Archive for October, 2007

Genie and the LAMP?

As mentioned in my previous posts Lamp is very popular in the industry at the moment. It is a combination of the operating system LINUX, the web server APACHE, the database management system MySQL and PHP. Although I am not planning to use LINUX, the combination of APACHE MySQL and PHP is the fundimental basis of my project; to create interactive content, to store user information and to allow the myself to view the website live through turing my computer into a server.   

In my quest to learn PHP it has so far been an uphill struggle. After looking for tutorials just to create a simple login feature I found loads, but they all said that I needed to install MySQL or a PHP database program in which creates coding to replicate MySQL. This program however decided not to install on my computer and therefore was utterly useless. This file is called phpMyADMIN; DONT DOWNLOAD IT. However this gave me the problem of searching for a MySQL file to download, a PHP folder and also the Apache program. Although I have already got a server up and running that has PHP installed within it, I still downloaded Apache to operate on my desktop so I can view the PHP website without the need of uploading it each time. (PHP unlike HTML doesn’t run through a program like dreamweaver in order to preview the website, which makes the development quite tedious.)

 In the end after searching through many website in order to download these programs and files, I asked Lee to point me in the right direction, as the files I was downloading ended up being useless. The Apache file I downloaded through google was “apache-1.3.31-win32-x86-no_src.msi” the MySQL from http://www.mysql.com and a PHP zip called “php-5.2.4-Win32” which works with MySQL and Apache telling them where the PHP files are being installed.I am still a little unsure of what my Assignment 2 project is to date, however I wish to use the skills learnt in this module to aid my development of my Production project next semester. Here is a little blurb of my production proposal so far, which should make clear the areas I wish to persue in this module :  

“For a countless number of years, students and the government have been worrying about the job prospects of University students who recently graduated or undergoing a degree in the subject areas of Arts. In a recent article in the Media Guardian1, with research carried out by the ‘UK Graduate Careers Survey 2007’ they found out that students undergoing degrees in art based subjects, were extremely worried about their future job prospects, nearly twice as worried as students studying in other academic fields. When discussing this with other students on participating media, photographic and journalism degrees around the country, the general consensus is that they are all worried about graduating and job-hunting in the near future. When asked if their course offered a supportive environment, offering them work experience placements, job opportunities or contact with like-minded individuals in which to discuss potential entrepreneurial ideas, most said no or little was provided. The art’s and media industries are one of the hardest to get into, as the environment is so competitive, and therefore without support it could result in (what Liz Ford wrote within her Media Guardian Article) students on arts degrees being ‘”noticeably less proactive” about job-hunting than those from other disciplines.’ By a creation of a website containing a virtual community (and therefore a supportive environment) I feel it would help students to be more proactive in job hunting. ‘Marc’

 With this in mind I wish to create a website which offers a login section, allowing users the ability to customise a page and upload (professional) information on themselves. This would require knowledge of HTML, CSS, PHP and MySQL.  My knowledge of HTML and CSS I consider to be easily up to standard to design the website and make the website look pretty. The PHP and MySQL on the other hand create the dynamic sections of the website. MySQL stores the users information in an online database, in which would store the users login and password, users webpage (and all the editable information provided within the page) Other features include a bullitin board, and comment systems.

The website in short would be a mini prototype of the website listed above, however as it is a prototype and I am currently in the process of learning PHP and MySQL I will experiement with its content to see what is possible and what isnt.  After many recomendations I have recently bought the book PHP 5 in easy steps which is so far very useful, and inorder to back this up I have also bought MySQL in easy steps to help in the development of the database.  

Marc

Http://marc.izonedesign.co.uk

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Brief Project Outline – Azeem Ahmad

People who use the internet to access news often find themselves visiting several different news websites to access the information they need. Some people have RSS feeds built into their toolbars in their web browsers – i.e Firefox, but even so, their browser will be cluttered with different subscriptions.

The aim of my project for this module is to create a ‘mash-up’ or a ‘mix’ of several popular, and regularly accessed RSS feeds, and combine them all into one single feed, thus eliminating the need for (amongst others):

  • Several different feed subscriptions
  • Over-subscribed feeds cramped into browsers
  • E-mail subscriptions (with RSS there is anonymity)

If I am able to complete this project successfully and to the high quality that I expect from it, then I may consider pitching my product to companies like Mozilla, or the BBC.

