Another giant: cocoate.com

A final thank you (not really belated, I found them after the previous post) to cocoate.com

A flaw in my HTML mark-up was causing some screen elements to misalign on a few devices. Nothing really serious, it was just that the third column on the people page dropped on some of the less popular browsers.

cocoate's explanation of the 960-grid mechanisms was wonderfully clear.

Thank you folks. Or should I say "Merci bien mes amis"?

Advertisements

Thanks to the giants upon whose shoulders I stood

Once upon a time (1966 was the first time), I'd learn a programming language and then apply this knowledge to whatever problems were chucked my way. As I've got older, I decide what I want, then go online for help in doing it. Okay, it doesn't make me a professional coder but I learn plenty along the way and end up with a website that I'm in charge of and can change at the drop of a hat.

Without Google and the World Wide Web, Lord knows what I'd have done. But, thanks to them and all the places they led me to, I have a site which, while falling short of elegant, does what I want. More importantly, I hope it gives its visitors an enjoyable and useful experience.

This post isn't about the website, although you may need to know that it's epocselet.com in order to understand some of the comments below. This post is about recognition of all those people and places I discovered on my journey. Without their help, I would still be trying to learn JavaScript or PHP from scratch.

Here they are, in order of the number of hits I recorded in my Firefox History file. First the top ten (the first three were on tap continuously):

Hits

??? Microsoft ExpressionWeb4 was an invaluable website development environment.

??? W3C's Markup Validation Service. As the name suggests, it checks the validity of web pages.

??? Firefox Web Developer tools – especially Web console and Debugger.

230 stackoverflow A marvellous forum which covered pretty much everything, including PHP, JavaScript, HTML5 canvas and colour drop-down menus.

131 w3schools.com An online reference manual which I referred to for JavaScript, HTML5 Canvas, HTML colours, JS programming tips/demos and string parsing.

101 JQuery Radar Plus Mehdi Tazi adapted Ryan Allred's Radar Chart. I adapted Mehdi's. Figuring out how it worked was like solving a giant puzzle.

 55 The PHP Manual and source of everything.

 51 Radar Chart JQuery Plugin Ryan Allred's original code.

 29 Plusnet's 'friendly' area. I used it for CGI and PHP hosting stuff.

 28 SitePoint is a great source of web-building help. I used it for Canvas, HTML5. PHP, JavaScript, Radio button array and 960 grid stuff.

 

Now for the rest of the top 20. They may be lower in hit count but they were no less valuable – a single hit would often point me in the right direction:

19 Mario Lurig's PHP code checker came in handy when the PHP would stall.

 7 Maths Is Fun took me back to schooldays to remind me about radians, sines and cosine. I could remember 'sohcahtoa' but couldn't remember what practical use to put it to.

 6 tuts+ explained the 960 grid system, but also explained other things, including HTML Forms.

 5 The jquery learning center does what it says on the tin. I used it as a reference for scopes, arrays and operators.

 5 960 grid system. I found the 960 24 grid system perfect for laying out the web pages (and, often, changing them quickly.)

 4 A simple guide to HTML came in handy for checking how to include JavaScript in HTML.

 4 Six Revisions is a website hints and tips site. I used it to read about the 960-grid-system and HTML5's canvas (on which the charts appear).

 4 Chris Pietschmann kindly explained how to colour dropdown items in an HTML form.

 3 Chris Wiegman showed how to dig out the correct IP address for a visitor. (If you're with a hosting organisation, you're still fairly anonymous though.)

 2 Home & Learn helped me a lot with understanding how to work with the HTML5 canvas.

 

Other honourable mentions should go to:

Google Analytics – which keeps an eye on visitor behaviour.

The many people who looked and commented as we went through. I guess some would prefer not to be named, but you'll know if you were one of them. A big thank you to you. I learnt something new from every single discussion.

Finally, my partners in crime Dr. Bill Nichols and Martin Banks.

It's been a blast. It made me remember why I loved programming. But also taught me that I could never make a living at it these days.

Thank you all for five very interesting months.

A quickie on Python

Python logoCall me mad, but I've been learning the Python programming language.I needed a quick way to modernise masses of old HTML documents.

In the end, I decided it was quicker to use TextPad's powerful facilities to do that job, rather than learn a new language to do it. However, by then I had seen that Python would be a great way to write a pilot of a new program.

Thinking that I should get the newest and shiniest version, I installed 3.4 and, with the help of the online Python Tutorial and Michael Dawson's Python Programming book, started to crank out some useful little programs.

All very well, but then I realised that I could shortcut a lot of tedious work by using some cloud-based information but discovered from programmers and the cloud host's technical info' that they still prefer Python version 2. Grrrr.

Moral: do a bit more digging before taking the plunge. Version 3 may be the future, but version 2 is definitely the present as far as integration is concerned.

I'm now mugging up on the differences between 3 and 2. Oh well.

From the personal computer to the web: a searchable archive

Phew! That was hard work. I've tarted up the HTML of 263 of my columns and features written in the pre-web days (1979 to 1995). They should all be readable in any browser on any device.

The archive is searchable, so if you're into nostalgia or research, you can  check out my take on just about anything personal computer (including Mac) related from those years. It's a mix of opinion, reviews and feature articles written for a mix of consumer and business publications.

I must have been doing something right because my writing was put up for eight awards, I was a finalist for all eight and won the Times/Hewlett Packard Technology Columnist of the Year three years running. (I was then banned from re-entry.)

Apologies for any remaining typos. The articles were scanned and some words got mangled. I've fixed them where I've spotted them.

