Monday, May 19, 2008

General upgrade

Today we've made a general upgrade live, which brings new features to CalcTool, most importantly "MyCalcTool", which allows users to have a favorites list to keep the calcs they need the most. We've also taken this opportunity to improve the "new" and "popular" pages with an automatic logging and updating script, and to bring the other static pages properly into line with the site design. The changeover isn't 100% complete yet, so please excuse any teething troubles, old links, bad design, and missing features for the moment. Any problems, please let us know at the forum

Another thing that has been vastly improved is our standards compliance. When I checked a few of our pages through a validator last week, I was somewhat horrified to find upwards of 500 errors on most of the pages. To be fair, most of them were severe pedantry on the part of the validator, but many were very real. Really this is testament to the ability of modern browsers to cope with bad code, since we never noticed a thing. Anyway, to cut a long story short, almost all of the errors have now been fixed, with most of the pages validating  100% cleanly (including the css, if you must know).

Finally, we now have over 200 calcs in the database.

I think we can just about call this "CalcTool 1.0", although there may still be more goodies at some point in the future... you never know.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Announcing CalcTool mobile

I'm pleased to say that with a bot of hacking at the CalcTool code, I've been able to create a secondary version that is more suitable for mobile devices. Most of the images and tables are removed, and things are squeezed up horizontally to get it comfortably into a 200 pixel-wide window. Naturally there are casualties, most notably the textual notes and images that come with a calc in the full-sized version. It's also a little more tricky finding what you're looking for, with the "related" sections and navigation panes removed. The underlying code is the same as for "regular CalcTool", so you still need a decent modern browser with good css and javascript handling. Still, if you know the score and you know where you're going, then it will make a quick calculation on the move possible. Give it a go - it's very rough for the moment, but a few helpful comments can help work out the wrinkles.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Time to start calculating!

Sometime in the middle of February, a germ of an idea for a website raised its head. By now, CalcTool contains getting on for 200 different calcs, and is getting around 50 users a day. OK, that's still not much, but it's enough of a start for it to have been worthwhile, and something to build on.

So, what is it? CalcTool aims to make simple everydays calculations easy for everyone. No more looking up formulae, messing around with unit conversion, or searching for a calculator. The idea is that for anything you want to calculate, for example the day of the week you were born on, or the reflection from a window, you look up the relevant "calc" page, tell it what you know, and get the answer out. It helps you out with a diagram is necessary, gives handy hints and notes, and lets you know (to some extent at least) how the calculation is performed. It also makes some attempt to do away with esoteric language, so that if you want to know (for some reason) the volume of water flowing through a river, you can do it without needing to have heard of the Manning equation, or knowing what "head loss" and "Q" are.

Probably the most powerful (and simple)  feature of CalcTool is the built-in unit conversion menus attached to most input and output boxes, that allow your measurements and answers to come in any form you are comfortable with. This also leads to a while bunch of very convenient unit conversion calcs

Anyway, enough of the blatant advertising. I want to use this blog space to document some of the latest calcs I'm proud of or interested in, as well as upcoming changes and development issues.  I have no idea how often I'm going to post - it may depend to some extent on how many people seem to be listening.