Overview of some web technology I use.

Overview of some web technology I use.

I will attempt to outline some of the devices, and methods that are used to construct my web sites, of which there are four. Also I have included some recommendations, some training aids. Please keep in mind that I am a Macintosh person. “If you want to get it done, do it on a Mac”. Thus, the advice below will refer to Macintosh solutions.

Sites: There are five sites I am involved in as follows:

Site 1: This blog site you are currently viewing is probably the least expensive to run and operate. It requires no special software. I do not use Dreamweaver. The interface software is only a web browser and WordPress. WordPress comes free and is installed on the web host company server. I access this software from my home machine using any web browser. Well that is not exactly true. Safari falls apart for WordPress. Firefox is my browser of choice when connecting to WordPress because the WordPress menu shows up properly when using Firefox.

Site 2: This next site is a community group site that I am encouraged to begin to input stories into. The site creator had to back away from being involved for personal reasons. This is most unusual in that I did not create this web site but I have to step in and start to use it. I had to download the whole site into my laptop and then dissect it to figure out how it worked. This is very time consuming but instructional.

Site 3: This web site is unpublished. It has been in beta testing for close to one year. I am paying for the site name registration and web hosting all this time but have not made it public yet. It will be a cascading style sheet type web site.

Software used:
Web site construction is performed using Dreamweaver CS3. This program is very professional. Actually, I think it is awesome. It has a difficult learning curve associated with it but the payoff is worth it. Another very popular web site creation program is Microsoft’s Frontpage, which has a reputation of putting up messy html code. If your intent is to become more proficient at being a web master, do not choose Frontpage. If all you want to do is put up a quick web site, then Frontpage might work for you. Go Live by Adobe has a good reputation.

Tip: if anyone in your family goes to school, look into the possibility of obtaining an educational discount price. Some college bookstores do sell educational priced software at significant savings.

A neat little utility I use from time to time is Free Ruler. I use this to measure how many pixels to make a particular image or format text fields while measuring a web page. This is a free utility.
The Apple software comes with a utility that I seem to use a lot. It is called Grab and can be found in the “Utilities” folder. Any image that appears on my computer screen can be cut up and used with this program.

The photo blog software is part of the typical web-hosting package that comes “free” with the hosting subscription. Fantastico De Luxe found in the web site administrator’s control panel (C-Panel) offers a large number of open source programs. The photo blog uses two packages and one utility.

WordPress was chosen for the blog because it is free, easy to use and has a lot of features and very well thought out software package.

YAPB (Yet Another Photo Blog) is a WordPress plug in which improves the WordPress experience by making a lot of the difficult chores, simple. It too is free.

JView is not a C-Panel program but a free Internet utility offering, which I use to look at each photo image in a large format so I can write a good description for each image. I have Adobe Bridge and Aperture software programs but they utterly fall apart for this simple task. This utility is also free.

Hardware Used:

The computer is a Macintosh laptop, 2.5 GHz Intel Dual Core 2 Duo with 4 GB 667 MHz DDR2 SDRAM and running version 10.5.4 software.

I use a Microsoft laptop mouse model 1054. It is ok for text and graphics but totally unacceptable for gaming.  I use the Microsoft mouse when out of my office.  For gaming and in office work, I use Logitech G9 Laser.

I have a couple of finger drives. My favorite is a 2-gig unit that lights up, made by Sandisk.

I have an external hard drive made by Siig, model FW800 + USB 2.0 HDD kit. The drive offers both Firewire (800 & 400) ports along with USB. An 800 Firewire port is only needed for video editing. This drive is used to back up my laptop using TimeMachine.

Apple AirPort Extreme Base Station with Gigabit Ethernet is expensive but gives us added features such as flawless wireless, wireless hard drive storage (added this ourselves), and wireless printer capability (we added to the USB connector).

Cable TV, (Time Warner) Internet cable box interfaces with the above-mentioned Apple Airport Extreme Base Station. We had the AT&T two wire which was pretty bad, dropped connections frequently. A modem connection is ok if you are just starting at becoming involved in web development. If you do use a modem for web site connection to your host, bring your favorite newspaper or magazine or even a novel, as your upload times will be significant.

Web Hosting Service:

LinkSky was chosen as the web host after quite a bit of research. I searched for web host companies using the words “web host recommendations” and “best web host companies”. I soon found some web sites made recommendations that actual users found to be deficient. I suspected that some form of payment might be part of the equation for some companies getting good reviews from some popular web sites. I got lucky when one of the troop parents recommended his web hosting company, LinkSky. I went on to the Internet and did a reputation search. What I found out was that no one made any claim that LinkSky performed poorly. I had found a winner. I have been with LinkSky for a couple of years. I now have four sites with that company and they have not caused me any difficulty. When I have a problem, I get a quick and complete satisfactory response. The company is based in Northern California but I have been told that the Unix servers are in Texas. In case of a huge California earthquake the web site data should be safe. If there were any huge catastrophe in Texas, my laptop would be the backup.

If you are new to web site design let me offer you as much encouragement as possible. Web site design is a quite a large ocean of knowledge. Do not let its vastness dissuade you. It is very easy to build and put up a simple web site. The more you learn, the better and more professional the results. Please realize that there are good practices that you should search out to make a more pleasing site. Books and magazines are out there to make you aware of these practices. If you are on a tight budget and cannot afford the expense to buy a lot of books and magazines, use the Internet to learn.

Tip: Go to iTunes and peruse the free pod casts available. There are some pretty good video tutorials that take you step by step through using software.

Recommended Training:

Dreamweaver training an excellent start is to take a class at a junior college or an extension class at a local university. This is how I started to learn web design. A friend and I took the class and we each had our web sites blow up a couple of times caused by us not understanding how to make links work properly. By the end of the class we were humbled quite a bit and realized that this type of work was not going to be all that easy.

Dreamweaver CS3, The Missing Manual, Pogue Press O’Reilly, © 2007, by David Sawyer McFarland is intimidating in cost ($44.99), size (995 pages), and content. I have quite a large selection of Dreamweaver “how to” books so I think I do have some credentials for rating these types of books. I am not endorsing The Missing Manual series right now, just this particular book. It is an excellent book on the subject, in my humble opinion. It does an admirable job of explaining cascading style sheets, which is a difficult part of web design to understand.

A very recent “book” has come out called Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 with Garrick Chow. It is Peachpit Press video training book associated with lynda.com. The cost lists for $49.99 but I found that Borders Book Store had a 30% discount on all computer books. It requires that you use a computer to view the html lessons that are on a CD and have QuickTime loaded as an application so you can view the movies. What is neat about this “book” is it serves as your private classroom trainer, like being in college with a perfect teacher. The explanations are well laid out, dialog and screen presentation is always on target. When I discovered this “book” I thought only a few chapters would be interesting but I started at the beginning and went through each lesson in order. I was amazed at how much I had missed while self-teaching myself using books. I am really impressed with this video training method.

Tip: The disk for Adobe Dreamweaver CS3 is mildly protected so you are required to insert the disk to view the lessons. I prefer not to work off a CD. I chose to make a disk image copy using a program called Toast into my computer so I could see all the files, even the hidden ones and copy them to a folder. I then dragged the file “dreamweavercs3.html” to my desktop or application dock so I could readily find it and launch the training. In this way, I could eject the disk and view the training using only the computer.

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