5 Nov 2007

new website in the making :: Sicilian Tourism

What you see here, is the very first draft of a website I´m about to create for a sicilian tourist organization:

I actually can´t and won´t reveal too many details about the project here, as it´s of course under NDA. However this project will by nature be taking a different direction than most of my usual data-centric web-based "applications" :: the focus is on embedding all sort of tourism related information in a great visual showcase of what Sicily respectively Ragusa has to offer to tourists who are eager to explore a mediterranean island that´s full of cultural/historical treasures and much more -- and a very unique breed of gentle, proud and down-to-earth folks you hardly find elsewhere. Well, I do have my reasons to be such an admirer of Sicily -- half of my family actually lives here since more than 20 years :-)

When it comes to outlining the technical side of this site´s features, it´s obvious that a custom-made CMS will have to be integrated, because my client will understandably want to administrate the multi-lingual site contents on his own.

What could possibly be of interest to anyone reading this, is the fact that the draft displayed here is *no* HTML page (yet) and wasn´t created with Dreamweaver or any other editor at all -- so how was this done ?

I did this 800 x 600 pixel - mockup with Adobe Fireworks CS3, and I have to say it´s pretty much fun to create webpage "demos" this way rather than doing everything the "HTML way" right from the start. Yes, creating a similarly designed page with e.g. Dreamweaver can be a dry experience, as in particular the rather tech-savvy web developer usually has a pretty hard time trying to turn off his usual "let´s now create a 760 px width table" reflexes -- well, at least I´m constantly falling prey to these reflexes whenever I launch DW or write some code, and this indeed blocks a very important component :: creativity !

What´s great about Fireworks CS3, is the fact that at least rather simple layouts like this one can be easily exported to Dreamweaver while generating a comparatively "valid" HTML page plus (with the help of some 3rd party extensions) CSS files which are supposed to "web-ify" the styles you assigned to various page elements in Fireworks.

Let´s see what comes next -- but I´m not that unhappy about this draft ;-)

12 Oct 2007

OT: and here´s the MANUALIST :-)

Wow, Gerry Phillips is soooo excellent and unique with his very special art :: playing melodies by squeezing air between two hands !!! Like most of you I didn´t know that this is actually an art form called "Manualism" (hand music) which could already be heard in old movies -- please see some more info on Wikipedia

Here´s my most favorite clips from YouTube. You´ll see that I decided on the (to me) most funny stuff -- mainly renditions of rock / metal tunes, because I can´t hold my pee when he´s starting to imitate the guitar solos :-)

A-HA: Take on me

Iron Maiden: The trooper

Europe: The final countdown

Trans-Siberian Orchestra: Wizards in Winter

Super Mario Bros. Theme !!

Gerry Phillips is truly a one-of-a kind artist, and there´s something I deeply admire -- he gives all those songs no quarter :-)

additional role @ Adobe :: Forums Host

I´m happy to announce that I´ve now additionally turned into a so-called "Forums Host" at the Adobe website user-to-user forums.

This is in fact just a logical step, because I happened to maintain the Adobe Dreamweaver Developer Toolbox forums (unintentionally) all on my own for several months now, so...

5 Oct 2007

Illustrator CS3 -- how sweet it works :-)

Just assisted a remote colleague with designing a Din A 4 contact form for his property exhibition.

Usually I would have done that with Corel Draw, but as I now have Adobe´s Illustrator CS3 lying around, I thought "well, let´s try with this" -- and I gotta say that (never worked with Illustrator so far) the workflow was incredibly intuitive, and Illustrator´s truly "context sensitive" Control Panel is indeed a *huge* help to quickly access & modify the selected object´s properties:

Illustrator CS3 :: Control Panel for text objects

I really appreciate when an application enables me to create decent stuff *fast* without having me read the manuals for getting even simple things done, and I have to admit that creating a similar form with the quite familiar Corel Draw would have taken me much longer.

I consider the "how do I get away with a software without even knowing it" benchmark to be a very meaningful indicator of an application´s user friendliness -- in this respect Illustrator CS3 is way cool.

