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Chopping Blog
Every week we provide an interesting snippet of technology or industry news. Topics range from what you would expect from us (what we have done) to interesting industry developments.

Check back every Thursday for a new blog posting.
A Good Run
July 29, 2021
This is the 467th Chopping Blog post. We would not be surprised if Code Choppers has published more posts than all other transit software providers combined. It is with that record we are ending our weekly Chopping Blog. There has been many changes to the industry since we started the blog in 2012, including our market focus. The decision to move resources from conceiving, writing, editing, and creating artwork to developing custom applications was not easy. We are doing it because it is best for our custom app clients. Thanks for reading the Chopping Blog!

Posted by the Customers and Products Departments.
In the Middle
July 22, 2021
Gray hat hacker
This is the last in a three part series on hackers.

Gray hat hackers sit between the white hats and the black hats. Since they are not engaged by the organization they are hacking they can not wear white hats. On the other hand, they don’t get black hats because they don’t exploit vulnerabilities for personal gain. One of the most famous gray hat hacking episodes was the FBI hacking into an iPhone when Apple would not cooperate.

Posted by the Products Department.
White Hat Heroes
July 15, 2021
White hat hacker
This is the second in a three part series on hackers.

White hat hackers are ethical. Organizations use them to check for system vulnerabilities. The hackers try to get into systems applying a wide range of methods, from exploiting basic security to using sophisticated cyber-attack tools and techniques. The goal is to find and patch security exposures before a black hat hacker attacks. As we all know, passwords are the first line of defense and the most likely to be compromised.

Posted by the Products Department.
Black Hatters
July 8, 2021
Black hat hacker
This is the first in a three part series on hackers.

Black hat hackers infiltrate computer systems and networks without permission. They search for a vulnerability and once found, exploit it. Money is often the motive but political or competitive objectives, along with revenge, are also possibilities. These hackers do a lot of costly damage, requiring IT departments to spend time and money on defensive measures.

Posted by the Products Department.
Databases 2.0
July 1, 2021
This is the second in a two-part series about databases.

Blockchains are alternatives to the common databases of rows, columns, and cells. They resemble ledgers with time and date stamped entries. Each entry is put into a block, preceded by the prior entry, thus the term blockchain. The other unique part of the technology is the distributed nodes. This means there are copies of the blockchain on multiple servers, usually geographically dispersed. Combining the nodes with the chained entries makes it almost impossible to change or remove an entry. That high level of data security is what makes blockchains the best technology for financial and other highly secure transactions.

Posted by the Products Department.
Databases 1.0
June 24, 2021
This is the first in a two-part series about databases.

Almost everyone has heard about databases. But would they know one if they saw one? The same goes for spreadsheets. They look the same, rows and columns storing information.

What separates the two are how they are used and accessed. Spreadsheets are worked on directly by users. They put information into cells, the areas where rows meet columns. Databases have database administrators, but most entries come from users working through applications.

Another difference between the two is size. Spreadsheets are for small user groups. Databases are for unlimited users and transactions.

Posted by the Products Department.
Brought by a Bot
June 17, 2021
Delivery robot
A variety of technologies have been combined to create another technology, robots. And there’s a wide variety of robots among us. Often a new technology is first utilized by businesses and governments. This has been the case with autonomous delivery robots, which were initially adopted by hospitals, corporate and university campuses for internal use. Now they are making inroads with consumer deliveries in urban areas.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Y2K 2.0
June 10, 2021
3G to 5G
The demise of 3G networks is on the horizon. Providers are phasing it out as they move their technology offerings to 4G and 5G. The shutoff date varies by carrier and they could change. As with Y2K, where people were living on borrowed time with some software applications, this could mean a device you depend upon will be rendered obsolete. All 3G phones will be impacted but some 4G devices as well.

For your convenience we have included handy links to the two major carriers if you need to check on the status of your phone.

AT&T 3G Phase Out
Verizon 3G Retirement

Posted by the Customers Department.
June 3, 2021
The technology and commitment to electrify vehicles is accelerating quickly. This is an opportunity for start-ups to make inroads into vehicle markets. Not resting on their current dominance, existing auto and truck producers are aggressively electrifying their offerings.

American manufacturers have big plans. GM wants to have its entire fleet electric by 2035 and Ford is working towards 2030 to have 40 percent of its global output electric. The manufacturers are also developing battery cell technology in-house. By the end of the decade, Ford expects its cost to produce battery cells will be down to $80 per kilowatt-hour. The current industry average cost is about $185 per kilowatt-hour.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Not Twice as Nice
May 27, 2021
Operators want to be sure they don’t have duplicated passengers in their database. This can easily happen if vigorous validation isn’t part of their app.

During recent custom app testing the customer wanted us to move the duplicate passenger processing. It’s now when the name is entered instead of when the passenger record is saved. This improves the user experience. In both cases our apps display a duplicated passenger warning.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Reinventing the Wheel
May 20, 2021
Thin code
The cliche about not reinventing the wheel isn’t always true. We recently faced this dilemma with the pop-up calendar in a custom app we’re developing. The calendar code we found online and downloaded for our first app wouldn’t work as required in the custom app. We searched for other calendar code online and couldn’t find what was needed. The best course of action was to write a calendar from scratch. The day spent coding our own calendar resulted in two additional benefits. One, we wrote it so it’s easier to change. Two, it’s easier to change because it has far fewer lines of code, 140 versus the 835 in the downloaded code.

In case you’re wondering if using code found online is unusual or unethical, don’t worry. The code is open source, free for others to copy and use as desired. Using downloaded code can reduce programming and save time and money.

Posted by the Products Department.
The Closer You Get
May 13, 2021
High-earth orbit satellites have been available for many years for internet service. They rotate about 20,000 miles above the Earth. Due to the great distance, data transmission speeds are relatively slow. For users in areas without other internet options it has been their only choice.

Low-earth orbit satellites are positioned about 300 to 1,200 miles above earth. This means far faster data transmission speeds, 40 times faster than high-orbit satellites. Existing and start-up firms are beginning to deploy and use these satellites to offer an alternative to traditional internet service providers. It’s exciting to have additional technology and competition for high-speed internet.

Posted by the Customers Department.
A or B
May 6, 2021
The technology to make self driving vehicles practical is advancing quickly. Yet, there’s one issue proving to be a challenge. It’s not technical but ethical.

What’s to determine the course of action for a vehicle when presented with two or more bad choices. For example, someone suddenly appears in the direct path of the vehicle and it doesn’t have time to stop. Does it hit the pedestrian or does it swerve into the path on an oncoming truck and risk killing multiple passengers?

Posted by the Customers Department.
A Plate at the Table
April 29, 2021
The internet holds vast amounts of data. Getting that information to its targeted audience is the crux of SEO (search engine optimization).

One of the commonly used acronyms is E-A-T (expertise, authoritativeness, trustworthiness). Expertise is proven through a knowledge and skill in a particular area. The authority component comes from being influential in that area of expertise. Finally, a website is trusted if it’s transparent, legitimate, and has accurate content. Google began using these criteria in 2013 through their search engine algorithms.

Digesting these concepts helps website developers get higher ranking search engines results.

Posted by the Customers Department.
On the Trail
April 22, 2021
This is the second in a two-part series about user access.

Knowing what and when something happened can be important. Unique user IDs and secured passwords are fundamental in controlling access to your system and data. But another benefit of user IDs is passive tracking. Each transaction drops a breadcrumb, stamped with the user ID, date and time. This is critical when you need to track down a problem. You can also use this information to fine tune needed user training.

Audit trail breadcrumbs help you find your way through the daily challenges of running an operation.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Lock It Down
April 15, 2021
Pad lock
This is the first in a two-part series about user access.

Data security is a crucial element of a good productivity app.

The main purpose of user IDs and secure passwords is to keep unauthorized people from getting into your app and accessing your data. But they can also seamlessly serve to limit access to functions, with you determining who can access each area. For example, drivers may not need to enter and/or change trips orders or dispatchers may not need access to billing information.

Simple, but so important.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Mice Can Be Nice
April 8, 2021
With the proliferation of mobile devices and touch screens, let’s not forget the mouse.

Drivers use phones and tablets to access their mobile manifests in our apps. But in the office, desktops and laptops rule. That means mice are still an important component to using our apps. It wasn’t all that long ago newbie desktop software users didn’t know how to use a mouse. Our implementation team would assign playing solitaire to help them get acquainted their mouse.

As an aside, programmers find a mouse invaluable when working on code.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Buried Treasure
April 1, 2021
Treasure chest
What’s exciting about having a custom application is making it your own. This means your application has exactly what your operation needs. You also have complete control over features, functions and costs.  (We were recently told the fee for adding a simple button to a competitor's application was $20,000.)  

We are working with clients on developing custom applications.  Having them eventually take over maintaining the code has been discussed. For now we’ll continue to support their custom applications.  When they want to take over the code, we’ll train their staff to be confident and comfortable.

This isn’t new to our development staff. It happened to a large desktop application they developed for a major transportation management company. Two dispatchers who had been using the application showed an aptitude for IT. They became the support staff for it. 

One of our custom application customers revealed they have an employee with programming experience.  He's working in dispatching and they want him to help clean up data and be an extra set up eyes on this project.  They feel fortunate to have such a treasure.

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Bar Has Been Raised
March 25, 2021
HTML code renders web pages. Many sites use its tiny built-in dropdown menus. That was acceptable in the past.

With apps for phones and other devices raising the user experience, people now expect more from web sites and web apps accessed through their browsers. The HTML dropdown menus are hard to use due to their limited footprint and small fonts. Not only are they hard to read, they look dated.

Last year, we began replacing HTML dropdown menus with a new style we developed. Working with our custom app customers was a great place to start implementing our new dropdowns.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Money Matters
March 18, 2021
This is the third in a three part series about vehicle tracking integration.

Billing is important to our customers.  Vehicle GPS units integrated with a transportation operations app is powerful, especially when it comes to billing.

The API (application programming interface) has access to vehicle odometer readings and time stamps. It puts them directly into the app database for use by the billing function. A high functioning app then gives the user the ability to review, audit, and edit the information provided by the GPS.

This type of integration allows drivers to drive and not worry about entering data. Billing staff doesn’t need to follow-up on entry errors. Invoices are more accurate and generated more quickly, which means payments are received sooner. Everyone’s workload is reduced!

Posted by the Customers Department.
Tool for the Times
March 11, 2021
This is the second in a three part series about vehicle tracking integration.

Geofencing is a tool used with GPS vehicle readings. The geofence is a boundary around a central location.  When the technique is included in an app a response is triggered when a vehicle passes through the boundary.  This means geofencing can automate information collection, such as time stamps and odometer readings.

Our Code Choppers customers want to feed that information into the billing algorithms. Reducing staff data tasks and workloads is exciting.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Basket of Goodies
March 4, 2021
Shopping cart
This is the first in a three part series about vehicle tracking integration.

Vehicle location devices using OBDII ports provide a variety of useful information. Bringing that data into your transportation management application provides the best of both technologies. It creates synergies; two plus two equals five.

