12.29.2005

More feeds added to the FoxBlogs tag cloud

The FoxBlogs tag cloud is now up to 42 feeds. Thanks to everyone who has asked to be added and/or referred me to other lists of VFP-related blog feeds. Also, the list of feeds on the FoxBlogs web page (below the cloud) now has links to both the XML URL and the HTML URL for each blog.

12.26.2005

FoxBlogs tag cloud updated

Thanks to feedback from several folks in the Visual FoxPro community, I've updated the FoxBlogs webpage with several more feeds that were missing from the first go-around. Also, you can now download the FoxBlogs feed list as an OMPL (Outline Processor Markup Language) file - look for the link at the bottom of the FoxBlogs page. The OPML file contains both the XML URL and the HTML URL for the feeds in the list.

12.23.2005

FoxBlogs - The Visual FoxPro Community TagCloud

I've created a new page on my website called FoxBlogs. FoxBlogs is a TagCloud that pulls together keywords from blogs across the VFP community. Tag clouds are a very cool way to view and link to what people are blogging about. Visit the new FoxBlogs page and find out what the Visual FoxPro community is blogging about!

12.19.2005

ITA Website Redesign

Just as the cobbler's kids are the last to get shoes, so the developer's website is the last to get updated. But finally, after months of playing around with it, the overhaul and redesign of my own website (www.ita-software.com) is ready for prime time.

The original site was seriously out of date, not only in appearance but in the mechanics of its design. Like most sites of its vintage (circa 1995), it used HTML tables for layout and HTML font tags for style markup. The site was entirely static, with no dynamic content at all, and there were even a couple of animated GIFs (remember when we thought those were cool?) decorating the home page.

The new site design is entirely CSS-based. Following my own advice, along the lines of the presentation I made to the Detroit Area Fox Users Group (DAFUG) earlier this year, the site redesign accomplishes these objectives:

  • Migrate from HTML to XHTML

  • Eliminate the use of deprecated HTML tags such as <font> to control style

  • Eliminate the use of HTML tables to control positioning of elements on the page

  • Separate the positioning of elements on the page (layout) from their appearance (style)

  • Separate both layout and style from page content


To that end, the site uses two CSS style sheets, one to control positioning (CSS-P) and the other to control style. The content for each page is thereby freed to reside in simple HTML pages within the appropriate <div> tag. This approach is not difficult to implement and makes the site easy to maintain because each aspect of the design -- layout, style, and content -- can be manipulated separately.

Another objective was to make it a three-column layout with a fluid center. In other words, the width of the center column, where the main content of each page resides, should shrink and expand with the browser window while the left and right columns retain their width. This is accomplished through the use of CSS positioning. There are many resources that describe this technique, both in books and online, and I am indebted to several of them for this and other ideas behind my own site's design. In particular, the following books were very helpful:

DHTML and CSS for the World Wide Web, 3rd edition, by Jason Cranford Teague
HTML & XHTML The Definitive Guide, 5th edition, by Musciano & Kennedy
Designing with Web Standards, by Jeffrey Zeldman
Stylin' with CSS, A Designer's Guide, by Charles Wyke-Smith

The new site also has an XML-driven dynamic news feed, which appears at the bottom of the right column on each page. The news headlines in the right column point to a news page, which in turn draws content from an XML feed with full descriptions for each news item and other information in addition to the headlines. In future this may become a true RSS feed, but right now it's kind of a hybrid that suits my particular purpose. Other improvements in the news feed will also be forthcoming as I get around to them.

Finally, cross-browser compatibility remains both an elusive objective and an ongoing challenge for all web designers. My new site design has been tested in Internet Explorer 5.5 and 6.0, Firefox 1.5, Opera 8.51, and Safari on the Mac. As far as I know it renders as intended on all of those browsers, with the exception that IE does not respect the max-width and min-width property in the container div. I ran into a couple of other random behaviors with IE, too, which forced me to change the design a little bit to accommodate it, but that's a topic for another day.

By adhering to standards as much as possible, the site is cross-browser compatible to the extent the browsers themselves adhere to the standards. Earlier (non-released) versions of my site redesign incorporated various hacks to accommodate anomalies in specific browsers. The final design contains no hacks and lets the browsers fend for themselves. Call this lazy design if you will, but I prefer to call it forward thinking. < s >

Tech Note 1: The site now uses ASP.Net to drive the dynamic content, so the page name extensions are now .aspx instead of .htm. Because many people have bookmarked my FoxPro developers page, I've set it up so the old foxpage.htm now redirects automatically to foxpage.aspx. The redirect will remain in place indefinitely, but please update your bookmarks anyway.

