Favorite Software for Web Development

Wednesday, December 3rd, 2008 | Business | 1 Comment

Sometimes when you start out doing something on computers, it seems so hard until you get the tools that everyone else uses.

In this post I’m asking everyone else for feedback, what do you like to use?  Go ahead and comment it in there, I’ll add it to the article as I see em.

Below are some of my favorite pieces of software for web development, some will be very obvious (Flash, Photoshop, etc.) … some maybe not so much:

TextPad
I love textpad for basic text changes from everything PHP, to HTML, to writing notes.   It’s great to have multiple documents, line numbers, quick global / file / local search and replaces etc.  I use this when I’m working with source files, XML definition files, CSS files, to CFM or other formats.  I love it.  

HomeSite
Those of you who know homesite, will know it’s pretty much gone nowadays.   The heyday was many years ago.  The direct FTP editing was amazingly useful.  It has some features that I still go back to now and then.  Mostly search and replace functionality, FTP based editing (right on ther server … mostly), document formatting (code sweeper), and other utilitarian functions.  

CuteFTP Pro
Working on the web, we all are in constant use of FTP (more so than we should be).  Cute FTP has always been a staple of my software toolbox.  It’s so easy to launch connections to all the FTP servers you use throughout the day, keep them open for jumping between projects.  The number of protocols it supports is flexible (FTP, FTP w/ SSL, SFTP, HTTP, HTTPS, etc.), and it always seem to be able to connect.  The speeds and setting are highly configurable.  It’s nice having 50 simultaneous downloads going at a time.

Tortoise SVN
Whoever isn’t using SVN, should be using SVN (or CVS or whatever other version control system you can think of).  Tortoise SVN is an essential windows interface enhancement to integrate SVN into the file browser.  For those of you who use CVS, there’s a Tortoise CVS as well.  It is easy to look at version histories, compare files based on modification dates, and to pull down new updates.  

Subversion
Source control is underutilized in my experience.   So many sites aren’t run with source control.  Think of the advantages: automatic source control, automatic offsite backup (if you use an external host — which I would love to recommend svnrepository.com, a very cheap hosted SVN repository).  Read about it, get used to it, it will save a project.

Eclipse
You were waiting for me to say it weren’t you?   An open source IDE.  Technically it started as a Java IDE (most Java developers should be intimately familiar with this).  Thanks to add-ons developed by the community, it supports, quite adeptly, PHP and other web development technologies.  It has built in SVN support, supports deployment scripts… its amazing.  Try it, explore the community around it.  Check out the Subclipse add-on, as well as the Web Developer Tools, and Eclipse XML Editors and Tools.

Adobe Flash (Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium)
Pretty much a no brainer, you need Adobe Flash to develop flash.  It’s a great tool, worth every penny.

Adobe Photoshop (Adobe Creative Suite 4 Design Premium)
Another obvious one.  Photoshop is a requirements for all web development.  No, you shouldn’t be doing web design work as a developer.  However, there is always the need to look at colors, size things, cut up images, process original artwork, the list goes on forever.  I really recommend the Adobe Creative Suite, we use almost all of the software anyway.  

Microsoft Word (Microsoft Office)
You will always need this (or another decent word processor).  Yes, you can get by without it.  However the sheer amount of things Word can handle: Estimates, Proposals, Letterheads, Envelopes, Labels, the list goes on and on.. you will wish you had it someday.

Microsoft Excel (Microsoft Office)
Another one that you don’t always think about, but excel makes writing estimates so much easier.  You can update your entire estimate based upon a new discount, manage hours, track changes.  I’ve used Google’s online spreadsheets before – they are great.  But they aren’t fully able to replace excel yet. 

Microsoft PowerPoint (Microsoft Office)
Those proposals are much better with an accompanying presentation. Tell your clients what you do, what they need, in a way that can impact people in a conference room.  Everyone yawns when it comes to yet ANOTHER powerpoint presentation, but you look unprofessional without one in most cases. 

