Monday, December 13, 2010

The Typeface That Made Me Appreciate My Craft

Watching the documentary film Helvetica made me realize how significant stories behind simple things are. Even the creation of a font type (typeface) that most of us nowadays are commonly using and we don’t even think about has a tale to be told. The birth of Helvetica and the reason of its existence have been expressed in the video. Designers long ago were thinking of a neutral typeface that could be used in any applications, in a wide variety of prints and signage. Helvetica is of sans-serif type, and its form and structure is so simple yet shows the clearness of expression. 

As an enthusiast of calligraphy, I take time in choosing the appropriate typefaces for different mediums. I often use cursive and oblique styles for hand-lettered cards, but that’s suitable for formal and elegant invitations and the like. Yet if I find a hard time looking for a proper font type that would still look fair, I choose for Arial-types (or now I know it belongs to the sans-serif family like Helvetica). Not elaborate, no embellishment but still straightforward and no biases - fine for labels and tags. For me, the nature of its form would give chance to artists to think of creative ways to put enhancements such as tails, cursive styles and more. It is still left for the artist’s taste anyway. 

Vignelli's intro captured me, and I guess he's right when he said that everywhere there is visual disease and the role of a designer is like a medicine doctor - healing this kind of visual disease by design. In the modern world we have right now, if you opt to be noticed by just plain text among the pool of colors, figures, and shapes, you should pick a typeface that will bring out the identity of your figure. It does not need to be so complicated though, since the signage you are making would depend on what lies behind the words you represent it. As what Crouwel expressed, clarity is significant. Having more than one typeface you see one after another day really drives you crazy. The art of designing typefaces really takes time and effort, considering the organization and balance of lines and spaces, not mentioning the style of your letters. From a typeface with a neutral design, one can explore through the variations of figures, spaces, and lines, creating a more clear and legible typography. As what Savan said, the beauty of Helvetica attracts users and designers not just because of its simplicity and neutrality but its impression upon viewers which are the essence of efficiency and fairness, no streak of authority or other striking personality. 

There were also morally-opposed to Helvetica for some reasons. I believe that they were the same reasons why I make every effort with lettering typefaces with similar styles just like Helvetica. Although its design exhibits clean and straightforward appearance, most artists especially the inventive types attempt with exploring beyond the plain curves and lines. That is why they tend to let go of the press-type Helvetica print, get away with the orderly and smooth surface and unfold with illustration-type and in abstract ways. Many also say it is boring, typically because it is plainly simple. And that nature of Helvetica typeface is not so impressive to me especially when it comes to creative invitation designs. I guess I only use Helvetica-type fonts when I have no more styles in mind to stamp into signages that are just of label types such as project frontpages or subtitles. 

It's good to know how these things were made - ordinary art forms such as a font type which gave way to typefaces that we've all been using everyday - and getting to know its impact to the community. It's mere existence has greatly affected how every design we see in our surroundings are crafted. Typefaces when applied to a creation have something to say. So anyone should choose a typograph that would exactly convey what the signage stands for. Everybody may not notice it but most signages in the streets are rooted in the Helvetica design. That is why most people seem not to admire its design because it seems so overused, boring, and thus not interesting. Yet its art of conformity wraps a blanket of sameness into the craft. Understanding these made me appreciate more of typography (and calligraphy), that plain letters that are merely written or printed express more than what the eyes can see. Typography could have personality - it derives more meaning to the label it stands for.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Why Do We Need To Study Technology


When we look at things around us we can’t help but see equipments mainly run by electronics, machines operated by computers, gadgets with applications from and even ideas and concepts revolutionized by technology, affecting manually-done processes being upgraded into more mechanized and automated means. These are the usual things going on around us that make people think technology is at its height. Anywhere and anything that we typically go to, use, see, and feel have some sorts of technological applications as far as tools and devices in daily living are concerned. Maybe we just seem to notice that humans are using and depending on technology.

Technology in its basic nature not only deals with gadgets and machines, but in every innovative way or ideas and concepts along the way. Thus the advent of technology is not within the last century only. It roots back to the ancient times when humans learned how to use fire in daily living. It's just the way we describe how "high-tech" we are right now in the tangible sense.

So why is there a need to study technology? We have to study technology for various reasons - we have to get to know it. Just because almost all our ways and means uses technology, there should be knowledge on how to use them properly. And I mean in the responsible sense.

We need to study how technology was long before it reached this stage of great height. Thus there is a need to go back how it all started, and how people long ago came with innovative concepts to create something almost out of nothing. Or in the basic sense of how life was lived long ago. That is still technology.

We need to study the history of technology, because by knowing its past, we can understand its present, and predict and control its future.

We need to study the cycle of technology to be able to understand the fullness of it, and to know how things are changing. So from it we could learn how to balance its stages and effects - benefits and disadvantages - and be able to deal with it.

We need to study technology to know the trends of mankind's existence. Because it has become a part of human's nature of dealing with life on earth.

Technology is born out of mankind's desire to help himself, to find tools to aid in his work. Yet most of us now has been affected by its adverse ways of using - to the extent of harming the nature's balance. Thus there is great need to study technology. As technology is made not to enslave people. People should use technology.


Friday, November 26, 2010

DevCon in ICEAN Congress

The 2nd ICEAN Congress (University of Southeastern Philippines - Institute of Computing) was worth the break. Yes, break from the academic pressures of project completions (i know you guys-my colleagues know what are those ^_^). It is this ICEAN Congress that I can say I enjoyed attending the event.

The program started a little late because the event speakers were not able to arrive on time. Yet Information Technology and Computer Science students gathered at the university social hall are invigorated for the upcoming talks and activities for the day (not to mention the freebies!). Well as usual, there were distinguished speakers from various organizations in the IT industry, some of them had actually delivered talks from the previous congress. The first speaker who was Eric Su from PicLyf shared about certain points in getting jobs the awesome way. Basically it made students realize how significant it is to aim high and stand out to help build an awesome career in the future. The second speaker who was Milvene Mineses of Simply Gray Studio amazed the audience with the video presentation of wedding photography which focused on incorporating the effects of Adobe Photoshop to enhance photo shots. This impressed me since I aspired to have my own camera (how I wish it would be a DSLR one) and try my own shots someday. That involved a real big investment anyway. Before the morning session ended, the third speakers (they were two from the same company, Edmund Lee and Rojenn Ortiz from Offsourcing Inc.) discussed about important tips and strategies on how to write a resume that would stand out from the rest of the crowd when applying for jobs. I participated in the group collaborations of resume writing and I got a movie ticket as a freebie. Woohoo!