Will not look back, unless I must :-)

29 Sep 2007

Autumn has come -- time to learn new stuff !

The leaves are falling from the trees en masse, and the weather gets rainy, windy and too unpleasant to pursue my usual daily cycling agenda -- it´s a season called "Autumn", and guess what, I don´t wanna slip with my bike and land flat on the ole kisser ;-)

Staying indoors is usually a little depressing, but this year it´s actually a very fine opportunity to compensate the inescapable annual "autumn blues" by keeping myself busy with hopefully reasonable stuff.

This year Kismet brought me some pretty cool things (the Adobe Community Expert nomination, plus recently the Adobe Creative Suite 3 Master Collection), and regarding the wealth of tools I now have in my hands, it´s clear what I need to deal with now:

1. learn some of the Creative Suite components like e.g. Flash

2. go more in-depth with AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript And XML) based stuff like Adobe´s SPRY framework and/or other frameworks like jQuery or Ext, which are made to perform in modern browsers and require JavaScript to be enabled -- and gaining more insight in the pro´s and con´s of building browser-based AJAX web applications vs. building "proprietary" applications using Flash respectively Flex

3. exercise myself in creating more results which actually make sense to me and others

4. very important IMHO :: see for myself how far I can go with learning without losing sight of my "core business" which is, guess what, doing websites with/without Dreamweaver and developing PHP based stuff.

I expect:

1. to get an insight in applications I never worked with so far -- I do need to know what others are referring to when ranting about stuff like "Actionscript"

2. to understand how several Creative Suite components will work together. Guess that using Firework CS3 integration with Dreamweaver CS3 to create a website prototype in the first application and pass it on to DW should be indeed interesting to learn.

3. to familiarize myself with graphics software like Fireworks, Illustrator and Photoshop without too many problems. I have been working with Corel´s applications quite intensely over the years, and many things are of course similar

4. to get a broader view of "all things web development" -- although HTML, CSS, PHP, databases and related stuff will always remain my principal "bread and butter", I can´t afford focussing on this alone.

5. to extend my own business with some more service & knowledge (of course !) -- and to add some value to my "Adobe Community Expert" status respectively the associated quality of advice I´m supposed to provide.

I don´t expect:

1. to become more than a "generalist" in some areas. The CS3 tools provide sooo many features, and the learning curve may be too steep to fully understand e.g. Flash respectively what I could do with it -- but I need to become at least a "generalist" on behalf of my clients, because how am I supposed to estimate the true expertise of an associated Flash guru, if I´m not able to understand the basics of what he´s doing or supposed to do ?

2. to become the greatest Flash animator on earth -- there are soooo many wonderful folks out there who, since years, have done immensely great stuff, and that´s an area where I´d never be able to really compete. However, the Flash CS3 data handling features, combined with my PHP skills, is something where I *want* to push myself forward.

Phew, that´s quite a self-imposed agenda until christmas, and I truly wonder if my goals can be achieved at all -- however, even if I´ll just be realizing 2/3 of all that, I *will* have learnt something essential, and this is actually what I´m after.

23 Sep 2007

Customer website was hijacked -- thank you !

What is this ?

This is the result of a database driven website been hijacked by some moron who somehow found his way into the website´s admin section, and who replaced several records in the site´s CMS (Content Management System)

At times I´m - with the respective customer´s consent of course - keeping an eye on websites I did for former clients, and that´s why I just noticed that 3 pages have been overwritten with some "Hello my name is..." crap and links to whatever porn sites.

It seems that this fellow must have detected one rather tiny loop hole (I know which one :-) in a certain CMS admin page which - by mistake - has not been "hardened" -- well, shit happens, but that´s now been fixed.

However there´s something that this fellow doesn´t know, and which might give him some headaches, should he ever be able to detect another security hole:

1. years ago when I developed this tailor-made CMS for my customer, I added a nifty self-acting "incremental backup" feature to the "update content" form:
  • on page load the record´s current content is getting loaded in some hidden form fields, and when...
  • someone clicks the "update" button, the current content gets inserted into a separate table
Very fortunately I had to add this feature to the ex-customer´s "multi-user capable" CMS at some point, because one of the staff members had to be fired for whatever reason, and before leaving the office, he (unattended of course) logged in to his CMS account and overwrote most pages with nada -- so I implemented this feature to make sure that the CMS will not even become a victim of "friendly fire".