MySQL
Normally this is on a hosted platform, but you need a database to do the cooler web development projects.  MySQL is cheap, but if you want you can substitute in Microsoft SQL Server, or even Oracle.  In my experience if you know why you want MS or Oracle, you can pay for them.  If you don’t know why you want either of those, just go with MySQL.  

PHP MY Admin
Administration software is just as important as the backend engine, at least for development.  It lets you manage a database online, easily, and export simply.  If you haven’t used it, try it. 

SQL Server Management Studio
Another tool for development on SQL servers.  Same as PHP My Admin, arguably much more helpful, but it is a client app.  If you’re working with Oracle, or prefer these desktop applications to the PHPMyAdmin web interface — check out Aqua Data Studio

There are really dozens more tools I consider very useful.  Not exluding:

– Versions of all browsers
– VPN Connectivity software
– Remote Desktop
– VNC Client
– pcAnywhere (not so much anymore)
– Outlook / Email Client

Last but not least, is Google.  It is the best tool you will have when working in web development.

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Apple Releases official iPhone 2.2 firmware!

Friday, November 21st, 2008 | Personal | No Comments

As predicted earlier, Apple released iPhone 2.2 firmware update today.  I’m stuck without access to my machine, so I can’t update my iPhone, but here’s the description from macrumors.com

Enhancements to Maps
– Google Street View
– public transit and walking directions
– display address of dropped pins
– share location via email

Enhancements to Mail
– resolved isolated issues with scheduled fetching of email
– improved formatting of wide HTML email
Improved stability and performance of Safari
Podcasts are now available for download in iTunes application (over Wi-Fi and cellular)
Decrease in call set-up failures and call drops
Improved sound quality of visual voicemail messages
Pressing the Home button from any Home screen takes you to the first Home screen
Preferences to turn on/off auto-correction in Keyboard settings

The update appears to deliver all of the expected features that we have detailed over the past several weeks. Other new findings include:

– App Store links in Mobile Safari correctly link directly to the App Store.
– Street view does not appear to be in the iPod Touch
– Tech note on downloading Podcasts in iPhone 2.2
– Netshare still works according to one user
– Emoji troubleshooting and Emoji technote for Japanese customers.
– Security changes found in 2.2.
– Transit directions screenshot
– How to invoke Street View on the iPhone

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Wired: Why Apple Won’t Allow Adobe Flash on iPhone

Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 | Personal | No Comments

A topic I am highly interested, the intersection of two of my favorite technologies — Adobe Flash (earlier, Macromedia Flash) and the iPhone.

Wired.com has a story published today, November 17, 2008 — Why Apple Won’t Allow Adobe Flash on iPhone.

Although there are reports that Adobe is investing in porting Flash over to the iPhone, Flash for the iPhone (seangw.com), according to the iPhone SDK agreement, recently published by wikileaks.org, “No interpreted code may be downloaded and used in an Application except for code that is interpreted and run by Apple’s Published APIs and built-in interpreter(s).”

Personally I just cannot see Apple eliminating Flash from the iPhone.  It is a power struggle between Adobe and Apple, but why?  Adobe’s applications have supported the core Apple “worhshippers”, designers, who have used Apple devotedly for decades.  The only thing that Flash does for the iPhone is eliminate control by Apple over content on the iPhone.  We all know it’s going to happen sooner or later.

Some other arguments Apple is using, or that can be conceivable are:

  • Lack of control over applications 
  • Goes against the iPhone developer’s Terms of Service specifically prohibiting Flash from appearing on the iPhone.
  • Customer support complaints regarding flash (given the already large number of requests for the iPhone)
  • Battery life issues
  • Straining the iPhone’s limited resources

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Minority Report inspired software interface, reality

Saturday, November 15th, 2008 | Personal | 1 Comment

Reported by Engadget, Oblong’s g-speak: the ‘Minority Report’ OS brought to life.

Check out this video of g-speak, an OS that combines “gestural i/o, recombinant networking, and real-world pixels,” to deliver what the creators call “the first major step in [a] computer interface since 1984.”.

g-speak overview 1828121108 from john underkoffler on Vimeo.

