Ian Hoar – Passion for Technology – Geeking Out - Technology, Web, Toys, Games, Design, Entertainment, Gadgets, & Geeking Out

Firefox 3 Download Day 2008

Download Day 2008

Continuing on the browser theme, the spread Firefox website has a really cool viral campaign going on right now. Firefox is of course the awesome browser that is now rivaling Microsoft’s Internet Explorer. The site looks great and the idea behind Download Day 2008 is for people to make a pledge to download Firefox 3 the day it comes out and help set the Guinness World Record for Most Software Downloaded in a 24 hour period.

All you have to do is get Firefox 3 during Download Day to help set the record for most software downloads in 24 hours – it’s that easy. We’re not asking you to swallow a sword or to balance 30 spoons on your face, although that would be kind of awesome.

The really neat thing about the site is the map of the world. You can roll over any country and see how many pledges they have so far; come on Canada! At the time of this writing the United States has the most pledges, but what I find really interesting is the next closest countries which are Brazil, Poland, Japan and Germany. It will be really interesting to see who comes out with the most downloads on release day. Right now the total stands at 231,189, lets get this number growing! Go and make your pledge now, lets get more standards compliant web browsers out there, and besides, Firefox is just a great browser anyway. If you really want to get involved, you can also check out the Get Involved section where you can find idea’s on how to spread the word to other people.

For my thoughts on current web browsers see Choosing the wrong web browser.

Open Source software — love it and do it right

A lot of people are afraid of open source software (OSS). They say things like what about support, what happens if I need help or what happens if this OSS project disappears in the future. I think these fears are unfounded and actually apply more to closed source software. With closed source you invest in a product and are always at the mercy of its development team for fixes and updates. Usually you have no access to the code, and you rely on someone else’s employees and know how. The company regardless of size could stop development of the software at anytime, and if it’s a small company could even disappear all together.

With open source, sure you need know how to get it up and running and in many cases you need to know this for closed source options too, but instead of dumping money into a product you can dump money into your own people and build up knowledge of the application internally. If you have smart developers they will fix your problems, and they will usually be able to do it a lot faster and easier than they could with closed source products. You will have full access to the code, and if something isn’t working the way you intended or doesn’t even exist within the current framework, your developers can fix it or add it. In some cases you may even be able to find an OSS plugin or addon to the product you are using. You will also have access to the OSS community support, which is usually far more helpful and rich than any closed source manual or solution could ever hope to be. Just do a search on any popular OSS project and you will find a mountain of resources at your finger tips. The same cannot be said for closed source.

Having used both open source and closed source, I can definitively say I have seen more time and man hours poured into closed source solutions than I have ever seen put into open source. Of course there is always the possibility of choosing the wrong OSS solution, but this is the other great thing about OSS, if you do find that you have made a mistake, you can scrap it and try something else. Now what happens when you make the same mistake with a closed source solution? It’s usually not even an option to scrap it if you have spent a lot of money on the product, you may just have to deal with it and work with what you have.

To really illustrate the power of OSS I will use a friend’s website Misery Loves Co as an example. He wanted to start up an online store that sells urban clothing and knew very little about programming. He has html and CSS experience and a lot of design experience, but that wouldn’t help him write an ecommerce site.

He did his research and found a free open source e-commerce application called Zen Cart. Instead of spending a lot of time and money on buying and configuring a closed source solution, he used the Zen Cart OSS community, a Zen Cart manual and had the site up and running fairly quickly. He was able to spend the time designing the site he wanted instead of messing around trying to create an e-commerce engine or spending a lot of money on something and hoping it worked the way he wanted.

Another site I worked on using WordPress is the recently launched Pink Tulip Foundation, a site dedicated “to help young girls increase their awareness and knowledge of breast cancer prevention in Ontario”. We needed to build something quickly that allowed editors to create content quickly, so I implemented WordPress as a CMS.

I have used OSS in the past for my own projects and for work, but I still find there can be resistance and fear of OSS. Even I am not immune from this. I like to understand everything I am using from the ground up, but recently I have been finding the web moving so fast that it’s almost impossible to be an expert at everything. This is where OSS can really save you time. Do your research the same as you would when buying software and make sure you find a well established project. Recently I’ve started using jQuery for some of my JavaScript needs, I use WordPress for this blog, and I’ve used the Sphider search engine which I had to completely customize. Drupal is also on the list of upcoming OSS to learn. The list of great software out there is almost endless; you just have to find it.

