Project Nexus

I realise it’s been a while since I last wrote here. I think, given the current global situation, I’d like to revisit this blog and use it, once again, as a repository of my thoughts — particularly on the projects I’m working on. As creators, one the best ways to engage with our own work is to write about it. (And it gives me an excuse to do more writing!).

In 2014, I embarked on an ambitious digital adventure to create a complete student administration system for our karate organisation SKKSA. The project, called “Osaka” (after a line in a Coldplay song I was listening to at the time — Lovers in Japan/Reign of Love) enabled us to streamline a lot of our admin. It also gave me the opportunity to lean a lot about software dev and C# programming in general.

Over the years, of course, this suite has grown to reach the limits of its capability. And my new experiments with web-based technologies like PHP/HTML 5/JavaScript has afforded me the opportunity to rethink the entire system.

Enter Project Nexus.

The login screen on the mobile web portal (“MyDojo” is the front-facing name; Nexus is the internal codename)

Named after the original app I envisioned almost 10 years ago (Nexus), this is an entire reimagining of the student admin system. It also opens up opportunities for having a more meaningful front-end student portal. More importantly, it allows us to have a more engaging, meaningful experience in understanding our students, their progress, and more.

Envisioned as a platform rather than a collection of apps, Nexus is a system that will allow our instructors to get access to live data from training sessions, and completely streamline a lot of admin processes such as creating diplomas and enrolling new and returning students.

The platform comprises 2 major elements: a web portal, and a traditional desktop app.

Rather than using a local Microsoft SQL Server Compact database as the DB backend, we’re harnessing the power of the Web by using MySQL as the new backend. Porting over from the old DB seems to have gone fairly well so far.

More importantly, this allows us to have a more powerful web portal. This means instructors have access to important data about their clubs on their mobile. This includes access to our training syllabus, student attendance records, student contact details, and more. A future feature I have planned is a digital attendance record register, where instructors can use their phones to scan students in to sessions, and then manage that attendance data later on the desktop app.

The desktop app remains the central hub, but this time its redesigned, streamlined and powerful.

I will write more about this project in the coming days and weeks as I continue to develop it in my free time. We’re hoping to launch the first release very soon. I’m excited about the opportunities that Nexus will open up — not just for SKKSA, but as a system that can be scaled-up for commercial use in the far future.

From Cape Town to Durban

Photo ©Yajur Chotai, en-route from Cape Town to Durban (N2 motorway).
Photo ©Yajur Chotai, en-route from Cape Town to Durban (N2 motorway).

Another year over, and another three month holiday begins. Being a bit more experienced at dealing with the longer year-end vacation that meets many a weary university student, I’ve decided to enter this period of respite well prepared.

Followers of Pixelated Thinking would’ve noticed the lack of updates here in the past few months; I’ve been really busy with coursework. Now that that nightmare is over, I’ll be back to my usual blogging ways, tapping away at the keyboard on new stories, blogs, thoughts and code.

A Tale of Two Cities

For the first time since I began studying in Cape Town, I decided to drive back to Durban. It was tiring, but also a great deal of fun (my cousins made the trek with me – read: they did most of the driving :P). Only when you make an arduous journey by land from city to city do you truly appreciate the beauty of your country. Yes, South Africa post-1994 isn’t the utopia everyone envisioned it would suddenly become. There’s still a lot to be done politically and culturally, but when you experience the country, truly seeing its magnificence manifest over 2000km of road, the bickering and trivialities of local politics fades away.

The South African landscape is remarkable. The stretch from Cape Town to Port Elizabeth, shifting between coastal routes and more inland forays, paints a beautiful portrait of  tree-lined highways. The vineyards and lush vegetation transitions almost seamlessly into futuristic, sci-fi-like open fields dotted with enormous wind turbines characteristic of the windy region that is the Eastern Cape. This again quickly gives way to the rolling hills of the KwaZulu-Natal topography, guiding one gently back to the eastern coast of this country. These rapid metamorphoses of the landscape are telling of the juxtapositions prevalent in South Africa, both physically and metaphorically. It’s difficult to imagine you’re still in South Africa at times. These places are hardly seen by the average South African, and my cousin Yajur was able to perfectly capture this beauty with his way-too-complicated-for-this-blogger-to-understand Nikon camera, in the photos below (and above).

After the long trip to Durban, I’ve begun planning the projects and books to be tackled in my free time. Look out for my annual Reading List in the next blog post, and my 2014 in Film overview of notable movies coming out next year.

All for now.