.

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Posted in: Development, How To

Building your web development blog feeds: 30 sites to follow

Six Revisions has a great piece on 30 websites to follow if you’re into web development, complete with cute little screenshots that let you judge, near-fully, the quality of each site on the merits of its cover, instead of having to actually click through. (I kid.)

Among them are classics like Ajaxian, the O’Reilly Network and a bunch of others that you’ve probably not heard of but should definitely check out. (And a few we weren’t too familiar with, either.)

30 Websites to follow if you’re into Web Development | Six Revisions via Digg

Posted in: Development

Magento: A New Open Source Shopping Cart Solution

A good amount of shopping these days is done online, but any developer knows that creating eCommerce websites is not a simple or mundane task. To cook up your own solution can take months of designing, coding, testing and headaches and there is no guarantee that you, your client, or your client’s customers will really benefit from your labors. [Reinventing the wheel is a bad habit we broke ourselves of a couple of years ago when we realized smart open source solutions could be built upon and expanded with great success.—Ed]

At the heart of these eCommerce websites naturally lies the shopping cart. There have been many attempts by both commercial and open source developers to create solutions that can be ported from one project to another. There are literally hundreds of shopping carts available for developers to incorporate into their applications and websites. Instead of talking about several of them and discussing their glories and pitfalls, allow me to present one of the newest shopping cart applications which we think has a great deal of potential.

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Posted in: Cool Stuff, Development, Tech News

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 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