Have fun (or not).

http://www.tebbo.com/archive/

Silo (or Solo) – Collaboration – Social

I've lost count of how many years I've been dipping my toe into the collaboration waters. Certainly, it goes back at least to Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) thirty years ago. By 1988 this was formalised into a time/space grid, so that you had remote/colocated on one axis and synchronous/asynchronous on the other. Not a bad way to characterise many of the collaboration and social tools that abound today.

I mention all this because Agile Elephant's David Terrar invited me to a Future of Collaboration Conference triggered, in part, by the opportunities created by the convergence of cloud, social and mobile technologies. (To my mind, this equates to a transformation in reach and convenience.) Each speaker had ten minutes or so to share their vision. This was followed by a Q&A session and networking. The audience was also made up of industry people, so I expected the bullshit factor to be low. And it was.

Given my background, I wondered what I would learn. Let me list the participants and their roles, and then I'll tell you what I ended up thinking. I'll spare you the blow-by-blow details.

David Terrar chaired the event.

Speakers:

Jon Mell, Social Leader, IBM UK
Alan Patrick, Agile Elephant
David Moore, SAP
Simon Levene, Jive
Janet Parkinson, Agile Elephant
Chris Boorman, Huddle

Questioners (apart from David Terrar and me):

Phil Wainewright, Diginomica
Lucinda Carney, AdvanceChange

Baker Tilly, chartered accountants and business advisers, provided the accommodation and refreshments. (Lovely, thank you).

The first thing I noticed was the lack of evangelism, thank goodness. Quite often you turn up at these events and they're more like a religious revival meeting than a pragmatic look at business needs and applications. Okay – one chap said work should be fun, but he got a slight ribbing for that from some of the others. Work could become pleasant, fulfilling or rewarding maybe, but not fun. God forbid. (Mind you I quite often have fun when running training workshops, so I have some sympathy with his point of view.)

While 'email' and 'social' can be good in the right context, neither is much cop as a sole collaboration strategy. In fact two people branded email 'the enemy' of collaboration and another branded social on its own as 'a waste of time'.

Previous events have banged on about the need to change a company's culture or boasted of coming 'disruption'. Utterly unhelpful. This isn't how stuff gets done. Far better to introduce collaboration tools which fit business needs and, if possible, integrate it with what exists. Do this in a few key areas (with board level support, of course) and things start to catch on as others see (or are told about) the business benefits of these new ways of working.

Social – people communicating openly and freely (with business intent, of course) – isn't going to happen without trust and that doesn't come without knowing each other (usually through at least one face-to-face meeting, but relationships can form through voice, video and even, dare I say, email).

As collaboration, then social, activity spreads vertically and horizontally through an organisation, culture change will follow. When it extends beyond the company boundaries to partners and customers, it will alter the way the organisation listens, responds and collaborates. Silos will be breached and individuals will become more aligned and harmonised with business drivers.

Everyone – the company, the workforce, partners, customers and prospects will benefit. That's the promise. And it sounds good to me.

And now I'd better go, before I'm accused of being an evangelist.

Need to search for content in non-standard files?

Thanks to Dick Pountain for reminding me that the bleedin' obvious isn't always.

I was groping around for a desktop search program that could look into any file, not just some standard list of extensions such as those handled by Microsoft's search. I looked at loads of programs and even downloaded a few but none did what I really wanted: to index a bunch of largely text files with the .brn suffix. In fact I didn't even need them indexed as long as I could search inside them reasonably quickly. 

TpAs a web developer and occasional programmer of many years' standing, I'd been using TextPad as my editor of choice. And, when I wanted to do global edits, I'd use its 'find in files' function. It just never occurred to me to use it to look inside other files. Until Dick suggested it.

Now, I set the file type to *.brn, the root of the search to 'desktop', tell it to look in sub-folders and the search to whatever I'm looking for. With regular expressions if I'm feeling flashy. Bingo.

As a paid-up user, why didn't I think of it before? So simple, so quick. Thanks Dick.

 

 

 

Eggs and baskets

Being away from here has given me a chance to focus intensely on launching a new magazine without too many distractions. We now have five issues under our belt and I have reaquainted myself with the rhythms of conventional publishing. I know where the peaks and troughs of effort lie and I can get back to a more normal and less distorted life in the troughs.

Creating, editing and writing for Blue & Green Tomorrow has been a lot of fun and a lot of hard work. And it couldn't have happened without Simon, Lori and Dominic (publisher, sub-editor and designer respectively) and, of course, our marvellous contributors. Other people take care of 'webifying' the magazine at blueandgreentomorrow.com. You can register (free) which gives you an account tab and access to digital copies of the magazine. Otherwise much of the content is publicly available under the various themed tabs.

Even through the mayhem of the launch, I've continued to do the occasional course on how to handle the media, often with my long-time partner in crime, Martin Banks. We used to call ourselves 'Press Here' but, when we both deviated out into analysis work, we sold the domain and renamed ourselves greybeards. One look at our photos will tell you why. I also run the odd writing skills workshop for business people.

And, now, here I am blogging again. Given the nature of the magazine, I suspect that I'll be blogging more about sustainability (could a word possibly sound more boring?) than about IT. But it's hard to keep me away from software. Talking of which, I now have an HTC Desire smartphone running Android, and jolly pleased I am too. That could be another running theme.

We'll see. But, as you can see from the title, I think that a deliberate spread of activities, providing I can do all of them well, will makes for a more balanced and fulfilling life than having all my eggs in one basket.

So, the last post turned out not to be The Last Post after all, just a pause while I gathered my wits.

See you again soon.

David