The best thing that made this ICEAN Congress memorable is that the DevCon people did not just send speakers from their team, but slipped in and made real DevCon a part of the event. That's enjoyment level-up! DevCon has its established sessions of lightning talks, birds of a feather, and hackathon. Mark Maglana perked up the audience with the intro to DevCon, explaining the organization's role and its offers to the community of developers. Keynote speaker Edmund Lee, president of Offsourcing Inc., once again awed the pipz with another discussion on the topic "After Graduation, What?" which is helpful especially for fourth year students and those who are doubtful of their careers after graduation, and the movie tickets as freebies of course! The succeeding discussions were lightning talks from CS evening student Veniza Joy Macaraeg who talked about IC students' experience in "IC on Tour" field trip/seminar, registered nurse-turned-animation graphics animator Tina Ortiz who not only dazzled the audience with her appeal but with her meaningful expression of turning a passion into a career, Jong Jison with his demonstration on Umbraco, an open source ASP.NET CMS, Eric Su once again from PicLyf who showed off the features of PicLyf and gave away T-shirts as freebies, and two more speakers who exhibited HTML 5/CSS 3 features and Windows Phone 7 awesome attibutes.

The next part was the Birds of a Feather (BoF) session side-by-side with Hackathon activity which were participated by groups of students. I was part of one team standing up for Google Chrome in the BoF which focused on Battle of Internet Browsers: Internet Explorer, Mozilla Firefox, and Google Chrome. It was actually a friendly debate and although I have prepared and searched some facts about the good side of Chrome, I was sort of not able to voice them out since my teammates were dashing their way to bring down the opponents. Nevertheless the audience had judged the winner - team Google Chrome. A DevCon T-shirt prize for me! Weeeh! All the pipz joined in the countdown to the hackathon, a timed coding activity for groups of students executing a programming or web activity with a desired output to be judged.

The event ended up with lots of cheers and picture takings. Everybody enjoyed the activities, not to mention the witty speakers who are very casual with speaking English, and the freebies and the raffle. Hopefully, the next ICEAN Congress will surpass the vigor and learnings that we, students, had on this event. And one more thing, I hope there would be real drinks and pizza for everyone to enjoy. ^_^

Free movie pass and T-shirt from DevCon (with autograph from Diane Suico,
Mark Maglana, and Randy S. Gamboa)- freebies that I got from participating.
I don't have all the pictures taken during the event yet. I guess I'll upload it later.  Thanks to my classmates for the photo shots at the social hall. And to Sir RSG. :-)

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Back to Basics: Komiks

A short feature on the news telecast last night caught my 'reflective' mood and made me recall my childhood. The news features a comic book created by JB Gamboa, an artist who previously made a successful first attempt of publishing the comic book "Laban", a true love story of former Senator Ninoy and former President Cory Aquino, and now launched his latest masterpiece - a comic biography of the world renowned pound-for-pound Filipino boxing champ, Manny "Pacman" Pacquiao.

I salute Pacman for his valuable contribution to the country and I have no doubts of his boxing skill. But my 'reflections' were not directly related to him. I also don't have anything against the comic artist who made him the subject of his self-published project entitled "Pacquiao: Winning In and Out of the Ring", I think he made a good thing to feature the champ's life though his work of art. I just thought about the perspective of the craft instead. Comic books are becoming less popular in bookstores nowadays, right?

Comic books, or mostly known as "komiks" by the Filipinos, became widespread in the country as early as World War II when American GIs left behind comic strips and books which originally inspire Pinoy comic artists to run the medium in magazine series. Today, more comic artist produce Pinoy manga inspired by the Japanese anime and manga. Its popularity somewhat subsided due to competition with other forms of media particularly the telenovelas.

As I noticed, there are fewer komiks being displayed for sale in bookstores or even in newstands where they are commonly found. Bystanders and people few years back who mereley pass by the sidewalk would stop by newstands to buy from an array of komiks with various titles, series or editions. They are printed versions of short scripted stories of drama or comedy which we follow through in telenovelas and radios. They entertain people during short breaks, available in the locality, and comes in handy since they can just be folded in pockets and readers will just take it off anytime.

What JB Gamboa said about komiks left a valuable note to the viewers. He hopes to address the problem of illiteracy in the future through this craft. And I agree for that fact. Comics not only provide entertainment for readers, but they also help young children and even adults to learn how to read and improve reading. That's when I remember a moment in my childhood year that I thought I would never mind to recall. I almost forgot, I learned to read my first story from the comics.

As a child, my mother taught me the basics of  A E I O U and ABAKADA, and from that I learned to utter syllables from the letters. I recalled I was never introduced how to read a whole sentence or a paragraph excerpt from a short story. And now I remember, I realized to read and understand the written conversations from the komiks that I just appreciated because of its drawings! It happened one late evening before going to sleep that I happen to pick up a comic book and slowly uttered the syllables which came from letters forming the words in the callouts of the drawings. I think I remembered myself grinning happily announcing to my mom that I (finally) was able to understand what the drawings say. Days after that I volunteered in our 'komiks for rent' outside the house just to be able to read my father's comic collections. Haha.

There were a bunch of komiks left in the house but I guess they were included when a part of our house was caught on fire. Too sad, they were the ones still left and they could be treated as old collections of craft. I could not find local komiks series being sold now, just pocketbooks which continues to be a sensation among ladies who are fond of reading tagalog romance novels.

If not because of Pacman's victorious feats that made him famous, that inspired one comic artist to draw his comic biography, that caught the attention of the national TV and feature it, I could have forgotten to realize one significant thing in my life - that I learned how to read and understand a story that is portrayed through the komiks. I credit my ability of high reading and comprehension rate in my elementary years to my interest in reading short stories and komiks experience.