Well, for me it was actually a snap to crawl the CMS backup table using a separate "admin only" list which lets me filter the records by various (combinable) search criteria like "date added", "title" -- spotting the undestroyed version was very easy, and restoring the hacked CMS records from those backup versions was done in a minute.

2. very fortunately I added a "mail notification" trigger to the update forms as well, means whenever anyone *but me* updates a record, I get an email containing some info about the updated record´s "ID" and "title" -- this has always been a very handy feature for monitoring what´s going on in the CMS, and getting such a notification now made me instantly aware there´s something weird going on.

However, this example demonstrates that such security holes can affect you very easily and of course when you don´t expect something bad to happen -- I´m certainly not too proud of having missed to "seal" one certain page, but I´m proud to have added some other safety precautions.

Well, gotta say thanks to this unknown moron though ! Without his attempt to wreck havoc I certainly wouldn´t have been noticed this miss -- however, the last laughter is on my side actually, because my efforts to restore the CMS contents have been *much* easier than his multiple record editings performed on a certain date.

Added 2007-09-24

  1. while googling for "my name is Alfred" I have found out that this fellow or a group of website hijackers have submitted this stuff (either with identical text or slightly modified variants) to *lots* of websites and forums -- considering the sheer amount of hijacking it seems that it´s assumingly a large group of folks which must have prepared some predefined text snippets to be copied to whereever they can.

  2. a *very* recommended read on all things related to "Web Vulnerability" can be found on the Acunetix website. Besides providing one of the most comprehensive lists of vulnerability issues I´ve ever seen, you´ll be scared to see which commonly used "web applications" (forums, content management systems etc) have what exploits -- well, and there´s lots of clues on what keep an eye on. You live and learn !

16 Sep 2007

installing Adobe CS3 Master Suite on Win XP :: phew, worked :-)

Wow, I´m a happy camper for sure now -- a couple of days ago Germany´s FedEx brought me a nice parcel from Adobe US :: the Creative Suite 3 Master Collection for Windows :-)

While I was full of pleasant anticipation when being informed that this was coming my way soon, I honestly felt pretty scared to actually install the Master Collection once I had it -- quite some customers who received it earlier this year, reported that installing the Suite was unexpectedly painful and (to some) managed to even whack up their OS, and Adobe confirms that the installer should indeed have undergone some more "system compatibility" tests before delivering their CS3 suites to customers.

However, to me the installation was an absolutely smooth experience ! Phew, no errors at all, and the Master Suite even detected my existing "stand alone" Dreamweaver CS3 installation and installed the other components alongside this one without messing it up -- it´s this what I´ve of course been most afraid of.

Well, now that all installed Master Suite components are working as (not :-) expected, and considering the fact that I´m able to write this blog entry from an undamaged XP system, I have to say :: I´ve certainly had lots of luck on my side, while others very regretfully didn´t -- however, I´ve thankfully also been explicitely warned (by reading lots of forum posts or Adobe´s installation FAQ) to first shut down several 3rd party applications which could possibly damage the Master Suite installation:
  • virus detection software, which is said to often just savagely block the installation of "official" software
  • Chat applications like "Windows Live Messenger" or "Skype"
  • the rather new Safari 3 browser (beta)
  • Google Desktop (as indeed reported by several users to have been causing problems)
Well, at the time of installing the Master Suite, all known "critical" secondary applications were shut down -- I´m sure that this (and, assumingly, an improved installer version) has lead to a smooth and indeed pleaseant experience which I didn´t anticipate.

Huge thanks also to several fellow Adobe Community Experts, who provided some precious and unbiased advice based on their own experience !

Some final thoughts on what should be improved in the next installer version though:
  1. As the installer first performs a system check in order to check against the specified "system requirements", it will report 512 MB of RAM as - sort of - "insufficient RAM detected, please update your system, 1 GB is the minimum required !"

