Busyness is a virtue…

Rather than business is a virtue, which it most certainly is not. I’m ridiculusly busy at the moment, and with the added bonus of a mind that won’t wake up until 3pm, then wants to go back to sleep at 6pm, I’m not getting much done. Isn’t this the way it always is – the busier I am the less motivated I feel.

However I did just Aquafy my desktop, which is pretty cool. The only complaint so far is that multiple windows are hard to scan because of the lack of border distinction between them. But still it makes me feel superior to lock my computer and see a “Mac OS X Version 10” window waiting there for me when I get back. A smooth GUI is a pleasure to look at, even if the OS engine underneath is still dirty old Windows.

Big Web Five, No. 4: Server-side scripting (Part A)…

Right, bear with me, this is going to take some time. As the highlight, some would say pinnacle, of my discussions about web technology I am going to talk about server-side scripting. For several reasons: firstly is is generally not much talked about when discussing web design (especially standards-based design and accessibility), secondly it’s much more easy to get to grips with that people assume, thirdly I believe that in server-side scripting lies much of the potential power of web applications.

The fact that server-side scripting, whether classic ASP using VBScript or PHP, is what I do all day may also have something to do with it.

As I’ve hinted through the other articles about this subject, server-side scripting – because it happens on the server, surprise, surprise – can be used to generate each of the three “output” technologies; HTML, CSS and JavaScript. And so that’s what I’d like to demonstrate, through the use of various functions I’ve written which utilise the power of server-side scripting to powerfully create, modify and interact with client-side technologies.

First in the list: Aire – automatic image replacement engine. This function uses PHP to create image(s) based on various parameters requested by the script, and creates the HTML and CSS required to show those images. Take a look at the article and the demo for more details.

Second on the list: some PHP/JavaScript functions I’ve written to simplify the use of AJAX-style DOM scripting techniques. That sounds incredibly complex, and I’m yet to come up with a name for it, but it will very adequately show another way to use the power of server-side scripting. Hopefully that will be available in the next day or so, watch this space…

Jaw on the floor…

Every now and then something comes along that stuns me into silent, awestruck joy. It happened the day I got my first drum kit, several times with my children, and most recently when Katharine agreed to become my wife. Happy days.

Well, the discovery today isn’t as good as all that, but for a piece of software it’s pretty darned impressive. The chaps at Google have gone and done it again, creating this masterpiece of software, that links to the Google Maps system to provide 3D views of the entire world. At the moment the images of anywhere outside North America are of quite low quality, and the 3D buildings feature only works for selected cities, but I’m sure they’ll have that sorted soon.

So, download and have a play. You’ll be impressed. A couple of warnings first – the download is 10Mb, and if you don’t have a reasonably new computer or a broadband internet connection you’ll be struggling to run it.

K.I.S.S….

While browsing through my list of feeds I read this article by John Oxton at Joshuaink which laments how the microformats site is, well, too technical. As I discovered a few years ago when first looking into XML, the basic idea is very simple but some people tend to overcomplicate it.

As John says, getting to the heart of the matter is the important bit. That’s when technology starts to make sense, where complex theory is replaced with simple ideas, where it starts to become second-nature. Maybe I’m just a simple kinda-guy, but if great people like John have the same problems then perhaps that isn’t such a bad thing.

Out and about (13:34 pm)…

Spending any time in a garage makes one realise how unmasculine being a computer nerd is. First against the wall come the revolution, that’s me. Oh well.