This Blogger site is just a holding place for our news!

To access the Latin dictionary, click this link:

Numen - The Latin Lexicon - An Online Latin Dictionary

Friday, May 29, 2009

Flashcard Printing Support

I've re-enabled printing support for flashcards! Yay!

I've also re-written the instructions. Hopefully they will make printing a bit more clear.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Speed Improvements

Sometimes I take a little bit of time off from reading and cogitating to work on important stuff -- stuff like speed improvements for this website.

This is incredibly nerdy stuff. It actually takes my mind off harder things. Don't ask!

The biggest improvements came in database queries. Some of the queries I was using were executing more slowly than I would have expected. In researching this problem I discovered something called prepared queries. I had no idea they would improve execution speed of certain queries by nearly 10x! On the back-end of things, that's a considerable improvement. On some pages it reduced the overall server load of each page by half -- to 35ms from 65ms! On the front-end, the site will probably feel a tiny bit snappier. Overall your average page load will reduce from about 160ms to about 130ms (since it takes about 100ms for intercommunicative data to traverse the internet from your computer to the server and back). That may not seem like much on your end (a 15% drop in latency) but on the server side it's quite dramatic (a 50% drop in latency).

Monday, May 25, 2009

Flashcards, UTF8 and XSS

I know, I know! I've been bad about updating. But as usual, there's way more going on behind the scenes here than meets the eye.

I've been a busy beaver since the semester ended. I've got two main things going on in my life right now: my reading list and this web site. I read Lombardo's translation of the Aeneid and now I'm reading Ferry's Georgics. I'm also working through Discourse, Consciousness and Time by Wallace Chafe.

But I've also been working on this site! If you've tried to visit in the last week, you might have noticed that the site was a bit flakey from time to time. It's true, and I apologize, but it was all temporary and for a good cause.

First, I rewrote the flashcards feature entirely using AJAX technology. Check them out! They're completely awesome. They should work at the very least in IE8, Firefox 3, Chrome and Safari 3. That should cover 98% of the people out there. Maybe I'll test them in Opera later. There is one major feature missing: printing. But I added two super-awesome features: custom flashcards decks and practicing those decks online! Two other minor features are missing: timed slideshows when practicing and searching by tags. Those are minor additions that I'll get to later.

I also made the site more uniformly UTF8 compatible. This is a technical, backend feature that won't affect you at all, most likely. I used to send all the Latin characters to your browser in HTML entities, but now I'm sending them directly in UTF8 encodings. Surprisingly, that was a really easy feature to enable.

Another big improvement is the site security. I've been looking for holes and security breach-points. I discovered a big one: XSS (Cross Site Scripting). It's kind of an ugly loophole on websites, one which has been around for ages. Essentially I fixed my back-end library code to disallow these so-called XSS attacks. With a bit of luck and some salt thrown over the shoulder, I've hopefully closed all the loopholes.

As usual, I'll add a promise to try and update the news regularly. But if I don't, just remember that this site is continually improving behind the scenes.

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