    This is not quite true, as it´s only the included video (and maybe audio) editing components which do require that much RAM for a very good reason -- in other words, non-video components such as Dreamweaver, Flash, Acrobat, Fireworks, Photoshop do run quite smoothly on my 512 MB RAM system. Well, you´ll assumingly need more RAM when trying to perform a so-called "round-trip editing" (i.e. pasting images from Fireworks to a Dreamweaver page) between several applications, what´s a different story ... but this "generalized" message alone is way too scary and made me cancel the initial installation, what wouldn´t have been required after all.

  2. a certainly great thing is to choose which component you want to install, and some components do have sub-components -- however I don´t understand why deselecting e.g. the main video editing component does not automatically deselect the related sub-components as well.
But let´s not be too picky now -- I´m VERY happy ! :-)

7 Sep 2007

OT: Luciano Pavarotti : my tribute

This is certainly off-topic here, but I feel like sharing some personal thoughts and, well, emotions.

When I was a kid, classical music and, in particular, Opera didn´t mean anything to me. I didn´t like listening to those old and dreary songs played by a bunch of aging bald fiddlers sitting in the local theater´s orchestra pit -- and all those strange & highly pathetic plots, spoken/sung in a language you don´t understand plus performed by strangely acting fellows of unspecified gender, all heavily wrapped in funny clothes I´d never dare wearing in public, was just too weird. Mind you, Opera is something your parents and teachers use to personally like and consider "culturally valuable" (yikes alone because of that !), that´s why they force you to "enjoy" it by dragging you in a theater -- and you just say OK because you know you´ll otherwise get ripped off your weekly pocket-money ! Well, even if I would have had developed a soft spot for this voluntarily, I certainly wouldn´t have admitted it, because opera was considered absolutely uncool for my generation, and - well - when you´re a kid, you´re prone to be an opportunist anyway in order to not being considered uncool yourself.

Now that I´m 46, I do see things with different eyes and am allowed to even be uncool. At this age noone expects you to be "hip", and that´s a huge relief after all, because you´re finally free to like what you like without having to justify yourself.

Luciano Pavarotti, one of the certainly most famous opera tenors of all times, has passed away yesterday, and thanks to YouTube I was able to watch some of his live performances -- I gladly admit that I now wish I had paid unbiased attention to this great and in particular *very moving* opera singer before, and I can´t help feeling that I definitely missed something valuable by having been somewhat ignorant towards this genre.

I´ve now watched a lot of Pavarotti videos -- all of them are just awe-inspiring, and some will just drive me to tears. You can *see* that he was a singer with a HUGE and highly emotional voice, who wholeheartedly loved to sing great songs spanning ages and genres -- and that he was someone who made both his audience and his fellow performers (of all ages, genres and nations) just *love* him without any reserve.

When e.g. a politician passes away, chances are very small that he´ll be mourned in a neighbor country anyway, and definitely not by a taxi driver living there. However, if an artist like Pavarotti dies, it´s your turkish neighbor next door who you *never* heard listening to Opera (neither did he hear that from me) and who never even talked about music at all -- but who´ll instantly be telling you "have you heard that Pavarotti is dead ? How sad !! He was such a good man !!" with an exceptionally earnest voice. This is a phenomenon which shows how important a celebrity has *really* been and what traces he has left in the lifes of those how really count -- the "ordinary men" ! It´s Aslan, the muslim Kebap maker, who´s supposed to have no cultural bonds to what Luciano Pavarotti´s art (italian opera) originally represents -- but Pavarotti has left something precious to remember for everyone on earth, no matter what nationality, belief, social standing and whatever else man-made "criterion" tries hard to separate us from each other. In my lifetime respectively in my "western" culture I have so far witnessed just one other deceased artist of the same caliber who was equally mourned and remembered by *everyone* :: Freddie Mercury -- and in my lifetime it´s so far been the passing of only those 2 singers which was the very first thing they tell you in the radio and TV news. It was mentioned in the news for days, and at least for one day these announcements always preceeded other news about politics, economy, natural desasters and other stuff which usually affect everyone´s lifes pretty much !