I understand why the popularity of komiks is declining. As an IT student, I understand how technology changed the way life is, and even reading and habits of people has been affected. Change is inevitable, as they say. Nevertheless it would never be the reason to totally forget the significance of print articles as reading materials over portable document formats (PDFs) and digital soft copies. Komiks now comes in electronic formats. Yet the natural essence of talents in drawing and creativity of potential Filipino comic artists really shines through the paper and pencil, where it all originated. I hope we Filipinos would find a way to revive it. Or if some things are difficult to regain its originality, I just hoped this post would be an appreciation of a craft which has once been a part of our culture, and my contribution to it, a reminder of a valuable nothing, a significant something - that komiks had once played a role in my childhood years, and continues to be, as long as I live, as long as I can read. :-)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Modification 101: My Blog's New Look

I was aware of Blogger's one-of-the-latest template designer feature but I never had the ample time to edit my blog settings. In fact, it was quite some time now since I last posted an entry here. As always, I've been in 'busy mode' all this time. And although I enjoy blogging up all those stuff in my head, well, thing is, I always tend to forget even making drafts about them. I did this modification hoping it would give me some spark of interest now that this blog has a new look. I'm not saying that I'll be up-to-date in my blog post this time. Hahaha. Hmm but I also thank those guys who still manage to visit and drop me messages, I appreciate it. :) Keep it up! Lolz.

Anyway, having this new template designer idea by the Blogger team is good. Two-thumbs up for that. It lets bloggers instantly change their designs and modify them directly in the user interface allowing sneak previews. Much better (it's more convenient, I should say) than editing the hard code. Hehe.

So cheers to my new blog look! Hopefully I'll be able to drop by some short posts over here, and I wish they'll be sensible enough to read by everyone. :-)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Enrolment Input Form and University Interface: PRF vs. SRIS

 (Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 4: Contrast and discuss the enrolment input form (PRF) with the enrolment university interface.)

This assignment that I am discussing about deals with a very important issue, above all – consistency. This is supposed to be a significant matter especially with regards to input and output user interfaces.

In creating a graphical user interface especially from the manual type and accustomed use to an automated system, the developer has to be particular with the input and output fields. This is because the user(s) may already became familiar to the old format and introducing him or her to the new user interface with a completely new look may lead to confusion which may end up to the uselessness of the system. The user, of course, has developed a habitual inclination in using the old format, especially if he or she has been using it for a long period of time. Beginning to use a brand-new yet same system functionality (although an improved one) with a different although intact input look and form will have a significant effect on the momentum of the work. Worse, the user who can not grasp the functionality at once will find the user interface complicated and most likely refuse to use and learn about it.

The idea led me to examine this aspect of the two important items being deliberated here – the enrolment input form or what is commonly called as the Pre – Registration Form (PRF), and the enrolment university interface or Student Records Information System (SRIS). The PRF is what the students need to secure during the advising part in the enrolment process before the college secretaries and/or administrative staff encode the filled-in entries into the SRIS. Basically, the elements within the Pre - Registration Form are also contained in the Student Records Information System, in which it covers more features and functionality. In simple analogy, the format used in the PRF and the user interface coordinates therefore it is important that it should be parallel since promptness of the processes involving the information matters a lot.

I reviewed the appearance of the PRF and here is how it looks like:

Notice what kinds of information are being asked directly from the student and how each are located in the form.

Now let us check a sample screen shot from the SRIS:

Take a look at the data fields and their placements. The SRIS contains almost all the basic information that is directly written by the student into the PRF. But what is really noticeable, when graphical user interface is being highly dealt with, is that there are some elements that are not parallel in position. The enrolled units table however, is placed in the similar manner, in a way that is easy and convenient to browse, except for the columns that are mismatched from the original (based from paper) position.

In the PRF, I could only say a reasonable explanation why there is an entry field for the Address and Address of Employer if employed. Maybe this is to check whether the students is currently working and studying at the same time – a thing that needs to be checked as far as allowed units are concerned. Instead of asking directly of a choice between ‘working student?’ and not, it is quite straightforward to ask the address of the employer so if the student is validly working, the name and address of the employer would prove it. There is, however, no field for it in the SRIS, which made me think of why such entry is included in the PRF where the most basic information is asked and not in the automated system where a more comprehensive data is stored.

There is no field for Civil Status in the PRF while in the SRIS there is.
There is more than one Section fields in the PRF and none in the SRIS, only Class. I think the Section entry in the upper part of the PRF is the general information about where the student belongs and the fields corresponding to the subjects and/or units enrolled corresponds as to where the students fits in during classes of the subjects. But the student would not know firsthand the section(s) he or she will be unless the professor(s) of the related subject(s) will arrange the schedule and class list.

The separate data fields for Semester and School Year to be enrolled in the PRF is being coupled in a selection dropdown in the SRIS. This data has to be explicitly identified by the student upon filling up the PRF and the encoder will just have to choose from a pre-loaded selection for speedy browsing.

I found the Scholarship field from the PRF missing in the SRIS. I do not know where this part fits in the automated system but the encoder asks the student an approved scholarship card to prove the said information.

Other data in the SRIS such as Contact, Email Address, Parents, and Religion cannot be found in the PRF.Well, this information is not necessarily required for the student to fill in again every enrollment period (PRF filling up process). I understand that the SRIS contains most if not all the records about the student so as expected, it has more data and information.

The noticeable thing here is, the data that is being asked in the PRF do not have close locations in the SRIS. The ID number for example, is being regarded as a main item in the SRIS since it is located above (and being asked first) before the name. It is, however, opposite in the PRF when the name is regarded as a key thing. As an IT student, I am aware of the role of primary keys in various systems, therefore I understand why it is significantly ‘above’ and ‘before’ the Name field in the SRIS.

Another thing that made me raise an eyebrow is the SRIS’ Desired Career data field. If the purpose is to know what the student certainly aspires for, I think this data entry is more appropriate in the Guidance Office system (well, this is just my opinion based on the aforementioned reason).

In my general point of view, the university enrolment interface is a more wide-ranging system which fits to its description – Student Records Information System. Basically, it contains the fundamental information about the student enrolling in the university. It also contains both the data that is asked from the student (those types of data that are, and might be, constantly changing especially every enrollment period – temporary data) and those which are kept for a long time to be modified or permanent data.

