Archive for the 'Web development' Category

A breath of fresh air

April 30, 2007

I read with great relief: “People Hate Making Desktop Apps…” Since When!? , a post identifing an issue that I’ve been following with interest lately.

Readers of my blog will know my opinion on bringing back a desktop client/ server based approach to development, Non readers – I’m 100% for it. I believe the multitude of ‘Web2.0’ apps being developed would simply be better as desktop applications.

The reasons for this are simple – Desktop applications:

  • Have more mature programming languages available
  • Can make use of operating system calls (including via VM)
  • Run on a decent windowing system, and behave like an application should
  • Allow offline work (still very important)
  • Allow secure (and managed) storage of data (really comes down to data ownership)

This is to name a few. Of course there are exceptions to every rule – especially the last point.

I’m not completely ruling out web-based applications where required; I regularly use web-based email for example. I would much rather have a desktop based RSS reader (client/server design) than browser. This can be said for many applications that are web based. Web-services with a decent front end – That’s the formula!

I was reading a blog post at which mentioned a widget toolkit for Java. I’m very interested in trying some of these out to for a couple of apps I want to write. Will digg up the link tomorrow.

I’ll be posting more on this subject I imagine- I’d like to know what other developers think.

XHTML or HTML 4 (Strict)

April 24, 2007

I’m officially entering the redesign phase of my blog. As I’m going to start with a completely blank canvas I thought my first task may as well be to determine the doctype and how the page will be delivered. This came down to a decision of XHTML or HTML 4 and I had no idea what one with be more suited when starting a site from scratch.

The conclusion? I came across a series of posts ‘xhtml vs html 4 strict‘, The W3C XHTML Specification and No to XHTML and the general consensus is to only use xhtml where it will truely be benificial, for a website I can’t seem to find how it would be (generally).

I always correctly nest elements (I have no idea why some people don’t) and I type in lowercase anyway so the well-formedness of the document doesn’t really worry be as it would be with either.

Looks like I’ll be using HTML 4 Strict then!

Adobe contributes Flash Player Scripting Engine

November 8, 2006

Tamarin , the latest Mozilla project addition, is the result of Adobe contributing their Flash Player Scripting engine to the Mozilla team, A move Brendan Eich, chief technology officer of Mozilla Corporation, and creator of JavaScript said to be “the largest contribution to the Mozilla Foundation since its inception,”.
Personally I don’t feel this is all too suprising. As I have said in my post GUI toolkits for web apps? (proberly in need of an update) the Adobe Flex IDE looked to be (at the time of writing) a high candidate for the creation of interactive web applications. If the Flash support on Linux based operating systems (or anything else FireFox has been ported to) gains momentum Adobe will be in a very desirable place.

A very appreciated gesture, thaks Adobe! – Please bring us Photoshop!

Java Community News – Adobe Contributes Flash VM Code to Mozilla

Mozilla – Adobe and Mozilla Foundation to Open Source Flash Player Scripting Engine

Microsoft AJAX Library…

September 12, 2006

… Is the new name for the Atlas toolkit. I much prefer the singular ‘Atlas’ and don’t see why they needed to change it? Longhorn – Vista is a different story:).

In saying this until I found out about the name change I hadn’t even heard of Atlas! The discovery comes at the perfect time as I need to do some web GUI work very soon and the Atlas toolkit looks very useful. I’m interested to see how it compares to the Yahoo YUI toolkit. The particular application I’m working on is a .net environment so looks like ‘Microsoft AJAX Library’ may be the go. I wonder if developers familiar with Atlas will continue to say Atlas?

I have mentioned YUI before in my post: GUI toolkits for web apps?

Web-based development is my biggest interest at the moment so I’m really looking forward to trying these toolkits out.

My industry project meeting yesterday went great and they were impressed with my documentation so its all go!

I’ve been looking at my large category list and have been wondering what to do with it? I think I will group them into more generic categories such as programming, design, database, etc. Less clutter and should allow easier navigation by category. I’d like to be able to list all posts on a single page (by title) too. I think simply having a link to the categories will be the best option.