Working with a custom application team lets you decide what’s important. That information is available for operational insight, reporting and billing. Some of the data elements from these devices:
  • Driving directions
  • Vehicle speed
  • Vehicle bearing
  • Movement status - park or drive
  • Odometer
  • Calculated fuel usage
Your technology investments work for you and your cash flow.

Posted by the Products Department.
Pest Control
February 25, 2021
Trace code
Trace code is a pop-up beta testers may see while working directly with a developer. It’s a valuable tool, used to help find bugs.  Code is put at various points to see if the result is different than expected. If 2 + 2 = 5, that’s where the issue lies.

Often using trace code is a two step process. A pause is added at different locations to find the place triggering the error.  Once found, values being processed are displayed to the programmer. This is all it takes to know where to zero in and exterminate.

Posted by the Products Department.
Better Builds
February 18, 2021
Agile development
Agile application development relies upon an interactive process between developers and users. Once a basic framework is developed, collaboration with users is key to guiding its features and functions.

Code Choppers is going through agile’s iterative process during the development of a custom app. We recently reviewed one major function and found the user has suggested 13 items, and the list keeps growing. Through online meetings they see the app’s progress and we get feedback. Overall, this means when they begin testing it themselves there will be fewer changes and a far better initial experience.

By unleashing our client’s creativity, we are providing a tool tailored for their operation.

Posted by the Customers and Products Departments.
Change in the Air
February 11, 2021
PWA development
For many organizations, progressive web apps (PWA) are replacing or supplementing native apps for mobile devices. Instead of a native app downloaded and installed from the app store, a PWA runs in the device browser. It includes an icon for the device home screen, just like a native app. Expedia, The Weather Channel, Starbucks, and Twitter are among those who have rolled out PWA. There are numerous benefits to the organization providing the PWA and to the user. Due to the advancements of user interface tools available to developers, a PWA can look and feel as awesome as a native app.

Posted by the Products Department.
Hue Should Know
February 4, 2021
Color coded
Being able to see vehicle locations on a map is a powerful productivity tool. At a quick glance, dispatchers want to see their fleet and like to know if a vehicle is moving or parked. For our applications, we’ve color coded the vehicles to help dispatchers quickly know which are moving and which are not.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Canning Code
January 28, 2021
Condensed code can
Programmers often create reusable routines, functions, and processes. Sometimes they are only used within one application. Other times one is so versatile a programmer will turn it into a more generic piece of code for widespread use.

This has become more difficult with the evolution of the Internet. Older desktop applications were built using a single language, so one file could contain all the canned code. But Internet browser applications need one file per language of canned code; often three or four files (HTML, PHP, JavaScript, and CSS).

Programming for the Internet is more complex than programming desktop applications, but the results are worth it.

Posted by the Products Department.
January 21, 2021
Fork in the road
LinkedIn, the online professional network, conducts an annual technology buyer survey. Over the last six years there has been a decisive trend in IT purchases. User departments are increasingly making IT purchasing decisions compared to IT departments. They have become the most important participant 61% of the time versus 25% six years ago. Also, IT departments are more likely to have a smaller role and less influence in the decision making process.

Surprisingly, we found this is not the case when it comes to transportation management applications. Code Choppers has rarely dealt with IT departments taking the lead in purchasing from us. Usually their involvement is with the technical specifications and requirements of the installation and implementation.

Posted by the Customers Department.
More Than Meets the Eye
January 14, 2021
Recently we added three data elements to an existing app. As developers we know appearances can be deceiving. What may appear to be a simple change can be very labor intensive. On the other hand, sometimes little effort is needed to make a big impact.

In this case, putting the three elements in the content div was only the beginning. We also:
  • Amended three database tables which store the elements.
  • Updated code which automatically creates the database for new customers.
  • Updated code to post the elements to the tables.
  • Updated code to get the elements from the tables.
  • Changed the data retrieval process and web page rendering.
  • Added the elements to the map icon hover and info window objects.
  • Added alerts when there is contention due the to value of one of the elements.
  • Added the elements to the report generator.
Creating apps to become great tools for our customers is our goal. But we also know seemingly easy changes, done properly, can be more work than meets the eye.

Posted by the Products Department.
Holiday Cheer
December 17, 2020
Christmas Trees
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Code Choppers!

Our next blog post will be January 14, 2021.

Posted by the Customers and Products Departments.
Changing Direction
December 10, 2020
Change direction
Apple’s minimalist product designs are influential. The Power Mac G4 Cube is on display at the Museum of Modern Art.

For many years Apple was developing increasingly lighter and thinner products. Until a few years ago their approach to design was function follows form. But it began to hamper the user experience. By reversing course and having form follow function, some products are getting a little thicker and heavier. Now users have iPhones with longer battery lives and MacBooks with better keyboards.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Step One
December 3, 2020
Vehicle location
Code Choppers launched a major vehicle tracking development, integrating an industry standard GPS product into one of our apps. Dispatchers now view a vehicle’s current location in our dispatch function, using the coordinates from the GPS tracking device. Prior to this development, dispatchers accessed a separate GPS app in order to view the vehicle’s location. They no longer run that app.

Our staff will now move on to the next phase, displaying the prior locations of a vehicle.

Posted by the Customers Department.
On Track
November 19, 2020
Code Choppers is integrating an industry standard vehicle tracking product into our apps. Users won’t see any difference in the display of a vehicle’s location from the cellular device tracking currently in our apps. The latitudes and longitudes are the same, just provided by different technologies.

Here are the major development tasks:
  • Become familiar with the API (application programming interface) in a test environment.
  • Add the API login credentials.
  • Create the interface to associate the vehicle device IDs with the app’s vehicles.
  • Get the current location from the API (as opposed to the cellular device).
  • Update the vehicle location table with history from the API in order to display vehicle prior locations.
  • Add filters to view desired vehicle(s) location and time frames.
Vehicle tracking is one of many data elements from the API. Once implemented, we will work with our users to capture and display other items, such as driver speeds.

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, we will not be publishing a blog post next week.

Posted by the Products Department.
One Way or the Other
November 12, 2020
The blogs of the last two weeks discussed general application designs. This week we finish the theme with a look at designing for a specific customer versus off-the-shelf.

When creating an application for the off-the-shelf market, the designers and coders have free rein. They can make the app look and function as they please. With a blank slate, every detail requires sifting through all the options available, this can be time consuming and forces speculation on user desires.

Alternatively, when working with a custom application customer, the development team concentrates on their specific needs. The look and function is determined by them. The creative aspect for the developers is turning their stated needs into a working application. Bringing a customer's vision to fruition is very fulfilling.

Posted by the Products and Customers Departments.
The Dashboard
November 5, 2020
The Dashboard
Last week’s blog we discussed general application designs. This week we get into a case involving one of our customers.

A special needs student transportation operator is using one of our paratransit/NEMT apps. It has the functionality they need. When discussing enhancing the app’s automated scheduling, their workflow came into the picture. They wanted most of their operational tasks combined into one web page. Their workflow moves from entering a passenger to booking their trips to routing and scheduling those trips. The new design combines those functions, plus, lets them manage their depots, vehicle and schools, all on one web page. It also shows everything on their map. We call it The Dashboard.

It’s an exciting new approach we may implement in other apps. A customer driven design reduced seven page functions into one.

Posted by the Products and Customers Departments.
Check Your Ego at the Door
October 29, 2020
Designs change over time. It applies to applications as much as to any other item. They evolve as technology changes and features and functions are added, changed and removed.

Also, when it comes to transit, what is a good design for one type of operation may not be good for other types.  We found this out working outside our initial scope of large public transportation services; private sector operators tend to have a different work flow. There are common elements and needs between the two, but enough operational differences to require different designs.  For example, many large public paratransit operations have different staffers for passenger registration, order taking and dispatching. On the other hand, specialized NEMT and special needs student transportation operators may combine some of those functions into one job. Therefore, even though the application needs to do the same functions for both kinds of service, it needs to be structured differently.

As developers, we need to be able to understand those differences and follow the lead of the operators.

Posted by the Products and Customers Departments.
G Wiz
October 22, 2020
With the release this week of Apple’s first 5G iPhone, the latest version of speedy internet is getting additional attention. 5G download speeds will be 10 to 20 times faster than the best 4G LTE networks. This means old applications will run much faster and new applications will be created to take advantage of the higher download and upload speeds.

Like lots of wiz bang technology, the big issue is how consumers benefits. For example it will allow full-length movies to be downloaded in less than 10 seconds. In the future vehicles and street signs will be connected to the internet, bringing self driving technology a big step closer to reality.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Twenty Bucks a Bus
October 15, 2020
Vehicle tracking
Vehicle tracking is becoming essential to both private and public fleets. Operators are balancing performance and cost, and in many cases want it integrated with their other systems.

A fleet tracking solution used by a few of our customers costs less than $20 a vehicle per month. The device is plugged into the vehicle OBDII port for easy plus and play installation. (It’s far more economical than the $20,000 plus transit software vendors where charging 20 years ago for a special server and engineering fees for similar vehicle tracking.)

Our customers want this fleet tracking product as part of their Code Chopper apps. We are in the final phase of adding the tracking API (Application Programming Interface) to our code. At a minimum, it will bring realtime location data into our dispatching function. As our users become more comfortable with the fleet tracking capabilities, we expect they will want additional vehicle information in our apps. Thus, agile development will play an important part in this project.

Combining the operational expertise of our clients, an industry leading GPS provider, and our apps, drives powerful results.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Check it Out
October 8, 2020
Vehicle inspection
We got a call from one of our paratransit customers. They wanted to know if their Blue Dog app has pre-trip checklist functionality. Their drivers use the mobile manifest driver sheet for time keeping and time stamp the start and end of their shifts. We told them it is easy to create a pre-trip checklist. They can expand their driver sheet by adding the needed items. Each header or line item can be given a label and be in a in numeric, character, or time format. 
Driver sheet builder
The tasks you want your drivers to perform vary from other operations.  The flexibility to create your unique requirements is crucial and Blue Dog offers that capability.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Not a Pipe Dream
October 1, 2020
Internet pipe
Last week’s blog was about the lack of high speed internet in rural areas. The cost for municipalities to lay down fiber optic high speed internet cables can be daunting. Fortunately, this is changing due to an innovative approach, running cables through municipal water pipes.

Anacortes, Washington, became the first city in the U.S. to use their network of water pipes to deliver high speed internet. Fiber optic cables are run through narrow dry water pipes installed within the larger water pipes. This enables the delivery of broadband internet across great distances at lower cost.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Connection Directions
September 24, 2020
The COVID-19 lockdowns have brought an issue to light, lack of high-speed broadband internet availability in many rural areas. According to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reliable broadband is 25 megabits per second download and three megabits per second upload.

With so many dependent on internet access for work, school and managing their lives, public entities have stepped in to address this need. Washington, Georgia, New York, North Carolina and Pennsylvania are a few of the states acknowledging the need. Like providing transit, they are becoming providers of broadband service in rural areas.