One of my most favorite Pavarotti videos over there at YouTube is Miserere, sung together with U2´s Bono -- an outstanding song written by Zucchero and here performed in Modena (Italy), which not just serves Bono´s own vocal intensity very well, but also IMHO might probably represent one of Pavarotti´s truly finest and highly emotional moments ever -- at least I can´t imagine how something like this can be topped by any singer on earth ever.

You might want to see and hear what happens at approx. 04:00 -- how, at the end of his part, Pavarotti´s great and loud voice unexpectedly pours out a high & long & even louder note that´s bursting with a staggering, yet in this song´s context (as I take it, about feeling deeply miserable caused by feelings of guilt towards the ones you betrayed, yet asking for forgiveness and help) absolutely appropriate mixture of agression & dispair and abruptly stops at its very climax, and how Bono himself is getting moved by this so much that his voice just breaks in his next part.

Pavarotti´s and Bono´s rendition of "Miserere" will go straight to the bottom of your heart and stay there for very long, regardless who you are or where you come from or what music genre you´re usually attached to, and this is one of the finest and moving moments in music I ever witnessed.

I feel like having to pay my belated and overdue personal tribute to Luciano Pavarotti -- it´s now clear what exactly people loved him for so dearly, and why he is getting missed. You have been *truly* cool !

29 Aug 2007

Joomla and other open source CMS : safe to use ?

Just happened to stumble across the truly interesting article Joomla goes GPL - again -- to make it short, it´s about a sort of "war" between 2 parties:
  1. the Joomla core development team, which has sort of redefined their GPL license and declared that commercial extensions have to be released under the GPL as well

  2. the makers of commercial Joomla extensions who - until now - were safe to do provide their work under commercial license and also encrypt their code, what´s now obviously not allowed any longer.
I´m honestly far from completely understanding what´s going on there and why, BUT :: I´m a developer of custom-made CMS systems -- and at times I´m also a "solution provider" and "consultant" who (depending on the project´s complexity and special demands) of course gives his customers the option to rather have his website built upon existing CMS frameworks such as Joomla in order to make things easier and less expensive to him.

However, this "conflict of interests" certainly does affect folks like me, and it´s most likely to seriously affect those (fortunately very few so far) of my customers which have been talked into using Joomla and using solutions relying on commercial extensions -- brutally said :: neither me nor my customer can now be safe that the developer of extension X will continue providing his work in the future respectively be willing to release updates/bugfixes at all !!

IMHO this incidence does reveal something unexpected :: using an Open Source product as such does not provide *any* warranties to you after all, because :: me or you, the probably somewhat naive developer respectively customer/user, who blindly assumed that everything will be "love, peace and harmony" once you start implementing an Open Source solution, might turn into a victim of *politics* over night, and all your work that´s based on it might be doomed on the short or long run !

Honestly said, it now seems that - once and for all - building your stuff based on well-established commercial solutions might not be the worst decision after all, because once you pay for it, you do at least benefit from explicitely expressed warranties -- established and reputable companies providing commercial development applications (such as Adobe´s Dreamweaver) usually do have a very clear & public view of what they´re doing and why, and as their license scheme is clear, you´re free to sell your work or not, and Dreamweaver extension developers are not forced to give away their work for free either.

Very regretfully not so with Joomla, I have to say, and everyone who´s now affected by all that, should be thinking twice and generally rather switch to something "real", even if they´d have to pay for it.

Providing a CMS to your customer is BTW not "fun for the sake of it" -- it´something that needs to work and be supported even years later. I´m now certainly in a somewhat disproportionately skeptic mood, however :: maybe the whole Open Source / GPL - model might not be the right thing if you need true reliability and persistance ? You always get what you pay for -- and if you don´t have to pay for what you get ... make up your your mind.

