Tuesday, September 5, 2017

My IA Capstone

The final course toward my MIS with an IA specialization is a Capstone project in Information Architecture. No class meetings, just me and a project.

1st hurdle: I have a project.

2nd hurdle: My Capstone supervisor approved my project today. We settled on four parts of the project to complete by the end of the semester, when I will present the project.

  1. A content audit. I have been working on the content audit and have some pretty nice spreadsheets. The audit is more or less done. Now I just need to write up a document of my findings.
  2. A competitor analysis. I just received a list of 7 peer research centers so I can start on this.
  3. A stakeholder analysis. I've already spoken with a few people and have a pretty good idea of what they would like. I'll probably do more interviews/have more conversations over the next month or two to really put together the requirements.
  4. A prototype. All this is leading up to wireframes, a style guide, and other documents so the site can be built.
All of this will lead up to a final project document and presentation for course credit. And a degree for me. 

As for the project, the goal is to have the new site up by the end of the year. I think we can accomplish that. 

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Our journey toward cord cutting

For the past several months, our Directv bill has been shocking. Rates seem to be going up monthly, a few dollars at a time. The latest bill? Nearly $150.


We decided to take a hard look at what we were watching, how much we were actually using the satellite service, and alternatives for the shows we watch.

Turns out, most of the shows we watch are on the basic over-the-air (OTA) networks or BBCAmerica. About half the shows we record are on PBS (hello, Masterpiece!). We already have Netflix and Amazon Prime accounts. The cost to purchase (on Amazon) the few BBCAmerica shows we watch would cost less than 1 month of our current Directv bill. We can also get a Hulu account, but right now that doesn't seem necessary.

Can you say ch-ch-changes?

Yep, time to make some changes.

Our first step was to pick up an inexpensive OTA antenna at Best Buy ($15) to see what OTA channels we could get.

  • Our local PBS (WTIU) came in great, with all 5 digital channels. The boys immediately took to PBS Kids.
  • We picked up a dozen or so digital channels on that cheap indoor antenna. 
  • We were still missing ABC, one of the networks we wanted.
But, proof of concept: OTA was a distinct possibility.
Next, Chris checked TV Fool to see what stations are possible, at what distance and direction, and what sort of antenna power is necessary. And then he picked up a better, outdoor antenna. He put the antenna up on our antenna mast with the radio and ham radio antennas.

Chris on roof installing antenna on mast.
How many antennas will fit up there?
With the improved antenna, we were able to receive 24 digital stations, but still not ABC. Unfortunately, our neighbors' evergreens stand between us and the Indianapolis ABC station. The other possible ABC stations happen to be in the directions of... more trees.

The shows we watch on ABC would be available to purchase through Amazon, still costing a lot less than we are currently paying. But Chris was not satisfied. So he added an amplifier, the LNA-200 from Winegard, to the antenna. With the amplifier, we nearly 40 stations including ABC!

The next piece of the puzzle was a DVR. We really like being able to record shows to watch later, especially since so many shows are on later than we like to be up. Some online searching and review reading led us to the TiVo Roamio, one of few DVRs with a built-in tuner to be able to record OTA programming.

While we've been getting everything set up for our transition, we've been working through all the shows and movies recorded on our current Directv DVR. We have also been holding off until the final episode of a show I watch on BBC America records Wednesday night (I'll watch it Thursday). With only 1 episode left, I'd like to finish the series before cutting the cord, especially since it's only 2 more days.

Current goal and plan: cancel Directv Friday. We started this process with some research on July 30th, so this has been a 3 week process for us.

It has cost several hundred dollars to get set up (over half of the cost is the DVR), but we will still recoup that cost before the end of the year.

Monday, July 3, 2017

A vacation in NOTL... and Canada150

The boys experienced their first trip out of the country last week when Grandma and Grandpa took us all to southern Ontario. I won't bore everyone with an exhaustive vacation post, but here are a few highlights.

Day 1, Saturday: We arrived in Sarnia for our first night in Canada.

The boys in front of the Ontario travel information centre.
Welcome to Canada!
Day 2, Sunday: We arrived in Niagara-on-the-Lake, where we stayed in the penthouse at the Moffat Inn, a delightful inn right on the main street. Our furthest walk while in town was 4 blocks to the grocery store and post office. 

Moffat Inn
Moffat Inn

Day 3, Monday: The theaters are dark on Monday, so we spent the day at Niagara Falls, Ontario. We saw the floral clock, toured behind the falls and sailed on the Hornblower, a boat that goes near the falls. Wil wanted to cross the bridge to New York to add another state to his tally, but that wasn't in the plans.

The four of us with the horseshoe falls behind us.
At Niagara Falls
Day 4, Tuesday: The boys decided they really wanted to try the WildPlay Whirlpool Adventure Course they had seen at Niagara Falls. In the afternoon, Chris and I saw our first play of the week, Me and My Girl, a delightful musical comedy. And a raccoon visited the penthouse that evening.

Wil and Sam on a platform of the ropes course
20' can be awfully high
Day 5, Wednesday: Plays, plays, plays! All 6 of us saw Wilde Tales, fairy tales from Oscar Wilde, then Chris and I saw Dancing at Lughnasa in the afternoon, and Grandma and Grandpa had an evening out for dinner and a play while the boys showed us the way to Lake Ontario, about 4 blocks from the Moffat Inn.

Chris standing in a gazebo looking at Lake Ontario
Lake Ontario just before sunset
Day 6, Thursday: We took a short trip to St. Catherine's to Chapters Bookstore, then watched a ship go downstream through Lock 3 of the Welland Canal, and Chris got to see Dunbar Bagpipe Maker's workshop, where he made their day with his enthusiasm for their work. That afternoon, Debi (Grandma) and I had afternoon tea at the Prince of Wales Hotel.

Whitefish Bay cargo ship entering the lock
Whitefish Bay entering Lock 3
Day 7, Friday: We drove to Stratford, with a stop at the outlet mall in St. Jacob. Grandma, the boys and I walked along the Avon River in the evening, where the boys were enthralled by all the ducks, ducklings, and swans.

The boys looking at ducks on the bank of the Avon River.
Duck alert!
Day 8, Saturday: We spent the morning at the Embro Highland Games, the oldest Highland games in Ontario. The boys loved watching the sheep dog demonstration, Chris watched the pipers, we saw some Scottish dancers. Then we drove to Sarnia for our last night in Canada, where we joined some of the Canada Day festivities along the harbour front, including fireworks. Happy Canada 150!

6 sheep in a group
Sheep waiting for the sheep dog
Day 9, Sunday: And home again. A long day of driving brought us back home with wonderful memories and a few souvenirs. The boys had missed the cats and the cats had missed their people, so it was a happy homecoming all around.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Home project: recovering chairs

Our dining room chairs have been in sad shape for a while. They're 21 years old, the padding was not so padded anymore, and the fabric was wearing thin.

Dining room chair.
Sadly in need of a refresh.
We found a nice YouTube video showing how to properly recover a chair.

We found some upholstery fabric, 2" foam for padding, and batting. Then we got started.

  • We cut the foam to the size of the seats.
  • We cut the batting to just slightly bigger than the size of the foam.
  • I cut the new fabric using the a piece of the old fabric as a pattern.

Removing staples from the chair seat to remove the old cover.
Removing the old cushion cover and padding.
 There were a lot of staples.
Chair seat with new fabric being stapled on.
The new cover.
The results are well worth the couple of hours of work. When we sat down to dinner tonight, Chris commented that we should have done this years ago. It's amazing what a difference fresh padding makes. And the chairs look so much better!

Dining room chair with new padding and cover.