Factors that are significantly important when it comes to these things are consistency and parallelism. As what I’ve said in my first statements, the primary users of the (automated) system shall not have a hard time in familiarizing the data input fields from the manual form. This will have impact on the work and response time. Thus, I would like to emphasize the value of parallelism in this case. The position also matters aside from the types of information being asked. This will define the usability of a good user interface.

I would like to recommend this article from a blog I found which talks about the characteristics of successful user interfaces by Dmitry Fadeyev. It contains the basic characteristics that I’ve been looking for in a UI.

study study study study study study study


Dmitry Fadeyev, 2009, 8 Characteristics Of Successful User Interfaces, Usability Post

Microsoft Encarta Dictionaries

Credits go to Ms. Joan Rose Dandoy for the image of the SRIS

Friday, August 6, 2010

TEENage Reflection

When all things got loose, I'm just right here.

I'm gonna spend the last few days of my TEENage stage into something remarkable. I'm turning 20 this month and I'm thankful for the years that God has given me so much of what life can be. I've had moments which made me grow into what and who I am today. The past years of existence may not be enough to do all the things that I should,fulfilling the purpose why I am here. Everyday is a gift from Him. And everyday is worth living and thanking Him for all the blessings that He gave - the people who love and care for me and the good things I've learned.

The past nineteen years had been memorable. It may not appear as something as full of fun, vigor, travel, adventure and all that most young people experience. But what I have is something which I can think of as MY life. It was the way I live. It was the way I was brought up, the way I learn, the way I face the challenges, the way I enjoyed my youth - something different yet something unique. I may not have gone to many places and may not tried the things that other young adolescents had but mine is an account of how I became myself - the introvert melancholic nature had shaped in me the personality with an active imagination, deep sense of reflection and gratitude, and a compassion for the significance of one's generation for the better future of humanity. Some ideas left unnoticed, opinions unexpressed, and words are not enough to show how the mind and heart truly thinks and feels. Nevertheless, I am thankful for the gift of life God has given. Soon I'll be spending another chapter - to face another set of challenges to become more mature and fulfill the purpose of living...

Friday, July 30, 2010

Keypoints for Effective Network Environment in the University

(Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 3: Interview your university network specialist. Ask how various parts of the system communicates with each other throughout the university. (Q) Given the chance to redesign the existing setup, enumerate and discuss your keypoints for an effective and efficient network environment ideal for the university.)
Regarding the setup of the system components of the university, we asked for an interview schedule to our university specialist, Engr. Ariel Roy Reyes. It was supposed to be a special session with the whole class, since there would be many of us who needs response regarding the topic. Unfortunately, we were not able to have a face - to - face interview since our schedules did not meet. So what we did, was to consolidate the questions and email it to him as suggested by Sir Reyes. I just formulated some questions turned it over to one of my classmates who sent the email together with the other inquiries.

Basically, my questions revolve on these items:

1.In system development, how do various parts of the system communicate with each other throughout the university? In what way?
-regarding system development, Sir Reyes replied that the best persons to ask are our university programmers, Mr. Jappeht Fortich and Dr. Tamara Cher Mercado...

2. What are the components involved in the system(s) in the university? (Hardware, software, technology, etc)
-Sir Reyes admitted that he is not in the right position to discuss the details of the software components used as there are other assigned personnel for such job. However, Sir Reyes shared how he works for the system. As a network administrator, he is entrusted to maintain the university's servers to run 24 hours a day in 7 days a week. We have our current Web Server hosted in our university in the HP ProLiant ML350 Server. This server is already old but a stable one being set up in the Networks Office. The said server has already been active since Engr. VAl A. Quimno was appointed as the Network Administrator when he was not yet the dean of the Institute of Computing.

The said server has the following specification:
1. Intel Xeon 3.0 GHz, 3.2 GHz, or 3.4 GHz processors (dual processor capability) with 1MB level 2 cache standard. Processors include support for Hyper-Threading and Extended Memory 64 Technology (EM64T)
2. Intel® E7520 chipset
3. 800-MHz Front Side Bus
4. Integrated Dual Channel Ultra320 SCSI Adapter
5. Smart Array 641 Controller (standard in Array Models only)
6. NC7761 PCI Gigabit NIC (embedded)
7. Up to 1 GB of PC2700 DDR SDRAM with Advanced ECC capabilities (Expandable to 8 GB)
8. Six expansion slots: one 64-bit/133-MHz PCI-X, two 64-bit/100-MHz PCI-X, one 64-bit/66-MHz PCI-X, one x4 PCI-Express, and one x8 PCI-Express
9. New HP Power Regulator for ProLiant delivering server level, policy based power management with industry leading energy efficiency and savings on system power and cooling costs
10. Three USB ports: 1 front, 1 internal, 1 rear
11. Support for Ultra320 SCSI hard drives (six hot plug or four non-hot plug drives supported standard, model dependent)
12. Internalstorage capacity of up to 1.8TB; 2.4TB with optional 2-bay hot plug SCSI drive
13. 725W Hot-Plug Power Supply (standard, most models); optional 725W Hot-Pluggable Redundant Power Supply (1+1) available. Non hot plug SCSI models include a 460W non-hot plug power supply.
14. Tool-free chassis entry and component access
15. Support for ROM based setup utility (RBSU) and redundant ROM
16. Systems Insight Manager, SmartStart, and Automatic Server Recovery 2 (ASR-2) included
17. Protected by HP Services and a worldwide network of resellers and service providers. Three-year Next Business Day, on-site limited global warranty. Certain restrictions and exclusions apply. Pre-Failure Notification on processors, memory, and SCSI hard drives.

The university’s mail server is also running under the Compaq Proliant ML330Server which is the olders server hosted in the Networks office. Proxy and enrollment servers on the other hand, run in microcomputers or personal computers but higher specifications to act as servers.

*Typically, the purpose of this question is to know what the things that composed of the system are. I have very little knowledge about the components of how things in the network administration office works and the components that are involved here so I opted to know better what are those. So far, the university has, as mentioned, a server which hosts the university’s current web server. The said specifications are quite technical to me, as such its technicalities were not very much explained. I have little or no knowledge about what are the most important factors to consider in choosing the best performing server for the university yet I have confidence that Sir Reyes and the others who man the networks office know well how to maximize the resources. The only thing I have come to get concerned of (and perhaps the one which I have come to understand) is that it has a global warranty and that if there were hardware setbacks that need repair or service, we can contact HP for assistance or help. Hehe. Anyway, the capabilities of the server sounds good, I guess it is up to its use, but regarding the growing population of the university clients and the increasing need and use of the internet in education and research purposes, network connections necessary for the office functions, the server might not be enough to bear all the requests, thus, intensifying the demand for a more powerful upgraded server.

