Category Archives: reference

Markdown syntax highlighting and conversion in vim

Recently I’ve been playing around with vim as an editor. Since I do most of my writing in a text editor, one of the first functions I found myself looking for was a way to do basic markdown syntax highlighting and formatting. Here’s how I set up my vim environment to do both of that. [...]

Basic Data Reporting with Blackboard

´╗┐The built in reporting tools available for Blackboard are somewhat limited. To answer specific reporting questions, you may need to run custom SQL queries against the database. What follows are a few rough examples of such queries. All of the below examples are intended to outline the interactions you might need to answer specific reporting [...]

Smart Views and Grade Center Problems in Blackboard 8.0.307.0

Some time ago, we received a report of an instructor having problems accessing the grade center within their course. The confirmed behavior resulted in several similar errors (often depending on the browser used) when attempting to load the grade center. These errors all began with the string “An unexpected error occurred while loading the Grade [...]

Remembering syntax patterns through context

Speaking of array functions in PHP, ExpressionEngine developer Derek Jones shares a trick for remembering which order to send your arguments in when using various php search functions. All array-related functions use needle, haystack and all string-related functions use haystack, needle. There are certain words in the english language which no matter how many times [...]

Brevity and Readability

So I’m cruising along in Ruby one day, when all at once I realize I’ve stopped writing. I’m stuck. I needed to compare two arrays, and trim one so that any records in it would be removed if they existed in the other one. In PHP, one way to do this would be to loop [...]

Evolving to Dvorak

I have never learned to touch type. As much as Ma Henry tried, she just couldn’t get me to spend enough time with Mavis Beacon. Over the years, as my hunt-and-peck style morphed into a jumble of half-memorized keystroke combinations, I began to regret this. Several weeks ago I began to mull over the idea [...]

Disability Etiquette

The United Spinal Association has a great pamphlet on Disability Etiquette. It’s light, conversational (plenty of comics with situational examples), and friendly in tone. This goes a long way in increasing awareness about a host of disabilities. It also is a very useful tool in combating the fear that stems from not knowing how to [...]

Fixing UNIX permissions en masse

Every once in a while I need to “fix” the unix permissions on a directory. This is usually a web directory, so all the folders need to be readable and executable (i.e. 755), and the files need to be readable (i.e. 644). A preventative measure might be to set the umask appropriately (i.e. 022), so [...]

WebCT Orphaned Users

The application formerly known as WebCT CE (Campus Edition) 4.x sometimes leaves you with what the documentation sparingly refers to as “orphaned users”. This often occurs during the student import process, or while restoring course backups in a manner that restores students and their data (i.e. a “replace users” restore). Here’s how you might be [...]

Date math and documentation

The other day I found this little nugget in the comments of the date page of PHP manual. The real lesson is in the first paragraph: “One of the most useful skills you can utilize when performing date math is taking full advantage of the UNIX timestamp. The UNIX timestamp was built for this kind [...]