Archive for October 23, 2007

Experiences with PHP and Setting Up

In the last couple of weeks I have started to research PHP in more detail in order to find out more about how I can make use of it in my future projects. However, so far, despite reading claims that PHP is as easy to pick up as HTML once you get past the basics, I have seen no evidence of simplicity at all.

Merely installing the programs required to use PHP is a gargantuan task in itself, and by no means user friendly. Although PHP is the most popular programming language because of its simplicity, I find it hard to understand how so many people could work out how to get it installed on their systems in the first place.

Code is required from the get go. To use PHP and test it on your home system, you are required to run a server in the background. Many people prefer to use Apache, which is what I have installed, but other servers can be used such as Microsoft Internet Information Server. Installing Apache was the first hurdle to getting PHP working, and it wasnt too difficult to locate and install. Get Apache from http://httpd.apache.org, by downloading the stable windows version. If you cannot find it, do what I did and type “apache-1.3.31-win32-x86-no_src.msi” into google. The first link that comes up should download the correct version.

The next part of the PHP environment to obtain is a database server such as MySQL . MySQL is free to download so it is a popular choice amongst web developers. I have had problems with this from the moment I downloaded it, and at the time of writing this blog I still dont have MySQL working alongside my server and PHP. MySQL can be downloaded from http://www.mysql.com, and the latest version can be found in the community download area. Again, MySQL is free to download and use, which makes it popular.

The final item needed is PHP itself. I downloaded PHP 5 from the PHP website. Actually finding the correct version is hard enough as the website is difficult to navigate and quite confusing. After eventually downloading a no-install version, I consulted my PHP in easy steps book to work out how to install it manually. To do this a file called PHP.ini needs to be copied into your windows folder, and then edited to contain several lines of code which make it compatible with Apache and MySQL. Tests can then be carried out by typing simple html code including some lines of PHP code, which determine if the environment is correctly set up.

Suffice to say, mine wasnt, and as I mentioned before, I am still having troubles getting MySQL to connect to my Apache server. Anyone who has any interest in learning PHP, I strongly suggest getting a book to start you off, which has clear instructions on how to set up the working environment before launching you into tutorials. The book which I have does this quite well, but it doesnt tell you how to correct errors if something doesnt work.

If you would like to check it out, its called PHP 5 in easy steps, by Mike McGrath.

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Michelle Field – Proposal Draft

The following points set out my initial idea for my final Flash project:  

  • I will create a game which will be: aimed at teenagers, informative about littering concerns, persuasive and help prevent future littering.

  • Could be made for the Cheltenham area, who has already established a campaign which can be found at http://www.tidycheltenham.co.uk/. My game will aid there objectives in helping to keep the area tidy and will attract further use of the site by providing an interactive feature.

  • The Game: As the main player it will be your objective to collect as much rubbish as possible by moving horizontally and vertically (by jumping) across the game area, which will be a street. Different rubbish types will score you different amounts of points. You will also have a time limit in which to complete each level. Baddies (litter droppers) will try to intercept you, in which you must escape them by hitting them with your litter picker. In between each level will be a fact on littering. I may also include a score board feature and consider any additional interactive elements.

  • My technical objectives will be met as I will be incorporating new aspects of Flash into my work such as: random movement, time limits, a complex scoring system, jumping movement and other aspects of actionscirpt, in which I have not done before. I also hope to experiment more with sound for example by incorporating a volume control which will advance my skills from my previous project. In addition, I want the overall style and design of the game to appear professional in terms of its visual appearance, as I feel this is an area I need to improve in. Time efficiency and planning will also be essential. In order to achieve these things I will be required to carry out research and shall need to find out how to technically create certain aspects. This can be done on a number of Flash aid sites that I have mentioned in my previous blogs.
     

  • The overall design will be based on a cartoon approach to appeal to the target audience. Therefore colour will be used throughout. I will use keyboard controls as this best accounts for accessibility.
     

  • Similar products that already exist: 1) http://www.recyclingrangers.co.uk/littergame.htm the game is aimed at children, however it is very simple and only contains one level and there is only one type of rubbish to collect. The overall experience is not very interactive or fun. 2) A different kind of game can be found at: http://www.epa.state.il.us/kids/fun-stuff/litter-hunt/ which again only has one level and is very simple probably aimed at younger children. 3) A more complex game can be found at: http://www.encams.org/funzone/tidyman_preload.html .This has a set amount of litter you must collect as well as a number of lives and more than one level. With this game you have to use the mouse to move around which slightly irritating and less accessible. The overall game movement and layout is different to my aims. Furthermore my game aims to educate with factual information incorporated into the game. However these products may provide me with inspiration for my own work.

  • When completed I will test the product on the potential target audience.  

A Tutorial on ‘Facebook Applications’ …getting started!

