Microsoft’s Internet Explorer is the dominant web browser out there. There’s no denying it. However, it would appear that its grip on the top spot is slowly – but surely – loosening.

Reviewing the site stats over the last two months (well, 43 days to be exact), there has been a fairly substantial increase in the number of unique visitors using Mozilla. In the first few weeks of the stats, Mozilla (and Firebird – the stats don’t differentiate) accounted for around about 12% of all site visitors. IE6 had approximately 78%, with the rest mostly going to IE5.x/Win, IE5.x/Mac and various minor versions of Opera 7.x.

However, looking at the stats tonight shows the Mozilla browsers at 18.67% – a 6% increase! IE6 is down to 71.89%. A surprise new entry is Netcaptor, which grabbed 3rd place with 2.36% of visitors using it. The rest of the top ten is still IE5.x and Opera 7.x fighting it out.

Just goes to show that IE isn’t the only browser you should consider, when you design web sites. There’s a significant number of users out there that have started using (the far better) alternatives. After all, if my stats are any indication of the web at large, that would mean that an IE only site cuts out a potential 30% of visitors. How can anyone justify a number like that..?

I’ve finally taken my first steps with ASP.NET. I’ve only done some basic research and examples and all I can say, is that it’s one f*cking powerful choice for developing web applications… It’s so far ahead of vanilla ASP that it’s terrifying. It’s great being able to use another computationally complete language. ASP.NET is so much faster as well.

Shame that it costs a lot to actually roll out anywhere. Your average Windows Server license doesn’t come cheap and IIS is pretty much the only way web server that works. Neither are most of the tools cheap. Naturally, the ideal way to develop with .NET is with Visual .NET Studio (megabucks) and use SQL Server (again, megabucks) as the backend.

However, there is an alternative. Actually, there’s 2 – but I can’t get Dreamweaver MX to connect to any databases when coding .NET pages, so I’m discounting that. Besides, the code it generates looks a bit bloated. So ignoring DW MX, the alternative is The Web Matrix Project.

Web Matrix is free. Despite this, it comes from Microsoft. Despite coming from Microsoft, it’s actually a well thought out and rather good program. It’s sorta like FrontPage for .NET (don’t let that put you off!!). It features WYSIWYG design view – which I must say that I’ve never used – that allows you to drag and drop server controls into your page. It also offers code views so you can type everything in directly. What’s really nifty, is that it has 2 code views – one for coding the (X)HTML and the other that displays only the server side code. It also comes with a compact personal web server so that you can test stuff locally without shelling out for a Win Server. All in all, it’s a dream for those of us that are cheapskates!

So that’s the coding environment sorted out, but what about the backend? Well, you could use XML, which is treated exactly like any other database. However, I dunno anything about using XML with .NET at the moment, so I’ll skip that. So what’s left? Well, Access is the one that most will tell you to use. But I hate using Access. It comes from having to use it at work. So I went down a route that some said was impossible, and others said was difficult. I say pfft to them, cos it was a piece of pish. So what am I using for my .NET backend? MySQL over OLEDB.

Putting a Microsoft programming technology alongside an open source database solution doesn’t quite sit right in the brain. But it works, and works really well I might add. What’s more, because of the nature of OLEDB in .NET, I can pretty much use any database by only changing the connection string.

So now that I have my development environment, I guess it’s time to actually delve deeper into the murky depths… I guess that’s my project for the holidays sorted then.

Internet Explorer is not known for it’s strict adherence to web standards. However, recently it’s been acting even stranger than normal.

For example, font keywords are completely screwed up. IE6 should act the same as Firebird in this area. However, no matter what I try, IE on my machine will not adhere to anything other than font-size: small or larger.

The box model is even more broken than normal as well. Weird margins keep cropping up all over the place, which is a nightmare when trying to write new e107 themes!

It’s only just started recently, so I’ll maybe spend some time investigating whether it’s the latest IE security patch that’s caused it…

Bit of a long one tonight…

I’ve been thinking a lot over the last couple of days about the site and the systems behind it. Mainly due to the lack of net access.

E107 is a great CMS – it’s fast, reliable, got a great community, pretty secure, easy to extend… but it’s grown into a system that no longer really works for personal sites. Sure, you can use the news section as a blog, but it just feels wrong, somehow. That’s why I moved on to the blogging tools for a while. Nucleus first, then MovableType.
MovableType is a great blog system – it’s pretty fast, reliable, customizable, got a tonne of features (I could not maintain this site without the XMLRPC interface), a large community… But it didn’t provide everything I wanted for the site. Plus, I could only get it installed in a subdirectory, which meant a splash page of some sorts – not something I often like.

So that led me to write MT107, the simple set of scripts that I use to interface the two systems. It’s far from ideal at it. For a start, it has no provisions for comments or trackbacks. It also has to be set up just right or the page formatting will be all to heck. Templates have to be changed and so on and so forth.

Thinking it over, I broke down the reasons why I wanted to interface the two systems.