3. How do these communicate with one another? (Here I meant the aspects of topology, network connectivity, protocols, etc.) -may include data flow or UML diagrams to better explain.
-Sir Reyes said that all servers are connected in a shared medium grouped as one subnetwork. The extended star topology connected to a dual WAN router between our two Internet Service Providers (ISPs) is our followed topology. All the other workstations are grouped together into different subnetworks as in star topology branching out from our servers subnetwork as in extended star topology. Currently, we are utilizing class C IP address for private IP address assignments. Laboratories workstations for example, are configured statically while IP assignments in offices are configured dynamically. Proxy servers that do some basic filtering or firewall to control users’ access to the internet aside from router filtering or firewall management connect these workstations. In this case, a workstation has to pass through software and hardware - based firewall whenever it has to connect to the internet.

*From the way I see it, the network system provides ample security in terms of internet access. It is evident in setting up the firewall or filtering every workstation that has to connect to the internet. The extended star topology is also okay, since in this setup, subnetworks communicate in a star-like topology and to further gin access to other workstations which are not part of the subnetwork, they will connect via the WAN router into another subnetwork which follows the star topology pattern.

4. What are the processes involved in the communication (of each system to other systems)?
-As being pointed to by previous statements, all workstations are connected via a proxy server. If ever a workstation is being turned on, it requests for an IP address from the proxy server and connect to the network after the IP address is acquired. This is for dynamically configured IP address. Every system can now communicate and share resources within the same subnetwork and server after the connection is established.

*It is clearly stated that every system which is composed of workstations making up a subnetwork are connected via a proxy server which is their way to communicate to other network. By this setup, the workstation needs to communicate with the proxy server first before directing to other resources in the subnetwork since it has to request an IP address first.

5. How do you go along with the maintenance of the system?
-Since the servers are expected to run 24/7, it is necessary to be in good condition. Sir Reyes has a daily routine of monitoring the servers by checking logs, checking hardware performance, and checking for some problems. Observing the performance involves checking on CPU health and etc. If there are problems detected, remedies are then applied. Regular overall checkup is observed as a preventive maintenance practice at least once a week just to make sure that longer downtime will not be possibly experienced.

*Looking after the system is needed to observe how it works up to its functions. Performance of the servers should be well see to it as it may result in downtime if there are certain bugs left unnoticed. Checking on the logs, I should say, should be done in an everyday basis in that we cannot readily assure if there are other foreign objects sniffing through our system, which may further lead to affect our university’s business. The health and performance of the hardware components are also necessary be monitored more often especially that we now have learned that we have some old servers in our networks office. It is not impossible that time may come that these servers might bog down due to failure in performance especially that we have several systems being developed which require more robust and more powerful database servers.

6. Does the system follow a specific standard? Please explain.
-Different networking standards were already observed as soon as Sir Reyes was appointed Network Administrator. Everything was already in place except for some minor changes. Standards followed include cabling standards, TIA/EIA 568A-B, and different IEEE standards.

*As a university that strives to be a center of excellence in education, it is therefore important for us as an institution to follow standards. Thus, our systems which run the business of the university should conform to its specific standards. It is clearly stated that long before our interviewee was tasked to take care and primarily overlook the networks office, there are already networking standards being conformed to.

7. How is the security of the system? Are there any vulnerabilities? Risks? Corresponding mitigation techniques? Access control?
-There were software and hardware – based filtering and firewall techniques implemented. Risks and/or vulnerabilities and different mitigation methods were considered to increase security in our network. Aside from filtering and firewall, constant monitoring on networks activity also increases the security of the system.

*There were software and hardware-based filtering and firewall implementation to have security over who and which workstation should be given access to the internet. There may be risks and vulnerability in the system and also corresponding mitigation techniques but they were not much elaborated. I, personally would like to know what are those sample risks and vulnerabilities involved in the networking side especially that in the very near future, our system projects that are being developed will be soon integrated into the server. As such, there would be many subsystems that will be connecting to the server and more and more users are expected to gain access to it. This not only adds up to the needed strength boost in performance of the database server but it also counts up to the risks and vulnerability of the system.

8. Are there any interference? During what (most) times do these occur? Explain their effects especially with regards to the business of the university?
-Major interferences are normally encountered as an effect of unforeseen and beyond our control events such as black-outs and the like. The university’s business would of course be affected since this will paralyze the day – to – day activities which rely on electricity. These events might also cause further damages on our network devices which may later be the reasons for downtime. Other problems we encounter are those met by our providers for example, the National or International Gateway connection. This also affects the university’s business especially that we have also correlation with our university business partners within and outside the country.

*So far, the foremost interferences experienced are due to unanticipated events such as black-outs, power interruption, and other similar occurrences which are beyond control. But even as these things happen, the university’s business is very much affected because we are primarily dependent on the electricity to run the systems we are using inside the offices and laboratories. These minor things might also be the causes of big consequences which may later be reasons for downtime.

Like for example, the series of brown-outs and power interruption in the localities just a few months ago really affected a lot of students, faculty, and staff as well, in that its occurrences became more often and computers that are supposed to be used in the daily functions and services were off to rest. I could still remember when we were on the brink of the enrollment period, with most of our classmates have other things to consider like completion of unfinished projects and some other businesses and the expected enrollment duration took longer than usual. The result is that, we, particularly I, as far as I could recall, am lost with the real schedule of the enrollment per year level. Most of us have concerns on financial aspect (tuition and other fees) and the current status we were taking upon the enrollment process matters as to when is the exact time should we process the payments for the cashier, request subjects, home calls for allowances and additional emergency fees, etc, you know, things like that we don’t readily expect and beyond our capacity and control. The sad part there is that, other personal matters of business that each of us has to face for the day are put off because we are still on the enrollment process which have come to pending status due to electrical interruption. Things like encoding, cashiering, registering, and account tracing could not continue, lines by students got mixed up, sweats pouring because of heat since there are no electric fans or aircon, photocopier machines won’t work, computers and printers have stop operating, and of course, evidently, there is no light thus putting every office or room to darkness and high temperature (and high blood pressure not to mention!).

