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Portfolio: Government Projects
 
Jump To:  Overview |  ETL |  Scholar Vista
 
 

The products featured below were developed for either government entities or public academic institutions that receive government funding.

 
 
ETL
 
Jump To:  Overview |  ETL |  Scholar Vista
 

I N T R O D U C T I O N

In the summer of 1995, the Calloway County Property Valuation Agency (PVA) was in the final throes of a desperate effort to bring its public records into compliance with impending state law.

Apparently, administrators believed this objective could be achieved by converting, computing, and entering data by hand, and in fact had been doing so for many months before ultimately determining their efforts would fail without some manner of automation. To this end, PVA officials reached out to both Murray State Univeristy's computer science department and local computer service providers, but were unable to secure assistance.


D E V E L O P M E N T

Through Hawkins Research, Jason Purcell learned of this dilemma spent an afternoon with PVA personnel to obtain domain knowledge and determine feasibility. After attempting to assure the dubious officials that there was no algorithmic mystery and that their solution could be quickly accomplished, Jason left with some source data and dove in.

The PVA prescribed two constraints: 1) The software must run in DOS, because that was the environment in which senior workers were comfortable, and 2) the source code would be turned over to the PVA in case it needed to be updated by others in the event Jason became unavailable — the latter a rather ominous remark, not easily dismissed ;-). Therefore, QuickBASIC was chosen, as its compilers and tools were freely available and the code would be more-or-less easily understood by any subsequent programmer.

The result was ETL, ("EasyCad-To-Lotus"). Ariel photography was digitized into EasyCad 2 and the results exported to .EXF vector graphics files. (These files stood in for actual Esri shapefiles, which had been introduced with ArcView 2 two or three years prior, but had not yet ascended to industry-standard status.) ETL accepted these .EXFs as source files, calculated polygon areas from their contained nodelists, segregated cumulative areas based on associated soil types, and wrote the results to Lotus 123 files.

A final historical note: Soon after it entered service, ETL was ported to Visual Basic 1.0 for DOS! The underlying reasons are lost to antiquity.


L E G A C Y

Although ETL was a very simple program — the original QuickBASIC was right at 500 lines, including comments — it solved what the state of Kentucky apparently considered a critical problem. Our local PVA officials were thrilled, and their only regret was that they didn't have this software from the beginning.





 
 
 
Scholar Vista
 
Jump To:  Overview |  ETL |  Scholar Vista

I N T R O D U C T I O N

From Blade Technologies proprietor Jason Purcell:

After arriving on campus as a twenty-three year-old freshman, the Murray State Scholarship Office — unhappy with the university's IT workers — soon enlisted me to network their office systems.


Historic and Majestic Ordway Hall
Home of the MSU Scholarship Office
1931-2013

I ordered equipment, and in short-order had linked all the office systems with coaxial hardware and the LANtastic network OS. Working out all the system- and infrastructure-specific configuration issues and other hiccups that the black art of networking required in those days took considerably longer. (Remember Token Ring? Yeah, it was superior to Ethernet, but I networked a computer lab at Heath High School in '90 or '91 and found that making it work required the occasional sacrifice of a small mammal. It was a "learning experience" in multiple regards, as I'd won the job with a fixed-priced bid.)

While testing the network, I discovered that none of the office's various scholarship and student databases were in any manner joined. In fact, only one database was NOT a function of a vertical-market application using some closely-held data scheme. Naturally, I pitched a solution, and Scholar Vista was born.


D E V E L O P M E N T

Scholar Vista provided a unified view of applicants and scholarships for which they appeared to qualify. Of course, it enabled the user to filter and search data by numerous criteria, but also provided a number of features to facilitate workflow, such as the ability to create and manage "jump lists." (In retrospect, "bookmarks" would've been a more intuitive metaphor, but this was 1994 and Netscape Navigator had yet to rock our world. Plus, I just didn't think of it.)

The most interesting technical aspects of the job were 1) learning to write reliable, resilient network code, and 2) hacking into proprietary database formats, including an archaic-even-then, ineptly-encrypted flat-file system. Hey, don't judge me — I was young, less-scrupulous, and hungry: I saw a problem that had no commercial solution, made a pretty darn good one, and was rewarded from the office's "hush-hush slush-fund" for an entire semester.


L E G A C Y

I don't know how long Scholar Vista remained in service, but it certainly made a couple of people's jobs noticeably less-painful in the moment. This project was a great fit for my life at the time. I learned some things, was well-compensated, and really enjoyed being around the fun, sweet, classy ladies who ran the office. Good memories. No regrets.

 
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