Blog for October 2006

EO Winnipeg Launch


The Entrepreneurs Organization Winnipeg is a chapter of EO Worldwide. This site was an opportunity for us to flex our programming muscles by applying flash video using a content managed system making the flash videos a dynamic part of the content. The client required the ability to add short promotional videos associated to upcoming events. Rather than describing the events through copy, they decided to use edited video promotion. We therefore had to provide them with specific functionality to upload images, flash video files, and specific flash players for each video.

The second part to this site was to provide a members only section with videos targeted specifically to members of the organization. This required a site login which would allow access to this section. The client also wanted to provide the viewer with a video about us section. This allows them to add and update video messages providing the viewer with an explanation of what the organization is all about.

The third part of the site was to allow members to register for the listed upcoming events. By providing this functionality we are able to supply the event organizers with a logistics tool indicating how many people will be attending a specified event. Some additional functionality allowing non-members to purchase event tickets online will be added at a later date.

A Realignment In Progress

We are currently undergoing a bit of a realignment, please pardon the interruption.

Over the next week or so we are going to be implementing the following:

  • new blog system
  • re-aligned site
  • fresh coat of paint .. er pixels

Stay tuned loyal visitor. We appreciate you coming by and hopefully you like the new visuallizard.com as much as the old one.

WAMP5

In the past two years, I’ve had to learn how to install Apache, PHP, and MySQL on a Windows machine, a process I was able to leave to another department in the past. I had to learn how to deal with my.ini files, php.ini files, httpd.conf files, moving the htdocs folders, move MySQL’s data folder, etc. And every time, every time I thought I had the process down, the next time I touched a box, guaranteed I ran into a problem that had me fiddling with settings for over an hour or two.

Maybe it was just me. :) Needless to say, I was sick and tired of wrestling with it. When a new project came up that required I relearn the whole installation over to accommodate PHP5 and MySQL5, it nearly broke me... but luckily WAMP5 was there to save me!

2 For The Road - According to Apple

Well, Apple has finally added the Core Duo 2 processors to their Macbook Pro line. Santa .... are you listening?

Great Resource for Web Designers

After 10 years of building web sites, I found many of these links to be pretty good resources and reminders. This page is the kind of resource I would have paid money for when I started out. For all you up and comers, bookmark this one and refer to it often. A List Aparts Resources for Beginners - Part 1 and Part 2.

Enjoy.

Maple Grove Dog Park

I have a beautiful husky that I love taking to one of the few off leash parks in the city. There is currently construction going on at the park and most of the dog owners that I have talked to don't really know what is going on in regards to this issue.

I have contacted the City Councilor for the area Gord Steves with regards to this matter and he has sent me the plans for the park which doesn't look as bad as I first thought..

Click this link to open a PDF of the plans so you can see the proposed development.

Hopefully this construction phase will lead to a better facility for all and that we can all co-exist together.

Reviewing Firefox 2.0 RC3

Firefox2 RC3
 

Microsoft offically released the latest version of Internet Explorer 7, and we immediately downloaded and installed it on one of the test boxes here at Visual Lizard. Julian has posted his first impressions on the new browser, focusing on how websites render in the new browser. I’ll probably spend some more time with it next week, but I warn you now... it’s looking like I will not be a fan of it. Also, it seems IE7 still completely buggers up FTP through Windows Explorer (though, we had IE7 Beta3 running on the same machine and it might be that version’s fault.

So, in the spirit of things, I downloaded and tried out Firefox 2.0 RC3, the pre-release candidate of Mozilla’s excellent browser. It isn’t a major rejiggering, as in IE7, but rather a realigning of existing elements and addition of popular features. Here are a couple quick impressions:

  • Unlike previous versions, the tab bar is on by default; the option to have the bar disappear when only one tab was open has been completely removed. With IE7 supporting tabs, it looks like single window browsers are officially on the way out.
  • Speaking of which, each tab now has it’s own close button. Also, where the close button used to be in previous version, there’s a pulldown list of all open tabs... I guess for those power users that have a bazillion tabs open *shrug* :)
  • The search field comes with great defaults, with a "Manage Search Engines" option that makes it a breeze to add more. Also, if using Google or Yahoo, the search bar provides keyword suggestions while you type. Handy.
  • Also under "Options", extensions and themes have been grouped together under "Add-ons".
  • In the "Options", you can set Google Reader (my personal favourite reader) to handle RSS feeds.
  • Built in spell check for all input and textarea form fields. As anyone knows, my spelling is criminal... so thank god! :)
  • Unfortunately, the browser’s not 100% stable yet. Our Catalyst CMS system uses the excellent javascript FCKEditor, and Firefox 2.0 RC3 crashes almost religiously when it encounters it. I failed to get this post up three times before switching over to IE6 :/

Overall, I’m liking the latest version of Firefox. Familiar enough that you’re immediately comfortable with it, but sprinkled with many new "hey, that’s neat" moments. Unfortunately, the FCKEditor crash issue makes it near unuseable as my regular browser, but I’ll cross my fingers for a fix and be looking forward to the final release. :)

Engage the Cloaking Device...

