Monthly Archives: July 2007

An eye for an IE – bioscreencast.com , internet explorer and the javascript jungle

Well bioscreencast.com now supports Internet explorer .. you can read all about this and other beta 0.2 enhancements on our blog.

Since one of the stated aims of this blog, is my desire to learn javascript, this post talks about javascript standards and the google web toolkit…

On bioscreencast, Suresh , our lone web ranger , using the amazing yui library, his web design  skills and tech wizardry, designed the site first beta site to play well on firefox and safari . Both these browsers are  closer to the ECMAscript standards than something like Internet Explorer (IE). Consequently our site initilly worked on firefox and safari.

Like most javascript centric UI’s , the site had to face up to the real problems associated with javascript i.e browser personalities . Javascript is famous for how it behaves somewhat differently depending on whether you are using a browser like Internet Explorer or something like Firefox and safari. The ECMA standard was a move to get people to agree on what is “javascript”. Despite the existence of this standard , its interesting that even two standards compliant browsers …dont necessarily treat your website code exactly the same way!. Which makes navigating the javascript jungle a crazy proposition.

This diversity , provided the justification for things like the google web toolkit. How the GWT works is simple, you code in Java ..the program sits on the server..and when the browser requests a particular URL , the gwt java app generates the javascript depending on the browser..so IE gets IE centric javascript code , firefox,  javascript that suites its palate etc etc…. SO for people who want the “AJAXy” sexiness that goes with javascript..you could just stick to java and still harness the dynamic characteristics of javascript.

So , to summarize, coding in javascript necessitates the ability to deal with many of its dialects..or throwing all that out and adopting the java Google web toolkit.

In any case..it turns out, with a few very minor tweaks to the javascript code , bioscreencast.com now plays very well with all browsers especially IE 6 and IE7.

Based on the feedback we have got from many people and from our analytics..it is amazing how many people are still using Internet explorer 5 and 6, and its good to know that our website now welcomes most browsers…

Put your brain to use: Galaxy Zoo

I caught this on Natures Nascent blog. Like re-CAPTCHA which I had blogged about before. This project uses the human brain to classify galaxies. You know the types , spiral , elliptical , merging etc etc.

The way it works is fun , you sign up, go through the tutorial , take the test ..If you get 8 out of 15 correct, you can start classifying galaxies. No worries, if you dont pass the test..you can just take it again , till you earn your stars .

Once you do , you can start classifying galaxies

A few things about the project capture my interest.

As as far as the codeitch, itch goes ..its amazing how much better the human brain is ,at recognizing patterns like the ones in the spiral galaxy above and telling it apart from an elliptical one. I know image processing algorithms are getting better and better as the days go ( I had my beginings in structural biology with 3d reconstruction of viruses from projection images and some single particle reconstruction)..but the human brain it seems still takes the prize…

The second amazing thing is , the galaxy zoo in just two days , classified a million images with community participation. And their servers are struggling to meet the load.
A big hurrah for public participation and open science indeed.

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Image link from the Sloan Digital survey