Wednesday, September 8th, 2004
CMX Weekly Newsletter
Feel the Breeze
Macromedia announced on Tuesday that they are adding a "pay-as-you-go" plan for its Breeze product. Previous to this announcement, pricing was only available for an annual subscription rate or on a per-seat licensing basis. Smaller companies with minimal conferencing needs initially stayed away from Breeze due to cost concerns, but those same companies will likely start looking at Breeze as a cost-efficient means of web conferencing. Read more at News.com.
Free, AND it Works? Whoa...
Skype is a VoIP (Voice over IP) application that allows you to speak to anyone on the internet who also has the software installed on their computer, all for free. Some of us at Community MX have been using Skype for a while now, and we can vouch for its simplicity of use, clear sound and general coolability. You can even conference call with several Skype users at a time, and for a small price, call regular land lines. If its reported ten million users are any indication, Skype is hugely popular and gaining speed. Hear all about it at the New York Times.
Darn, They Sounded Like Such Nice Folks
New Scientist recently intimated that a space signal from deep space could have been sent by an alien civilization. Well, don't get out your "we come in peace" signs yet. It turns out that the story was a little over-hyped. The Seti@Home Project, which ties millions of user's computers together to power their search for alien life by analyzing millions of channels of radio frequencies, has stated that the signal everyone is so excited about was little more than a random occurence, and that there was no alien contact made. We were pretty sure the signal was bogus when a little crackly voice asked if we wanted fries with that. More on the non-story at BBC News Online.
More Competition for iTunes
Several weeks ago we mentioned that RealPlayer has started selling music online, and for a considerably lower price than iTunes. Microsoft, not surpisingly, has tossed their hat into the ring by opening up their competing MSN Music shop. At $1 per tune and $9.90 per album, MSN Music is about ten cents cheaper per album than iTunes. While their pricing is very similar, one difference between iTunes and MSN Music is that iTunes will not release albums by artists who do not allow their individual songs to be sold. MSN Music does not make that distinction, so you will find albums by artists like RadioHead at MSN, but not at iTunes. MSN Music currently has 500,000 songs online and plan on adding 500,000 more in coming weeks. You can try it out at MSN.
The Demise of Creative Budgeting
A lot of folks like to play "Beat the Paycheck." This is the practice of writing a check without the funds in your bank to cover it, in the hopes that by the time your bank gets it, you'll have the cash to pay up. The Check Clearing for the 21st Century Act, which was passed last year and goes into effect on October 28th, allows digital images of checks to be used as legal representation of payment. That means that checks can be cleared electronically and instantly, without having to physically be sent to the bank for payment. Banks have to buy into the system, meaning that larger banks will probably work with this new system before the Mom and Pop banks do. Speaking of Mom and Pop, they always said never to write a check without first having enough money in the bank to cover it. Fine, we'll start now... Read more about this system of checks and negative balances at MSNBC.COM.
Satisfied Customers Speak Out!
Definition of a Programmer: "A red-eyed, mumbling mammal capable of conversing with inanimate objects." — Unknown
Couch Potatoes, Rejoice!
By now you have probably heard of TiVo, which is essentially a digital video recorder you can use to record your favorite TV shows - up to 140 hours of them. You may also know of a service called NetFlix, which allows you to rent several DVDs through the mail without ever having to pay for late charges. These two extremely popular services are rumored to be getting together to deliver movies to you over TiVo's network straight to your television, on demand. For those of you who already use NetFlix, this means no more waiting those three whole days for the mail to arrive. For those of you who use both TiVo and Netflix, how do you ever get any work done? Read about this possible TiVo/Netflix collaboration at MSNBC.com.
There's Some Irony Here Somewhere
Microsoft's Service Pack 2, or SP2, helps keep spyware off of your computer. What it does not do is get rid of spyware that may already reside there. As a matter of fact, some types of spyware will conflict with SP2's installation, and could cause your system to freeze. Microsoft recommends that you scan for and eradicate spyware before installing SP2, using popular programs such as Ad-Aware, SpyBot and SpySweeper. All three offer free versions of their software, and all three tend to catch things that the others do not, so run all of them if you want to be thorough. You can read more about this problem at CNN.
The Other Cold Fusion
Back in 1989, cold fusion sounded great; an unlimited supply of inexpensive thermonuclear energy, created in a very simple manner. Cold fusion failed to become reality because most tests were inconclusive, or just plain failures. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn't, and the whole idea was tossed aside out of frustration. Some scientists however, kept plugging away at cold fusion and now believe they have a better grip on how to get cold fusion working. James Decker, the director of the U.S. Department of Energy, has announced he will initiate reviews to revisit the idea of cold fusion technology. You can read about it at Spectrum.
Mr. Floppy, Meet Mr. Death
Apple stopped installing floppy drives on their computers back in 1998. Dell made the same move recently, as have many computer manufacturers. Floppy disks hold 1.44 megabytes of data. Remember when that was enough to hold your favorite program? With CD-Recorders and Flash Memory drives being as cost-effective as they are, there is just no need for the bay-hogging floppy drive any longer. Read more about the timely demise of the floppy drive at CNN.
Input... More Input...