The BLINK tag; quote from creator

August 17, 2006

Missed this tag? (I actually used the tag for this line but wordpress stripped it!)

I was looking at the Wikipedia entry for Lou Montulli, creator of the <blink> tag in the Netscape based browsers and also creator of the Lynx web browser and thought this quote was worth sharing:

The inventor of the blink tag, Lou Montulli, has said repeatedly in interviews that he considers “the blink tag to be the worst thing I’ve ever done for the Internet”.

Internet Explorer does not support the blink tag even in its CSS implementation, not a bad thing! It’s also not part of the official HTML specification.

So heres my tribute to the web element ‘BLINK’ gone but not forgotten!

NetObjects: Fusion

July 30, 2006

NetObjects Fusion is a WYSIWYG website development package that never seems to get much recognition. After NotePad it (Fusion 6?) was the first package I ever created a website in and although the website never went live I found the site management and editing features were much above what I had tried previously and in general I found it a much more powerful environment than the FrontPage and Netscape Composer’s of the time, the other tools I had tired. Read the rest of this entry »

Something of my own, Tag clouds and Gaim

July 15, 2006

I’ve been having a good play with some wordpress themes lately and have installed a few to try out. I still love the K2 variants and have found a couple of others I like alot, but I have made the decision; I will be making my own theme. All the themes I have come across have one or two changes that need to be made for me to be happy and if I am going to be modding something I’d rather just start from scratch. That way I can say I did it all.

I have a design currently that I am very happy with, still needs a little work but it is simple and effective, will suit a tumblelog format well I think (looks much better in the browser):

blog design

I used the sketch I posted as a bit of a guide but the Flickr photos will not be where I had planned and I’m a little unsure if I love or hate tag clouds. I like the fact that they display the tags in a creative way and using fonts and colours give a good indication of usage , although I do feel they are a little over done and can look ‘tacky’.

Rounded corners is another issue, currently my header has rounded edges as well as the content. The footer will not be (although its the same colour as the background anyway) and the navigation will not be. Hopefuly this will still give it a sharp look and draw the eye to the left side first?

Will post a progress pic when I have made a few changes. I hoping to have it done in two weeks or so, working on it bits at a time.

I have also been connecting to MSN via Gaim at the moment. Windows Live was getting a little annoying with all its features people seem to love and Gaim looked like a nice alternative. As well as the fact it runs on multi platforms and a disk drive. Features that I will be finding useful soon!

Finally RE: YouOS and browser based desktops , There has been quite a bit of debate on the term OS (Operating System) in relation to what they provide. Ok , YouOS is not an operating system as it requires a browser to run and does not provide the basic tasks of an operating system. I don’t think the name is too misleading as it will help with marketing and works well as a proof of concept for the browser based desktop concept. It’ll be interesting to see where this heads but I am starting to favour browser based remote desktop type applications more (why reinvent the wheel?). This is of course just my opinion.

My original RSS (type) idea 7 years ago

July 10, 2006

I was in bed last night when it occured to me, I thought up an RSS type idea 7 years ago! I was 13 or so and had a southpark website with a collection of various media (all credited of course :)) and regularly checked the top southpark websites. There was a very good community and many of the top sites were friends with eachother.

I liked the idea (and still do) of having a website built based on seperate files (side bar, header etc) and after using frames for a bit I realised I could use an external javascript file with a series of document.write() statements. Frameless pages with seperated content! (I didnt know about server side scripting then!).

I then had an idea, what if all the major websites had a javascript file on their server with a standard name/location and made the location publically available? This file would contain document.write statements with a decription of the latest content. A website could place a series of these to show their visitors what the other sites are upto. I thought I could make a webpage designed for this purpose (a portal).

I never actually did this or looked into it much further, sadly. Now that we have XML this is exactly what is being done with RSS, I had the concept just not the greatest implementation!


I recieved a comment on my digg submission which I found very informative and thought I should mention it here to ensure I have expressed my idea correctly!

The comment is as follows:

“I hate to break it to you, but RSS is over seven years old and the general concept is about a decade old. Your idea was not new or original in any way, in fact it came *after* the whole “push” fad had died down. I specifically remember that I was automatically downloading news, website updates and rich media (a.k.a. podcasts and videocasts in all but name) with Pointcast ten years ago.