The scenario became a point of caution to all of us, that we always anticipate brown-outs every day and we can almost predict what typical time of the day the power might turn off. Basically, the processes concerning the business of the university are greatly affected (and so other institutions and establishments in the locality), all came to halt and transactions have to stop. I am not pretty sure exactly if the university has a power generator but I guess it has not acquired one as far as I could remember. I have seen some Uninterruptible Power Supply (UPS) in our computer laboratories but how could it supply needed electricity for longer periods of time? Major systems need enough reserved energy to supplement the power it requires to run and perform its functions.

Concerning the network communication, well, obviously, if computer peripherals and other hardware components cannot operate, then normally, communication is cut off.

Oftentimes, we have problems regarding the internet connection. A lot of times we could only gain access over a slow (turtle-like speed) connection. I am not so sure if the networks office forbids us to have a faster access since there are also times that the speed is faster. National and/or International Gateway connection probably have something to do with this at some point in time. Normally, the offices try to gain access to the internet all at once that during these peak times, connectivity is so slow and hard to establish. And obviously, transactions and business matters concerning our outside clients and partners would have to deal with this.

***As of now, with these facts or matters at hand, I could barely say that the university has an outstanding network communication of systems. The way subnetworks connect could be just appropriate for our needs but I am wondering how this could take time for long especially that there will be more subsystems to be added to the university’s server. I am thinking of how the connectivity would change in case that there would be a gradual change in terms of robustness and performance that the university servers need to gain for the processes to run smoothly according to its functions. If there would be no boost in strength then the server might experience downtime due to the commands and requests that are already becoming beyond its capacity. Normally, connections would not work out smoothly, and communications among subnetworks and other systems might be greatly affected. As of now, I could not give a concrete design as to what the system connectivity setup should be. More details will come up and I would be adding more to this topic. ^^

Microsoft Encarta Dictionaries

Sunday, July 11, 2010

My Take on the Design of the University's Enrollment System

 (Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 2: Relative to your answer in Assignment 1 .... what's your take on the design of the enrollment system?)

Evaluation about the current enrollment system about the university has always been an integrated part in our class discussions. Like what I've shared in my assignment 1, the administration has tried many kinds of implementations that I have experienced since I began my college days in our university. And as there were trials-and-errors made, I could not say that there is a certain enrollment system that I have mastered with all familiarity. Until now, I must admit that it occurs to me when every time I gone through a step in the enrollment process to ask myself, or somebody else, if not to look at the enrollment process diagrams posted in strategic locations of the university, on what's the next step to take. Although I already have the idea that I have to undergo the steps in the payment of fees, advising, encoding, and posting of accounts, there are cases that even when there is a correct flow of steps a student enrollee can jump into another step or proceed with the next. It seems that the essence of putting the chronological set of steps is lost because one step could be done before or after the other (except the major processes like payment and posting of accounts). Well, what I'm trying to say here, is that there is numerous steps to be taken before a student is officially enrolled. Why not redesign the system in a way that we can have shorter number of hours to spend for the enrollment process?

As we can see in the picture below, there are many activities involved in the current enrollment process. Normally, if we take it on an average day, a student will finish enrolling in a day if he/she has complete requirements at hand and the lines in each process has minimal enrollees being entertained. Nevertheless, it takes more than 3-4 hours (so far) just to accomplish it. So if we are going to calculate it, there would be more time saved and other tasks to do for the day if a person would not mind spending his/her whole day just to enroll some subjects, right? Anyway, there can be ways to cut short on many steps for the enrollment process. And we will going to find it out now... could be noticed that aside from the tuition that has to be paid, there are other school fees such as the local council fees, university publication fee, and etc. Why not join it altogether so that there could only be one station where the students can pay all types of payment? It would save time and effort especially that falling in lines
cause major delays.

How about individual scholarship renewals integrated in each college along side with advising, pre-enrollment registration, or encoding? So students won't have to fall in line in the crowded room.

I was thinking...the encoding part also causes major delay in the procedure. There is also several printouts that has to be processed and validated by various stations - why not group them together...

The cashier, student accounts, and registrar are the major final steps in the enrollment procedure. Maybe we could find better ways when students don't have to fall in line anymore with these three different stations.

I must say, that in this type of procedure I am imagining about, needs thorough study and analysis especially on the part of the developers. In the general view, the enrollment procedure needs well-designed and centralized integration in terms of cutting short its steps to ease burden among thousands of students and the faculty advisers, as well as the encoders and those who manage the enrollment procedure. We could have a single station that could collect all payments, trace our balances, and manage the financial aspects involve in the enrollment process; we could have one station that would take care the advising part, such as checking our number of units taken and allowed to take, the requisite subjects, and the like, and it could be an information system where the student can encode him/herself based on the allowable course subjects and number of units to take. After which, the student can now proceed to the registrar for the final posting of accounts so he/she is now officially enrolled. With this, the time, resources and effort spent on long queues will be saved and major delays will be avoided.

Disclaimer: The image is taken from Dolorosa Mancera's EDraw version of USEP's Enrollment Procedure

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Evaluation and Suggestions for the University's New Enrollment System

 (Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 1: Assuming you were tapped by the university president to evaluate the new enrollment system implemented this semester, enumerate your observations/comments and suggest possible areas and ways where improvements can be made. Your observations/suggestions should be properly validated with facts and literature...(you may start with the diagrams posted in the strategic locations of the university)

Well, let us have some refreshments around here. It always feels good and skillfully challenged every time you are asked by this kind of question – assuming (just imagine) that you were tapped by the person occupying the highest position in the university, to evaluate something from your organization. Take note, this is not a mere system – the university enrollment system, had always been the forefront of assessments as it is considered as one of the most timely used information system. It has a big role in the institution, and its functions has to be ensured that it works properly and successfully as it is considered as a portal to more business transactions in the university.

When I began to live my life as a student of the university and as a member of its institution, I have experienced changes in my years of stay. We have been beneficiaries of its attainment of goals and recipients of difficulties of its shortcomings. Changes of implementation of the enrollment system has yield many results, both positive and negative from the concerned parties involved.