  1. I wanted to keep my existing posts when I re-implimented e107
  2. I love using w.Bloggar to write new entries. I reckon I wouldn’t update the site if I had to log into an admin area all the time.
  3. I liked the formatted text (proper paragraphs, etc) that MT gives you, over e107’s simple parsing
  4. I wanted to stay within the “Blog Set”. That means I wanted to keep using a blogging tool to maintain a blog. Not a news system.

At first this was fine. By “at first”, I mean during the 6 weeks between development of the site starting and this week. But now I realise that I miss certain things about past blogging tools. I miss the “fancy URL’s” feature of Nucleus. I miss being able to have comments. I miss (proper) permalinks. I’m even half considering wanting to use trackbacks.

All the above, I could find a way to do in MT107. But it’d be fiddly and it would mean limiting myself and anyone who uses MT107 to having to set things up “a certain way” for them to work. I don’t want that. In the end I decided that what I want is a blog system that:

  1. Uses XMLRPC, so I can post from w.bloggar;
  2. Integrates with e107 (as a plugin);
  3. Allows comments;
  4. Can use “fancy URL’s”;
  5. Has permalinks (on a per entry basis)
  6. will let me export my existing posts to without data loss
  7. Otherwise works like MT

Guess that’s a tall order. Guess what? I can’t see anything out there that does what I want. Guess what that means? Possibly another coding project. Or maybe I should give it a rest and just be happy with what I have…

Nearly a week without an update… well, you can blame my router for that one. Let me tell the story.

About 2 weeks ago, I ordered a nice upgrade to my ADSL. A 1Mbps line – very sweet 😉 . Anyway, it took a week for the order to be processed and the regrade carried out on the server.

During the night before the new line was supposed to come online, I lost all net connection (tho I didn’t find out until the following morning). Being the not-too-fussed sorta chap that I am, I merely let this slide as part of the upgrade process. So I went to work, expecting to come back to super-fast download speeds. Uh-huh. Still no connection. My ISP’s support line closes at 5. I get home from work at 5.10. Bugger.

So anyway, the next day, I phone them up and explain what I know – that I was due to be regraded and that the line stopped working 2 nights ago and I’ve had no ADSL since. The support monkey on the end of the line reckons that BT haven’t finished the regrade properly, but as it’s a weekend, there’s nothing he can do. So no net access all weekend either.

Monday rolls by, along with another call to tech support. BT then go check my line, clear a fault and report back to my ISP. As I have no net access, I do not find this out till the next morning. So again, I go home and expect super-fast downloads. Again, uh-huh. Sigh. I try everything – resetting the router, swapping cables… basically everything I could think of.

So today, another call went in. This time a BT engineer came by my flat to check everything from my end. He was able to get connected using his own laptop and modem. So again, I come home and try absolutely everything I could think of, to get the router to connect. Still no joy. So one quick trip to PC World later and I’m back at the flat with a USB ADSL modem. Shock horror, it works first time. The jump between 512Kbps and 1Mpbs is amazing.
So my router is bust. With it goes my wireless and my network. It’s only 2 months old as well. Methinks tech support will be giving me an RMA so I can return it and get another…

On the bright side, at least now I have a chance to sort through the 180 e-mails that were waiting for me…

A few articles I’ve found interesting, on this dull Monday morning, collected by FeedDemon:

Joe Average User Is In Trouble
Nice opinion piece on security vs. the average computer user.
Friday Feast #63: Information Architecture, Standards, Best Practices
Takes a look at a new interview with Jeffrey Zeldman, A List Apart’s new site design, and user-friendly approaches to website information architecture.
Sliding Doors of CSS
Great little article on a technique that could make CSS driven pages even more attractive

After a week and a half of waiting, my new Transformers Binaltech Smokescreen arrived in the post today 😀

In case you’re wondering what that is, it’s a 1:24 scale series of Transformers that are replicas of real life cars – just like the originals. Smokescreen, for example, is a perfect replica of Tommi Makinens’ WRC Subaru Impreza, right down to the sponsors logos.

The Binaltech line also features such niceties as die-cast parts and masses of articulation.

I’ll post some photos once the gallery is up and running. This really is one cool toy!

A few days late with this one, but hey-ho…

The Mozilla Foundation released new milestones of three of its open source applications.

The Mozilla Suite – which contains an advanced, fast and robust web browser, a simple WYSIWYG HTML tool and a secure mail client is now up to version 1.5.

Thunderbird, is a development of the mail client that comes with the Mozilla Suite. It contains many advanced features, such as intuitive anti-spam controls and is far more secure against viruses, worms and other such risks than Outlook Express. Thunderbird has now reached version 0.3.

Firebird, is a development of the web browser found in the Mzilla suite. It is fast, robust and contains many highly useful and advanced features such as find-as-you-type (find links and text on a page, simply by typing. No fiddling with menu items), tabbed browsing and extensibility in the form of extensions. Firebird also offers a high degree of standards compliance.

I like Mozilla stuff. Firebird is my default browser and Thunderbird is my mail client. Both are highly capable (and, I reckon, far better) alternatives to Internet Explorer and Outlook Express. Go download now, you won’t regret it!

