All posts tagged ‘tutorial’

File Under: HTML, Multimedia

Web Graphics for Beginners

As an autistic, purebred Himalayan runt, my cat Rufo poses a triple threat of cuteness the whole world can enjoy. Sound like the everyday delusions of an average cat owner? Perhaps. But if Rufo is indeed a superstar dying to be born, then it’s my responsibility to help him, via the Internet. After all, what better use of the Web than as cat promotion?

At first, Rufo’s site was nothing more than a few paragraphs describing his unique kitty allure. Although a good start, mere words failed to convey the complete Rufo experience. For that, I needed graphics. Not just photographs – if Rufo was to be taken seriously as a cat celebrity, his Web presence had to look fun and professional. So I needed other collateral as well, like a logo, page banners, and graphic navigation.

My initial attempts were less than flattering. Pictures had blurry fur, the colors were pale and washed out, and the images took forever to download. So I taught myself how to create the kind of fast, sleek, and professional images that Rufo deserves. And now I’m going to share that hard-won knowledge with you. In the pages that follow, you’ll find tips, hints, and links to off-site resources or more advanced Webmonkey tutorials – everything an aspiring graphics designer needs to transform a texty site into a graphic sensation.

We begin at the very beginning: Getting images into the computer. For Rufo’s site, this meant importing photographs and finding usable graphics.

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JavaScript Tutorial – Lesson 1

Interactivity, shminteractivity. Most web pages that claim interactivity really mean you can click on hyperlinks to go to new pages. Even web pages that have CGI scripts behind them don’t really seem all that interactive: Fill out a form, hit the Submit button, and wait. It’s more like throwing bottles into an ocean and hoping for a meaningful reply.

Happily, we have JavaScript. With JavaScript, images can swap when you move a cursor over them, form elements can influence each other on the fly, and calculations can be made without having to resort to a CGI script. There’s none of this submit-and-wait stuff — everything happens on your web page while you’re playing with it.

One of the best things about JavaScript is that you can do a great deal with very little programming. You don’t need a fancy computer, you don’t need any software other than a word processor and a web browser, and you don’t need access to a web server; you can do all your work right on your own computer.

Even though it’s simple to work with, JavaScript is a complete programming language, so as you learn more complicated JavaScript, you’re also learning the basics of computer programming. If you want to move on to other programming languages, like Perl, C, C++, or Java, JavaScript is a great introduction.

Enough hype about JavaScript. On to hype about this tutorial.

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File Under: Ajax, JavaScript, Programming

Building With Ajax and Rails


So, since the last time you brushed your teeth, Ruby on Rails has only grown in popularity. The list of web applications using the exciting new web framework has grown to such an enormous size, it has exceeded the 50K per page limit of the wiki used to host it. Lesser languages like Java and PHP are copying the stylish efficiency of Rails with their own frameworks like Trails, Trax and Cake.

In the tutorial Ruby on Rails for Beginners, we went over the very basic basics of Ruby and Rails:what it is, why it’s so mindblowingly cool, which celebrities are using it, and so forth. As soon as the article went live, letters flooded in, offering me book contracts, movie deals and exotic snacks — I haven’t gotten so much attention since my Ajax for Beginners article. In fact, this poll from the redoubtable Lifehacker.com says that Ruby on Rails and Ajax are among the two most popular things in the world, and plainly it pays to follow the trends, so what if we combined the two of them? No, that would be excessive. You don’t want to read about that. You do? Hmmmm, OK, I suppose we can take a quick look.

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File Under: Programming

Set Up IMAP on Your Mail Server

My friend remarked the other day that if a life can be said to have a killer app, peer-to-peer file sharing is his. Well, e-mail is mine. It is the key conduit for my work, entertainment, hobbies, relations with family and friends, and all sorts of other activities. But as I come to rely on it more and more, its shortcomings are magnified, and my patience for them diminished.

I am endlessly irritated by the inelegances of POP e-mail. When I’m forced to use other people’s computers, or just when I switch from one laptop to another, I want all my e-mail, fifteen years’ worth, received as well as sent, to be right there at my fingertips, neatly categorized. If I have to stop in at a public web terminal and send an urgent message to my date for the evening, I want the message I send to be archived with the rest of my sent mail.

A year or so ago, I decided I had had enough. The old method of checking e-mail with a POP client at home, and stopping in to use Mail2Web or another public, on-the-road interface just wasn’t doing it for me. I wanted a central repository for all my e-mail, accessible easily from anywhere. After a perusal of the services that were available, I reached the conclusion that the amount of storage space and the functionality I desired would incur too high monthly cost. I took matters into my own hands.

Using an old Pentium box I had lying around, I tried out a few different configurations and possibilities, and eventually wound up with the system I wanted. Now, with that machine (which I named Potto) as a mail drop, I can access my e-mail — all my e-mail through history — from anywhere, using any mail client I like. There is also a handy web interface for checking e-mail from public terminals like the Apple store. And I even hacked together a hybrid interface so I can call up and have a Stephen-Hawking-a-like read me my e-mail over the phone! But that’s another story, and shall be told another time.

What follows is the story of how I changed my e-mail life, and the e-mail lives of several friends, by hosting my own e-mail, and theirs, at home. In a broom closet! And how you can do the same.

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File Under: APIs

Using the Twitter API

The microblogging site with the funny name is one of the hottest web services around.

Twitter is one of those websites with very little room for functional nuance. Its limit of 140 characters per post forces users to be succinct, something that makes many people feel over-constrained and leads them to view the service as too simple to actually be useful. Others see unbridled freedom inside such a unique limitation and embrace it like a poetic device. The lesson: You either get Twitter or you don’t.

Regardless of how you feel about it, if you’re looking to try out an API for the first time, Twitter is a great place to start.


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