Ken's Voyages Around the Sun

Big Project Done
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A couple of weeks ago I finished a really large project at work, perhaps the most significant I've ever accomplished in any job.

(I would have announced it here that same day except I found that our data center in Utah was about to undergo some changes that might (and did) affect it, but now those have been accounted for an it's offcially done, for at least the first draft. It's been tested quite bit, although not necessarily widely enough to catch all possible uses or abuses.)

It's a new online course-sign up system for our college. Don't we already have one? Well yes, but it uses the main university's PeopleSoft interface, which to put it politely SUCKS. As a student who's never taken a CSUN class before, you would have to go into that monstrosity and click more than 20 links and buttons to get a large number of pages just to take one class.

Those pages are within frames. Some load blank pages (hoping you'll notice subtle changes in the master frame). Others with input elements reload themselves as you tab our of one and into another and are already entering data!. All of them are s...l...o...w to load. As someone very concerned with web usability, it's hard to imagine a less user-friendly registration system.

So I built a better one (with some help from Kenny at knocking through some technical barriers along the way :-). Both our campus IT department and PeopleSoft consultants appeared to be rather skeptical that we could do this when we proposed it originally, which made it even more enjoyable to actually accomplish. They're going to be shocked and amazed when they see this.

Our course listings will now include a button that says "Register Now." One click brings up a web form for all the usual things like name and address and credit card. Click one more button, and you're done. Period. End of story.

What I did was complicated: the web page launches a script which feeds all the course and student information into PeopleSoft, essentially emulating the person doing it manually at their own computer.

Thus, instead of forcing people to go through all those aforementioned convoluted pages to enroll, the computer does it for them. The script passes itself off as a person sitting at a computer. Thus I'm not hacking into PeopleSoft or anything priveleged, I'm just making another computer do the tedious stuff. That's what they're good at, after all.

But wait, there's more...

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