Let me just add a final note on "extensions" in general, regardless if for Joomla, Dreamweaver or whateverCMS / development application :: IMHO well-crafted and "relevant" extensions which add important features to their host application, should always have the right to be distributed commercially ! Creating & maintaining & supporting a "good" extension is very hard work after all, and - honestly said - "applications" like Joomla or Dreamweaver would be nothing without all those dedicated folks who added notable value by developing open source or commercial extensions. Mind you -- at times programmers even have to have something to eat on their tables, now where does that come from ?

15 Aug 2007

website in the making : vesture couturier

I´m currently building a website for a new customer, and this is how the site´s index page is (for the time being, you know how quickly things like that are going to change :-) going to look like:

Die Kleidermacherin

1. About the project:

Well, what´s a "Kleidermacherin" ? As you might guess from looking at the image in the middle, my customer is "producing clothes" (sort of literal translation), but this rather ordinary german label does by no means reflect the true gorgeousness and artistry of what my customer really does :: she´s an accredited vesture couturier producing high class and tailor-made theater costumes, historic robes and business fashion for women, men and children -- a craft which actually has already been practiced in the european medieval times.

However, to me it´s a truly challenging task to "communicate" this very special craft respectively the associated "grandeur" via a website. But it must be said that (unlike other domains like e.g. real estate websites which are plenty in number and *must* provide a high standard for being taken seriously) I now wouldn´t have to struggle with too many "reference values" for various reasons:

1. very few german vesture couturiers do have a website

2. those few couturiers who do, funnily enough have a very badly designed site using a, say, "90´s, frames, all sorts of font faces, sizes & colors" style

2. Tools used:

"Die Kleidermacherin" is actually my first project being designed "from scratch" with Dreamweaver CS3 -- something that´s giving me enough opportunity to compare it´s new features and improvements to previous versions, and I have to say :: it´s just great, and in particular the CSS handling (and internal display !) is in many ways sooo much better than what´s been possible with previous versions !

The provided "layout" variations are "CSS only", extremely well prepared and documented, and of course valid -- this makes it a breeze to build your own page design based on a certain sample, and the initial "Design" my customer decided on during a meeting was the "1 column liquid, centered, header and footer" one.

The current page design displayed above is certainly quite a "tweaked" and extended version, but Dreamweaver CS3 respectively it´s default Layouts truly "play" to you and your customer when it comes to choosing a draft -- just great !

3. Approach

This time my coding- & database related skills will be taking a back seat in favor of design -- something I´m innately not that great in, but when looking at my current draft I gotta say it´s not bad either, and I´m sort of proud of the top logo including the "scissors" idea :-)

The pages will be mostly static, but of course I´ll be throwing in some custom-made PHP/MySQL based...

4. Dynamic features

4.1. Guestbook

Guestbook entry form

As opposed to most prefabricated guestbook scripts available at popular script "libraries" like Hotscripts or elsewhere, this own development tries hard to meet one important need :: providing utmost security measures to protect the system against the "usual vulnerability suspects" such as fake entries by "bots". In addition to this the guestbook entry form displayed above contains heaps of validation routines (both client- and serverside) and "data filters" to prevent inadvertently or intentionally submitted wrong or missing data.

Custom programming is not just fun, but can add some value at times, because it´s *you* who´s supposed to "know your stuff" and to control what´going to happen with the data after submission ::

a) I added another server side validation that´s checking the database for existing entries to make sure that no email address is getting submitted twice

b) the new entry will first have to be approved by the site admin before being published on the website -- means, my customer will be receiving a notification about the new entry and then be able to revise the message respectively activate respectively reject/delete the entry within her guestbook administration area

c) a certainly quite convenient feature to the visitor adding a guestbook entry is the option to receive a notification once the new guestbook entry has been approved and actived by the site administrator

1 Aug 2007

a *comprehensible* counseling interview -- how difficult !

As I´m now on the point of becoming a freelancer again after a 3,5 years stint as salaried full-time web developer working exclusively for one company, I just conducted my first counseling interview with a new prospective customer. Well, as I did work freelance before, it´s actually not the first interview I ever did, but -- seems as I honestly underestimated the difficulties of having been "absent" for that long and then taking it up again, and the main difficulty I struggled with during the interview´s initial stage was :: I´ll have to relearn my previously (1999 - 2003) existing ability to mediate facts in a *comprehensible* way !