Our society has evolved to where basic internet is not sufficient and broadband is needed by everyone.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Learning from Users
September 17, 2020
Cut copy paste
Cut, copy, paste. Think of how many times you used it, and yet, may not know how it came about.

In 1973, Larry Tesler was working at Xerox’s Palo Alto Research Center (PARC). He pulled aside a secretary, who had only used typewriters. Showing her a document on a word processor he asked her how she would want to work with it. From her he gained the perspective that led to cut, copy and paste.

PARC researchers were also responsible for developing the graphical user interface (GUI) and the mouse which we use to navigate our computer screens. These innovations impressed and inspired Steve Jobs. They were instrumental in the groundbreaking original Macintosh computer, which is now Apple’s Mac product line.

Posted by the Customers Department.
By the Numbers
September 10, 2020
Price tags
This is the last of a four part series exploring the world of apps.

There are similarities and differences in the economics of developing and selling generic apps versus industry specific apps. Developing an app with 75 web pages and 150,000 lines of code incurs the same resources and costs, whether generic or industry specific.

The two major components to pricing an app are recovery of development costs and marketing costs. The greater the potential sales for an app means a lower per unit development cost. A generic app, such as Turbo Tax, may have millions of subscribers, whereas an industry specific app, such as our Red Dog, may have hundreds subscribers. So, if the marketing costs are the same for both types of apps, the price of a generic app should be a fraction of the industry specific app.

Posted by the Products Department.
It Takes Two
September 3, 2020
Generic versus specific
This is the third of a four part series exploring the world of apps.

When operating any sizable business, apps are used for common tasks. There are two main types of apps, generic and industry specific.

As the term implies, a generic app is not geared towards any specific industry. Spreadsheet, payroll, and tax preparation apps are good examples. The tasks they perform are much the same no matter the operation.

An industry specific app is developed to meet a tight set of specifications needed by that industry. Many of the tasks handled by industry apps can often be done using generic apps, but not as efficiently. For example, NEMT/paratransit apps have passenger databases. An operation could use a word processing or spreadsheet app to maintain passenger information, but it wouldn’t be integrated with order taking, dispatching, billing, mobile manifests and reporting. Likewise, an order could be taken and entered into a word processing or spreadsheet app, but they don’t have scheduling tools. Integrated functionality makes industry apps extremely powerful.

Posted by the Products Department.
August 27, 2020
Seven categories
This is the second of a four part series exploring the world of apps.

There are desktop/laptop apps and mobile apps. Some developers create an app that runs on both, while some run on one or the other. Still, each app fits into one of seven categories (with some examples):
  • Entertainment - photo enhancement and audio manipulation
  • Games - arcade, puzzle, and card
  • Lifestyle - fitness, dating, music, and travel
  • News - news site and news aggregator
  • Productivity - finance, calendar, and list maker
  • Social Networking - online community, shared photo galleries and blogs
  • Utilities - weather, calculator, and notes
Code Choppers has productivity and social networking web apps.

Posted by the Products Department.
Everything Has Its Place
August 20, 2020
This is the first of a four part series exploring the world of apps.

There are apps, websites and blends of the two. Here’s how to distinguish between them:

Apps do something. You interact with them and they do something. Tax preparation and social media are popular examples of apps.

Websites display information. They may have some other basic capabilities, such as signing up for emails and searching. For example, the typical business website explains their organization, products and/or services. There's not much interaction, it's all information being pushed out to the visitor.

Blends are websites which include some app functions. Banking sites are a good example. They offer a lot of bank information and also allow you to view transactions, statements and balances, transfer funds, and make deposits. Shopping websites also have a lot of application functions, and can be considered blends. You may need to have an account and log in to use the app functions.

Posted by the Products Department.
The Way Things Work
August 13, 2020
Reverse engineer
Reverse engineering is trying to ferret out the inner workings of something. It occurs in many forms, fields and industries but is extremely prevalent in technology. Physical objects which have no secrets, things like pie pans or scissors, are not reversed engineered.

Because software is comprised of hidden lines of code, it is often the object of reverse engineering. Developers need the source code in its pure form in order to make a change, enhancement or fix. In the case of web apps, some code can be obfuscated as a way to prevent outright theft. It protects the company that owns the app and the users of the app.

When a competitor wants to “borrow” a nifty feature or function, they may attempt to reverse engineer the source code. The original developer can take satisfaction in knowing imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

Posted by the Products Department.
Hello HTML5
August 6, 2020
With the phase out of Flash, we needed to replace the Flash plug-in buttons in our reports. Our five buttons let you: copy report information to your clipboard, create a CSV file, create an Excel file, create a PDF document, and print your report.

We have created new buttons using common web languages: HTML5, JavaScript, and CSS. The export functions have remained the same, but your user experience has improved. You no longer need to manually allow the plug-in. This is no longer necessary to export your report information.

Not only are we getting rid of old technology, but improving your app experience.

Posted by the Products Department.
Bye Bye Flash
July 30, 2020
When Adobe Flash was introduced in 1996 it enabled content creators the ability to deliver a richer experience. For the first time animation, in addition to video and audio streaming were available over the Internet.

But as all good things must come to an end, so too Flash. As of December of this year it will no longer be supported by Adobe. The improvements to web connectivity and upgraded and newer web languages make Flash irrelevant.

Flash is slated to be removed from Chrome version 87, with an anticipated release date of this December. Mozilla (Firefox) has already removed Flash support and will only run Flash on their enterprise version. Also, by the end of the year, the Microsoft Edge browser will no longer support Flash.

Still, it will be possible to run Flash after December with some extra effort. You may have to research how, based on your browser and operating system, since it will not play or display automatically.

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Way Forward
July 23, 2020
Finding out your transit software vendor has been taken over by another firm can cause anxiety. It seems you have no control over one of the most important tools used in running your operation. Maybe it isn’t your software vendor who sold itself, but you must be worried it could happen to you at any time. Will a new owner keep supporting the application you’re using? Will you be forced to switch to another program, platform, or vendor? Are you scared of not knowing who will have access to your databases? Will your staff get the assistance they need from the new owners?

You don't need to be anxious about the future of your transit software. Leave the software vendor game, along with all its uncertainties. Your time is too valuable to be frustrated over something you can’t control. When you own your app you will be calling the shots. You determine the features and enhancements to be added and when they get done. The developers and support staff works for you, at your agency or organization. What can be better than that?

Posted by the Customers Department.
Battle of the Browser
July 16, 2020
For desktops, the most popular web browsers are: Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Edge, and Internet Explorer. You may be using the one selected by your IT department or using the one installed by the hardware manufacture. Most of us stick with a browser for quite a while. But sometimes we get adventurous and try something else.

Since web browsers are applications, like most technologies, they change over time. What was a great browser five or ten years ago may have been surpassed by a newer offering or by enhanced and upgraded versions of older browsers. Also, important attributes change over time. Speed has always been important, but now you may have concerns over personal data privacy and battery life.

There is a built-in advantage some browsers have over others. Those developed by the operating system (OS) developers (Apple Safari and Microsoft Edge) are tuned to the OS, giving them efficiencies not available to Chrome and Firefox.

Posted by the Products Department.
Checking the Results
July 9, 2020
Early results
Apple held its first Worldwide Developer Conference in 1987. A few weeks ago, due to COVID-19, for the first time ever it was held virtually. The transit industry is also dealing with virtual conferences this year. From Apple’s experience there may be some long-term impacts to conference presentations and attendance.

Virtual attendees praised Apple’s prerecorded presentations and sessions. They were efficient, more informative and improved the learning experience. Since conference space wasn’t needed, attendance was free, unlike the $1,599 charged in 2019. Attendees also saved on travel time and costs.

On the other hand, some missed the social interactions which come with attending in-person.

Posted by the Customers Department.
What’s Right for You? (Part 4)
July 2, 2020
Code Choppers offers customers four application acquisition options. This blog covers purchasing codebase and controlling your app.

Purchasing a software license is the most common application acquisition method. Transit operations found it easier to go that route than develop an app, either in-house or using a software development firm. The axiom “don’t reinvent the wheel” made perfect sense.

Yet, the more control you have over your operation the less risk of something going wrong. Owning the codebase of your transportation management app gives you the ultimate control. This includes how it works for your operation and how much it costs to run.

Code Choppers has created a new way for you to acquire a paratransit/NEMT or fixed route application, purchasing our codebase. All of the development, design, coding and system testing is done. You get stable codebase, put through its paces by operations like yours. You can have our development staff support and enhance the code and transition to your IT department down the road.

You are purchasing intellectual property, an asset you own and control.

Posted by the Customers Department.
What’s Right for You? (Part 3)
June 25, 2020
Code Choppers offers customers four application acquisition options. This blog covers customization, using your specifications to create the perfect app.

Productivity is crucial to your operation.  A transportation management app with the right fit is a great tool for your staff to efficiently do their jobs.

The traditional method of finding an application is to search for products targeted to the transit industry, publish an RFP, review the proposals, and select one. Unfortunately, the application may not be a great fit. It may lack desired features and functions or it may be overkill, which means you are paying for more than you need. With affordable custom apps available, you don’t need to settle for an off-the-shelf solution, an outdated term and concept.

At Code Choppers we develop custom apps using our stable paratransit/NEMT and fixed route codebase. This lets us quickly turn out a custom app tailored to your specifications at minimal cost. What you want is what you get. It’s perfect for your operation.

Posted by the Customers Department.
What’s Right for You? (Part 2)
June 18, 2020
Code Choppers offers customers four application acquisition options. This blog covers branding, putting your name and style on an app.

With your transit agency or organization name and colors, one of our apps can be styled to your operation. Every time an employee, vendor, customer or passenger logs in, their connection to you is solidified.

Many retail sites use branded apps in order to create a unified image. A branded app is a quick and affordable way to get the look of a custom app.

Posted by the Customers Department.
What’s Right for You? (Part 1)
June 11, 2020
Code Choppers offers customers four application acquisition options. This blog covers subscriptions, the easiest way to get started.

Until Code Choppers began offering subscriptions, getting access to a paratransit/NEMT app required a major upfront licensing fee. An annual support contract of typically 15% - 20% of the initial fee was also required. This doesn’t take into account the large and time consuming capital purchase process, which may include applying for a grant.

Subscriptions provide the quickest way to get an operation up and running. It can start to access an app within minutes for a small monthly payment. This allows all stakeholders (passengers, employees, management) to immediately benefit from its benefits.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Delivering Links
June 4, 2020
Delivering information
COVID-19’s impact on transportation safety now encompasses increased vehicle interior sanitization. Last week our blog covered that topic. We had numerous requests for details. Therefore, we are providing links to some of those technologies:

UVC sterilization

Ozone generating system

Antimicrobial and antibacterial seating materials

We hope this information is helpful.

Posted by the Customers Department.
New Normal
May 28, 2020
COVID-19 has made vehicle interior sterilization an important concern for those with ridership or other social fleets. Below are four approaches being studied and developed.

Ultraviolet light (UVC) for inactivating or killing microorganisms. It’s used to sterilize the inside of some police cars and ambulances. UVC can only be used when a vehicle is unoccupied.