My aim is to take a minimum of four popular news feeds and combine them into one mixed RSS 2.0 feed, that is self updating – meaning the feed will update when the website it is linking to updates.

Pitch

  

  • To produce some kind of flash lite mobile application that can be used by the band Monday Street to promote them selves as an upcoming band.I will be in direct contact with the band and their manager to make sure that I am producing a product that can be actually used by them. I want the application to be used as one of their major outlets for promotion distribution.

  • If you take a look on http://www.myspace.com/mondaystreetyou can get some kind of feeling about what the band are about, and the kind of look and style my product will follow. My main idea is to use some of their videos, sound or images as a way of promoting new and up coming songs etc, also like a “press release” statement when there is news about gigs and the band.

  

  • I have decided to flash lite for my product as I wish to both improve my action script, but also I want to learn more about what flash can do and want to totally understand the mobile application.

  

  • As you can see, the band are young and trendy, I like the way this photo has some kind of animation on top of it, not totally distracting the viewer away but gives the photo a sharp edge. I wish to use this idea in my project to make sure that it look professional and is used in a professional manner.

http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=150646855&albumID=0&imageID=5881490 Colours:

  • As you can see in the picture below, this is the kind of style and colours in which I will have to incorporate and use whilst designing the product:

http://viewmorepics.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=viewImage&friendID=150646855&albumID=0&imageID=10211374

  • As the idea is based entirely on the band I have brainstormed a few ideas for the background, themes and general stuff:
  • Using their photos and images and fading them into the backgrounds
  • Having separate applications for the three different band mates.
  • Using a guitar, tambourine, drum stick, keyboard as key feature for design, animating them and making then stand out
  • Keeping their name at the forefront of the design.

PHP Resources

Below is a list of PHP resources I have accumulated which have helped me in my understanding of PHP, and hopefully will help anybody else who wishes to pursue this area. Some of these resources are websites, and some are books. I will update the list as I find more tutorials and useful information.

PHP 5 in easy steps, by Mike McGrath – A good starting point, as mentioned in another post.

http://php.resourceindex.com/ – A portal site which gives links to hundreds of useful tutorials. Perhaps more useful to someone who has a basic knowledge of PHP, as I have found that beginners tutorials are often somewhat confusing.

http://www.phpbuilder.com/ – Another useful site for finding tutorials, with a good search facility leading to many helpful tutorials.

http://evolt.org/article/comment/17/60265/index.html – A great tutorial for a PHP login section with Remember Me features. Remember Me is a good feature to have on a login area and makes the users experience more enjoyable and easier. A more advanced tutorial.

PHP Project

After spending a couple of weeks looking into PHP in some detail, obtaining materials to help me get started, and getting all the necessary knowledge, I have decided that I would like to do my project in PHP.

I feel that I have a good base to work on for learning PHP, with good knowledge of HTML and CSS. I also think that learning PHP will be a good advancement of my skills. With more and more websites becoming increasingly interactive, users may feel cheated to visit a website which has no interactive content at all.

This experience with PHP will also be extremely useful to contribute towards my final year project which is a PHP heavy online community.

My idea for this module is to build a small PHP based website which will have a user login option where users can enter their own areas and upload material such as music or small files. This will mean I will also have to learn and gain experience using MySQL. As I mentioned in a previous post, MySQL has given my problems from the installing stage, but I hope that when everything is working properly, there will be less problems.

The subject of my website, I have yet to decide, but I think that it will be easy to base the website on anything I choose closer to the deadline. The HTML element of my website should not pose too many problems, so I am free to experiment with PHP a little more. This means I may be able to add small extras to my PHP script which makes the website that little bit better. For example, adding a remember me feature onto the login section makes the website easier to access for regular users. Small additions such as this encourage people to visit the site more often, as well as making the experience easier and more enjoyable for them.

My next step will be to further research online communities and see how they work, in order to begin planning my own project. Hopefully I will be able to lift a lot of the work from this project and save myself time in my production project.

