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Engineering News

Work with us this fall!

Hey! Are you a student? Do you design? Develop? Love the web? …or… Do you make pictures? Want to learn to be a great photo editor? If so, we’d very much like to hear from you. You’ll spend the fall working on the visuals team here at NPR’s headquarters in Washington, DC. We’re a small group of photographers, videographers, photo editors, developers and designers in the NPR newsroom who work on visual stuff for npr.org. Our work varies widely, check…

Packaging Airline Passengers for Safety

I would like to start off with a shout out to 17-year-old Raymond Wang of Vancouver for winning the top prize at the Intel International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF), the Gordon E. Moore Award plus $75,000.  Normally, I would just read the accomplishments of the youth science fair with passing interest, but this year, I fervently hope that Wang’s winning entry will be adopted and implemented soon. Wang won the top prize by redesigning the airflow of passenger aircraft…

Stickers or Lasers? The Change in Tracking Produce

Recently, I reread a story discussing a technology in which lasers are used to mark produce with the goal of eliminating those little labels on everything from apples to zucchini.  As with most disruptive technologies, there are often unforeseen hurdles; consumer acceptance, immature technology, integration into business processes, etc. The laser marking technology was getting a lot of press a few years ago and it was projected to replace the produce stickers; aka Price Look-Up code (PLU) labels.   The…

We’re hiring a designer! | NPR Visuals

By Brian Boyer | June 26, 2015 Love to design and code? Want to use your skills to make the world a better place? We’re a crew of visual journalists (developers, designers, photojournalists…lots of things) in the newsroom at NPR headquarters in sunny Washington, DC. We make charts and maps, we make and edit pictures and video, we help reporters with data, and we create all sorts of web-native visual stories. (And yeah, sometimes it’s kind of weird…

What’s New with Dimensional Weight?

by Rich Lindgren, CPPChainalytics We are about half way into 2015 and the new Dimensional Weight pricing model issued by UPS and FedEx earlier this year. Fortunately, many shippers and 3PLs have been able to avoid the price increases taking immediate effect thanks to negotiation or multi-year contracts that haven’t yet expired.  (If dimension weight charge is news to you, check back on this previous blog entry.) Rumblings and rumors from the packaging and supply chain industries suggest that the carriers are…

Testable IO in Haskell | IMVU Engineering Blog

By Andy Friesen At IMVU, we write a lot of tests. Ideally, we write tests for every feature and bugfix we write. The problem we run into is one of scale: if each of IMVU’s tests were 99.9% reliable, 1 out of every 5 runs would result in an intermittent failure. Tests erroneously fail for lots of reasons: the test could be running in the midst of the “extra” daylight-savings hour or a leap day (or a leap second!). The…

Simplifying Map Production

When news happens in locations that our audience may not know very well, a map seems like a natural thing to include as part of our coverage. But good maps take time.* In ArcMap, I’ll assemble the skeleton of my map with shapefiles from Natural Earth and other sources and find an appropriate projection. Then I’ll export it to .AI format and bring it into Adobe Illustrator for styling. (In the example below, I also separately exported a raster layer…

Edge Crush Test vs. Box Compression Test

Edge Crush Test vs. Box Compression Test (aka ECT vs. BCT): New Performance Metrics for Corrugated Square Off by Rob Kaszubowski, CPP As packaging consultants we are constantly faced with the challenge of learning a client’s vernacular and acronyms – as well as common acronyms within the packaging industry. For years the standard for corrugated packaging has been the ECT or Edge Crush Test. Edge crush slowly surpassed Mullen burst as the standard metric for corrugated strength. (Read more about…

Let’s Tesselate: Hexagons For Tile Grid Maps

A hexagon tile grid, square tile grid and geographic choropleth map. Maps by Danny DeBelius and Alyson Hurt. As the saying goes, nothing is certain in this life but death, taxes and requests for geographic data to be represented on a map. For area data, the choropleth map is a tried and true visualization technique, but not without significant dangers depending on the nature of the data and map areas represented. Clarity of mapped state-level data, for instance, is frequently…

Tech note: Connecting to an Amazon RDS database from a legacy EC2 server

By David Eads | May 08, 2015 Amazon’s Relational Database Service (RDS) is an excellent way to host databases. The service is affordable, low-maintenance, and self-contained. If you use the Amazon cloud, there are precious few reasons to maintain your own database server. At some point, Amazon started requiring RDS instances to use Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) networking. However, if you’re like the NPR Visuals team, you might have older Amazon Elastic Cloud Compute (EC2) server instances that…