The current RSS hype is at least the third time this sort of thing has been popular. Internet Explorer 4 had CDF built in, which was very similar to RSS and could be displayed on Windows 98’s “Active Desktop” in much the same way lots of Apple Dashboard widgets display RSS and Atom feeds these days.” Jim

In direct response I would like to say the following:

I completely forgot about those services and feel very silly for not considering this! In my defense I’d like to point out I wasn’t a heavy power user back then and I didn’t really know about those features at the time. This was more my interpretation of what would be a good service (too bad it had been done!). I’ll read those links with great interest thanks for putting me right!

While XML syndication was available then it was still not widely used by many websites in the form it is now, and not with the ease my initial concept would have provided. RSS feeds for websites were not common.

Just to clear things up I was not trying to say my idea pre-dated XML syndication or anything just that without knowledge of this I came up with a concept that is similar to the RSS feeds that have grown hugely in popularity recently.

Now that we have XML this is exactly what is being done with RSS

Should have read, now the XML has become more common place

WordPress install

July 9, 2006

Well I’m definately on my way to a new theme, I have installed all the development tools and have them working together (apache, mysql, php and wordpress). My install went something like this:

Apache 2.2.x didnt like php4 and was not loading the module dll, I understand this is a common problem and came across some solutions based on php5. I wanted to run php4 so I installed Apache 2.0.x.

I did come across XAMPP, a cross platform easy to install Apache distribution containing MySQL, PHP and Perl. Looked like the perfect solution but I’d like to learn how to do it manually.

I Changed the default folder public_html by editing DocumentRoot pram and edited the various other settings to work in with the directory structure I created (%roo%/www/…)

I also installed mysql from a zip archive and changed the ini file to point to my non default install location and set my windows classpath. After setup I gave the root user a password, created a user account and removed the anonymous accounts.

I extracted the wordpress install to a folder named blog in my public_html directory

I came accross a small error in setting up a user for the wp-config file. MySQL 5 uses a new password encryption format that is not supported currently by wordpress this is fixed by starting up the mysql server with the –old-passwords pram:

mysqld –console –old-passwords (I don’t have mysql installed as a service)

Or by creating a new user in the following way:

GRANT ALL ON *.* to ‘user’@’localhost’;
SET PASSWORD FOR ‘user’@’localhost’=OLD_PASSWORD(‘password’);

Note the OLD_PASSWORD function.

From the website:

[UPDATE: MySQL 4.1.7 uses a new password encryption system that is incompatible with prior methods. If you want to get WordPress working with a 4.1.7 database, you need to make sure your user password is set as an old-style password (password-old instead of password, if you’re using mysqladmin). — Nabil] Note : The above are actual user comments, and may be subjective in their content. It is hoped that it will be of help to some users who face the specific problems that are addressed by this question..

Once wordpress could work with my passwords the installation was extremely straight forward and my blog was up in no time! Now time to find/create a theme!


Ruby On Rails

July 4, 2006

I’ve spent the last few days reading up on Ruby and the Ruby on Rails framework. I must say I was surprised to see what it actually is and I can see why PHP/Java web developers are loving it. This post isn’t intended to be any sort of explanation on ruby or how it works as there are plenty of well written posts on this subject. One thing that is different with ruby is how it interacts with databases, convention over configuration is one of rubys biggest time savers. Provided your database tables are named in a certain way this is all ruby needs to know to establish links and relationships to a database, great for small databases but less appealing to more complex databases or connecting to legacy databases.

Ruby on rails also simplifies CRUD (Create, Read, Update, Delete) operations on the database by generating the webpages and allowing them to be fully customised. This is a huge time saver and is especially good for those simple applications that are based on these simple database operations.

On top of that the Ruby language is incredibly powerful and has a lot of potential.

Ruby supports database transactions (rollback/commit style) which is a feature I liked about JADE.

I’m going to spend a little more time getting familiar with the language and framework and start builidng a bug tracking system with an RSS feed to learn how everything fits together.

I hope to have something in development soon 🙂