Mar
27
2009
0

WordPress – Not Just For Kids Any More!

Wordpress

Wordpress

A friend of mine owns and operates a number of websites – all of which run on ASP/.NET/MS-SQL servers.  He knows what he’s talking about, but he’s fairly dismissive of WordPress, PHP, and MySQL.

All this time I’ve been raving about WordPress, telling him that you can basically do anything with it.  I’ve mentioned how easy it is to use, how easy it is to maintain, its open source, how many global corporations use WordPress to build their websites, how its the tool of choice for so many designers, and how huge the WordPress community is.

In the meantime, he’s referring to his millions of rows in his “real-SQL, MicroSoft SQL” database.  I believe he’s been stuck thinking of PHP and MySQL as “kiddie” stuff, just not ready for big time.

That is, he’s been dismissive of WordPress until about two months ago.  In the last two months other people (SEO consultants, professional designers) have been raving about WordPress to him too.

I think he’s finally coming around.

Nov
24
2008
0

Calculator Update 11-24-2008

Calculator

Calculators

Last week a website user notified me of a problem he was experiencing with this website’s rating calculators.  He’s been a regular user for nearly a year now.  When he tried to perform a calculation the calculators would just show waiting indicators without showing the answer.  If he closed the browser window and reopened it, it would sometimes fix the problem.  To complicate matters, his coworker was having a similar problem.

Worst of all, this problem had been plaguing them for two weeks.  If you have a problem with this website, let me know as soon as possible so that I can track down the last change to the site to see if its causing a problem.

My troubleshooting went like this:

  1. Get a detailed description of the symptoms.
  2. Try to replicate the problem.
  3. Reiterate the problem to make sure I’ve got it right.
  4. While working to diagnose and fix the problem, offer a temporary fix (putting up a temporary site for their use).
  5. Look into recent changes in the website (going back two weeks).
  6. Since I couldn’t replicate the problem, ask additional questions.
    • Does the problem occur at a particular time of the day?[1]
    • What web browser and version do they use?[2]
    • What operating system?  When was the last update?[3]
      • Explain how to figure out their version of Windows and how to install update.
    • Do they have any third-party “toolbars” installed?  Yahoo, Google, MSN, etc toolbars.[4]
      • Ask them to temporarily disable or uninstall the toolbar.  Give them links to where they can re-download the toolbar software.
    • Do they single-click or double-click on buttons?[5]
    • Are other co-workers having the same problem?[6]
    • Do they have this same problem on different computers?[7]
    • Is the browser showing javascript errors?[8]
    • Ask them to try out a new browser. I recommended the PortableApps.com version of FireFox.
      • If the problem disappears, its obviously in their computer or network.  If the problem persists, it could still possibly be their network or the website.
  7. Above all else: KEEP THE CLIENT INFORMED.[9]

As of right now, one of this client’s co-workers has contacted me to say that he’s no longer having trouble with the website.

So, problem solved?  If not, let me know, alrighty?

  1. This would indicate a data bottleneck at the server.  Time to upgrade! []
  2. And, tell them how to find this information. []
  3. Have I mentioned how much I loathe Microsoft VistaSeriously, I think people should delete Microsoft Vista because its crap. []
  4. These browser helper objects are notorious for interfering with normal browser operations.  Worse, you can’t rule them out based upon when they were installed because they’re constantly downloading and installing updates to themselves. []
  5. Double clicks send two requests to the server – and might be confusing the browser. []
  6. Two computers on a single network could be a coincidence, a sign of a problem with the website, or a sign of a problem with the client’s network. []
  7. If not, its a problem with that computer.  If so, could still be a problem with either the website or their computers/network. []
  8. Tell them how to tell if there’s an error and how to give you the error code information. []
  9. They may not care for the constant updates, but they will know you’re on the case. []
Aug
13
2008
0

Mojave or Vista, its still junk

I recently saw banner advertisement for something called, “The Mojave Experiment.” The “Mojave Experiment” consists of hidden camera videos of people (who had negative opinions about Vista, but had never used it) being shown the next version of Windows, codenamed “Mojave.”

The Twist: Mojave was really just Vista.

Critical flaw #9: People who haven’t tried Vista by now probably don’t know enough about computers to tell whether the program they’re using is good or bad.

Shocking development #7: Everyone loved Mojave! Riiight. Everyone thought Vista could do wonderful things and was fast and responsive.

Here’s what they’re not telling you:

  • How many people tried “Mojave”
  • Which version of Vista these people were shown[1])
  • What kind of hardware were these “Mojave” machines running[2]
  • Whether these people actually used “Mojave” or merely watched the interviewer use “Mojave”
  • What programs they’re showing these people and whether those programs would work on other versions of Windows

I would be astounded if this bit of propaganda changed a single person’s mind. More than 18 months after Windows Vista’s launch on January 30, 2007, people still loathe it. People hate it so much they’re telling their friends.

Here’s a business tip for Microsoft: Don’t try to convince people they want your product. Just learn from your mistakes and build a better product.

  1. There are eight versions (four consumer, two business, one Ultimate, and one Red edition []
  2. Vista requires four times the RAM, three times the processor speed, and ten times the hard drive space of XP. []
Aug
11
2008
3

Inside the Calculators – Part II – PHP

I recently gave a brief overview of my permanent disability and workers’ compensation benefit calculators. In that post I wrote a little bit about how my online benefits calculators work. My last post in this series was about how and why these permanent disability and workers’ compensation benefits calculators use javascript.

I had tried Microsoft’s ASP (active server pages) in experimenting with a prior version of my permanent impairment calculators, and while functional, the coding was a complete mess since I didn’t fully understand what I was doing. To make matters worse, the only manuals on ASP I could find gave examples using VBScript – which is MS’s version of javascript.[1]

Just over a year ago a friend of mine encouraged me to try PHP. (Thanks Johnny!) Its syntax, the way in which you write code, is very similar to javascript and was fairly easy to learn.

Unlike javascript, PHP is run only on the web server. There are a lot of benefits to moving all of the calculations from being performed by a user’s computer to my web server:

  • Uniformity. All calculations will always be performed by the web server in the same exact way – irrespective of the user’s computer.
  • Speed. Since all calculations are performed on the web server, the user’s computer doesn’t need to do any number crunching.
  • Protection. All of the formulas, tables, and magical incantations used to generate the calculations are kept only on the web server.

But, PHP isn’t without its downsides:

  • PHP is being used to perform a calculation, even when javascript would be faster. Javascript takes longer to crunch the answer, but you have to “wait” for PHP to send a request to the server and wait for the answer.[2]
  • A pure PHP calculator would require the user to send the web server the entire page and wait for a whole new page to load. Every calculation would take a full second or more using a pure PHP calculator.[3]
  • When PHP is used to perform handle all calculations, there is more of a strain on the web server itself.

Using AJAX (more on this later) to create workers’ compensation benefits calculators has allowed me to take advantage of all of the strengths of javascript and PHP and minimize the negatives of these technologies.

Next up, AJAX!

  1. Can’t we all just get along? []
  2. I say “faster,” but we’re talking about the difference between 10 milliseconds for javascript to calculate the answer and waiting 400 milliseconds for the server to return the answer. []
  3. A second might not seem like a long time – but it is when you’re using a computer. I’d bet that if these calculators took 1 second for everything (such as finding an occupational code or work restriction) no one would use them. []

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