iOS 6 First Impressions

by Michael Clark
September 25, 2012 10:03 AM

iOS 6 was released to the public on Wednesday the 19th. I was looking forward to seeing what Apple had in store (I hadn't been able to play with any of the beta releases) so I quickly downloaded and installed the new software. Here's my first impressions of the things I like and didn't like about iOS 6.

Like

  • App Store - I'm a big fan of the new App Store. It's much easier to use and a lot less annoying. The biggest thing I like is how it no longer kicks you out when downloading a new app or an update. I'm all the time perusing the top lists to find something new to try and find it annoying to have to re-open the App Store and find my spot again. With iOS 6, I don't have to.
  • Maps - The horror! Consider me one of the few that likes the new Maps app. Granted, I don't live in the largest of cities (large city and Henderson are not two things that are ever used together). Sure, it may place random restaurant X in the wrong place or gas station Y doesn't exist, but as long as it gets me in the general vicinity I can usually find my way. I love how the maps are vector based so it's clear no matter the zoom level and the turn by turn directions are good enough for me.

Dislike

  • New Stock Apps - I don't like a lot of apps on my iPhone. In fact, I've shoved as many of the stock apps that I don't use into an  Apps folder (Compass, Voice Memos, Stocks, etc.). I don't see myself using the new Passbook app mainly because I don't use the services it provides (movie tickets, airline passes, etc.). To me it's just more clutter I have to manage.
  • Facebook Sync - Let me be clear and say that I love the Facebook integration. I hardly ever post on Facebook (my last post was August 23rd), but I find it handy that I can post to Facebook directly just as I can Twitter. That said, I hate the Facebook contact sync. I'm friends with people on Facebook that I haven't talked to in 5 or more years. I have no need to sync their contact information and creating more clutter. I really wish I could do a selective sync of my Facebook contacts.

Overall, I consider the jump from iOS 5 to iOS 6 to be a big improvement and well worth it. Now I'm looking forward to iOS 7!


Campus Directory Preview

by Michael Clark
August 30, 2012 5:01 PM

Now that Class Roster is finished and released, I've spent the past few weeks putting the final touches on a new Campus Directory application. Campus Directory will be the 4th app released in FHU's new set of Classroom Apps. You might have used the old Directory app, but it was written several years ago, and had grown limited in its functionality. The new application provides several new features that I'm very excited about.

Upon first log-in, the user sees an interface similar to the one presented in Class Roster. If the user is a student, they'll get a one-time prompt requesting them to save their profile. For students, this is what determines what is visible in search (if anything at all). Students have the option to hide their phone number, birthday, dorm room or their entire profile in general.

The search is pretty robust and allows the user to search on first name, last name or account name. There is an autocomplete that will display in case you can't quite remember that person's name. After searching, the user sees a table of contact "cards" that can be clicked on to bring up details about that person.

One piece of Campus Directory I'm particularly proud of is the inclusion of Class Lists. On the right hand side of the screen, the app comes pre-loaded with every course the student or faculty member is enrolled in that semester. There's even an indication of how many students are enrolled in the the course. Clicking on the class will bring up a customized search that returns every person in that course. There is also a handy "email" link included in case you need to send an email to the entire course.

Like I said, I'm very excited for Campus Directory to hit the ground running. I hope you're looking forward to it.


Reinventing FHU Mobile for iPhone

by Richard Simpson
August 8, 2012 8:33 PM

FHU Mobile for iPhone was probably my most anticipated summer work project; this was largely due to the fact that Austin Ash and I were tasked with rebuilding the iPhone app from the ground up. My least favorite part of programming has always been working with code written by others. The first version of FHU Mobile for iPhone was written by ten different student developers - different skill levels, styles, and ideas of the best way to get from point A to point B. When we began finishing the iPad app this summer, that was the hurdle that consumed most of my time. Even more daunting was the idea of maintaining the code behind FHU Mobile for iPhone 1.0. So when the boss walked up and handed us the opportunity to create a clean new project, I was obviously excited about the challenge.

A wonderful thing about starting fresh is the chance to make something sleek. My personal goal starting out was to produce a simple, clean, and functional application. Here at the end, FHU Mobile for iPhone 2.0 is all of that. We successfully created a fully functional app, and for the most part, we haven’t had to compromise simplicity and cleanliness.

In my opinion, the most useful parts of the app are the Map and Directory sections. I imagine the map will be most beneficial to new students and to parents; it contains every building on campus, and selecting one of the building pins will bring up the directory entry for the building. I have already used the directory a lot to find email addresses and phone numbers of faculty and staff, and the ability to add someone to your contacts list from inside the app is immensely useful.