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AT&T iPhone Tethering to cost $30/month

Wednesday, November 12th, 2008 | Business | 1 Comment

Macblogz reports, AT&T iPhone Tethering Plan Specifics, No Unlimited Plan?

Read the article, in summary:

  • Ralph De La Vega announced an official iPhone tethering plan
  • Supposedly, delayed because AT&T is paranoid about how the service will run on their network
  • 5GB Data Cap (just like blackberry users)
  • Initial connection through iTunes? (might be just initial setup)
  • Expected Speeds: GPRS: 30k – dialup speeds / EDGE: 110k – ISDN / 3g: 1000k – slow broadband
  • Will be $30 / month, new iPhone plans may roll out including tethering
  • Do not pro-rate tethering/bandwidth, it can become a nightmare, instead wait until new billing cycle (not sure how this will work)
  • Unlimited bandwidth = AT&T says to get a wireless PC Card
  • No ETA on launch
Some interesting points to watch out for…
A 5GB Data Cap?  We’re seeing bandwidth limits being expressed clearly, that’s one good thing.  On the flip side, they say this is a technical limitiation.  Is the 3G network not everything we had built it up to be?  The posting did say that cap may go down for all users (including blackberry) because of network congestion issues.
At least this doesn’t feel like AT&T is being “big brother” for profit, they are protecting their network.
$30 / month … ouch.  I know blackberry users are already paying this, but if you have an iPhone 3G with tethering, you are now paying $60 a month just for the privilege of the device.  That’s quite the premium to pay.
No idea on launch date — this means that Apple and AT&T have to find out a way to enable tethering natively on the iPhone in such a way that they can disable it if you hit your bandwidth cap.  This should be pretty interesting.  
What about the battery life of the iPhone after being used as a tethered connection?  I know we all use the wifi now, but with a tether we can use much more of the bandwidth — probably a fairly high tax on the battery.  
Of course, battery life isn’t a big deal if the iPhone is physically tethered to the laptop.  I haven’t seen anyone say anything about wireless tethering, just tethering.  Does this mean we need to connect the iPhone to the laptop?  Given the line about iTunes being required, maybe it requires the iPhone to connect to iTunes via USB to enable the tether?  

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iPhone 2.2 to be released on 11/21/2008?

Tuesday, November 11th, 2008 | Personal | No Comments

According to a “reliable” source of information in a german blog, the new iPhone OS will be available on November 21, 2008.

You can see the google translation here, iPhone OS v2.2 to be released on 21 November!, at iPhonehellas.gr.  

Some of the other features of the iPhone OS v2.2 are:

 

  • New look for the Safari with the Google search bar now occupying its own space on the title bar (iPhone v2.2 beta1)
  • Add toggle On / Off to disable the auto-correction (iPhone v2.2 beta1).
  • 461 Japanese emoji icons (iPhone v2.2 beta1).
  • Support for new languages.
  • The Line-in audio is activated and can be used through the headphone jack.
  • New features of Maps.app:
    • Google Street View (iPhone v2.2 beta1).
    • Google Transit information – Routes public transport (iPhone v2.2 beta2).
    • Walking directions (iPhone v2.2 beta2).
    • Location sharing.
  • New features of the App Store:
    • The sector ‘Categories’ now shows the icons of the applications instead of the list.
    • In each page of the application has been added by a button ‘Tell A Friend’ & ‘Report A Problem’.
    • Added the possibility of scoring the application when the user chooses to delete from the device (iPhone v2.2 beta2).
  • Added the possibility for direct downloading of podcasts from the iTunes Wi-Fi Music Store (iPhone v2.2 beta2).

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CSS3 Layout Structure

Monday, November 10th, 2008 | Business | No Comments

Looking over a few articles, I ended up on CSS Advanced Layout Module, a Working Draft for CSS3 on w3.org.

We’ve covered some changes to HTML/CSS parsing in IE8 that will make some standard web layouts much simpler to represent in CSS, CSS in IE8 will support “tables”, fixes problems in CSS.