The RIAA is sueing a 12 year old girl, for “massive copyright infringements through file-swapping”. Under legislation, this could mean her paying “damages” of upto $150,000 per song.

Just when you thought they could go now lower, they pull this one… I hope they get seriously nailed to the wall for it. Surely it can’t be long now before they get investigated by the feds, for what they’re doing?

Either that, or people should wake up and Boycott the RIAA.

…and my home-rolled Linux build is still building…

Compiled the kernel OK (I think), now I just gotta do the graphical UI stuff. I think I may have borked this bit :S

Looks like it’s gonna be another nigth with the machine running while I try to get to sleep over the noise the fan makes…

Bah.

Italian hackers are trying to hack into my works’ servers…
Apparently they’ve been at it for a week now (I guess that’s a good sign?). Unfortunately, all their scanning and probing, etc, means that our bandwidth for getting in/out on the net is virtually non-existant.

Bastards. :S

We’ve notified our ISP, but apparently there’s very little that can be done… Which sucks ass.

Can someone explain to me, what the point in it all is? At most, they’re gonna get a few project reports. Nothing that can make them money. Nothing that will make them infamous or l33t.

Bah. Probably nothing more than a bunch of fscking script-kiddies…

What’s up wit’ dat? 🙂

Another thing that I forgot to mention, that I actually meant to post last night (but w.bloggar was playing up on my desktop) – found a kickass program for doing CG (Computer Generated) artwork.

OpenCanvas (http://www.portalgraphics.net) combines some really wonderful natural media type brushes, with some basic photoshop functionality (layers, et al). This may not sound very different to, Painter, for example… well that’s cos it isn’t. However, I found Painter quite hard to get to grips with and hard to understand. Plus, it costs a bomb. OpenCanvas may not have as many options or features, but it’s simple, fast (takes up next to no space), intuitive and above all, it’s cheap. If you hunt around, you can still find the v1.1 release, which is free. Current official version is 2.24e. Interesting features include network co-operative work (multiple people can work on a piece at the same time) and the ability to record your progress for later playback. Handy for creating tutorails, etc.

So if you like CGing and were looking for a tool to add that natural look that you were after, give it a try 🙂

(I sound like a salesman…)

A few days ago, version 0.2 of Mozilla Thunderbird (http://www.mozilla.org/products/thunderbird/) was released to the public.

It’s miles faster, takes up less space (physical + RAM) and has a few new features and visual tweaks.

I use it and I highly recommend it! The junk mail filters alone make it miles beyond any other mail software I’ve used!

House move went a-ok, I am happy to report.

Got my ADSL activated on Thursday. Took a bit of configuring, but I got the wireless bit working as sweet as, as they say. Surfing the net from a comfy seat in the living room is so much better than at a hard desk…

The only problem is that I’m stuck to find things to download! All this bandwidth and nothing to take it up!

BTW, thanks to Onelotus Creative for the return link. Much appreciated 🙂

Other links for today:

Shit like this pisses me off. For some reason, a minority of people on the Internet (and in real life too) feel the need to try and destroy the work of other people for one reason or another. Some because they’re bored, some because they’re actually malicious, some just to seek attention or see people’s reactions. I cannot understand why though.

Everyday, good people take time out of their day to provide – or help provide – something useful for others. They take time out from hobby or leisure time. They take time out that they could spend with families or loved ones. Usually for no reward other than the knowledge that they’ve given something that others need or find useful. All to have some scum-sucking maggot destroy it without a thought to the consequences.

It’s surely heart-breaking to endure and I find it heart breaking to watch. Especially when it’s something that I’ve been a part of.

I’ve been involved in the e107 community almost since it started. I’ve watched it grow from little more than a news publishing system, to a full-grown content management system. I’ve taken time to write plugins for it, provide feedback on each release, suggested ideas for development, made themes for it… So have countless others. I’m sure each and every one of us who has contributed to e107 must feel as though the people who have been causing problems have stuck two fingers up at all our work. However, I don’t think any feeling we have about the subject could come close to what Jalist – the father of e107 – could be feeling.

As his post says, he gets no material reward for all his efforts. Until recently, he has written pretty much everything in the core of e107 on his own. He has taken time away from his children to provide a tool for others. All the while, he has never wanted to compete with anyone and has pointed people to other systems if he feels they will benefit from them more than his own system. Yet someone has still taken all that. All the hard work, the time given, the help proved… and done the virtual equivalent of wiping their arse with it.

Well I hope it blocks their toilet.

Just for the sake of it, I’ve started work on a semantically correct, CSS/XHTML strict compliant forum script.

At the moment, it’s going to be as simple as possible, so I can get the basics done properly.

The main idea is to structure it using unordered lists. In my head, this is the correct way that a discussion list should be structured… Not the nested tables that are normally used.
Initially, it’ll be a threaded discussion style forum, but it shouldn’t be too hard to code it so it can be that or the other way of laying it out (I forget what that method is called).

It’ll probably end up using PHP/MySQL as the backend, mainly because I know enough of these two to code it quickly.
Maybe one day, I’ll progress it to PHP/XML.

Should hopefully have a few test pages up in the next few days…