Working 40 months for one company definitely does shape and improve your communication *habits*, but can be all the time you´d ever need to have your general communication *flexibility* ruined :: talking to the same people over and over, and also repeatedly talking about the same matters leads to some sort of "addiction symptoms" :: after a while you know your guys and they know you, so whatever complex matters you´re talking about, you can be sure that your familiar "intranet audience" has by now learnt to understand what you´re trying to tell them, and you develop a reliable gut instinct related to who´s even capable of "reading between your lines" in situations when you´re not able or willing (the usual "bad day" ;-) to communicate yourself that well.

Well, it´s funny to see how your well-trained and previously successful "communication reflexes" all fail when trying to apply them to your new prospective customer during the initial counseling interview. Fortunately the lady and me were both smart enough to quickly get over the initial and mutual "who´s that, and what does he/she talk about ?" stage of confusion and find a common denominator -- however I had to struggle with both having to "find other words" and, honestly, the intuition that all my accumulated expert knowledge (this includes probably irrelevant attributes like a "Community Expert" status and coding skills etc etc) as such doesn´t mean a *little thing* if I can´t communicate my stuff on a "beginners level".

Well, after all I managed to get my "message" across by trying to put myself in my customer´s shoes ("if I were her, wouldn´t I think this geek has his heads in the clouds ?") and reconsider my communicative approach -- but this experience has taught me something valuable by making me notice some simple matters of fact :: it seems that the *real* professional is someone who succeeds to avoid going strong with all his expertise regardless of the circumstances, and it seems that only a real pro will be able to develop a sense of awareness by downplaying his trained "I´m a pro !" figure and rather act responsive to the one who´s actually sitting there with you and seeking help on what matters *him* the most.

Well, on a far less declamatory note :: let´s just learn to save up the bragging for situations when it´s really appropriate :-)

10 Jul 2007

my first Adobe Developer Center article

Phew, I just managed to finalize my very first specialist article/tutorial for the Adobe Developer Connection (link to the now published article) -- it´s about something cool I recently developed using PHP, Dreamweaver and Adobe´s awesome AJAX framework called SPRY, and I´m of course very proud of having been *allowed* to contribute something to this truly renowned developer resource.

My "application" does all sort of stuff simultaneously and was put together using a somewhat adventurous mix of technologies :: have a database driven page (PHP of course) pass some directory/file path information (a sequence of both static info and dynamic variables) to another PHP script that´s reading the file contents of the specified directory and returns all image files plus several related file data (width, height, filedate etc etc) to the very same page -- well yes, as dynamically created XML data which will "feed" a Spry Table that´s not just displaying the received data, but also allows for sorting the "image list" by all above mentioned criteria. SPRY is AJAX after all, means the sorting procedure will be done without reloading the page.

However I´m not writing this in order to brag about being a cool developer, what I´m certainly not (err, to some extent maybe ;-). The point is :: as "first time article writer" I admit it has been unexpectedly tough (took me about 2 weeks) to write a 24 page article about something I managed to develop in, say, 3 hours -- not because it´s written in my favorite foreign language English (what was comparatively easy), but because I ...
  • am innately a coder used to develop behind closed doors and without any "pressure of justification" -- that´s probably a harsh term, so let´s better rephrase it to "need to explain how you´re doing your work"

  • soon started struggling with an unpredictable insufficiency :: being a certainly somewhat skilled coder, but lacking any previous experience as writer who´s supposed to mediate his train of thougts so others will be able to follow you

  • soon observed that writing this article requires me to fabricate a greatest possible accuracy and "spelling style".

    Go figure, it´s not going to be published in your local newspaper (what probably would allow for some sloppiness), it´s being published under the Adobe hood, what starts to put you under a definitely appropriate pressure :: it has to be as *great* as possible, it has to be as *elaborate* as can be -- mind the demanding neighborhood !