As far as I could remember, it has been three times that the school administration had made changes in the implementation of the university enrollment system. The school has tried outsourcing and in the present went back to in-house developing. And until now, I believe, the management information system people are still making their best efforts in finding the better enrollment system yet to be developed and implemented one after another until the satisfactory results would come.

The latest enrollment system that we are using has spanned more than three semesters, if I am not mistaken. Well, that is a long run since I never had experienced an enrollment implementation which lasts for more than two years. Every year that we enroll, there would be another kind of process and it makes us, students, feel unacquainted (again!) with how our own enrollment system runs. I could still remember when it (the latest enrollment process) was implemented I could not easily another point of improvement. There were still LONGER lines of enrollees on queue waiting at each step, and still more on the registrar step.

There are now the presences of security guards who manage lines of students in the cashier and registrar areas. At some point in time, especially in peak or times of the day when there is most number of enrollees, the guards are stricter and impose priority numbers policy. I noticed there were also more benches added. There were additional processing windows for the registrar to accommodate the growing population of university enrollees. Aside from that, there were tarpaulin posters and printed copies of the activity and system sequence diagrams portraying guides for the enrollment process located in obvious areas within the campus. The system has widely implemented new user interfaces for the registrar and encoder’s use.

The existence of printed guides in the form of flow diagrams really helped a lot because it gives the students a reference for the process that they will be getting into. It eliminates inquiries to local offices which could add up for the delay. Similarly, the information is not only for those who are into the process of enrollment but also to other individuals to learn about the system implementation.

Let us take a closer look at the enrollment process flow diagrams. In the first step, the student enrollee goes into the STUDENT ACCOUNTS to check for his or her balance and to let sign for clearance. The student accounts clearance can be undergone with the signing of clearance among other signatories and it may not be included in the enrollment process to give way to later processes involving the student accounts.

The second step brings the student to the Office of Student Services (OSS) who caters the scholarship renewal and releasing of scholarship cards to all student scholars. This step is optional only to those who may be affected. During the enrollment period, there are also long queues in the OSS because of the increasing number of scholars.

For new students like freshmen enrollees and those who have to take ROTC or CWTS yet, they have to register in the ROTC and CWTS offices respectively, in the step 3. Otherwise, student can now proceed to step 4.

In the college, the student enrollee now presents the requirements for advising. He/she will be given a pre-enrollment registration form to be accomplished and inputted by the encoder in the information system. Aside from that local council fees and other fees will be paid here.

A temporary Certificate of Registration (COR) printout should be submitted by the student to the cashier (for paying students) and student accounts (for scholars) for posting. After which, they will be directed into the registrar to get the student’s copy of the COR subsequent to presenting the official receipts and accomplished clearance. Moreover, the ID validation sticker now can be done at the registrar after the student is officially enrolled.

What are the areas that need improvement here? Basically, anywhere which causes much delay and discomfort to students should be well checked and considered.

In the diagram alone, there are steps which are vague especially to those who are first-timers or do not have idea of the whole process. Even the person who may not have any familiarity with the process would make eyebrows meet when he sees the downward arrow on the lower right-side of the flow diagram pointing to nowhere. There is no illustration portraying another step near the arrowhead. And where did the two arrows pointing to student accounts and cashier on step 5 came from?

Labels are also confusing. A student will be puzzled when he sees two ‘step 5’ labels on which he shall fall in line with. If there be any cases that there is a long queue of students, he would still have no idea whether he will go to step 5 or the other step 5.

The color or figure portrayed as a handheld carry by the student figure in the diagram is quite ambiguous yet something to be considered. When you notice at the step 5 both have paper-bill-like figures and it makes somebody think that he/she can pay matriculation or enrollment fees at the student accounts.

The illustrator must clearly define the arrows as it shows what exactly the next step is after the other. The arrow connecting step 4 to the succeeding step should be curved to the left if the illustrator opts to keep the same diagram. There should be a fork or splitted arrow for the two optional steps after the 4th step. Similarly, joining these two splitted steps into a single arrow for step 6 should be made. Moreover, the labels should clearly state the place or area where processing happens, the person-in-charge who will entertain the student, the necessary documents or requirements to be brought, and the reason for that step. This, I think, will answer any question or doubt in the minds of students especially for the newbies. Diagram labels should also clearly describe if the step is mandated/prerequisite or just optional depending on various cases.

References for images:
Vincent Plariza's snapshot of the posted enrollment process diagram

Dolorosa Mancera's enhanced (clear) image of enrollment process diagram (courtesy of EDraw)

Monday, May 31, 2010

Characteristics of System Analyst in Choosing/Defining Deployment Environment

(Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 11: You were tasked by the IC-dean to evaluate the enrollment system of the university, list and briefly describe the characteristics that an anlayst(you) examines when choosing or defining deployment environment.)
The enrollment system of our university has always been under the bird’s-eye view of us, students and faculty as well from the Institute of Computing. It is one (or shall I say the most conspicuous part of the university) that it is constantly mentioned in most discussions especially when we talk of information systems. And now that we are undertaking system analysis and design and software engineering subjects, we investigate more of the systems and subsystems that have been developed, being executed and running, and those that need to be built and / or improved. That was quite reasonable, folks, of course where else could we first take a look upon except our own, right?

Our professor (allow me to acknowledge thou, Sir) has been encouraging us to feel and not just visualize the concrete view of information systems and experience the reality in the information technology industry, and a way of that is simply to study the systems and subsystems inside the university. Frankly speaking, there is a lot more that has to be examined, brought up to the administration’s attention, systems inside the campus which needs improvement. As a student and part of the university, I am one of the recipients of the services of the school; I am one of those who are affected by its functions; and I am also one responsible for its development and progress. Since we are all part of it, we are accountable for its degeneration and advancement for the simple reason that we fuel the university’s business.

If I were to evaluate (supposed the IC dean tapped me to do so), the status of the enrollment system of the university is running as to its functions. But I can not say that the system is up for its promptness, orderliness, and efficiency. We have experienced tapping the support of an outsource company in the operation of the enrollment system. Later on the administration withdrew because of the financial aspect – the university is spending much on the outsourcing part. So they tapped our able and competent faculty members who later on developed an information system which is now being used in the enrollment process. Furthermore, this system is still ongoing its enhancement as business continues. As I have said, there is still a lot more to improve in the current system. We have to cope up with the fast pace of technology, and taking into account the growing population of students enrolling, the university business has to meet the demands of its constituents and the industry in the present day.