The new document addresses, in a different method, the problem of laying out tables as most websites are built.

Again, standard CSS makes it difficult to allow text to push the template in the proper directions.  Pushing itself is fine, however the way the rest of the template adjusts to the content — normally doesn’t react as a end user would expect.

The new document details a way to dictate display in a template.

The first interesting point is the document proposes a way to define the rows in a display.  The example provided defines a container, DL, which has a display of “ab” “cd” (in that order).  This means that cell A is top left, B is top right, C is bottom left, and D is bottom right.  This makes life so much easier.  To follow, the elements inside DL are defined as, for example, “#sym1 { position: a}” and “#lab1 { position: b}”.  Suddenly tables are much easier to work with.

Secondly, this opens up functionality the draft has addressed.  The ability to change the display to move the document from 3 columns, to 1 column / 3 rows.  By defining “@media all and {max-width: 500px}” the draft identifies the ability to change the “ab” “cd” to “a” “b” “c” “d”.  Adjusting for a mobile browser, or other alternative browsers (maybe iframes friendly?).

Additional concepts addressed in the draft:

  1. Overlapping divs with the earlier display methodology
  2. Table like declarations of width, wrapping, etc
Lets hope this gets passed and incorporated (or just incorporated into a browser, as browsers seem to be slightly ahead of w3.org in terms of accepting drafts).

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AS2 vs AS3 when it comes to classes and packages

Friday, November 7th, 2008 | Business | No Comments

I’m doing some research into what other people use as their desired AS3 package/class structure.  

In reading a handful of articles and reviewing some code, I ran into the following post:

Moving From Flash AS2 To Flash AS3: Packages on 8-bit Rocket

Quick Summary: 

  • AS2 has a flexible approach to packages
  • AS2 package names are more closely associated with the location of the FLA
  • AS3 requires full use of packages if you want to use classes or objects
  • AS3 requires the use of “public” as a definition of scope
Check out the article — it has some good examples of building out an example package and class structure.  It’s a bit basic, but it’s done well.

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iPhone 2.2 Screenshots, Podcast Updates, and Tethering

Friday, November 7th, 2008 | Business | No Comments

Some new news has been uncovered.  In a post on AppleInsider.com, Sam Oliver writes about the new iPhone 2.2 screenshots.  

 

The screenshots (shown above) show a new podcast interface to the iTunes store. Additional changes (reported a while ago) include modifications to the categories screen.  The new screen includes larger icons.  Personally, I prefer having the one line, shorter height categories.  You can fit more on the screen.  

As far as tethering on the iPhone — my bones tell me that AT&T is conjuring up another fictional fee to place on the functionality.  When will the time end that we have to pay a company to stop blocking functionality?

Reported in AT&T: Tethering Coming to the iPhone Soon, on Technologizer — the AT&T Mobility President and CEO Ralph De La Vega just told an interviewer, Michael Arrington, that AT&T is working with Apple to let the iPhone server as a tethered wireless modem for laptops.

This disgusts me.  

First of all, there was an app already out there that let us do this.  Apple removed it.  

Second — aren’t we already paying through the nose for our iPhone?  I’m paying AT&T an additional $30 a month, just to use the iPhone.  

If you’re willing, jailbreak your phone, and install PdaNet for iPhone.  

Hey — AT&T — if you don’t want us jailbreaking the phone, try not to eliminate functionality, spend 3.5 months recreating it, and then charging us for it.

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Science of Candle Wicks

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008 | Personal | No Comments

An intelligent, but strangely “scientificky” looking man explains the interesting points of candles.  

I know!  I didn’t think there was anything interesting really about candles.  I mean, I enjoy playing with them — but this guy takes it to a new level.

Some really cool things in this video.  However, I still haven’t figured out why he has that other candle.  For his own personal entertainment?  

Consider this a halloween themed “distraction” as it probably has no relation to HTML (unless you’re coding at night, by candlelight — if so you must be having one tought time debugging):

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