    When starting to write, comparing your stuff with what´s already been published by others has been pretty scaring and stimulating at the same time :: you do note that the overall quality grade is *very* high, and your work should not be allowed to fall behind this level in order to avoid embarassing yourself in public (and your audience will be a huge one !) -- but once you start accommodating to these circumstances, you´re getting to a "well, then let´s simply *do* it this way !" point. What´s sort of funny is :: after realizing and accepting all that, things suddenly started to "flow", and the article´s lion share was written in just 3 days.
Now that both the article and all the sample files have been submitted to Adobe for review, proof-reading etc etc, I´ll allow myself to lean back a little and say -- it has been a great experience after all, because it gave me the opportunity to learn something I wasn´t aware of before :: how to deal with a brand new set of personal limitations, and how to turn the related insecurities and casual "writer´s blocks" for the better after all.

I´m truly pretty much indebted to Adobe´s George Fox !! George seems to be the main "Developer Center Article" - coordinator in charge over there and assumingly spends all his day with coordinating stuff and pampering a certainly huge amount of authors by (guess I´m not alone with this ;-) caring for their own set of existential orientations -- but whenever yours truly struggled with stuff or simply needed advice, George was always there for skillfully guiding me through the whole process with a tremendeous amount of friendlyness, patience and "heads up !" encourangements. True mentorship !!

It´s due to great folks like him why I´m not only proud of being an "Community Expert" -- this makes me sort of feel "at home", and this makes me happy !

27 May 2007

ADDT :: replace textareas with TinyMCE

The Back Story

What the heck is "ADDT" ?? Well, some might (and some notorious fellow Community Expert - jokers already did during it´s development cycle;-) say it´s an abbrevation for Advanced Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane -- but no way, we´re not talking about an effective brand of pesticides invented to help you being the only webdeveloper in your district ;-)

ADDT stands for Adobe Dreamweaver Developer Toolbox, a set of Dreamweaver server behaviors and commands for creating dynamic web applications using PHP, Adobe ColdFusion®, and ASP VBScript server scripting technologies, running on Dreamweaver CS3 -- a truly *great* set of tools that´s been developed by my long-time buddies from Interakt aka "Adobe Systems Romania".

ADDT´s predecessor version, "MX Kollection Pro", actually came with a quite popular add-on extension called "KTML 4", a sort of "online" WYSIWYG html editor that´s replacing a standard textarea with a sophisticated interface for e.g. formatting text and tables, inserting images etc etc -- stuff you´d usually do with desktop word processors like e.g. MS WORD, but of course running in the browser, what´s perfect for Content Management Systems, blogs etc etc.

However, as Interakt turned into Adobe Systems Romania in 2006, some of their products couldn´t get taken over to the new proprietor for whatever reasons, and KTML 4 was one of them -- too bad that many users were already accustomed to working with this excellent and still unrivaled Dreamweaver extension, what of course triggered quite some anger, uncertainty and frustration, because there´s no replacement for Dreamweaver CS3.

What now ?

though not available as Dreamweaver extension, there are other technically equivalent (and, honestly, in some respects even better) "online editors" available like FCKeditor or TinyMCE, both even released as Open Source !

The last mentioned editor is my personal favorite and has, to my experience, one significant advantage :: it´s by far more easier to integrate/configure in general, and it´s *absolutely* easy to integrate in forms created with ADDT !

That´s why I recently created a 3-page tutorial titled "how to replace a standard textarea with the TinyMCE Javascript WYSIWYG editor" -- available as PDF and already been sent to many ADDT users, but maybe I´ll post it here as well, who knows ?

20 Apr 2007

I´m now an Adobe Community Expert ;-)

WOW, this is truly tremendous news to start this blog with :: in march 2007 I was accepted as Adobe Community Expert in the "Dreamweaver & related" realm -- for comprehensible reasons this means a lot to me personally and of course my profession.

I´m truly grateful for several reasons :: the nomination as such, the opportunity to exchange knowledge & fun with 199 other "Community Experts" plus Dreamweaver users from all over the world, and of course :: access to / participation with one of the most profound knowledge resources related to my "native" field of work and sooo many other areas of application ! Thanks Adobe !!

Sounds unbelievable ? See my Bio at the Adobe website