US and UK scientists using a "metamaterial" made of fibreglass and copper successfully cloaked a copper cylinder rendering it invisible to the microwave detectors they were using. While the object was still optically visible, their microwave measuring instruments indicated that the copper cylinder was not there. According to these scientists, microwaves behave in a similar fashion to radar waves. Essentially what is being said here is that will eventually be possible to render an object invisible to radar. The military applications are of course stupendous.

From the standpoint of a lay person, we have been informed of stealth technology which renders some high-tech bombers almost invisible to radar making them very effective military weapons. This new discovery could make current stealth technology seem like a medieval weapon in modern warfare. The application of this technology, once perfected, could render a fighter jet or bomber completely invisible to radar.

It is probably very fortunate that this technology was not found during the Cold War. Imagine the weapons proliferation that would have taken place if it was available. First Strike capability was the real worry in those days, and this technology would allow that capability. Let’s hope that this discovery will not lead down that road.

Internet Explorer 7

Internet Explorer 7 has officially been released. It is live and you can download it from Microsoft.com/ie/. If you have been building web sites for any number of years, you are familiar with the dread that is IE 6 when it comes to CSS and how it interprets the specifications [1] [2.1] [3]. Well, IE 7, out of the box, does certainly do a better job than IE 6.

Today’s post is a really quick review of the IE 7 browser. Here are a few things, in no particular order, that we have noticed so far:


  • Fly out menus are breaking. If your site uses semantic markup on unordered lists and reveals those lists based on visitor movement, you are likely going to be frustrated when you visit in IE 7. We are looking under the hood as you read this to try and determine a solution and will post it once we have solved the issue.
  • Handling of SSL certificates is scary. If you visit a site with an expired SSL certificate, you are not given a popup warning, but a FULL screen warning. On top of that, you are shown a Green shield with a check box. When you click it, it closes the browser. You have to click the Red shield with the X on it actually advance to the site in question. Very backwards at first glance.
  • FTP is still broken and unuseable. See Wil’s IE 7 Beta 3 FTP post for more details.
  • Tabbed browsing is now part of IE. Unlike Firefox, IE does it right away without having to enable tabbed-browsing. So full marks to IE for this.
  • Floated LIs are getting blown up to the width of the containing element. This is likely a flaw in our CSS. We will post the cause and fix when we sort it out.
  • Centering of all text. This is again likely a flaw in our CSS. We will post a cause and fix when we sort it out.

As for when the general public will be getting IE 7 pushed to them, that happens on November 1st. For all our developer friends, prepare your fingers, there are many hours of upgrading CSS coming before Christmas.

Ya know what grinds my gears?!?

I use Google all the time for searches. That is no surprise since 60% of Internet users go there for searches. My problem is that when I search for something, say for barbecues, instead of getting results for sites that might actually use I tend to get sites that are just referral pages for sponsored links.

It seems that people just make pages that have sponsored links on them to take me to pages with other peoples sponsored links. So I get no information about Barbecues, but I can sure link to a lot of them.

Now I understand that this is how some people think they will get rich. Russ Whitney(idiot) is one of those "get rich in real estate" snake oil salesman. He focuses on real estate but I remember him passing though town in the past saying you could get rich placing small "ads" on the Internet. If he is responsible for these annoying link sites I will be paying him a visit in the near future with a feather pillow and bucket of tar.

Now as a disclaimer I haven't attended any of his seminars and never met him so maybe I can't call him an idiot. However, con-men have been around since the dawn of time and here are some examples of feedback from his seminars.

Google ...feel free to stop these sites from appearing in my search results...whats that?...you make money on these sponsored Google links....my mistake! Continue clogging the Internet ( it's a series of Tubes Ya know! )

Sony Bravia Ad

Sony has launched a new TV called the Bravia. Their TV ad for it is absolutely stunning. I've watched 7 times already. Link tip from Coudal.

Google Docs Launches

Google, yeah those guys, have launched their online word processing and spreadsheet application, called, guess ... Google Docs (eesh...anyhow). These are in direct competition to MS Office’s Word and Excel

There are 2 signficant advantages to the google applications:

  • the first is that they are online. This allows you access to your documents from any computer, not just the one you used to write it. It also moves writing collaboration to a new, online realm that prior to this launch, consited of edits in Word and emails back and forth containing the changes. Very cool.
  • FREE. ’nuf said.

Obviously there are some drawbacks as well, like less features (this could easily have gone in the plus list as well), lack of data files on your hard drive (again, this could have gone in the plus list), online connection is a requirement, gmail account is also a requirement (email me if you need one) and interface issues. However, given that this is v1 of the applications, look for all of the above to improve.

Get used to it folks, it will be an online world before long and your computer will just be the dumb terminal for accessing your data. Again, you can argue that this is a good thing. :)