Fogging interiors with disinfectant or hydrogen peroxide. Again, a vehicle must be unoccupied.

Improved air filtration systems and split climate zones. Some automotive designers are looking into these.

Antimicrobial and antibacterial materials for seating and other interior surfaces. These materials may need to be renewed periodically due to time and use.

Going forward, it remains how these technologies will be implemented and what others may be introduced.

Posted by the Customers Department.
New Normal
May 21, 2020
Start Saving
COVID-19 and changing financial realities are impacting most state and local governments. Budgets are being examined.

Transit agencies can find savings by dropping the outdated software licensing and support pricing model. The typical annual support contract is 15 to 20 percent of the original license fee. An annual subscription with us is usually far less and doesn’t require a capital expenditure.

Over the long run you can realize even greater financial benefits and independence by owning your transit management applications. We offer both fixed route and paratransit apps. By turning a negative into a positive, you can start traveling a new road.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Good to Great
May 14, 2020
Good testing is essential to a great application. It’s a progression through five levels. It begins with the programmer doing a test on a small piece of code. The process moves to more and bigger elements being tested as the code develops. Real-world users are part of the important final step, the beta test (part of acceptance testing). The goal is to tune the application for the people in front of their screens and on their mobile devices.

Posted by the Products Department.
Billing Bliss
May 7, 2020
Report Billing Code
One of our customers provides highly specialized NEMT services using our Blue Dog app. Their billing criteria changed and they needed a report to bring all the billing items together and subtotal by category. They laid out the specifications. We designed and coded.Wh en presenting the new report to the them, their reaction was awesome. The result saves them significant time and effort in generating bills.

We realize one size doesn’t fit all. Sometimes it’s a custom report and other times it’s a complete custom app.

Posted by the Customers Department.
It Takes Volunteers
April 30, 2020
Beta testing
Our last blog had a call out for beta testers for our fixed route run-cutting function. The terms beta test and beta site are fairly well known. In application development, the beta is the last of five tests. After the four other internal tests, the application or function is deemed ready for real-world users. From their feedback, the developers usually fix problems and fine tune the user experience. Beta testers volunteer to get an early look at a new version or technology.

In appreciation for the time and effort to beta test our applications, we offer a major pricing discount.

Posted by the Products Department.
Opportunity Calling
April 23, 2020
During these challenging times we continue to seek ways to benefit the transit industry.

Our fixed route web app grew out of knowledge gained from our previous fixed route system. Industry veterans are encouraging us to add run-cutting to it. We are going to take their advice and make it happen. With all our development, we adhere to agile development principles. That means working closely with clients and getting their feedback.

This is a callout to small and mid-sized transit operations. They can be in on the ground floor as a run-cutting beta site. If you’re aware of a good candidate, please let us know about them. We’ll even load all their data!

Posted by the Customers and Products Departments.
April 16, 2020
This is the second of a two part series about the early days of working virtually.

Many employees are using technology to work virtually from home during these challenging times. For many it’s no more complicated than logging into their firm’s browser app from home rather from their office. But it wasn’t always this easy.

Programmers and developers made virtual offices out of need in the late 1980s. The connected field office was created to let programmers, developers and support staff access a field office PC from their base. This was done using remote access communications software in conjunction with a telephone landlines and modems. (pcANYWHERE was first released in 1986 and became one of the most popular communications remote access tools for working virtually.) If there wasn’t a dedicated phone line for the connection, staff would physically connect the telephones or phone lines to the modems.

Modems are still helping us communicate, all cell phones have them, built-in and far smaller.

Posted by the Products Department.
Virtually Yours
April 9, 2020
This is the first of a two part series about the pioneering days of working virtually.

Employees are using technology to work virtually from home during these challenging times.  It’s usually no more complicated than logging into their firm’s browser app.  But it wasn’t always this easy. 

Programmers and developers created virtual offices out of need in the late 1980s. The off-site virtual office was one such arrangement. With PCs making their first appearances in offices, systems and support was needed not only for headquarters operations, but also for field offices and operations. Some innovative computer programmers figured out they could do on-site programming and support when visiting field offices. They would take a copy of their source code and programming tools on floppy disks to the work site. The tools would include such things as a code editor, database management system, and compiler. They would load their source code and tools onto an office PC to set up their working environment, creating a virtual programming office. Hours, days or weeks later, they removed their tools from the PC and took the fresh source code back to their home office.

Posted by the Products Department.
Driving Needs
April 2, 2020
During these unusual times, examples of inspirational and thoughtful actions are good for our morale. It is our honor to be working with operations which provide critical services during these circumstances.

A customer, headed by a former critical care nurse, provides transport with an emphasis on patient safety. Her non-emergency medical transportation fulfills a crucial need for patients released from hospitals, dialysis enters and outpatient care centers. She brings experience, dedication and thoughtful care to their service.

Another customer has shifted their resources from transporting special needs students to making home food deliveries.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Business as Usual?
March 26, 2020
These are unusual times due to COVID-19. We are here to support our customers and are operating more than usual. If you need extra assistance please let us know. Our in-house data tools can be utilized in creative ways.

All of our employees utilize digital workforce practices. The majority of our marketing, communications and customer interactions are conducted online.

We hope you all are doing well and staying safe.

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Financial Innovators
March 19, 2020
The Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) is a new and important addition to many businesses, both public and private, including those providing transit services. This is the last of a three part series dealing with the challenges these officers face.

Innovation is usually thought of in product or service terms. With public budgets increasingly being pinched, both revenues and expenditures may be good avenues for a CIO to explore.

Recently, some transit operations have implemented new technology to change or extend payment options for riders. For example, contactless cards and smartphones offer cashless payments. Also, open payment systems give passengers various ways to pay and opportunities for discounts and various benefits. In return, transit operations get valuable customer data for enhancing service.

For software procurements, the transit industry often relies on capital expenditures to obtain licenses. This allows an operation to use software without ownership, basically leasing it. Normally a license also requires an annual support contract from the vendor. Nonetheless, many larger operations have developed applications for use in-house. A CIO may want the best of both worlds for replacing some existing software, owning the application without the expense and risk of development. This is where purchasing codebase comes into play. Even though few software firms offer this option, it is something which can be pursued.

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Need
March 12, 2020
The Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) is a new and important addition to many businesses, both public and private, including those providing transit services. This is the second of a three part series dealing with the challenges these officers face.

Non-integrated software systems are among the biggest issues facing the CIO. This is often due to proprietary Windows applications developed 20-25 years ago. These systems use proprietary application programming interfaces (API). The APIs let the legacy systems to talk to each other. Unfortunately, this locks the customer to the API vendor, hopefully still in business. Additionally, the API vendor may not have updates which allow access to more recent technology. Many of these systems are no longer efficiently interfaced, creating slow response times, such as Windows applications delivered through virtualization.

The only way around this issue is by moving away from legacy technology, that is, from Windows applications to browser apps.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Bright Ideas
March 5, 2020
The Chief Innovation Officer (CIO) is a new and important addition to many businesses, both public and private, including those providing transit services. This is the first of a three part series dealing with the challenges these officers face.

The drive behind hiring a CIO is to deliver a better customer experience (CX). Organizations have a history of measuring their operations with business objectives, not customer expectations. In the past, the goal of transit was to provide passengers with safe and dependable service. But with the innovation of private ride-sharing services, passengers are becoming more sophisticated consumers of transportation.

The biggest challenge facing these organizations is effectively balancing CX with traditional key performance indicators. Understanding passengers are customers with options will motivate to innovate.

Posted by the Customers Department.
February 27, 2020
There’s an interesting software project principle; the first 90 percent uses 10 percent of the effort and the last 10 percent takes 90 percent of the effort.

This happens for a number of reasons. Requirements get refined during the project and specifications change once users go hands-on. Changing existing code means more effort is expended on top of the original effort. Performance has to be tuned and scaled up to production volumes. System documentation is labor intensive and is often put aside in the rush to meet deadlines.

This principle does not always hold true, but it happens often enough only inexperienced developers ignore it. Our developers have many projects under their belts and are true believers.

Fortunately, Code Choppers offers stable code base and custom apps which remove all the risk of developing a system from scratch.

Posted by the Products Department.
On the Trail
February 20, 2020
Agile development is an approach that puts features and functions into the hands of users, then fine-tunes them based upon their feedback. The tweaking can be a quick coding change of a few minutes or occasionally take more than a week.  With our new Big Dog paratransit/NEMT app we ran into a big tweak.  

Big Dog introduced remote access for entering passengers and trip requests.  Since multiple entities are involved, our users told us the audit trail needed a higher level of detail.  A standard trail indicates the type of change, such as a passenger record, which was sufficient for single site operations.  From user feedback, Big Dog now shows what item was changed, what it was before and what it is now.  For example, the passenger home address was changed from 100 Main St. to 200 Elm St.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Falling Stars
February 13, 2020
When online review sites started popping up they were viewed as trustworthy. Now lots of people view them cautiously.

Even the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is clamping down on fake reviews. A March 4, 2019, online article from Inc. Magazine showcases a $12.8M case brought by the FTC against a supplement company. The company posted fake reviews to mislead consumers.

What got our attention was when one of our employees was offered a $5 gift card for giving a service provider a five star review. She felt the service was good but leaving a positive review for compensation did not seem authentic. Another review payment scheme was offered to us by an online review company. Ironically a fake review turned up on their website with details of our app blatantly falsified. It was poorly researched and implied our app is a consumer good.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Revolving Doors
February 6, 2020
Revolving Door
Recently, a paratransit software vendor was bought by a California company. Before the deal was completed, the California company was bought by a Spanish company. Another paratransit software vendor was bought by a large English transit company. Yet another was bought by a Canadian vehicle technology firm.

We’d be surprised if the software customers had a say in the changes of ownership. Not knowing the new people in charge, the commitment to innovation, and the stability of the support staff had to be disconcerting.

We experienced this with MapInfo. Our desktop software used MapInfo Pro for its GIS. Every time we called with a question or they assigned a new sales rep we had to reeducate that person on the nuances of our business. We know that’s frustrating.

The revolving door syndrome is annoying and distressing. That’s why we offer transportation providers the opportunity to control their apps and break free of revolving doors.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Mouse Tale
January 30, 2020
With technology so pervasive, at times it’s easy to overlook a simple fix. This happened to one of our office staff.

Their optical mouse began acting strange, beyond normal mouse idiosyncrasies.  The first step was making sure it had enough battery power. The second was disconnecting and reconnecting the Bluetooth. The third was rebooting the mouse and the laptop.   When none of those worked they began wondering if it had been dropped.   Finally they decided to clean the light-emitting diode and light detector.  That’s when they found a hair obscuring those components.

So the mouse wasn’t given up for dead, but lived to code another day.

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Right Direction
January 23, 2020
Google Maps has become a standard GIS (geographic information system) for websites and web apps. You run into it everywhere, such as: getting driving directions, locating a store, and finding a delivery update.

