Barrett Manor

Julie Barrett is a freelance writer and photographer based in Plano, TX.

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

Fresh (almost) daily from Julie Barrett

And I for one, am so happy to see this week end.

I am breathing better today, thanks to all that asked. The winds have shifted a bit which means that most of the crud from the fires is blowing somewhere else.

In answer to Lisa's comment of yesterday: The desk is not pristine, but it's not in bad shape, either. The big thing on my desk is a printout of an e-book on using Visual Studio Web Developer Express. That, of course, is easily cleared away, but since I'm using the book I guess that it's technically not clutter.

Before I move on I have to give a shout-out to my hosting service. I'll relate the long story in a moment, but the short end is that they worked hard to fix a couple of bugs on their end so I can try to deploy the new web site once again. The test pages work, so I'm a happy camper, at least in that department.

Okay, on with the geeky stuff. I've been talking for weeks about redesigning the site, which means a move to the new Microsoft ASP.Net 2.0 platform. What you'll see will (hopefully) be a faster site. For me, I'm hoping that the move will make maintaining the site easier. This is like introducing a new organization system into your home or office (been there). It takes forever to implement, but if you do it well and stick with it that part of your life will run better. This is the geek equivalent of that.

If you've ever designed a web site - even a personal site - you know that making changes across your pages can be time-consuming. Say you have a navigation menu on each of your pages. If you add a new item or change the name of a page then chances are that you have to fix every page. The last design change on the site (and what you see now on every page except the journal) took advantage of something called the server side include. You don't see this, but the navigation menu on the side of each page is actually a separate page. The beauty of this is that I change the one page and every page on the site that uses that navigation scheme gets the change. It doesn't take a geek to understand that as a web site grows, this type of system makes sense.

The other really big change (and this is the scary one that has caused much rending of garments and tearing of hair) is the migration to a new database. Right now I use Access. I can hear a collective groan from several web geeks. When all this started I didn't have access (pun not intended) to SQL Server or any related tools, nor did this web site have SQL Server. I had also used Access for a business web site for simlar reasons so I was up to speed. SQL Server has advantages and disadvantages, but the big thing for you will be speed - I hope.

This, of course, meant learning new technologies. I'm an old dog, but I'm open to learning new tricks. I got a test site going and it wouldn't work on the server. Well, after much banging my head against the desk I discovered that the software that serves the database isn't the same one I have installed here and it wouldn't support the database. Yikes! This isn't a slam on the hosting service. They're using the good stuff and I wasn't. Fortunately, Paul uses SQL Server in his work and helped me get up to speed with the basics so I could convert the databases. I moved it all out there and it didn't work. To make a long and geeky story very short (I've been banging at this for a couple of weeks) part of the problem was pilot error and part of the problem was configuration issues on the host server.

The upshot is that I woke up this morning to find a note from the support guru saying that he'd fixed the problem. And sure enough, the test page now works!

So here's the plan: I'll be putting the new pages out in stages. The design will be similar to what you see now, but I'm going to be changing the navigation menus a bit. They'll look a little more like what you see here on the journal page. These links all come out of a database. So in theory all I have to do is update the database and it all magically will work. In practice, well...

The journal will probably happen last as it will need the most work. Part of the new system is a lot of stuff you don't see. I have to create what's called an administrative back end. I've got one for the journal. This is how I add, edit and delete entries and manage comments. It's pretty standard stuff, but a new database means what I have now won't work. Imagine that you finally buy that new big screen HD TV and killer sound system. That means tearing out your current TV and sound system, putting in the new hardware, reprogramming the remotes, and so on and so on. This is the computer equivalent.

Since it's Friday I'd better get a move on. I've got my regular Friday client stuff along with laundry and a trip to the bank. The paperwork for getting direct payments from another client finally came through. Now I have to take it to the bank, get them to verify that it's me, then send the stuff to Madrid. Yes, as in Spain. That's where corporate HQ for this company is located. Don't worry: I get paid in US Dollars.

Amd being St. Pat's (you were wondering if I'd get around to that, weren't you) I'll be making soda bread and Guinness stew. At least I'm up to cooking today. So enjoy your weekend!

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Filed under: Technology   Life         
3/17/2006 6:22:00 AM
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