Anyone may be able to point out where in particular the system needs boosting up. As long as he/she knows in detail the components that make up the system and its running procedure, he/she can target and list down the possible crucial points within the information system. For me, a system analyst has to have fundamental nature of curiosity. It is important to be curious about your environment, for this will give you the drive to examine deeper the things and events occurring within your surroundings. In the enrollment system, as an analyst I have to get to know what is happening in the procedures so I may know the problems and the causes of such. From which, I can use logical methods in solving these problems. That includes researching and understanding the systems and related subsystems. Choosing and defining the deployment environment needs a keen eye for details. One cannot easily lay out the structure of the system without specifying in details the necessary requirements. Of course an analyst has to clearly identify the outline of the expected system and without being able to target the appropriate elements he/she will not be able to address the problems eventually not making a well-defined output. Aiming for accuracy and completeness must also be possessed by a system analyst. When you intend to do something, you aspire to achieve the best solution you could ever give which meets the difficulty or hindrance. You have to define the functionalities of your system once deployed in an environment. In determining these, your goal in mind is to maximize its performance to its functions. Moreover, an analyst should anticipate possible changes that may take place in the future so he/she should be open and able to adapt to these changes. This will also reflect in the flexibility of system or deployment environment the analyst is choosing or defining.

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Microsoft Encarta Dictionary and Thesaurus

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Characteristics of System Analyst in Evaluating Data Flow Diagram (DFD)

(Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 10: With reference to assignments 8 and 9, what characteristics does an analyst(you) examine when evalauating DFD quality?)
As a review, assignments 8 and 9 illustrate the activity diagram and data flow diagram of the university’s pre-enrollment system. These diagrams describe more or less the flow of the system based on the real and actual scenario in the school. Since there is a need to thoroughly understand the concepts of what is happening in the structure of the organization, the system analyst have to use these modeling techniques which will aid him or her in determining which components are lacking and needs attention. This is vital especially if the organization is aiming for progress and expansion.

Basically, when you are evaluating a particular system, you have to review the things and events that are involved in the processes. Requirements must be modeled out so to have a better representation and understanding. Apart from mathematical models which represent series of formulas and descriptive models which are narrative in forms, most models used in system analysis and design are graphical models being characterized by diagrams and schematic representations of some aspects of the system. Mainly, these models describe the details of what the system does when an event occurs. They are created to activities of information systems and interactions between computer processes and data.

There are however traditional (system is a collection of processes) and object-oriented (system is a collection of interacting objects) approaches to modeling system requirements. The data flow diagram (DFD) is one of the traditional approaches. Symbols that are used in data flow diagram comprise of the following:

Data flow diagrams (DFDs) are decomposed into additional diagrams to provide multiple levels of detail (System Analysis and Design in a Changing World, Satzinger et al). There are two classifications of the views in data flow diagrams: the higher – level diagrams and lower – level diagrams. Higher – level diagrams provide the general views of the system while the lower – level provide the detailed views of the system. Such differing views are termed as levels of abstractions. In a particular system, there could be many representations of data flow diagrams. The highest level or the most abstract view of the system is represented by context diagram. It is here where the data flow diagram summarizes the processing activity for the system or subsystem. The system scope in a context diagram is said to be represented by a single process, external agents, and all data which flows into and out of the system. DFD fragments are also created and represent the response of the system to an event within a single process symbol. These decomposed fragments also take the form of a lower – level diagram (sometimes called as diagram 0), which composed of detailed flow or just combined DFD fragments to model a specified view of the system.

Data flow diagrams are just one of the basic models being used by systems analysts in representing important and vital aspects of the system. As mentioned, DFDs alone have differing characteristics and these facets are not that easy to point out and visualize if the system analyst has not studied the procedures of the system in bird’s eye. Being very keen to detail is number one behavior for me that has to be possessed by a system analyst. You can just imagine the complexity that a single simple process of a system or subsystem can have that an analyst has to figure out and studied. Secondly, due to complexity of the system, an analyst needs to aim for accuracy and completeness. He/she must be able to define every event and thing involved and occurring within the activities of the system to be able to find out the components of the data flow diagram. He/she must be able to capture the overview of the running system, and make out a high-level DFD where the general view of the system is modeled out. Apart from being familiar of the system in whole, a system analyst now has to be familiar with the specific processes, expanding more of the general view into a more detailed data flow diagram combining DFD fragments into processes. As to my technique, I have yet to identify the overall course of action in the system and draft it as a context diagram. Then based on each major process, I examined each and expanded the diagram into a more specific diagram involving the fragments.

Furthermore, one quality of a data flow diagram that a system analyst has to make sure is that it should be readable. There might be individuals (probably clients) who are not into information systems and may not have knowledge about these matters. But it is important to know that they must also be able to comprehend the flow of the actual system as what and how the model describes it. Secondly, it has to be internally consistent and balanced. A data flow diagram model would not be able to explain a well-defined structure and process of the system if it is not balanced. Thus it should be internally coherent. Finally, and the most crucial, is that a data flow diagram must accurately represent the system requirements, for its goal is to characterize the procedure and the in and out flow of data in the running system. That’s what I’ve been stressing in the previous statements.
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Many thanks to the resources I have used as my references and aid:

Chapter 4 Investigating System Requirements
Chapter 5 Modeling System Requirements
Chapter 6 Traditional Approach to Requirements
from System Analysis and Design in a Changing World by Satzinger, Jackson, and Burd

Microsoft Encarta Dictionaries and Thesaurus

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Friday, May 28, 2010

Data Flow Diagrams of USEP Pre-enrollment System

(Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USeP-IC Web Forum - Assignment 9: Create at least 3 different types of Data flow diagram of USEP's pre-enrollment system)
Data Flow Diagram of USEP Pre-enrollment system

a.) Context Diagram -

-first type

b.) Exploded Diagram 1

-second type

c.) Exploded Diagram 2

-third type

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Edraw UML Diagram software

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