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It’s essential as a web developer to keep up with the latest news on code, while also trying to cut corners as much as possible. Inventing the wheel over and over again takes time, and writers/designer block can be over come with some free resources or inspiration.

WEB DESIGNER WALL

Web designer wall now supports and promotes HTML5 and CSS3. It is a blog over been following for a few years (I began when i was doing my own web design business). Not only is this blog really informative and up to date, but reads easily and has some of the best examples and downloadable code that ive found. I originally came across this site when i was looking for CSS hacks to make Internet Explorer centre a central column and float, and this site had it!
What i didnt expect from this site was the interviews with industry leaders – top of their game and in the buzz.
One of my recent favorites has been the document on overflow in dealing with a floating layout. be sure to check it out!

THE DESIGN INSPIRATION

Another essential resource for not only inspiration but resources and information is ‘the design inspiration’, with weekly spotlights and communication with artists. It works well because the artists get to showcase their work (and hopefully get work) while the sit is a both a tribute and a inpiration to all. It covers many level of design, and i must admit there is soem more traditional media – it’s more on the level of multi-leveled freelance. Yet I still feel like its worth mentioning because of its free resource, which developers still need to consider when making products. We don’t need to specialise in graphics, but many consumers don’t trust a site that isnt professional looking.
When it comes to sitting down to make the first touches of a site, it can leave you bereft of all ideas and will. However, this is the most defining part of the site to the majority of users – the interact and graphics. Once a client has given you the mechanics and the seed of the site, work within photoshop to create a design is usually the next step for me. Even a feathered touch of grey along the lip of a black edge, within a web page, can make a web page seem classy.

CSS ZEN GARDEN

Csszengarden.com is probably the best site one can ever find for both design inspiration and code examples. Essentially all participants work with the same content, yet introduce their own flair  to the site as a show of their skills. Upon clicking a authors work title, the site will be changed to that design and furthermore, the source is openly available to you (not only high grade)!

BEST CSS DESIGN

This site can be taken as an example itself, with its smooth professional atmosphere. It does actually link you with jobs on the side, which I thought was quiet neat. The sites it offers are very, very nice, but, also very complicated. Still, its a great inspiration even if only to bring forth better design of simple sites.

CSS FLAVOUR

This site, while it has a decent amount of real-estate taken up buy advertisements,  has direct links to websites seen on show. This is a great feature if your in need of finding a specific look and short on time.

CSS ELITE

csseleite.com is one of my favorite sites. Not only is the site itself a masterpeice, but every website chosen is an artwork in itself.  I highly suggest site as its both a testament to the beauty in webdesign, with adding latest applicable information and free resources, such as icons and the like.

Links:
A firewall is an essential security feature, and is inbuilt into operating systems and Internet routers these days. A hardware firewall, combined with a software firewall, anti-spyware and antivirus is the means to a quiet life as a Windows user or admin of a small business upwards. These days, a windows user with a firewall and security measures is compromised within 12 minutes on average – this I have seen with my own eyes.
Though firewalls an an extensive subject, I will focus on the pro’s and con’s of each hardware and software, while suggesting a few brands.

The Software Firewall

Windows comes with a firewall by default from XP SP2 onwards through Vista and Windows 7 through the ‘Security center’. However, there are software vendors that supply free software that that can not only have a better ability to protect, but allow more customization and deliver more information.
This one is currently running on my machine:
What you as a user will get is the program poping up for you to make a decision on whether an application should access the internet. Comodo firewall is particularly nice as it hooks you up to a community of people so that, when it pops up with a decision, it also gives you the percentage of people that blocked and allowed the program elsewhere. this is one of the key ways to tell if a trojan virus or worm has silently injected your computer .It helps your computer not be involved in DDOS attacks as a ‘zombie’, nor taken over by some hacker via trojan, while also given defense versus key loggers divulging your secrets

The Hardware Firewall

Hardware firewalls are usually commercial but, with software like mOnOwall and pfSense available for free and open-source, anyone can deploy these devices on their property. Ultimately a firewalls job is to create a DMZ of sorts for all the computers under its wing.  Many institutions use these firewalls to restrict the content of pages and the services within the DMZ, such as what you find within schools (much to students annoyance). This should not be passed off for the home user, however, as software like pfSense runs on a computer so old it doesn’t even need a hard-drive, and can add all the above mentions functions along with others such as: VPN tunneling, advanced security such as MAC filtering, limited connections, captive portal, dynamic DNS, etc..
To round up, the best angle would be to have a software firewall as a bare minimum. These are free and are plentiful in number. If your house or business is starting to have 5 or more devices on constantly within it,  I would highly suggest looking into a hardware firewall. Most broadband modems do have a firewall and NAT within them, and some internet service providers sometimes screen the lot from their end, so if technicalities are too much, just do a little research into the best purchases and services available.

Reference

Home Web Server

There are a some easy and accessible ways to get a web-server running at home.  Why? There are two reasons:
  1. you may wish to run code in a ‘sandbox’ like environment to test functionality and security without being ‘in the wild’ on the internet.
  2. You may wish to run and maintain a website and server within your own home or office.

The benefits:

Running a server that functions on a public level can cut costs and even help generate profit. Having a server running at home is great for throwing around code in a safe ‘sandbox’, testing security and functionality with server-side script such as PHP.

