Solar Flares – mind your Sat Nav!

With the new solar monitoring satellites in place it is nice to have early warning of impending solar activity. There is currently an ‘alert’ on a solar flare pointing directly at earth.

Apart from the ability to give Hollywood B movie makers a plot line, what on earth do we do? The storm flare will affect earth orbit satellites, so comms could be affected, we may have to fall back onto landlines and park our mobiles up for a day or two.

Power lines and switching stations could be affected, so get some candles in and have an early Earth Hour -or day.

Finally sat Nav systems could error, but who actually trusts these gizmos? I have heard stories of drivers following tracks into ponds and running across fields following ancient trackways still on maps and therefore on the software disk. Surely we can park these up for a while, use our eyes and maps, maybe even a bit of common sense.

Come to think of it, watching the hoards of motorists setting the systems as they leave the local supermarket, maybe solar flares should wipe these gadgets out completely, let us old grumpies get back to proper driving, no mobiles, no Sat Nav. At least I could relax and not keep having to watch my mirrors for the driver who is typing in co-ordinates from a friend on a mobile phone while travelling 2 feet from the rear of my car!

CMS – Still the need for custom builds.

Although we do quite a lot of WordPress work it often happens that we need to look at a bespoke solution to a problem. Recently I was asked to put together a custom built ‘Articles’ page for www.lawschoolonline.co.uk. The articles needed to be easy to administer, and give the site administrator ability to edit articles once posted and allow the user to select articles by category without the need to keep asking me to make the changes.
 
Selected articles are served up in a solo page so there was a need to ensure that the title tags, header keywords and description could all be customised by the site administrator to fit the specifics of the article’s content.
 
The solution was was a simple protected admin menu page that allowed the creation of new articles, with form fields for excerpts, tags, headers description and keywords plus the title tags. An editing menu lists all articles by shortcode and then allows a full edit of all the data fields. All data is stored in a MySQL data table. Apart from the category tag joins
only one table was required as normalisation wasn’t an issue.
 
As PHP is a server side process it was easy to call the data for the individual article into the page so that the title, SEO keywords and description related to that individual article. As the HTML is rendered after the PHP processing it meant that the browser was passed the SQL data to form the required sections of the <head> tag and create an individual SEO specific article.

Data Jim, but not as we know it…

With the coming of ‘Open Government’ a project that it must be said is very laudible, there comes a danger that the overeagerness to get ‘stuff’ out there can sometimes lead to dangers.

I am not being melodramatic here, but data needs carefiul management, not censoring, but management. The new police.uk site shows hot spots of local crime, if you were actually lucky enough to get online. After several attempts I have given up and looked not at the data, but at the source.

It would seem that the data used is quite ‘raw’ that is comes from a variety of sources in a variety of ways. The data can be edited at any time, changed or removed. The key thing here though is that there are probably hundreds of end points all adding data using their own set of definitions. What is a crime? Where was the location (what about at a junction of two roads)? How many were involved? How old is the crime?

Data can only be useful if it has a core set of standards, and not as the case seems to be here - variable set of core standards.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/feb/02/uk-crime-maps-developers-unhappy