Proposal for my project

I propose to design and produce a game in Flash which promotes healthy eating to younger children, I have decided to create a game around this subject as there have been a number of issues in society that have arisen lately around obesity in young children, and eating healthy nutritional foods is key to a healthy balanced lifestyle. I came across an interesting article online about how packed lunches are falling behind on school dinners as the nutritional gap widens, this aided me to focus on making my game based on healthy packed lunches. This article can be found on the link below: www.schoolfoodtrust.org.uk/news_item.asp?newsCatId=2&NewsId=92 

  • The aim of the Game-Users will have a variety of lunchboxes to choose from, the lunchbox will then appear at the bottom of the screen where they will have to move the lunchbox side to side. A mixture of healthy and unhealthy foods and drinks will drop from the top of the screen; the user will have to catch the healthy foods which will increase their score and they also need to avoid the unhealthy foods going into their lunchbox as this will decrease their score. There will be different levels to this game (each getting harder) and each level will have different types of healthy foods so that at the end of the game a screen can show you that you have a balanced healthy diet in your lunchbox.

  • Target audience-This game is aimed at young children. I think that a game will hopefully raise awareness to children and encourage them to eat healthy. I feel that young children will be more engaging into this subject via a game as it will be fun and interactive and will keep hold of their attention.

  • Who it could be made for-I think that this game could be used at schools as they could get the children to learn about healthy eating and as an added activity they could try to complete this game. 

  • Technical Objectives-I aim to show improvement in Flash by improving in animations by making them smoother; this will make the game feel more natural. I will also be looking into different ways that the foods can drop from the top of the screen by researching into different types of movement such as random movement. I aim to enhance on my audio skills as I will try to add a volume controller. As well as this I want to add a scoring system and different levels which I have not done in Flash before. All of these elements will hopefully improve my understanding in actionscript. I hope to make this game very interactive and engaging. Furthermore I aim to improve on my design skills to make this game look more professional.

Draft Proposal

Aim :As you may be aware by now, I plan to design and hopefully develop an application for Facebook.

Justification: There are several reasons as to why I would like to develop an application for Facebook, these are:

  1. To enhance my both my knowledge and technical skills by learning how to develop with PHP. Having these kind of technical capabilities will prove particularly valuable to me as they are currently of great demand within the field of web and new media, and are the means in which the industry is heading.
  2. Secondly, the popularity of Facebook is at an all time high and there is numerous evidence to suggest that Facebook is soon to become more than just a social networking site. I have created an additional blog entitled ‘The Facebook Conquest’ which in effect, provides evidence (reports) which support this assumption. As a web specialist, I feel it would be particularly worthwhile to be a contributor towards this phenomena, especially with its evident benefits, I.e. this would look impresive for my CV. 
  3. Finally, concentrating on Facebook will also aid my theoretical work during this year as this too is based around Facebook and furthermore, its users experience.

Proposed Idea 

My proposed idea for assignment 2 is to create an application specifically aimed at web designers, however is one that could later be developed into an application for other media industry professionals aswell (In the same way that many other Facebook appliations have been developed and changed in different ways, I.e Poke to SuperPoke)  

For many users Facebook not only provides a place to socialise but also is a perfect place to advertise themselves, so much so that some companies are even beginning to create accounts now – For example nightclubs are using it as a source for their PR material.

Users can already include information such as work details, skills and qualifications on their profile, and therefore to coincide with this I felt that a visual, portfolio-type application would be a particularly useful tool for a web designer. 

 Instead of just providing text links to their portfolio of websites, the user would be able to add screen grabs of their websites which will give other users (some who could potentially be looking to utilise their skills) a preview of their work and which will also still act as links to the sites.

I personally feel that visual links are more enticing, and that a user is more likely to visit the websites than if they were just standard text based links.

To make the application more exciting, I might also consider creating some ‘skins.’ These wont necessarily have to be bold, patterned designs (because this may draw attention away from the screen grab images) however some basic colours for instance might attract more attention towards the application, especially in terms of where it is on the profile page.

Possible application names could be: ‘My Web Portfolio,’ ‘My Web Designs,’ or ‘Website Projects’ 

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.

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.

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