The complications:

To the second point there are a few issues. If you wish to submit your server and network to the big world wider internet there are some precautions needed. As such, a firewall is the first line of defense – I will be talking about firewalls in another article soon. Then, some technical specifications are desirable; within each operating system there will be different files linked to the server software, such as the configuration files for apache2, or the firewall block/accept list. For example, if you had a home server, it might be good to restrict access to any IP but your own or the LAN.   As a final precaution, make sure to have the latest updates  installed on the server for all software, and nothing extra. Why updates? People find flaws within software which leads to that software being fixed and then released as a patch, effectively sealing the software from the vulnerability – rarely does a patch open a new vulnerability unless it’s attempting to add functionality Why nothing extra? The Ubuntu Server software installs LAMP and the like, yet leaves out the G.U.I. (X-Windows & GNOME) simply  because it has too many possible flaws thus, running from the terminal alone.

What you need – the hardware:

You will over course need a high-speed connection to the internet, with an upload of at least 512kbps, but I would suggest 1 mbit upwards. If The hardware needed for  a web-server doesn’t need to be extensive, similar to that of your desktop computer at home. It doesn’t, however, need  a high-end graphics card not extensive storage space. It does pay to have extra ram of decent quality and a dependable power supply. This all depends on how much attention your web-server will get.

An example rig for a web server would be a Pentium 3 or 4,  4 GB RAM, 250gb SATA Hard Drive, 400 watt Silverstone power-supply with ample cooling.

 

What you need – the operating system:

My best suggestion for an operating system is the Ubuntu server software running LAMP. It is free and has loads of documentation. given the learning curve is going to be a bit steep to start off with with any software (aside from XAMP on windows), for security and functionality this is the best option.
Honorable mention: CentOS, kubuntu
References:
In my last post, I had to deal with a particularly nasty parasite virus which manipulated the computer in some funky ways. To be left with a slow, dysfunctional computer that could be leaking your information, let alone destroying it, is not a great place to be.
Presenting Malwarebytes Anti-malware software. There is no better free software to deal with spyware, trojans, downloaders, etc. This program essentially scans your computer, checking files and the registry, attempting to detect links and characteristics that give away the nature of the files contents.
What these scans reveal lets you know just what sort of trouble you are in, even though what each thing is called is jargon and some records aren’t a direct virus.
While essential software, it is to be used with a proper firewall, Anti-virus software and latest security patches with you operating system.
References:

As a quick interlude from the technical posts, I thought I would share a brilliant site I found whilst trying to find some sanity in cross-browser-compatibility.  As such,  (and correct me if i’m wrong) but in terms of compatibility there is either utilising newer technologies such as jQuery and applying only to semi-recent browsers, or spending some serious time and and hacking CSS to make things render properly. Internet Explorer just has this very very unnerving and irratic rendering each version.

Given the woes of cross-browser-rendering-issues, there is only two ways to test a website on all of them. Firstly, one can go out unto the web and download all the browsers and install them on a machine for testing. The trick with this is that they will conflict when installing, therefore i suggest portable forms of the browsers, which you can find here. I don’t know if these render or react differently, but it seems not.

The other option is to use a online service like BrowserShots.

As you can see, all one has to do is enter the online URL address in and hit submit, and for free this site takes it and put it in a queue.

I selected the full range of 62 browsers.The site holds your position and once its arrives there, will organise the team of computers to render and send their versions of the site to the central server. There, it shows the pictures bubblign in on the page and you can view it right then and there… and even download them all for a better look.

References:

http://browsershots.org/

http://browsershots.org/documentation#

http://www.thesitewizard.com/webdesign/multiplebrowsers.shtml

http://www.aboutonlinetips.com/portable-web-browser/

http://www.portablefreeware.com/?sc=8

http://www.tothepc.com/archives/portable-web-browsers-for-windows/

ASP

Throughout my education I have not had the chance to delve into what exactly ASP is, nor how to program it. What i have heard is that ASP is commercial and from Microsoft, meaning that on some level you have to pay for it. Also, that it has the domain of the major commercial jobs, such as that of local council websites and intranets. I hope to cover a few of the basics in this post.

ASP stands for Active Server Pages, meaning that the pages are dynamically created, which further means, that the ASP code generates a response and creation server side (and with a database)  rather than static. An ASP page will look very similar to a PHP page, and both generate contents and structure for a page as it is requested, rather than simply feeding files to the client. Its is quite possible for an asp page that contains alot of extra source, or little source at all, to generate a perfectly integral XHTML webpage. Here is an example from W3 Schools:
<html>

   <body>
     <%
      response.write("<h2>You can use HTML tags to format the text!</h2>")
     %>
   </body>
</html>
Creating this:

You can use HTML tags to format the text!

The list of examples from w3schools, and all ove the internet, is extensive to say the least.  ASP has the ability to play nicely with other programing languages, including VB-script. It seems to be able to go so far as checking and interacting with the filesystem.

How does it work? Well, the main requirement seems to be a server running the IIS technology (the Internet Information Services) layer, closely bound to windows architecture. Every windows up from Windows 200 (nt 4.0) should have the capability, though im not sure how this would apply to a server. I imagine this means it have to run on a Microsoft server and that doesn’t sound that appealing to me – maybe the purchase of license and server from Microsoft makes for a a warranty and something on the accounts and paper. (note: chiliAsp and InstantAsp are non-windows alternatives).

“When a browser requests an ASP file, IIS passes the request to the ASP engine. The ASP engine reads the ASP file, line by line, and executes the scripts in the file. Finally, the ASP file is returned to the browser as plain HTML” -w3c

The ultimate aim of ASP is to make your website more dynamic and interactive by increasing bottom level functionality – which it does well. There are also heaps of great resources out there to help you fit the code to the need, like codango.

Also worth mentioning is the fact that ASP Classic was the original version of asp – ASP.NET is the latest version. While in the previous version there was more old-school coding, ASP.NET has a heavy GUI influence on coding. Im nto sure how I would fair with such…

References: