Archive for March, 2006

Inserting Images via a Content Mangement System

March 29, 06 by kenrich

One of the trickiest tasks of building a for windows is trying to add images to content. In my case, I need to provide a method to insert an image or series of images into an article. This needs to be done through a web (browser) interface. It seems like a relatively simple task, but making it seamless and intuitive are another matter.

One of the simplest methods of doing this is by just providing a separate interface for uploading the images you want to use. Then, when you go to create or edit an article, the operator can just choose the image you uploaded from drop-down list. This is very easy to do and will get the job done, but I’m not really sure if this is flexible enough.

I think what needs to be done is that a way to upload and insert the image in the article needs to be done in one step. This would allow users to insert the images “as they are needed” and not have to worry about remembering the image names. This would eliminate the need to sort through a long list of images trying to find the correct one.

One of the drawbacks of our new web hosting provider, is that we don’t have the luxury of installing custom components to use for image manipulation. It would be nice if I could create a thumbnail of each image. Thumbnails could be used for browsing an archive of images and allowing the operator to pick the image they want to insert into the content. Sure, I could use the full-size images and scale them to look like thumbnails, but the bandwidth used would be unacceptable.

Update Service Under Development

March 24, 06 by kenrich

One thing I’ve been working on recently is an for the Websites I’ve built. This would allow you to pull up a page on our Intranet similar to the “Windows Update Service”. The page would perform a check on our main server to see if there’s any bug-fixes, feature improvements or new modules that can be downloaded and installed.

Although it wouldn’t really by downloading since the file would be transferred from one Website to another. Modified files, data or database schemas would be moved from the update server to the new Website. The operator of the Website would immediately benefit from getting the latest updates from our company.

The way we currently do it, is that we manually move the files from one server to another. This is very tedious and time-consuming and not all that reliable either. If there’s anyway we can improve our service, this would probably be it.

I have already started working on the code for this. I’ve alread got a web service built that will deliver the database schema. I need to build the page that compares the schema on the update server with the locat (Website’s) database schema and see where the differences lie. Then, with the operators approval, the system can automatically update the database schema.

There is a lot of work involved in this. We have to be careful that we differentiate between upgraded code and incompatible modules. When we write specialized code for a client, we have to be careful that the update service doesn’t just overwrite the customized code with a more generic script. This would cause us to lose a lot of work. We have methods to get around this problem, but there is a lot more coding to do until this is complete.

Marketing Go Swap Auctions

March 23, 06 by kenrich

Recently, I’ve found myself in the position of trying to generate traffic for a new Website I launched recently. This is my online Go Swap Auctions. I face a steady uphill battle as anyone who has launched a site can tell you.

I have experience in several different areas of marketing. I will be using every iota of experience I have to help get this auction site off of the ground. There are many marketing tricks that I use and none of them are really top secret. You can find more information on these tricks by doing a Google search for .

Things would have been so much easier if I had kept working on my old site and kept it active. My new website represents a complete rewrite of my old auction site. This was necessary because my old site was written using Mason, which is not supported by the majority of web hosts. For this reason, I did a complete rewrite in PHP and so far I’ve been plesently surprised by how easy it has been to develop.

There’s no easy road to making a website a success. Unless you have a built-in user base or tons of money to throw intor advertising, you should expect a lot of work ahead. In the end, it is worth it though. You can look back and feel like you’ve accomplished something.

All-Out Assault for Entrepreneurs

March 16, 06 by kenrich

Today, President Bush launched an all-out attack against Iragi insurgents in the Northern part of the country. Wouldn’t it be nice if we, as entrepreneurs could launch a similar type of assault to meet our business goals.

I am currently in the process of finishing up an online site which needs a lot of work done. It doesn’t need a lot of work done to get launched, because I’m going to launch by the end of this week. It could use tons of enhancements and lots of marketing and press releases. Creating a web startup involves a lot of work.

Over the years, I’ve learned how to optimize this process, but it still takes a long time to produce a quality website that is easily accessible and looks good (stylistically.) I’ve launched dozens of web sites over the years and many of them have fallen by the wayside. You get to a point where you realize you’re trying to do too much. It takes one full-time person 8 hours-per-day just to run and maintain a medium-size web site.

My goal is to focus my energies on two main websites. Both of these are websites running under the Unix environment. I’m planning on migrating our core business focus to Unix (for financial and stability reasons.) Once I have put in the coding time to get the two sites to a stable point, I can once again turn my focus to marketing and support. You may think this sounds like a one-man show – well you wouldn’t be too far off in that assumption!

Trouble with AJAX Technologies

March 13, 06 by kenrich

Today, one of my favorite blogs, Daily KOS implemented some improvements to their comment system. It allows comments to be collapsed or expanded, entire threads to be collapsed or expanded and also allows members to recommend a comment to others. It puts a lot of the processing on the client-side which should help performance issues with the server.

A lot of people have noticed performance issues with Mozilla Firefox. I happened to be using Firefox and noticed a huge difference between IE 6 and Firefox. Firefox tends to animate the expansion and collapsing of threads whereas IE 6 is so fast it’s as if there’s no animation at all. Not quite sure what the problem is there, but hopefully they will be able to get it fixed soon.

A lot of people are touting Ajax as the wave of the future. It has helped to drive the Web 2.0 dot-com expansion. It’s still too early to tell whether or not these technologies will experience wide-spread adoption. I try to use the technology only on back-end administration applications. This minimizes compatibility issues as demonstrated in the aforementioned site.

One of the most useful applications for Ajax is for building a content manager. I use an HTTP control to retrieve a web page for editting content which works great as long as you’re only using IE 6. Hopefully, XML and HTTP extensions will be added to the next version of Javascript so that we no longer need to rely on ActiveX components for performing basic tasks.

