netWindows JavaScript tools

A set of JavaScript tools that can dramatically reduce the overhead of many applications is available in “netWindows”, a liberally licensed set of JavaScript applications that drive a user interface from the client side, according to Stephen Downes in his OLDaily newsletter.

The documentation states: “netWindows is a DHTML toolkit that aides in the construction of web applictions. The toolkit provides widgets which comprise the building blocs of an application interface and the core framework exposes mechansisms for developers to build their own widgets easily”. Check it out at http://netwindows.org.

Send some feedback or comments if you make use of it and let others know how it functions. I suggest looking at the documentation, then then FAQ document, to get an overview of how the product can be implemented.

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Web Usability

I just found a new weblog about Web Usability-accessibility and usability services, that is well written and a good source for keeping updated about accessibility issues. There has been an interesting discussion about usability in the school forum – AID Creative Forums > Multimedia & Web Design Department > Web Design > The End of Usability Culture, and I think this is another good resource concerning these issues.

Basically, Jacob Neilson, the usability guru, is not exactly the popular guy these days. And as Aaron suggested that form of usability is probably not intact today. But keeping the web designed for the user is never dead, as we have no one else to design for. I am hoping all student developers will become very serious about accessibility issues. We try to teach strong well-formed standards based web design concepts, which if followed, keeps your sites accessible and more usable than most. The article “Accessible Forms” located at http://www.usability.com.au/resources/forms.cfm is a good explanation of why some of the tedious tags are necessary in forms. The article and the blog also has great resources to link to as well as tools used for accessibility.

Web Tools

I have intended to write an article about “web based tools for learning”, but when my comprehensive committee did not choose that topic, I haven’t gotten back into it. This is a brief substitute to put some tools before you, so you can just go and try them out and see what benefit they have for you. All of these are tools that I use as a grad student, and quite frankly, I’m not sure how I would have worked without them. Some have been around awhile, and some are fairly new. They art tools often described as “social software” applications, because of their feature set including the ability to post or sent content to anyone or any web site you choose. I would be glad to talk with anyone about the various tools, but I think most of you would do best to just go to the site and see what they are about and try them out if it moves you. Here is an unorganized list, slightly annotated:

Furl

http://www.furl.net

With a menu button added to your browser menu bar, furl will capture any web site you select, allow you to add a category from a dropdown menu, and any notes you choose to identify it. You can then search by keywords any resources you have “furled”, bring the site back up, and even send a list of your items to someone else, or to your Weblog. They provide the hard drive, you get a great research tool, and its FREE.

Flickr

http://flickr.com/

A great way to store, search, sort, and share your digital pictures! Also Free.

del.icio.us

http://del.icio.us/

A social bookmarks manager. Same concept: menu bar button, click, saves whatever web page your on as a bookmark. Uses their storage facilities, you can sort, export, import, and format to any number of file types, including IE Favorites, or Mozilla style bookmarks.

Technorati

http://www.technorati.com

A Technorati Watchlist is a customized report that tracks incoming links to people and places you care about. With your Watchlist, you can track the daily conversations that develop between people on weblogs and the sites, news, products and topics they are talking about. 3 free watchlists are available.

Feedburner

http://www.feedburner.com

For Weblog authors, feedburner can provide several services. It captures your RSS or Atom feeds, and stores them, and makes them available for publishing in an RSS newsreader, or export to wherever you like. It also can track traffic using your RSS feeds.

Blogdigger and Feedster Blog Search Engines

http://www.blogdigger.com

http://www.feedster.com

Blogdex

http://www.blogdex.com

A research project from MIT Media Lab that tracks ideas as they move across the blogsphere.

I have another group of tools, more in the “Personal Information Management” category that will require another article due to the platform differences of the applications. This category is primarily software that you download and use on your own computer. More later.

Learning PHP

Hopefully, we will have another PHP workshop next quarter, if some of the student teachers choose to put one together again. In the mean time, those of you interested in learning PHP, here are a few suggestions to get started.

XOOPS, an eXtensible Object Oriented Portal System, is an open source (as in free!) content management system built with PHP. I think it is an excellent product for students to learn about PHP, dynamic web site development, and a lot of related issues. Basically, it works with PHP and MySQL to provide a Web site a “back-end” system that makes it dynamic instead of static. You can design your own interface (XHTML/CSS) and manage it with XOOPS among other things. You can learn as much as you desire, or just use it to help you automate the development of web sites. You will need a Web server that supports PHP and MySQL.

On the XOOPS site, are some good PHP tutorials as well as an online Manual. I think the combination of downloading the XOOPS module, studying the tutorials and related manual, will give anyone a good starting experience with PHP, and certainly will expand your web development skills. The following links will get you to the site and the tutorials:

XOOPS Content Management System (Open Source – free)

http://docs.xoops.org/modules/intro/

php tutorial

http://docs.xoops.org/modules/mylinks/visit.php?cid=1&lid=2

php manual

http://docs.xoops.org/modules/mylinks/visit.php?cid=1&lid=2

W3Schools php tutorial

http://docs.xoops.org/modules/mylinks/visit.php?cid=1&lid=4