I’m also impressed with the News and Events sections. The improved News feed lets you read and share all the latest content put out by FHU. The Events page has everything on the University’s calendar and allows you to copy events to your own calendar.

When the 2.0 update launches, expect an entirely new app that makes it easier than ever to keep up with all things FHU. Look for FHU Mobile on the App Store soon. If you have feedback, let us know. Find us in the About This App section and send us an email.


Summertime in FHU IT (An Intern’s Perspective)

by Austin Ash
August 4, 2012 7:32 PM

I’ve never been a huge fan of summer. Ever since middle school, for me it has always meant spending less time with friends and more time spent performing menial tasks outside in the Texas heat. Don’t get me wrong, I’m grateful that I had these opportunities, and I feel like I learned quite a few life lessons from them. But, when I was given the opportunity to work under Michael Plyler as a programming intern, I was understandably excited about getting to use the skills I have gained from my major outside of the classroom. At the same time, however, this excitement was coupled with a small sense of fear. I had been challenged before in the classroom, but this was a completely new experience. This would be my first time in a professional environment, and I had no clue how I was supposed to interact with those around me, or whether or not I would be able to accomplish the tasks that would be assigned to me.

Looking back now, those questions seem silly to me. Thanks to the instruction that I received here at Freed and the staff of FHU’s IT department, I feel like I was able to transition very well from the classroom to the workplace. Even though at times it didn’t feel like it, I’m fairly proud of what all I was able to accomplish in two short months. Because of the basic understanding I gained of what is expected of me, and what I am capable of doing, come December and graduation time, I know I will have no problems transitioning from life here at Freed to my future job. This internship has not only taught me new skills, it has given me an edge over the competition. Now, when potential employers ask if I have any previous experience, I can easily point back to this. This quite possibly could be the determining factor in whether or not I get an important job offer. Because of this, and the fact that internships like this are hard to come by, I am very grateful for Mr. Plyler giving me this opportunity. Turns out this was a pretty good summer after all.


Roster App is Coming

by Michael Clark
July 6, 2012 9:51 AM

Over the past couple of weeks, I've been working heavily on finalizing the latest changes to the new Roster application. This application will be a replacement for the old iKnow application used for taking attendance and boasts several new and useful features.

Upon first accessing the application, the faculty member will see a list of their courses to the left as well as some tools listed below. The tools right now include merge courses, remove merged courses and search, but more on these later. At the top, the faculty member has options to take roll, manage and view reports.

After first selecting a course on the left, the faculty member will see the take roll option load up with the students in that course. Each student is represented by an attendance card with their picture, first name, last name, and attendance status. Taking roll is a simple matter of clicking on the attendance card to cycle through the respective options - present, tardy, absent, excused. You can also use the date picker above the student cards to choose a previous date to take or modify attendance.

In the manage option, the faculty member has the ability to re-order the students in their course. This view is similar to the take roll option in that students are represented by attendance cards. The faculty member can set the number of rows and columns for their course (up to a maximum of 6 columns), then move the students around however they choose. This is handy for something like mimicking a seating chart.

The last option related to individual courses is the report view. After selecting a course, the faculty member is presented with a grid of their students and a summation of any attendance violations for that course. Clicking on an individual student name presents a detail view displaying the date of violation, violation and options to edit the violation from the report (useful for quickly modifying a backdated excuse).

On to the tools available for faculty members. The first tool is the merge courses tool. This allows faculty members, as its name suggests, to merge multiple courses into one logical course for the purposes of the roster app. This is useful for courses with different IDs or sections that meet at the same time. Attendance is still relative to the original course so the faculty member can even combine two completely different courses! To use this tool, the faculty member selects the courses they'd like to merge, gives the new merge a unique name, and clicks the merge button.

The faculty member also has the ability to remove a merged course and restore the original courses using the remove merges tool. To use this tool, the faculty member selects the merged course they'd like to remove (the system will display all courses under this merged course next for verification) then clicks the remove merge button.

The last tool available for faculty members is search. This works as suggested - allowing the faculty member to search by student name. Search is limited to students currently in the faculty member's courses and includes a handy autocomplete function that begins to fill in after two characters are typed. After finding a student, the faculty member is presented with a view similar to the reports detailed above.

The student view will be function similar, but will be restricted to just allowing the student to view their attendance record for a given course similar to the report view mentioned above.