Windows Vista and Office 2007 are Coming

March 13, 06 by kenrich

Microsoft plans to lauch Windows Vista alongside Office 2007 sometime during the end of this year. This is the crown jewel in Microsoft’s plan to unleash a bevy of new software applications and services over the course of this year. The operating system itself comes in no less than 7 different versions each tailored to a specific niche.

As part of this launch, Microsoft is attempting to create a hype that has been unparalleled since the release of Windows 95. Is this a reaction to the desktop war initiated by the folks at Google, or is Microsoft just looking to strengthen it’s gargantuan bottom line? There’s no doubt that Microsoft will sell tons of copies of it’s new operating system, the question is, what percentage of market share of the desktop operating system will they be able to hold onto.

It’s no doubt that the migration will be a slow one for people living in an economy where the luxury of upgrading an operating system is tied to the public’s disposable income. Perhaps a lot of people are tired of being on the upgrade merry-go-round. I will hold off on upgrading my system for a while – if only because the new operating system requires a more powerful system to run – and staying with my old operating system will give me better performance.

PHP – A Vastly Superior Scripting Language

March 10, 06 by kenrich

I am continually amazed at the simplicity of web scripting using . Unlike Active Server Pages, you can perform complex tasks using only 1/3 the amount of code. Not only does this make the code easier to write, it is easier to read and maintain as well. When I first started Orvado, I wanted to develop all our code under PHP – I sure wish that we had gone that route now!

As an example, I had to write some code to load a template into a variable. Although file_get_contents() exists in PHP 5, I wanted something more portable so I used the function file. Using one function, I did the work that would take at least three lines in Active Server Pages. As I’m writing PHP, I find that the code is much easier to understand and maintain than the best ASP.

Another advantage of PHP is the huge variety of functions available to you. Unlike ASP which has somewhere around 200, PHP must have more than 1000. Many of the problems facing web developers have already been tackled by other PHP developers. I often find useful algorithms in the comments section of the PHP documentation. Common tasks such as “file upload” that require a specialized ActiveX component in ASP, are part of the core PHP language.

This brings me to one of the downsides of PHP – keeping track of which functions are supported in each version of PHP. If you want to make your code portable between many different servers, you will probably want to have compatibility with the lowest version of PHP (version 3.0 is probably as low as you want to go.) The good thing is that the PHP documentation site indicates the compatibility for each function. You can even write code that checks the PHP environment the script is running under and account for the functions that are available in that version.

SiteMeter and Blogging Topics

March 09, 06 by kenrich

I recently added to this blog to track how many visitors are coming here. I’m sure it’s not all that much because I really don’t do any advertising for this blog. It was such a pain to go through my hosting account in order to view my blog statistics so I rarely every did it. Plus, I have been really busy recently so I haven’t had much time to checkup on this site.

I was previously using to generate traffic for this site. This is a good way to exchange traffic with other bloggers around the world without paying any money out of your pocket. It’s been quite a while since I have used that so perhaps I will start using that again. I will also make an effort to do more tagging in my posts like you can see on this one. Technorati offers an excellent system for tracking tags in blogs.

In the future, I will try to focus more on the web development and programming issues that I intended this blog to discuss. Don’t expect to see much discussion about Java, .NET or Ruby here. Most of the discussion will revolve around PHP, Active Server Pages, Javascript, SQL Server and MySQL. Other topics will include general programming practices and algorithms.

Choosing a Scripting Language

March 08, 06 by kenrich

When learning web scripting languages, it is difficult to know which route to take. There are lots of different choices each having their own advantages and disadvantages. Each of these needs to be weighed carefully before making a choice. To make matters more difficult, there are both client-side scripting languages and server-side scripting languages. In this case, we will only be discussing server-side scripting languages.

One of the first questions you must ask yourself is: “Do you wish to make money or a career out of scripting?” If your answer is yes, then you should definitely look at Microsoft ASP.Net or Java Server Pages. Many employers today are looking for people who are well-versed in ASP.Net. The problem is, ASP.Net is really an object-oriented programming language masquerading as a scripting lanaguage and involves a good proficiency at programming.

If you are more interested in just making it a hobby, then a good route to go would be PHP or Cold Fusion. PHP is available for both Unix and Windows platforms and can be run under Internet Information Services (the Windows web server) or Apache (on both platforms.) PHP is incredibly powerful and borrows a lot of syntax from Perl (another scripting language). It is relatively easy to learn but not as easy as Active Server Pages.

If you want to build a web site of your own and have it hosted, you should use a Unix scripting language because Unix is far cheaper and more reliable especially in a shared environment. I have recently begun a transition of my older ASP (windows) scripting into PHP for just this reason. PHP is well-supported and well-documented and code samples abould all over the Internet. Whatever your choice, be sure to weight the options!

Hosting Transition Complete!

March 03, 06 by kenrich

I’d sure like to get rid of this cold that I currently have. It has been nearly two weeks now since I first got sick. It’s one of the nastiest colds I have ever experienced. Normally, I would think it’s the flu, but I took a flu shot this year so I suppose that I’m immune. This week, I’ve done a lot of work for Orvado in migrating clients to the new servers. We are pretty much all moved over now which is a big relief.

We are hoping that the new servers will provide better uptime and support response times than our previous setup. The performance is definitely adequate – it’s just a matter of seeing if the quality of service is there. We would hate to have to move our clients to another hosting solution. With the hosting migration done, we can once again focus on our core business.

For those of you that don’t know, our core business is delivering cutting-edge dynamic web sites which are custom-built to order. We develop custom databases, offer a proprietary intranet/CMS management solution, and also develop professional graphic design. We are constantly looking for ways to improve our business and provide a better service to our customers.