WordPress 2.5 media uploader fix

WordPress 2.5 has brought a lot of fantastic improvements to the popular blogging software, but with this new release came a lot of problems with the Add media window. After looking around the web I found a lot of solutions, so I don’t take credit for this, but I’d like to help spread the word.

A lot of servers run ModSecurity a popular web application security module for the Apache Web server. I’m not an expert in this area, so I’m assuming that ModSecurity is doing something to the media uploader.

That said there is a way to exclude ModSecurity from the WordPress file being affected. In the root of your WordPress install edit your .htaccess file to include these lines.

<IfModule mod_security.c>
  <Files async-upload.php>
    SecFilterEngine Off
    SecFilterScanPOST Off

This should exempt async-upload.php from ModSecurity rules.

jQuery validator plugin – custom method for postal code validation

With my previous post on jQuery, I thought I would share a simple add-on method for the jQuery Validation plugin. If you are from Canada or writing a Canadian validation form with a postal code field you can use this. Just add the code below in your rules script.

// Addon method for validating postal codes. Valid
// formats are (X1X 1X1) or (X1X1X1) or (X1X-1X1).
$.validator.addMethod("postalCode", function(value) {
     return value.match(/^[a-zA-Z][0-9][a-zA-Z](-| )?[0-9][a-zA-Z][0-9]$/);
}, 'Please enter a valid postal code');

Then you can use the rules required:true and postalCode:true in your rule set.

jQuery really can change the way that you write JavaScript!

I recently started playing around with two JavaScript libraries, MooTools, and jQuery. After playing with MooTools for a long time and getting frustrated, I switched to jQuery. This does not mean MooTools is bad, I am no JavaScript expert and there are a lot of very nice MooTools examples on their site.

At work I write a lot of JavaScript validation in forms, and it can get very tedious. I like writing my own code, but I’ve never really liked JavaScript as much as other languages and in today’s world of ever changing technologies and browsers I finally thought why re-invent the wheel; someone has probably done this better than me already. Combine that with the fact that the form I was working on and my JavaScript was becoming particularly unwieldy, so I decided try out one of these highly praised JavaScript Libraries.

After downloading jQuery I quickly realized I would need a plugin. A quick search revealed many, many plugins, including a validation plugin called “Validation” of all things. The learning curve for jQuery and the plugin was several hours, but after setting it up I quickly began to see the power using a JavaScript library. I am now a jQuery convert.

Want to see who else is using jQuery? The list is quiet impressive. As another blogger said, if it’s good enough for them, it’s good enough for me.

Blog redesign

I spent the day creating a new theme for my WordPress install. It wasn’t quite as easy as I thought it would be, but still pretty straight forward considering. I probably still have a few bugs to iron out though. All total it took about one day from start to finish.

Anyway, I know it’s not a very techy type design, but I figured I wanted something new and different, since I can’t usually do that, and what a better place then here. Hope you like the new design.

Vista and Office woes

So I have been using Microsoft’s Vista for a few months now. After using a Mac for over two years at work, I figured the switch would be a nice change and of course the change was not completely my choice anyway. I am not a fan boy of any OS and my favourite OS doesn’t exist yet. Anyway, the transition has not been fun, Vista is not ready for prime time, although it is finally pretty looking. Not only is Vista not ready, but neither is MS Office, and this is where my rant begins.

How much does Office cost? I guess that depends on which of the nine hundred versions you have, let’s just say it’s a lot. I think I have the ultimate enterprise business bloat edition. I guess one would expect at least all of the previous functions to work almost flawlessly would they not? Well, you would be wrong if you did. The new office does look new though, in fact so new that anyone using if for the first time probably won’t know how to open or save a document. Don’t look for file or any kind of obvious standard menu, look for the big bubble with the office icon on it. I’m sure the new interface will catch on eventually though, and I guess Microsoft has to change something.

Anyway, yesterday was the day that I had to install Open Office so that I could cut and paste text. Yes that’s right, I had a tight deadline, and I needed to cut and paste text from a work document for a mock-up I was building. Every-time I did this the entire application would crash. Eventually a message popped up telling me that Office was crashing a lot and that I should run a diagnosis wizard that would take approximately 15 minutes. Okay, so maybe this would fix it.

I ran the wizard, and it found nothing, although it wasn‘t able to check one file since it did not have permission and told me I should change the security settings on that file. If I had done this I’m sure the next thing it would have warned me of are the dangers of changing my security settings. This is when I realized that in the past 30 minutes of farting around I could have downloaded Open Office. I did that, installed Writer, loaded the document and began copying and pasting my text with no problems. This is a day in the life of Vista and Office, and this is just the tip of the iceberg.