We developed our first web app to replace our paratransit desktop system, which used MapInfo for its GIS. Our web app needed to geocode locations and track vehicles so it had to incorporate an online GIS component. The best solution was the Google Maps API (application program interface). A lot people were familiar with Google Maps and it was easy to implement.

Over the years we’ve kept up with online GIS developments, always having a fallback in the event Google Maps changed in ways not supporting our development and user needs. The first alternative we found was OpenStreetMap, powered by an open data community. Since then we’ve discovered other alternatives, including an API from a Windows desktop mapping leader, Esri, with their ArcGIS service.

With this competition, you now see numerous maps integrated with online sites and apps. Choices are good.

Posted by the Customers Department.
A Different Spin
January 16, 2020
Loading Annimation
You’ve experienced loading animation. It’s when you’re online and you get some spinning wheels, progress bar, or some other clever animated graphic on your screen.

Sites started using them long ago. They let you know you can’t proceed, a page or data is still loading. They were animated gifs, a compilation of sequential gifs. Sort of like short cartoons. We used a spinning balls with our first web app. Like most developers, we got ours from an online provider. The colors, speed, and size were not customizable.

The evolution of web page style sheets paved the way for new web page animations. We decided to use this technique for loading animations while updating the look of our apps, replacing old spinning balls with fresher spinning wheels. Using our stylesheets, we can customize the colors, speed, and size of the animation and the individual elements.

Posted by the Customers Department.
New Pack Member
January 9, 2020
Big Dog
Often the New Year ushers in new goals. This year we’re starting with an achievement, introducing Big Dog to our pack of Code Choppers apps!

Big Dog is an extension of our Blue Dog paratransit/NEMT app. It adds access for facilities and passengers, parties beyond the normal operations users. The innovative remote facility function provides access to passengers only associated to the specific facility. They can enter new passengers, submit trips, view the status of requests, and see the progress of the current day’s trips. Facilities will benefit from having all that access at their fingertips.

Similar to a facility, a passenger can request trips, view their bookings, and watch the progress of their vehicle on the map.

As with Blue Dog, Big Dog also provides mobile manifests for drivers, vehicle tracking, driver bidding and a payment portal. As we receive feedback, Big Dog will become more feature rich.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Holiday Cheer
December 19, 2019
Christmas Bus
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Code Choppers!

Our next blog post will be January 9, 2020.

Posted by the Customers and Products Departments.
Be the One
December 12, 2019
26 plus 13 equals 0
A very large transit organization recently issued a Request for Information (RFI) for paratransit software. They sent the RFI to 26 industry software vendors and 13 responded. Of those 13, none were able to satisfy all of their requirements.

The beauty of a custom app is its ability to fulfill all the needs of an operation. This not only applies to its current requirements, but new ones which will surface in the future.

Posted by the Customers Department.
December 5, 2019
Electirc Vehicle
Electric vehicles (EV) are replacing fueled vehicles. Much of the discussion about this evolution revolves around environmental concerns, but there are other benefits of EVs. For those interested in performance, acceleration provided by electric motors beats internal combustion engines.

For transit professionals maintenance will be far easier. Fueled vehicles have far more parts to maintain and replace. Although EV braking systems are more complex than with fueled vehicles, most everything else is simpler. Some of the systems not needed with EVs include: cooling, powertrain, emissions, exhaust, and fuel. Not only are there a lot of parts involved with those systems, they require: belts, fluids, hoses, and filters. Therefore, as EVs begin replacing fueled vehicles in transit operations, vehicle maintenance departments will begin to shrink. Their budgets may also become smaller, but may be offset by the cost of replacement battery packs.

The transition will take decades and will interesting to watch.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Rolling Down the Road
November 21, 2019
Window Crank
Revology got a license from Ford Motor Company to build reproduction 1960s Mustangs. It lets them put current chassis and powertrain technology under those classic bodies. 1960s Mustangs weren’t originally designed for today’s high-powered engines and electronically controlled transmissions. It requires sophisticated engineering.

Their interior design objective is to upgrade the creature comforts, but keep the original Mustang look. Power windows are one of those items. Revology uses 1960s style hand cranks to activate the up/down mechanism. They’re amazed, with all the design and engineering going into their cars it’s the power window hand crank which gets buyers excited.

Code Choppers has found the same thing. There’s complex programming behind our apps. Still, often a user is thrilled by the color coding of a trip, the driver trip toggle, the payment portal.

We share this customer phenomenon with Revology and many other firms. It’s one of the things which makes our work fun.

Due to the Thanksgiving holiday, our next blog post will be December 5.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Accounting for Information
November 14, 2019
Report generator fields
When doing the books recently, our staff remarked the online accounting app they use doesn’t have a report generator, only canned reports.

It got us wondering if the transit industry also suffers from the same lack of this handy feature. A popular paratransit desktop app relies on Crystal Reports for its report generator. It’s understandable as they aren’t easy to develop.
Report generator result
The report generator we created for our Blue Dog NEMT/paratransit app not only lets users pick the fields they want, but users can sort by any field (yellow column above) and search the entire report.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Gonna Write Me a Letter
November 6, 2019
A study of Canadian workplaces shows about one-third of worker time is spent handling emails. Last year Google added Smart Compose to Gmail. It uses artificial intelligence (AI) to make writing emails faster by predicting the remainder of your sentences. Less time writing emails frees up your time for other worthy goals. The drawback is AI tools like Smart Compose may facilitate more or longer emails. Writer beware.

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Great Transit App
October 31, 2019
Transit App
There have been many attempts at producing fixed route transit apps. They have met varying degrees of success. So what makes a great transit app?

Being app developers we have our opinion, which boils down to three key elements. It has a great user interface, intuitive and easy to use. It displays real time vehicle locations, showing passengers bus locations they can trust. It contains accurate information, updated routes and schedules.

Seems simple, but simple is often difficult to accomplish.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Uber or Not
October 24, 2019
Uber is a fascinating story for people with varying interests: technology, business, investing, and transportation. Being an app development company, our interest is in their technology. But your interest is in their business model as it pertains to you as a transportation provider.

Professionals in the transit industry are looking at Uber (and Lyft) as a new option for transporting passengers. Uber’s current business model is to have venture capitalists subsidize 59% of trip costs. In the long run this isn’t sustainable. The big question is whether or not Uber will run out of funding before becoming a viable business.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Next Step
October 17, 2019
Web Master
If your operation has a website, you can own your transit apps.

You may like the idea of removing the frustrations and uncertainties of dealing with a software vendor. Owning and controlling your app is the next logical step. The concept may seem daunting, yet it isn’t. You already have the talent to host, enhance and support your app.

Code Choppers is unique in offering transit operations the opportunity to own their fixed route and paratransit/NEMT apps. You get the codebase with this innovative procurement option. You can add features and functions to give your passengers an engaging experience, such as real-time vehicle location and online pass purchasing.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Win, Win
October 10, 2019
Custom Applications
The innovative concept of purchasing technology from a specialist in custom intellectual property isn’t confined to Code Choppers and the transit industry.

Some genetic programming firms also sell their development services. They offer two acquisition strategies, purchasing and equity stake. With a purchase the customer defines their needs and the firm does the development. With an equity stake, the customer and the firm become partners.

Even though we hadn’t originally considered the partnership strategy, we’ve had one of our custom app customers suggest it. It’s an opportunity to grow and strengthen both organizations. Having stronger firms providing technology can only benefit the transit industry.

Posted by the Customers Department.
October 3, 2019
Robot Coder
The effects of artificial intelligence (AI) are growing in our everyday lives. It’s in workplaces with robotics and sophisticated apps and in personal lives with smartphones. This is the last of four posts touching on the myths and mysteries of AI.

AI may have an outsized reputation. The result of so much media attention gives the impression it can do far more than it can. Maybe the problem is the name it was given (artificial intelligence) in 1956 at a Dartmouth College workshop attended by leading computer scientists. AI isn’t intelligent, at least currently. It can’t learn from itself and write computer code to translate its knowledge into more sophisticated applications. Humans write AI code.

Posted by the Products Department.
The Eyes Have IT
September 26, 2019
Female Eye
The effects of artificial intelligence (AI) are growing in our everyday lives. It’s in workplaces with robotics and sophisticated apps and in personal lives with smartphones. This is the third of four posts highlighting the progress and potential of AI.

Much of AI research and development is focused on seeing patterns. It can be patterns of: inputs (such as financial transactions), stored data (popularly known as big data), and pixels (as in facial recognition). A common application of watching patterns, which consumers may encounter, is when a credit card transaction is flagged due to the irregularity of use, either location or item.

Posted by the Products Department.
September 19, 2019
Female Robot
The effects of artificial intelligence (AI) are growing in our everyday lives. It’s in workplaces with robotics and sophisticated apps and in our hands with smartphones. This is the second of four posts touching on the mysteries of AI.

Software developers and programmers often reach milestones, such as making a computer play chess or determine the most efficient route from point A to point B.  One offshoot is “the AI effect,”   the technology becomes common and no longer wows users. As everyday consumers of AI we often experience the phenomenon. Our smartphones are full of AI wonders, yet we now take much of its wizardry for granted.

Posted by the Products Department.
In the Beginning
September 12, 2019
The effects of artificial intelligence (AI) are growing in our everyday lives. It’s in workplaces with robotics and sophisticated apps and in homes with smart appliances and home assistants, such as Amazon’s Alexa. This is the first of four posts touching on the mysteries of AI.

AI was born in academia in 1956. During the early years the thinking was big, that it could develop into computers mimicking human intelligence. Those goals were quickly put aside as it was discovered the first successful use of it was in narrowly defined purposes. Instead of the monumental task of trying developing computers to think like a human, it was easier to develop algorithms to quickly solve problems. Among the early successes was software for intelligent delivery routing. The transit industry experienced this 30 years ago with the development of geocoding and automated routing and scheduling.

Posted by the Products Department.
Win Big
September 5, 2019
The RFP procurement process provides the opportunity to see what apps vendors offer your operation. Most vendors give you essentially the same option, software as a service (SaaS) delivered over the internet. You make one decision, picking the app closest to your needs, and that vendor wins.

There’s another way you can play the game and win even more. Instead of selecting a service (SaaS) you can take control of the app, making it your own. When you purchase the app codebase, you call the shots everyday. There’s no end to your winning. No more dependance on a vendor, as you own a crucial element of your day-to-day operations.

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Art of Applications
August 29, 2019
Early software development followed well defined steps. Each step was completed before the following step was begun. This methodology is the waterfall model and was the basis of most of most desktop applications. It works well when the users are businesses or well defined groups.

With wider audiences for browser and native apps, both usability and flexibility are critical. This prompted the advent of agile development, which involves the target users early in the design and requirements processes. It also depends on them for continuous feedback as the applications are developed. So not only are the applications flexible, but also the developers.

Code Choppers used the waterfall model with our desktop applications, but switched to agile development for our browser apps. We increased our reliance on user engagement and feedback. Because of the nature of quick turnarounds with browser apps, it’s much more practical to use agile development.

