I am a teaching assistant for a friend this year, and the hassle of how to send out grades has been a small challenge for me. Last year the class was small enough that I could simply copy and paste from the Google spreadsheets we use to an email. This semester, however, we have more than 25 kids, so I wanted to find a better solution.

At RedSnake Philly one of the presenters talked about what he had done with Google Apps Scripts. I decided to take a look at it to see if I could automate emailing grades from a spreadsheet. It turns out that not only is it possible, but it’s pretty easy to do. The script to send an email to each student on our list is only about 10 lines long.

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For our senior thesis, my team is working determining the readability of colored text. My job has been to create the web app that is used to store our images, collect results from users, and organize the results so that they can be analyzed by our tools written in MATLAB, and later by Weka (a machine learning tool).

The webapp is written in Rails and is integrated in many components of our workflow.

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I can’t count the number of times that I have had trouble with my computer. Often a friend will say something like “Aren’t you a programmer; if you know how computers work, why do you have so much trouble with yours?” This is a very interesting question, for someone who spends every day with computers, my devises are surprisingly more difficult to use than the average computer. For a while restarting my phone would start a bootloader that was extremely difficult to navigate. Right now, starting my desktop requires pressing F12 to launch the boot menu and then navigating to the correctly numbered partition for Windows or Linux. These annoyances would probably drive the average user crazy.

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The component of the app I am currently working on for WCAI, researchers need to be able to download data files. Many of these files are more than a gigabyte in length. After deciding to store the files on S3, it was important to create a secure and easy to use interface to access and download these files.

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Many great web frameworks exist; for this project I chose Ruby on Rails. Since the framework is so popular, gems (extensions) exist that will greatly simplify much of the process. Rails also has a great support community available to help when I run into trouble.

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Recently The Wharton Customer Analytics Initiative began looking into ways to store research projects online. I did some research for them to determine the options for using AWS versus in-house solutions. In the end we decided to use EBS backed instances on AWS because of the reasonable price and flexibility that it offers. Here’s a little information on how we arrived at our decision.

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