Is Grinders Open?

The local coffee shop at Valparaiso University was called Grinders, and it had very bizarre hours. Those hours got even worse around finals week, spring break, and the summer.

Right across from Grinders was the IT Help Desk. I was working at the IT Help Desk one summer, and I noticed that people would walk up to Grinders, notice it was closed, and leave with their head lowered in dissapointment.

Why didn't people just look up the hours on the university's website? The website was often hard to find, the hours were sometimes in a PDF file, and they weren't usually up to date. We would get an email before the hours would change, but we received way too much email to keep one message at the top of the inbox for more than an hour.

I decided to do something about this issue. I created I was inspired by Umbrella Today, a now defunct website that would let the user know if they needed an umbrella with a large "YES" or "NO" image.

I thought this was a great way to let people know if Grinders was open or not. I decided to use an image of a coffee cup on a plain white background.

The logic behind the code seemed simple until I started working on it. The base hours weren't that complicated, but I wanted the back end to be more flexible. I wanted to be able to say "Grinders is closed from May 25 to August 1" and the website would understand and alert the visitors.

I also learned that working with time and intervals of time begins to get complicated. For example, after I launched the website, my web host switched my server location from somewhere in the Central Time Zone to the Eastern Time Zone. This made the entire website off by an hour since I was using PHP (a server-side language) to calculate the time.

Posted on: April 29, 2010