Agile development also lends well to producing custom applications. We believe custom apps provide a creative canvas and our users paint the picture.

Posted by the Products Department.
A Way to Save
August 22, 2019
We are in the process of creating our new NEMT/paratransit Big Dog app. It allows facilities, passengers and transportation providers to log in and access their information.

When putting together the Facility Access component we decided it needed an audit trail. Since audit trail code is in our other apps we simply copied it and inserted into the Facility Access codebase. Our team stated it was faster to do that than create the Audit icon!

With our proven and stable codebase our timeline for customizing and enhancing apps is a fraction of developing from scratch. We share these benefits with our customers in quicker turnarounds and reasonable price quotes.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Creepy, Crawly Creatures
August 15, 2019
This is the second of two posts regarding IT applications support.

The first phase of an app’s lifecycle is development. As time passes the second phase begins, adding new features and functions..

Many of you have probably been on the receiving end of a badly executed update or upgrade to one of your phone’s apps. You wonder how a perfectly fine app becomes buggy after an update.

One of the main reason this happens is the creative mind instrumental in coding the app you know and love is out of the picture. There was no replacement ready to take over and the app’s programming documentation left a lot to be desired. Therefore, when a person different than the original developer makes a change to the code, they may not have a clue to the repercussions that change causes in other parts of the app.

At Code Choppers, our staff with Fortune 500 IT experience practices professional programming documentation.

Posted by the Products Department.
The Power of One
August 8, 2019
This is the first of two posts regarding IT applications support.

Some technology users feel comforted dealing with larger versus smaller IT vendors. They believe it means more people support their application. But the size of the vendor doesn’t make any difference. When it comes to supporting an application, all IT shops tend to use the least number of staff possible.

Labor is the greatest support expense. Over time an IT shop reduces the number of programmers supporting an application. As an application ages it becomes completely stable and requires few updates.

When programming support is provided by a team versus one staffer, the team breaks down into each member working on individual pieces of code. For example, one programmer may support the user interfaces, a second the databases, and a third the reports. The result is only one programmer knows the code for which they are responsible.

Quality IT shops compensate for the eventuality of losing a support programmer by requiring detailed system and programming documentation. A small IT shop with one support programmer and good documentation practices can provide quality support. In contrast, a big IT shop with poor documentation standards will have difficulty providing good support, no matter the size of the support staff.

Posted by the Products Department.
The Call
August 1, 2019
Phone call
Code Choppers recently got a call for help from a transit operation which uses a competitor’s paratransit software. The software vendor wasn’t able to integrate Medicaid claims processing into their system. At an impasse, the transit operation had a custom add-on application to do the claims processing. Unfortunately, to work seamlessly, claims processing must be part of the paratransit software; a change during the claims processing must be reflected back into the paratransit software’s database.

Integrated applications have the advantage of all the pieces playing nicely together.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Paring It Down
July 25, 2019
Handout front side
Handout back side
We were recently asked for a handout summarizing the highlights of our custom app and codebase offerings.  We boiled down all the benefits and opportunities stated in our marketing materials.  The creative process from such a task resulted in a more defined and targeted message. Since Code Choppers aspires to clean product designs and efficient code this fits nicely with our culture.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Everyone Counts
July 18, 2019
Small package
Unexpected surprises. Code Choppers had one recently. We discovered an interesting reason why some smaller transit operations are interested in our custom apps. They aren’t getting the attention they need from the big transit software vendors. Given their services are important to their communities and riders, they want to invest in a custom app which gives them complete control and ownership.

Great things come in small packages.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Smooth Sailing
July 11, 2019
Specialist versus generalist
Like many organizations, the U.S. Navy has been experimenting with staff sizing. They designed some new ships to operate with crews one-fifth the size of those they’re replacing. This means each crew member is required to perform various tasks with accompanying skills. Part of the new program is to staff the ships with sailors who can quickly gain new skills. Personnel are now generalists versus specialists on the legacy ships.

The results of the experiment are mixed. When things are going well, the crews are adequate. But when there’s a problem, the crew may not have the skills to solve it. Experience which comes from specialization is usually the cause of such instances.

Software development runs into the same predicament. Often an organization will throw tremendous resources at a IT development project only to see it flounder. If suffers from the too many cooks in the kitchen syndrome.

History is on the side of the specialists. The list of applications and software products benefiting from a very small team of very highly specialized developers is impressive. For example, there were only a handful of programmers on the Excel team and much of the Google search engine was developed by two very talented staffers.

Posted by the Products Department.
Happy Independence Day!
July 4, 2019
Independence Day
Posted by the Customers and Products Departments.
2009 - Now
June 27, 2019
Hardware Specifications
As developers, one thing has been completely eliminated over the last ten years, the need to specify hardware for using our app.

During the DOS and Windows eras, providing a list of required hardware, network, cabling, and associated software for an implementation was a standard part of a project. Sometimes a routing and scheduling system would be the first network installation in an operation. Now most offices are connected to the internet. Any vendor supplying a browser application need not worry about the existing customer hardware and network infrastructure. This change also makes implementing one of our apps easier for the customer.

It’s one of those things which disappears over time and isn’t missed and hardly remembered.

Posted by the Products Department.
Roll and Scroll
June 20, 2019
Code Choppers website
We discovered some people viewing our Code Choppers website were not aware clicking on an image revealed more information. When determining how to best indicate the images are clickable, we decided to review the entire user experience. In the process, we decided on other changes to make the site more engaging.

Our staff looked at special effect techniques available to website developers. They decided by combining three JavaScript and CSS effects the site would not only deliver our content, but make it more interesting. Parallax scrolling of titles, paragraphs, and sub titles moves the three elements at different speeds. Transform moves elements vertically and horizontally. Animation fades elements in and out.

Finally, they added a navigation scroll bar to the left side to show the five sections and where the user is within the page.

Posted by the Customers and Products Departments.
Moon and Motherboards
June 13, 2019
A recent article in Fast Company commemorates the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing. The Apollo Guidance Computer (AGC) was groundbreaking in its design and scope.

NASA gave the AGC contract to MIT, which had some similar experience with long-term submarine navigation. It was the first contract in the entire moon landing project. At the time a computer the size of refrigerator was considered small. MIT delivered many hardware and software breakthroughs. For example, it was one cubic foot in size, automatically rebooted itself when necessary, and had a keyboard (leaving the punch cards behind).

Currently, the computer in your dishwasher is more powerful than the AGC. Where computer hardware and software will be 50 years from now will be as astonishing as what has been developed since the AGC.

Posted by the Products Department.
Tales of Two Heads
June 6, 2019
Flying wing
The Air France-KLM airline group is funding development of a fundamentally different passenger airliner prototype. Their unique involvement is a radical step in jetliner design. It means Air France-KLM isn’t leaving all the important basic design decisions up to the aircraft vendors. It lives up to the axiom, two heads are better than one.

Code Choppers believes transit operators can take advantage of the same concept by offering our application code to their IT teams. It lets their talent enhance what our staff has already developed, tested, implemented, and refined. That is also the benefit of the IT open source movement, two heads are better than one.

Posted by Customers Department.
May 30, 2019
Recently I had the opportunity to become the majority owner of Code Choppers. We are in the process of becoming certified as both a Woman Owned Small Business and a DBE.

During this next chapter of our growth, I’ll be working on creating the custom application and source code ownership markets for fixed route, paratransit and brokerage operations. The industry and its technology needs are quickly evolving. I believe transit agencies and brokers will appreciate having control over this important component of their day-to-day business of providing top-notch service to their passengers.

Transportation management is important, meaningful and complex. It’s fulfilling to have a role in the industry. I’m looking forward to working with industry professionals to be innovators in software application procurement.

Posted by Tricia Aderholt, Customers Department.
At the Wheel
May 23, 2019
Until the early 1990s, Houston Metro ran its paratransit service using scheduling software developed in-house by a NASA engineer. Code Choppers’ principle developer was instrumental in replacing that system with APS, a PC/DOS application he designed and developed while at Ryder Systems. At the time Ryder owned ATE (now First Transit) and Houston Metro gave a contract to ATE for use of APS. It was written using the Clipper dBASE database language, ran on desktop PCs connected to a Novell NetWare server. The GIS (geocoding information system) used to geocode addresses and the routing and scheduling algorithms were developed in-house by Ryder.

Houston Metro went from an in-house system to vendor software. Most other paratransit operations didn’t have an in-house system, but began using vendor software when it came onto the market for use on desktop PCs. It didn’t make sense to reinvent the wheel when a few vendors did all the hard work and made it available for a reasonable license fee with annual support contracts.

PC desktop software running under DOS eventually gave way to software running under Windows, which is now being replaced by applications running in a browser. With development costs and risks high and unknown, transit operators aren’t reinventing the wheel, developing their own browser applications.

Many aren’t happy with the licensing and annual support contract model, but feel stuck, without any other option. That’s why Code Choppers is offering operations the opportunity to take back control of the wheel, as Houston Metro once had control of their software. We’ll either customize our existing applications to their requirements with a path to ownership, or give them the control they want with a copy of the application source code. Either way, they’ll be at the wheel without the development costs and risks.

Posted by the Products Department.
The Geocoding Breakthrough
May 16, 2019
This is the second of a two-part series on the key elements which made paratransit routing and scheduling software possible. There were two key factors which led to its proliferation and utilization throughout the transit industry. Interestingly, both PCs and address geocoding became practical at about the same time.

Two firms were the major providers of digital maps for PCs, MapInfo and Esri with their ArcInfo product. Integrating either of these products into the DOS applications of that era allowed for address geocoding. Before then, the best transit operations could do was place an address in a map grid, such as row A and column six. Due to the large grid sizes, routing trips was impractical. The problem was two addresses very close to each other could be in different grids, while two other addresses in the same grid could be far apart. It all depended upon the size of the grids, but none had the needed precision. Geocoding makes grids exactingly minute.

Posted by the Customers Department.
PCs at the Tipping Point
May 9, 2019
This is the first of a two-part series on the key elements which made paratransit routing and scheduling software widely available. There were two key factors which led to its proliferation and utilization throughout the transit industry. Interestingly, both PCs and address geocoding became practical at about the same time.

Affordable PCs were developed which allowed transit operations of all sizes to purchase computing technology. Prior to PCs, some transit offices had access to a mainframe or minicomputer. These were expensive; required special computer rooms, highly qualified administrators, and had limited software. Usually the applications were for back office tasks, such as payroll.

By the time PCs were being installed in transit operations they had color monitors and numerous applications to help the staff, including word processors and spreadsheets. In most cases a local area network (LAN) was also installed to connect multiple PCs with a file server, which allowed for easy sharing of information between staff and departments. The PC and its DOS operating system was the foundation for developers to create highly functioning routing and scheduling software.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Owning Convenience
May 2, 2019
Passenger payment
Code Choppers is applying its subscription payment technology to passenger payments.  It has been part of our web apps since 2012.  

A custom app customer became excited during a demo when we showed him our payment portal.  We were discussing the features and functions of our web apps and mentioned our integrated payment portal.  Their enthusiasm for extending it to passenger payments was all it took to make it a feature available to all customization and code ownership customers.

