Welcome to the world of .net…

Now, you might not be able to see this (in fact I know you can’t) but I’m writing this in a little windows application I’ve written in .net using the marvellous SharpDevelop, a free IDE for .net. Thanks to the marvellous M@ I got this done in a little over an hour, and I’m really pleased with it.

It’s pretty simple, it just takes a subject line and the content of a post and throws it at the Wiblog system. If it sticks, you get a nice message. If it falls off and onto the floor you get not such a nice message. But it may simplify posting little things from people’s desktops. At least, that’s what I wrote it for. So, if you’re a Wiblog user, you can download it. Full instructions will be appearing soon.

So, who knows what I’ll do next!

What people want…

It’s easy to get into a rut with web development of trying to do the same old things again, but in a better way. Let’s take out old GCI programs and rewrite them in PHP. Let’s take our old MS Access database e-commerce system and upgrade it to SQL Server. Let’s make a version of Word that works in a browser.

However, as Paul reminds us, a lot of people want something new. And when it comes to web apps there’s a whole world of possibilities that have been opened to us developers which just wasn’t possible with traditional desktop apps.

What I really want from Ajax apps is for them to do stuff that it?s too hard to do with binary apps. I want them to be sensibly integrated with online resources; I want them to support realtime collaboration. I want them to do different stuff from Word/Excel/Powerpoint, not just do the same thing with a different engine under the hood.

So, what can we do? What does the web do that people might want better access to? What online data might they want linking together? What web apps could help people be more productive? Where might they want a simpler way of doing business online? These questions are the ones that will need answering to push this web 2.0 thing forward.

Update: Particletree shows how the future really looks

Too busy to blog…

I really am busy at the moment. My to-do list is looking more like a will-never-complete list. Gah.

Encoding numbers the Geek Times way…

Working from home has it’s good and bad points. Good points: music, food, comfortable surroundings. Bad points: distractions, the huge list of jobs la inamorata has left me to do while I’m here. Perhaps she doesn’t quite get the “working” bit in “working from home”!

But I have at least come up with a slightly different way of encoding a number. Let’s say, for example, you have a number you want to save in a secure form. Normal encryption/decryption techniques are all very well, but most of the famous ones (Blowfish, AES, MD5 etc) can be hacked. What we need is something new and fresh.

Anyway, this is what I came up with late on Thursday night.

Step 1:

Take your number, in our example “1234” and pad it to a silly length with zeroes:

1234 -> 0000001234

Step 2:

Make up a random array of numbers; the array should have the same number of elements as the string we’ve just created above (in our example 10):


That will be our “key”.

Step 3:

Split up your first string into individual characters, and between each character place a random string of numbers the same length as the corresponding item in the key array. I know that’s complex, so I’ll demonstrate:

Start loop x

Get string character x
Get array element x

Output = string(x) then (array(x) random numbers)

If you’re still scratching your head over this, here’s a couple of little functions I whipped up to do the whole lot:

function randomise($length){
$return = "";
for($i=0; $i $return .= mt_rand(0,9);
return $return;

function encodeNumber($number){
for ($i=strlen($number); $i $userid = "0".$number;
$encid = randomise(42).substr($number,0,1);
$encid .= randomise(94).substr($number,1,1);
$encid .= randomise(76).substr($number,2,1);
$encid .= randomise(1).substr($number,3,1);
$encid .= randomise(24).substr($number,4,1);
$encid .= randomise(85).substr($number,5,1);
$encid .= randomise(43).substr($number,6,1);
$encid .= randomise(67).substr($number,7,1);
$encid .= randomise(54).substr($number,8,1);
$encid .= randomise(55).substr($number,9,1);
return $encid;

What you’d end up with is a seemingly random string of numbers. Neat, eh? Then all you need is a bit of string maniuplation based around the values of your key array to get the original numbers back. It may not be the most secure system, but for a quick and simple encoding mechanism I’m quite happy with it.

The write stuff…

Fonts, it would appear, are all the rage again. Dave Shea is taking back Times New Roman, and I have to admit he does make that font look cool. But then again, he is a first-rate designer.

But after finding links to these very helpful pages: Windows font survey, Mac font survey, Unix/Linux font survey I though that maybe now is the time to break out of the age-old Times/Arial/Verdana/Courier limitations on the web.

The combined results are interesting too, for example the Impact font has over 85% occurrence rate on both Windows and Mac, yet I rarely see it on a page. Perhaps it’s just not suitable for most design.

Anyway, I’ve been toying with the idea of redesigning my website (if I ever get time), and typography may well form a large part of the design.