To begin with, I want to first highlight how building an application for Facebook can be beneficial for a developer, and what opportunities it can create.

As Facebook themselves say:

  1. The nature of Facebook means that users will spread and quickly distribte an application worldwide – promoting yourself and your skills.   
  2. Not all applications have to be made for free, you could choose to build a business based around your Facebook application(s).

Throughout my series of blogs, I have researched some background information into the concept of Web 2.0 – and more specifically PHP, as well as investigating the potential Facebook has for PHP development and for web developers in general. Based on this I will now guide you through the steps needed in order to commence with building a PHP application for Facebook.

Gettin Started:

Note: Before you can even think about building an application for Facebook, just as I have outlined in a previous blog entry your computer must have a web server running PHP 5.

Step 1 – Joining Facebook! To develop an application for Facebook you must be a registered user so that you can access the relevant information through your account.

Step 2 – Once you have signed up for Facebook the next step is to add the ‘Developers’ application to your account. This can be located by searching for the application – Type ‘Developers’ in the applications search box. Having this application on your account allows you to add your new application to the Facebook Platform.

What is the Facebook Platform?

The Facebook platform is ‘a standards-based web service with methods for accessing and contributing Facebook data.’

Step 3 – With the ‘developers’ application now on your profile, click ‘add new application.’

The next steps are directed through by Facebook themselves, in the tutorial ‘Step-by-Step Guide to Creating an Application’ .

  1. Here are the steps for filling out the form:
  2. Application Name: for our app, we put ‘Tutorial Application‘ – you should put in a different name.
  3. Check the Terms of service box.
  4. Click on the Optional Fields link – this will bring up more options.
  5. Support E-mail: your Facebook contact email may be filled in automatically, but you might not want to give out your personal email to everyone who adds your app! You do have to put a valid email address that you can check, however.
  6. Callback Url: for our app, we put ‘http://tperry256.dreamhost.com/f8/tutorialapp/‘ – you should put something DIFFERENT – in particular, you should put the url of the directory on your server where you will create your application.
  7. Canvas Page URL: http://apps.facebook.com/: for our app, we put ‘tutorialapp‘ – you must put in a different name.
  8. Use FBML: keep this setting.
  9. Application Type: leave this set to ‘Website’.
  10. Can your application be added to Facebook: set to ‘yes’ – this will bring up more options.
  11. TOS URL: you can leave this blank.
  12. Post-Add Url: for our app, we put ‘http://apps.facebook.com/tutorialapp/‘ — you should put something DIFFERENT – in particular, you should put your full canvas page url.
  13. Default FBML: type in the text ‘hello’.
  14. Leave everything else under Installation Options blank.
  15. Side Nav Url: for our app, we put ‘http://apps.facebook.com/tutorialapp/‘ — you should put something DIFFERENT – in particular, you should put your canvas page url here as well.
  16. Leave everything else under Integration Points blank.
  1. Click on the ‘Submit’ button.
  2. Go the the ‘My Applications’ page and check that your application was created. There are a couple ways to get here depending on where you are in the Developer application.

Apologies

 Sorry about the state of my “interview” post it just keep changing size and colour when hit save… I’m getting stressed with this post so will come back and fix it tomorrow! Marie

Interview with a media professional

Question One: 

I was wondering whether it would be possible for you to give me an insight into what’s going on with the “mobile” application and how it has already advanced and where you believe this new application is going or could go?

 

Mobile is a funny industry. It’s very regional, and quite literally fragmented. In general, however, folks want to use their portable devices for data rather than strictly voice services, more and more.

 Question Two: 

I am soon to graduate I was wondering whether you would be able to give me an insight into what you believe an employable “new media graduate” is in your eyes?

 

Flash is an essential skill in the industry, but it really comes down to what tools you like. Personally, I would think about learning Flex and get into Air applications. There is a high demand, and not many qualified people. If you are excited about mobile, I would learn Flash Lite. The migration from desktop Flash to Flash Lite is not that high.

 Question Three: 

What do you feel the number one skill for a newly graduate student would be?

 

Flash.

Question Four:

 

What skills are the “most employable”?

 

Right now, Flex and Air … once you have Flash experience.

Question Five: 

Have you got any tips for graduates entering the media industry?

 

Have a nice portfolio and shop it around. Start a blog; use it to market yourself and your skills. Join the Flash community (MXNA). Go to user group meetings. Attend Flash conferences. Use linkedin.com, twitter and other social tools to connect to people in the industry. Get a mentor.

 Question Six: 

What are your inspirations?

 

There are way too many. I typically get inspiration from Flash conferences, but it comes from people in the community. 

 Question Seven: 

What steps did you take to get to where you are today?

 

It was a long process. Started out doing web, moved into multimedia, and
from there go into Flash.

Now I am doing Flash Mobile.