Saturday, 8 January 2011

Introduction 2 - The Home Page

Originall written on Friday 7th January 2011

All the following is the text from the webpage and it reads as though you are viewing the actual page:

Hello, this website is here to document the process of learning how to program for the web in 2011.

It is intended that this site will develop into a useful reference for learning the various current technologies which come together to make the web what it is.

I worked in IT for about 8 years, finishing up with a 2 years at the BBC, roughly 20 years ago. Since then I've been a recording engineer and a cabinet maker. Don't try and be a cabinet maker in a recession, it really doesn't work - so I sold my tools and workshop and now I'm going to get back into working in IT.

I am an experienced Mac user. I used them exclusively and extensively both as an engineer and as a cabinet maker for the last 15 years. I've written a handful of websites in the past using Adobe Fireworks. Now I want to learn how to do it properly so I'm learning by typing the pure code - no wysywyg editors, only text. All files are produced in BBEdit on a Mac but any plain text editor on almost any computer will do. I highly recommend using a specialised code editor such as BBEdit as it makes your life infinitely easier.

What useful skill and experience do I have? I've done a fair amount of programming in the past: tons of stuff in a proprietary database language, I've written lots of Unix Shell Scripts, a bit of C++ and some object oriented C, and tons of BASIC. So hopefully I'm used to a lot of the concepts of programming. In terms of useful skills for programming for the web today though I don't know very much at all. I have a knowledge of the basic structure and syntax of XHTML and experience with a handful of tags, a similar level of knowledge about CSS (gained solely in the last few days) and a tiny bit of knowledge about JAVA.

A hell of a lot of learning is required. This page and hopefully several more like it are to document my learning, or re-learning of the necessary skills. I am interested in 'the mechanics' of what goes on with web pages more than 'web design'. Consequently don't expect to see lots of nifty graphics and effects. Hopefully you will see simple information presented clearly and accessibly.

I've been learning from two books and I should credit them here. HTML for the World Wide Web, 5th edition, Visual Quickstart Guide by Elizabeth Castro, Peachpit Press is the main one. This is a great book, now available in a 6th edition, well written, concise and easy to understand, I highly recommend this book. Also extremely useful is the HTML 4.01 Programmers Reference from WROX - a fantastic reference resource. Whilst both of these books are from 2003 much of their content is still valid and it's so easy to find new information on the web.

While using the site please be aware of the ability of your browser to show you the source code of any page you look at. In Firefox it is the Page Source option in the View menu, or the Apple-U key-stoke on a Mac. Many links on this site will take you to unformatted or blank pages - the intention is for you to view the source code.

Hopefully stepping through the pages in the order they're presented in the navigation bar should give you a fair idea, in chronological order, of how I've gone about building the site, and how you could build yours too. Eventually, when I'm happy with it, I'll make a downloadable template of the site.

A note about file names and file-extension conventions used in this site. All main pages are called index.php and are differentiated from each other by their parent directory/folder. I've attempted to always make names as meaningful as possible.

All the main pages end in the extension .php - This means that servers will parse these files for PHP and then send the resulting XHTML on to your browser (if you view the source code for this page you'll see how various files have been included in the XHTML by PHP include calls - look for the comments to tell you where these bits are).

Files ending in the extension .htm are generally the bits of code called by the PHP includes. As such they require no head or body sections. They're simply read at the appropriate time in the index.php files.

If, like me, you're new to this field it's a really good idea to have a look at a page like this to learn a few things about best coding practices.

Please take the time to have a look around the site and feel free to get in touch with any thoughts or suggestions.

Once again all the preceding text is from the webpage and it reads as though you are viewing the actual page:

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keep it nice now