People expect to pay online. We believe passengers will appreciate this customer friendly addition to their transit experience.

Posted by the Customers Department.
130 Lines
April 25, 2019
That’s all it took to create a bar chart from scratch. Six lines of HTML code, 44 lines of JavaScript, and 80 lines of CSS.

We recently began adding charts to our web app reports to help users get more from their data. At first we thought it may require using some plug-ins to make it happen. Then we got to thinking about what has to be displayed and what we’ve done with similar elements, in this case lines. Voilà! The technique for coding bar charts was obvious.

We needed a good candidate for a chart and the Performance Report’s Passengers per Hour statistics were ideal.

Our next graphical report will be a pie chart. It's fun to make something as complex as data aggression easy as pie!

Posted by the Products Department.
April 18, 2019
Earlier this week our Products staff was showing the Customers staff how we use browser tools to help code our web apps and websites. We showed how to also look at the code of other websites. To demonstrate we accessed the website of leading software vendor in the transit industry. (You know them.) While showing how the tools work we noticed the vendor’s website is from a WordPress template. A software company needing an off-the-shelf template for their website is odd. It’s like a race car driver needing to hire Uber to drive the Indy 500 for them.

We create the websites for our company and our products from scratch. This gives us additional experience using the languages and tools we also use for developing our web apps. This gives us code and techniques we can then apply to our web apps. More experience leads to better skills, which leads to offering our customer better technology.

This cross development approach leads to applying what we learn from building our web apps to coding our websites. The end result is all of our technology wins, as do our customers and the transit industry.

Posted by the Products Department.
Yearn to Learn
April 11, 2019
Learning new things can be fun and challenging. We depend upon our staff to add to its knowledge of the industry and keep abreast of the technology needed to support our customers. We do this by taking classes and conducting research.

Last week a member of our team took a class on designing apps.  Even though they aren’t part of the technical staff they wanted to add to their skills when working with clients on the requirements and initial design of custom apps. That was accomplished. What they didn’t expect was to learn about some tools which will help them develop presentations!

Time well spent in more ways than one.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Right Before Your Eyes
April 4, 2019
Database hacker
All computer databases are vulnerable to being hacked. Hacks are routinely in the news and sometimes the story is about an intrusion from a nefarious group. Yet, databases are more vulnerable to hacks closer to home. They’re accessible by database administrators and managers, system developers, and programmers. Under most circumstances, implementing the best cyber security won’t prevent a staffer with the right tools from doing a hack, even if the data is encrypted. The best way to protect a database from an internal hack is by keeping the number of people with access to a minimum.

Posted by the Products Department.
Two Sides
March 28, 2019
Mobile passenger access
This is the second of a two part series on demand response passenger technology.

We included paratransit and NEMT passenger online access with our first paratransit web app eight years ago. Since then a few other transit technology vendors have followed. Like us, they recognize anyone taking any kind of transportation expects to book online.

There are two sides to our Blue Dog technology. The operations side gives booking access to individual passengers. The passengers side allows for trip bookings, checking current orders, and viewing current trip status and vehicle location.

What we think makes our technology special is it’s accessible on any mobile device, without the need to download and install a special app. So easy.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Customer Convenience
March 21, 2019
Passenger access
This is the first of a two part series on demand response passenger technology.

Recently, there’s more interest in allowing paratransit and NEMT passengers online trip booking. We think this is a beneficial development for the transit industry, non-emergency medical transportation providers, and their passengers. (We thought that eight years ago when we included it with our first paratransit web app.)

There are three elements to the technology. First is giving access to individual passengers in order for them to book their trips online. Second is giving those passengers a tool for accessing their booked trips and status of any current day trips. Third is having onboard technology which provides vehicle location for the upcoming trip pick-up.

We live in a world where anyone taking any kind of transportation expects to book online. It’s our job to provide that functionality to your operation, whether you have a few vehicles or hundreds.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Black is Back
March 14, 2019
Dark mode
Between work and home you may be spending a lot of time looking at desktop, laptop, tablet and phone screens. More and more developers are offering what’s called dark mode, the ability to reverse the rendering of screens from black text on white to white text on black.

There are some advantages to using dark mode. One, over longer periods it is easier on your eyes. Two, for mobile devices, it saves your battery power because making all those background pixels white consumes power, whereas black pixels use no power. Three, it improves readability in darkness. (That’s why our mobile apps where designed for dark mode rendering, because it’s usually darker inside a vehicle.)

Try it sometime. Seeing is believing.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Gift with Read
March 7, 2019
Piet Mondrian
Code Choppers is pleased to make available to you a free desktop background. Our graphics staffer sometimes creates something for fun. In this case they wanted to honor a style made popular by Piet Mondrian, who was born 147 years ago today. He was one of the founders of modern art and his designs are easily recognized. We are motivated and influenced by all sorts of things and like to give recognition to those who help us with our creativity.

Click here to download the desktop graphic.

If you would like another size or your name and colors to fit your operation, please feel free to contact us.

Posted by the Customers Department.
41 Minutes
February 28, 2019
41 Minutes
Predictably, our development staff didn’t want us to post this. They aren’t for tooting their own horn. Nonetheless, we were impressed and think this is something our current and potential customers may find interesting.

A customer asked us to create a custom report for their operation. We scheduled the job as soon as we got the specifications and design confirmation from the customer. A few days later our staff began work on the report and finished it in 41 minutes. The turnaround time from customer request to production was about a week.

If you know someone in transit who likes having things done quickly by their software vendor, please let them know about Code Choppers.

Posted by the Customers Department.
It’s All in a Name
February 21, 2019
Hello, my name is
While recently visiting sites in Tennessee we were asked about the meaning of our name, Code Choppers. That wasn’t the first time we’ve been asked.

When we first entered the software development business, we incorporated as Route Logic, Inc. Five years later, another company entered the market and used an eerily similar name, RouteMatch. They also called their paratransit software ParaMatch, using Para before the second part of their company name, as we had already done with our ParaLogic system.

We decided to end the confusion they started. When we began development of our browser applications to replace our desktop systems we thought it made sense to rebrand our company. We bandied about lots of ideas. The one which seemed a good fit is a reference to our development process. Thus, Code Choppers was born, with Code referring to application code and Choppers being slang for writing code. It may not be a standard industry name, but it works for us.

It wouldn’t surprise us if RouteMatch changes their name, too. Maybe to something like Code Cutters?

Posted by the Customers Department.
Moving Day
February 18, 2019
Moving to a new day
After careful consideration, we’ve decided to move the publication day of our Chopping Blog from Monday to Thursday. We hope this gives our readers more time to enjoy the postings without the extra responsibilities often awaiting them on Mondays. Our first post on the new day will be this Thursday.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Death of a Browser
February 11, 2019
Internet Explorer dies
For years Code Choppers has recommended our customers not use Microsoft’s Internet Explorer browser with our web apps. Because the browser wasn’t supporting basic web standards, both rendering pages and processing features and functions were hit or miss. On top of those issues, it was significantly slower than alternative browsers.

Now even Microsoft has jumped on the bandwagon. Their cybersecurity expert, Chris Jackson, posted in a blog, “We're not supporting new web standards for it and, while many sites work fine, developers by and large just aren't testing for Internet Explorer these days. They're testing on modern browsers.”

They discontinued Internet Explorer in 2015. We discontinued it in 2011 when our apps came to market.

Posted by the Customers Department.
First Hand Frustration
February 4, 2019
Last week the head of our Customers department had six on-site visits with operations not using Code Choppers apps. A recurring theme was the frustration with their current transportation management system. The most egregious was waiting more than a decade for a promised new feature. To make matters worse, no one from the software vendor will return their calls. We don’t think customers should be treated that way.
Own your app
Owning your app means not being dependent on a vendor like that. You are in control of enhancements, costs, and access to your data.  

Frustration can lead to anxiety, and neither is good.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Blog of a Different Color
January 28, 2019
Jackson Pollock van
Our graphics staffer remembered today is also Jackson Pollock’s birthday. They made a case for creating a graphic in the Pollock style. The dog references tie into our app names, Red Dog and Blue Dog.  Enjoy!

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Emoji
January 21, 2019
Emoji beginnings
The first emoji was created in Japan in 1999, by a team working at a spinoff of Nippon Telegraph and Telephone Corporation. The idea was to help improve mobile phone communications by incorporating symbols with messages. As is well known, a picture is worth 1,000 words and an emoji is worth 500.

The first emoji was not alone, but belonged to a set of 176. With the growth of their popularity, they became part of the international standard for characters used by the computing industry. Now there are 1,250 official emojis. Something for everyone!

Posted by the Customers Department.
A Tastier Menu
January 14, 2019
Blue Dog navigation menu
When we began getting deeper into the conversion of our paratransit/NEMT app from VanGo to Blue Dog, we found more and more items we wanted to update.

A major part of the app are the navigation menus, with their buttons, at the top of the pages. These let users move between the different functions.

With VanGo each button has three graphics: one for at rest, one for hover, and one for active. They are controlled by JavaScript code.

But for Blue Dog we wanted buttons which were rendered by the stylesheet (CSS) and can have their colors changed through the code. This means the process for creating a custom app is streamlined. Blue Dog also benefits from tighter, more efficient code than the JavaScript of VanGo’s buttons.

We’re proud of the new menus our team has delivered.

Posted by the Products Department.
Stick with Me
January 7, 2019
Blue Dog passenger name carryover
Our 2019 corporate goals include an aggressive enhancement schedule.  One of the Blue Dog enhancements has already been rolled out.

When entering or updating a passenger their data carries over to the Orders function.   The information is queued up and ready for entering their order.

Posted by the Customers Department.
From Our Team to Yours
December 17, 2018
Holidays 2018
Our next post will be Monday, January 7, 2019.

Posted by the Customers and Products Departments.
December 10, 2018
Blue Dog passenger search
We are rebranding VanGo to Blue Dog and adding new enhancements with exciting new features and functions.  The first is a passenger search feature in the Passengers and Orders functions.  It dynamically updates the list when adding or removing characters.  We tested it with a passenger database of more than 2,500 names.  Searching this large database was instantaneous.

This isn’t the first time we built a passenger search. We have one in our Windows ParaLogic paratransit system.  As you can see, the new search feature has a totally different look.

2019 will see many more powerful features added to our apps. It’s good to be a Code Choppers customer.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Responding to You
December 3, 2018
Responsive websites
There are websites which are not easily viewable on a phone. (Who hasn’t been frustrated when coming across one like that!?) Luckily, designing websites which look good on phones has never been easier.

The best approach is to develop a website using responsive web design (RWD). This allows for a website to be coded once and renders well on all devices. It does this through three design concepts. One, resizing elements using percentages instead of pixels or points. Two, making image sizes flexible. Three, using stylesheet (CSS) rules to determine device screen sizes and applying appropriate rules.

A website can be coded to render well on phones without using RWD, but it requires a second coding of the entire site just for phones.