Tech Note 2: This site was built largely using Dreamweaver 8, the latest release from Macromedia (now part of Adobe). I use both Dreamweaver and FrontPage, depending on the particular need and design objectives for a site. Both are good tools, but I have to say that this latest version of Dreamweaver is terrific, making it very easy to work with CSS as well as facilitating the dynamic XML content. Through 12/31 there is a special upgrade price of $399 for the entire Studio 8 bundle of products, which besides Dreamweaver includes Fireworks, Flash Professional, Contribute, and FlashPaper. See the Macromedia website for details if you're interested.

All brand names referenced herein are the property of their respective owners.

12.16.2005

Great Lakes Great Database Workshop 2006

Whil Hentzen announced today that the Great Lakes Great Database Workshop, aka Whilfest, will return in 2006. Mark your calendars for April 21-24, 2006 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. After a two-year plus hiatus, GLGDW has undergone some changes: The 2006 workshop will feature 90-minute sessions, all in one track, focused on examining "Best Practices for Visual FoxPro". Early details are available online at www.hentzenwerke.com/conferences/glgdw2006.htm. Registration information is expected to be available on Dec 20th.

CompuServe® Forum RSS Feeds

I noticed today there are RSS feeds for most if not all of the CompuServe community forums. The VFP sections of the MS Developer Applications forum are still quite active, and having the RSS feed should make it much easier to keep up with what's going on. Subscribed.

The RSS feed for the MS Dev Apps forum is feeds.feedburner.com/ws-msdevapps. A list of all the available forum feeds can be found here.

12.08.2005

VFP9 SP1 is released

Service Pack 1 for Microsoft® Visual FoxPro® 9.0 has been released and is available for download. Ken Levy's December 2005 Letter from the Editor has more information along with a link to the SP1 download page. There's also a link to the SP1 download page on the Visual FoxPro home page and on the Visual FoxPro Product Updates page. A link to the VFP9 SP1 Fix List can be found on the SP1 download page.

12.07.2005

Firefox 1.5 Extensions Compatibility - SnagIt Update

I'm not sure what changed, but the Firefox Extension for SnagIt is now compatible with Firefox 1.5. The extension's web page at www.techsmith.com/products/snagit/firefox.asp does not mention an update for Firefox 1.5, and the extension itself is still versioned as 1.0, but this morning it successfully installed and works as expected on Firefox 1.5.

12.01.2005

200K and counting (off topic)

200,000 milesNew in '92 and still going strong - no leaks, no squeaks, no squeals. The old saying was "they don't build 'em like they used to." I think now we have to say, "they didn't used to build 'em like this." Happy 200th to my '92 Caravan.

Firefox 1.5 Extensions Compatibility

I've been checking my Firefox extensions for compatibility with Firefox 1.5. Here are the early results:

Developer Extensions

DOM Inspector - compatible. The DOM Inspector tool comes with Firefox, but you need to do a custom install (on Windows, anyway) and select Developer Tools to get it. Firefox 1.5 installs DOM Inspector 1.8.

Web Developer 0.9.4 - compatible. Available from chrispederick.com/work/webdeveloper/.

View Cookies 1.5 - compatible. Available from addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?id=315.

Aardvark 1.0 - not compatible. The Aardvark home page is www.karmatics.com/aardvark/. From what I see on the mozillaZine discussion form, it's uncertain whether an update will be forthcoming from the author, but someone posting as 'ka2er' has published a hacked version that claims to be compatible with Firefox 1.5. I haven't tried the hacked version and can't comment on it one way or the other, but see the discussion thread at forums.mozillazine.org/viewtopic.php?t=329468 for more information.

General Purpose Extensions

Copy URL + 1.3.2 - compatible. Available from addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?id=129.

ChatZilla 0.9.68.5.1 - compatible. Earlier version 0.9.68a is not compatible, though, so be sure you install the latest update. Available from addons.mozilla.org/extensions/moreinfo.php?id=16.

SnagIt Firefox Extension 1.0 - not compatible. This extension is available directly from TechSmith® at www.techsmith.com/products/snagit/firefox.asp. My guess is an update for 1.5 will be available at some point, but right now I have no information one way or the other.