Sunday, August 31, 2008

The “How’s Your Thesis Going?” Post

It’s going good thank you very much. So what am I doing? Read on to find out…WARNING UNADULTERATED GEEK TALK FOLLOWS!

I had to ask myself what interests me enough to take on such a challenge? The answer lies in Human Computer Interaction (HCI). Currently the boundary that separates us from our computers is the User Interface (UI). The most popular example of a UI is Window’s start button. It allows us to access our programs quickly and easily (most of the time). Otherwise we would have run them using a command prompt, yummy!

So what could I do in this area? Help out HCI designers of course! They have to follow a set of heuristics when designing an Interface. They may not be aware that their design may be violating this set of guidelines. That’s where I come in; I’ll be creating a tool that analyzes end user behavior when using a UI. After the analysis is complete the tool will generate a report stating which guidelines were violated. As any marketing expert will tell you a good product is only as good as its name. So I am asking you the “I Don’t Know” reader to help me think of an exciting and relevant name for this tool. Because frankly speaking, I can’t think of one.

As always this post will be updated and reposted when new information is available about this project, so here’s the low down:

Aug 22: After making changes to the design I started development work. I had to refactor a database management class. It was becoming overburdened with too many tasks. Luckily Netbeans makes this process a piece of cake.

Aug 10: Working on the proposal. One section has to do with current research going on in this area. Luckily my IEEE membership helps me stay up to date. End of ringing endorsement.

Aug 04: Got registered for the Fall 2008 semester. No need to apply for classes just the Thesis! yay.

July 15: Finalized an advisor today he’s the patron of research group, plus the dean of my university. He also liked the idea but gave some suggestions to make it better. I’ll have to figure out how to incorporate those changes.

July 03: Met with a research group (check out their website) at my University. They too are working on HCI. I got a kick out of sharing my ideas with them. Plus they coaxed my ego by telling me how wonderful my idea was. Which makes me feel shiny. They ask that I write up an abstract, which can be pitched to potential advisors.

June 22: This week was spent wrestling with the backend. I have SQL server installed on a server class machine the client machine which is connected to the server via a network switch was suppose to interface with the databases on that machine. However I had trouble creating a data source that could do the job. Still wanting to work with SQL server. I tried downloading MySQL. The download was pretty painful thanks to DAP, which would go over the file size and continue downloading eventually delivering a corrupted .msi file. I had to do a direct download from the server to get it right.

Then I spent two days installing, configuring and connecting to MySQL. Online documentation is extensive and you can easily get sidetracked with all the nitty gritty details they throw at you. I managed to get my IDE connected however when I created and compiled a sample CRUD application the thing wouldn’t run. I kept getting an “access denied” message from MySQL. Apparently the IDE wasn’t using the correct password. I used the console to take a look at the grant tables the password for the database was long and convoluted. I tried changing it but that didn’t work. I got so frustrated I finally decided to drop MySQL for the backend. That decision was tough, as I had already invested so much time into it. However if I stuck with all progress would have ended, so I settled on derby. Its already integrated with Netbeans. Aside for a few minor hiccups the thing works fine.

This is just one step on a long list of milestones that I have to complete. I am reminded of a Will Wheaton blog post in which he is anxious about finishing a writing project by August. He to has to overcome several milestones before the project comes under control. That’s the same with me and I hope we both accomplish what we have set out to do.

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