Posted by the Products Department.
New Blue
November 26, 2018
Blue Dog logo
As we blogged last week, Code Choppers has been reviewing its branding. Last week we rolled out a new logo.  

We decided our VanGo paratransit app also needed a refresh.   To make a long story short, after considering all sorts of new names, we felt calling it Blue Dog helped to unify it with Red Dog, our fixed route app.

And yes, these dogs are learning some new tricks.  Major new features and functions will be rolled out in the not to distant future.

Posted by the Customers Department.
November 19, 2018
New Code Choppers logo
Not only was Apple once Apple Computer, it is also on its seventh logo. Few companies go through life without tweaking their branding.

With our new emphasis on custom applications, we thought it was a good time for a comprehensive review of our company and product web pages, blog, graphics, naming and logos. From that effort we decided to update and better unify our visual branding. Our team is busy developing the new fresh look and the required graphic standards.

We’ll be doing a soft rollout of the branding, but are excited to share with you the new Code Choppers logo.

Posted by the Customers Department.
TPTA Thoughts
November 12, 2018
TPTA thoughts
Code Choppers was proud to be a Conference Patron at the Tennessee Public Transportation Association (TPTA) Annual Conference & Expo last week. The experience exceeded our expectations! We met many transit and vendor professionals for the first time and reconnected with many more. Between the sessions, bus roadeo, and awards ceremony, we learned a tremendous amount and exchanged valuable information.

This was our first official opportunity to discuss how operators can have customized paratransit and fixed route apps. It was surprising from where some of the interest in our novel approach came.

Thank you to all the people who made our attending so enjoyable.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Time for TPTA
November 5, 2018
The Tennessee Public Transportation Association (TPTA) is holding its Annual Conference & Expo in Knoxville, November 6-9. Code Choppers is proud to be a Conference Patron and have the opportunity to meet with transit professionals from throughout the state. This will be our first official marketing opportunity to discuss how operators can have customized paratransit and fixed route apps. If you’ll be attending the TPTA conference, please feel free to contact us.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Creepy Crawlers
October 29, 2018
Search engine crawler
With Halloween fast approaching, it seems a good time to blog about web search engine crawlers.

Search engines display results based upon the criteria you enter. The results come from databases of indexed web pages. That is supplied by information from crawlers going through the World Wide Web.

Interestingly, you can see what a crawler sees when cataloging a web page. Use cachedview to see what the Google crawler sees.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Implementing Input
October 22, 2018
Customer input
Listening to customers drives good operations to become better. Not only do customers benefit when their ideas are realized, but organizations also improve their products or services.

On Sunday, October 21, 60 Minutes had a segment on Andy Byford, the new president of transit for New York’s MTA. He’s a transit turnaround expert who talks to passengers and staff to get their inputs. He gets down into the trenches.

At Code Choppers we have the same philosophy. Our staff not only visits operations, they also ride on the vehicles and do the tasks our customers do using our applications. We believe that experience makes our apps better tools. In an effort to meet the highest customer expectations, we recently decided to offer the option of customized apps. This lets them get our proven, stable technology with all the unique items they desire.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Putting the Worry Behind
October 15, 2018
More and more, the news has stories about hacking and the lack of website security. Your personal and operational information can be compromised without your knowledge.

It's important to minimize vulnerability of your data and apps from nefarious activities. A big step is removing as many outside individuals as possible from having access. This includes controlling who works on your system and where it's hosted.

Large organizations and operations usually have their own secure servers. That allows them to host websites, apps and databases with support from their own IT staff. Nonetheless, those without in-house servers can still improve security by taking control of their apps and databases when presented with the opportunity. App ownership is a new offering from Code Choppers. Paratransit, fixed route, and NEMT operations can all benefit from the heightened security it provides.

Posted by the Customers Department.
In with the New
October 8, 2018
Code Choppers is on a mission. We are proposing a new approach, provide the transit industry with the benefits of owning their applications. They can buy the source code or have us create a custom system. Either way, operations win through ownership.

Our informative product websites have been updated. You can check it out Blue Dog for paratransit and NEMT and Red Dog for fixed route.

We use our Project X framework for the website. We developed Project X to provide clean, fast desktop and mobile page rendering. It is so easy even a non-computer person can build a website using it.

Posted by the Customers Department.
A Bit About Bitcoin
October 1, 2018
Your money is a number. Your bank does not have currency and coins sitting in your account. When you use a credit or debit card, a number is transferred, not physical money. People trust those numbers.

Bitcoin is basically the some thing. The difference, Bitcoin is a number not backed up by a central back run by a government. It's a cryptocurrency, a private medium of exchange.

Blockchain is the technology behind Bitcoin and other virtual currencies. It's a distributed ledger which uses the internet and records every transaction.

In short, Bitcoin is a cryptocurrency, and blockchain is the technology behind it.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Land Drones
September 24, 2018
Driverless bus
This is the last in a series of three regarding changes in urban transportation.

Jason Bordoff's "Meet the Future of Urban Transportation: the Bus" in The Wall Street Journal discusses the move towards new bus technologies in depth.

Driverless buses are here. Stockholm and Helsinki began using them on some routes. In the drive for this technology, fixed route buses are ideal as a first step. The routes are consistent and less complex the private automobile journeys. This is good from a technology development perspective. Success is greatly enhanced when the basic functions are implemented first and subsequent complexities (features and functions) are layered on top of a proven and stable base.

Posted by the Customers Department.
It's Electrifying
September 17, 2018
Wireless bus
This is the second in a series of three regarding changes in urban transportation.

Jason Bordoff's "Meet the Future of Urban Transportation: the Bus" in The Wall Street Journal discusses the move towards new bus technologies in depth.

What caught our attention was the section on wireless charging. Using electromagnetic induction coils buses could charge without having to plug in. Since buses are on set routes, the charging coils could be placed at stops. The only time the buses would need to be offline would be for cleaning or maintenance.

Another benefit of wireless charging is the need for large fueling facilities. Not needing the space for refueling makes it possible to utilize smaller parcels of land. In urban areas this could be geographically beneficial to a transportation agency.

Posted by the Customers Department.
A Breath of Fresh Air
September 10, 2018>
Clean bus
This is the first in a series of three regarding changes in urban transportation.

Jason Bordoff's "Meet the Future of Urban Transportation: the Bus" in The Wall Street Journal discusses the move towards new bus technologies in depth.

China has 99% of the world's electric bus fleet. The entire bus fleet of Shenzhen, a city that links Hong Kong to the Chinese mainland, is electric. Bloomberg New Energy Finance predicts by 2025 half the world's transit buses will be electric, with most being in China.

A major driver for the Chinese to move to electric buses is the need to reduce pollution. In 2013 China released the Air Pollution Action Plan, aimed at combating toxic air in cities.

An added benefit of electric buses is they are far quieter than diesels.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Meeting the Need
September 3, 2018
Source code
When you run an app on your phone or tablet, you run compiled code. When you browse a website, you run interpretive code.

Compiled applications run faster than their interpreted cohorts. On the flip side, interpreted apps are cross platform, meaning they run on most common devices. For example, our VanGo paratransit app runs on anything with a browser, whereas an iPhone app won't run on a Windows or Mac desktop computer.

The business decision of who are the intended users and their needs is what determines the whether the application should be cross platform or native to a specific device. The technical component of compiled or interpreted is the language in which it is written.

With both your business functions and personal interests, it's a good bet you use both types of apps.

(The black code above is an example of compiled code and the yellow code is interpretive code.)

Posted by the Products Department.
X Marks the Spot
August 27, 2018
Project X
Social media is part of most people's daily lives. Many organizations use it to publicize their products, services, and/or causes. For small entities, social media can be a quick and relatively inexpensive way of connecting with potential customers.

Social media has its limitations. When a small entity begins to grow, it often wants to replace its starter website or improve it. These entities had put more emphasis on social media and less on their websites.

They don't have many options for a website which offers a clean user interface, easy text and image uploading, and balanced desktop and mobile page renderings. We've been working on helping them with our Project X application. Will keep you posted.

Posted by the Customers Department.
Hard Coding is Easy
August 20, 2018
Hard coder
When programming, hard coding is the practice of putting a value into the code without giving users the opportunity to change it. For the programmer it is easier and faster to hard code an item than to set up an input feature for users (soft coding).

For example, a labor report may include a minimum wage of $7.25 per hour. The programmer can hard code that amount into the calculations. Users may be very happy with the report at the time it is developed. But a few years down the road a state raises its minimum wage to $8.75 per hour. Oops. Now a programmer has to develop another report with the new wage. Depending upon circumstances, it may take a while for the new report to be scheduled and coded. It may also result in a hefty programming charge. If the original programmer had soft coded the minimum wage none of that would be required. Also, only one report would have to be supported going forward.

Posted by the Products Department.
Less Risk, More Reward
August 13, 2018
This is the last in a three part series on proprietary information technology systems, based upon an article from The Wall Street Journal by Christopher Mims.

Developing a custom IT system is tricky. Building the right team, designing the system, and writing the code can take years. This doesn't take into consideration all the unit, integration, system and acceptance testing needed for it to be successful.

The quicker, easier and less risky approach is to buy an existing system, if you're fortunate enough to find one. Usually, the only way to get an existing system is to acquire the entire company which developed it. This is what Facebook did to get the photo and video sharing functionality of Instagram.

Interestingly, given the uncertainty of cost overruns and missed deadlines, buying an existing custom system may not only be the safer decision, but also the less expensive one.

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Right Fit
August 6, 2018
This is the second in a three part series on proprietary information technology systems, based upon an article from The Wall Street Journal by Christopher Mims.

There may be a time when you have to wear a suit. It can be frustrating trying to buy a suit that fits well. Some too big, some too small, and some just wrong for you.

This is also true of information technology systems. The staff searches for the one with the best fit for the organization. Eventually, they settle for a good fit, knowing it isn't perfect. For those items not completely satisfied by the new system, users develop work arounds. Between those and the missing features, there is a negative impact on productivity. The high cost to go from adequate to perfect is far more than the hit to productivity. We all use off-the-shelf spreadsheet and word processing applications for this very reason.

But some organizations feel the need to invest in custom systems for their core operations. They use these custom applications to create a competitive advantage. For them, an ill-fitting baggy suit doesn't fit right.

Posted by the Customers Department.
The Race is On
July 30, 2018
This is the first in a three part series on proprietary information technology systems, based upon an article from The Wall Street Journal by Christopher Mims.

Technology isn't free. The amount of money allocated to IT is important. But how it is allocated makes more of an impact in an organization's revenues and long-term success.

When PCs first rolled out, off-the-shelf software was sufficient. Spreadsheet and word processing applications did their jobs well, but operational specific systems were also in demand. Run cutting and computer aided dispatching software are two examples of this in the transit industry.

In the private sector many organizations developed their own operational systems, not relying on software from outside vendors. What's been found, organizations have developed not only systems, but competitive advantages. Firms which bought systems from vendors, trying to save resources, have fallen behind.

It's a race to the finish, and owning their applications has proven to be a big boost for companies which know how to run.

Posted by the Customers Department.