If you're a hypertasker, chances are you're not just reading this and relaxing. No, hypertaskers won't stand for doing just one thing at a time. Rather, a hypertasker is one who likes to read an article online while text-messaging on their phone and ironing laundry, while at the same time watching the morning news on TV and giving the dog a bath. Whether this sounds efficient to you, or just plain crazy may determine whether or not hypertasking is for you. Read more at azcentral.com. Unless you're too busy, that is. Laurie Casolino, please read this article twice.
CMX Design-Time Extension
Say, Here's a Maddening Game
You're a soap bubble. Use the arrows on your keyboard to navigate yourself through the cave until you reach the end. Being a soap bubble, you're likely to pop if you touch anything. Screaming at the screen will not help. Trust us, we tried... Play this and other games at Killsometime.com
Do They Sell Them by the "Ewww... Gross"?
Dr. Joyce Brothers says that "people want a piece of someone they like and admire." And if they can't get a piece of their favorite celebrity, a piece of their gum will do just fine. Pieces of gum allegedly chewed by Britney Spears have made their way to eBay, with some selling for over US$1000. It is unknown whether or not the buyers will leave this chewing gum on their bedposts overnight, and if they do, whether or not it will lose its flavor. Chew on this story from CNN.
Number 30: Most Watches Eaten...?
You can find out who has eaten the most watches and forty-nine more of the most unusual Guinness Book of World Records ever attained or broken. Our personal favorite is "Hairiest Family." Read about more records like this at Mirror.co.UK.
Advanced User Authentication with .NET and Dreamweaver, Part 1 (Free)
Using nested repeat regions is a great way to display data in a highly organized fashion. In this tutorial you'll learn how to use Dreamweaver's DataSet and DataGrid server behaviors to display the products from the Northwind sample database, grouped by category. You'll learn how to selectively display the category name just a single time, at the beginning of the list of products in that category, thus avoiding unnecessary and messy replication of redundant data. Dreamweaver's ASP.NET implementation really is customizable! Read on to find out how.
This Flash component enables you to display one or more RSS feeds in Flash Player 7 with a number of customizable options. CMX Blog Scroller automatically parses the XML and displays the latest blog entries.
The World Wide Web has been an important part of our lives for a decade or more. Many things about the Internet have changed dramatically during this time, but one thing hasn't. Parents and teachers want children to participate in all the Web has to offer, but they don't want to expose them to danger in the process. Back in 1995, Bernie Dodge and Tom March of San Diego State University thought of a way to accomplish the seemingly contradictory goals of safety and access. They created the WebQuest.
The advances in PHP 5 take the language to a new level, yet most of the world is still running PHP 4. Here's how to have the best of both worlds on one development machine. Part 1 of this article shows you how to add PHP 5 to an existing PHP 4 installation on OS X, and seamlessly switch between the two. Part 2 will show you how to do the same on Windows.
This is the final article in our series on building a simple bean-like framework called cmxBean.cfc. In this article we look at a sample application which shows how to actually apply cmxBean.cfc to a real application. We also look at the benefits and limitations of cmxBean.cfc.
Happy Labor Day! [FREE]
Happy Labor Day. Community MX is taking the day off with our families and will return with fresh content tomorrow.
Flash is a fantastic technology, but is it really the best multimedia tool for every project? Director, for most, is a dinosaur that doesn't fit the modern world of the web, but is it really obsolete? An interesting look at the two multimedia technologies provides some unexpected answers to these far too common questions.
A few weeks ago Brian Edgin set forth a challenge: Send him any Web design created in Photoshop and he will show you how to do it more efficiently in Fireworks. Craig Hartel was the first to respond to the challenge and provides a good first example for us to look at.
Using headings on your (X)HTML pages is a great way to easily improve their accessibility and search engine rankings. However, the way headings appear in your browser often leaves much to be desired: large gaps above and below each heading, and huge font sizes. To avoid these problems, it may seem easier just to leave the heading tags out, instead using font and bold tags to simulate the look of headings. Many web developers do just this, thereby losing out on the great benefits of semantic markup. Luckily, its easy to change the way your headings display using CSS, so you can use semantic markup and still achieve the look you want. The second article in the Semantic (X)HTML Markup series describes how to use headings and paragraphs appropriately to create a hierarchy of page content and how to style them visually.
An alternative to regular constants, enumerations allow you to declare a list of constants. This article explains how to create and use them in VB.NET and explains why they are so useful. This is Part 3 in a series of articles on the mechanics of using VB.NET. Part 1 of this series introduced VB .NET built-in data types. Part 2 discussed how to create variables for these data types. This series is meant to be a growing reference guide to VB.NET.
Create a Web Photo Album With Dreamweaver and Fireworks
This week's Tip, Trick or Dirty Cheat is brought to you by John Gallant of Community MX.
Resizing Images Using Percentages
Most coders know that changing the stated dimensions on web images from within the HTML or the CSS can resize or distort the images, but did you know that if you apply a percentage value to either the width or the height, but NOT both, the browser will maintain the "aspect-ratio" of the image?
This means that you may tell an image to be 100% wide, causing it to fill its containing element from side to side, regardless of the true width of that container. Doing this only to the image "width" forces the calculated image "height" to remain in proportion to the width. No distortion!
Of course, a small image might end up growing pretty "jaggy" and a large one will consume more than its share of bandwidth, but in certain cases it's quite useful to NOT fully define the dimensions on an image.
Would you like your tip published? Submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
That's it for this week. Stay tuned for the next CMX newsletter!