Identify the Best Software for Words & Images

WYSIWYG vs. HTML Software

The two most common types of design software are WYSIWYG and HTML, which is used to build a Web site with Hypertext Markup Language. Better software combines both, automatically converting your visual design to HTML.
WYSIWYG (say “wiziwig”) makes Web-building a lot easier for those of you new to the whole thing. It’s an acronym for What You See is What You Get –you watch your site come together on the screen while dragging and dropping its pieces into place.
But if you’re building anything more than a basic Web site with limited functions, HTML is the way to go.
The code isn’t hard to learn, if you have the time, and gives you endless flexibility and options, and better control over every element of your new site and how it looks online.
A blend of both is best and usually offered in higher end – more expensive – design software.

Best Values

But cost is a serious factor, you say. You don’t have thousands or even hundreds of dollars to plunk down for software, and can do fine without all the tasty functions of sites like Yahoo, MSN or Amazon – although taking some pointers from Amazon’s site is a good idea for any level Web designer.

Here are some well-regarded, solid, meat-and-potatoes software choices. All get the job done and, with one exception, for less than $50. You can download the software from their Web sites, where you should look for more detail:

  • Microsoft Office Live Small Business Basics. If a simple, straightforward Web presence is all you need, you can’t beat the price – free. That includes a domain name and hosting (including 500 MB of space), basic Web design tools, 25 e-mail accounts for your company, and a $50 credit toward search engine advertising.
  • CoffeeCup HTML Editor. Both WYSIWYG and HTML, as well as more advanced options like DHTML scripting, live chat, blogging and loads of graphics. Buy add-ons for more functions. Free to try, $49 to buy.
  • Web Easy Professional. WYSIWIG/HTML. Flash animation; SEO; real-time visitor analytics; RSS; e-Commerce functions; Web color selector; fades, wipes and other special effects; 85,000 images and lots more. Free to try, $49.95 to buy.
  • Web Studio. WYSIWYG/HTML, flash animation, video, music, full-featured shopping cart, HTML e-mail, large graphics library, comprehensive user manual and two hours of video tutorials. Free to try, $169.99 to buy.
  • WYSIWYG Web Builder. WYSIWYG/HTML, image maps, photo and graphics libraries; ready-to-use Java scripts; ActiveX; flash animation; Windows Media player, Quicktime, Real Audio and other plug-in support; PayPal shopping cart; online tutorials. Free to try, $34.95 to buy.

Some Tips on ‘Deals’ to Avoid

As you shop around online for business Web design software, be careful about certain great looking “deals.” Here are some to avoid:

  • Software that allows you to use both WYSIWYG and HTML, but not at the same time. While you can switch between them, you can’t use them simultaneously. That’s a big disadvantage if you’re managing your own Web site, want to do it right and are pressed for time.
  • Packages that play up design templates, graphics elements and images, but downplay functionality – because there isn’t much.
  • WYSIWYG software with little or no HTML editing ability.
  • Many ISPs – internet service providers – like Verizon, Quest and Earthlink, and giants Yahoo, AOL and Google, offer free tools and server space for personal Web sites – but not enough for even basic small-business needs.
  • Avoid programs that aren’t aimed at small business owners.
  • Avoid software that doesn’t let you make easy changes quickly and easily.

Top-of-the-Line Design Software

As you might expect, top-tier Web design software is much more sophisticated – and costly. It’s harder for novices to control, and even if you learn to use their professional design tools, you may still need a pro to put it all together, make it work and maintain it.
But it will serve you well as your business grows, and your Web design needs grow with it. Here are some of the most popular examples:

  • Microsoft Expression Web, $299, free trial
  • Adobe Dreamweaver, $399, free trial
  • NetObjects Fusion 10.0, $199
  • Microsoft.com/SilverLight, free download

Even at this level, the software doesn’t include hosting or advertising services, your domain name or Web address.

What’s the buzz about AJAX?

AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) technology is the new buzzword in Web site design. So what is it and what makes it so cool. Simply put, AJAX is a Web development technique used for creating interactive Web pages and applications.
The intent is to make Web pages feel more responsive by exchanging small amounts of data with the server behind the scenes, so that the entire Web page does not have to be reloaded each time the user requests a change (e.g., changes the font or inserts a block of text).
This is intended to increase the Web page’s interactivity, speed, functionality, and usability.

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Securing Web Services With Username and Password (Custom SoapExtension)

Have you ever wanted to intercept a web service method because you wanted to maybe log it or even as we are about to do authenticate a user?  Did you know you can intercept any incoming SoapMessage that is sent to your web service?  This is all possible because of the SoapExtension class in .Net. Not only can you intercept the incoming message but you can do it within one of four stages:

  1. AfterDeserialize
  2. AfterSerialize
  3. BeforeDeserialize
  4. BeforeSerialize

This allows us a lot of flexibility obviously.  In our example we are going to work with the AfterDeserialize stage which is after the message has been sent across the wire and serialized into a SoapMessage object.  Since we will have a full blown SoapMessage object, we can inspect the headers of the SoapMessage and take care of authentication then.  Our end goal with taking this approach is to allow us to authenticate a user with a WebMethod simply by adding an authentication attribute to the WebMethod like this highlighted in bold.

    [WebMethod]
[SoapHeader(“CustomSoapHeader”)]
[AuthenticatonSoapExtensionAttribute] (magic here)

public int AddTwoNumbers(int x, int y)
{
return x + y;
}

You’ll notice in this example we do not have to remember to call the code to authenticate the user manually as we saw in the previous article.  Instead by adding the attribute to the method it knows to call the authentication method.  To do this we need to first create a custom object that extends SoapExtensionAttribute and then another that extends SoapExtension.

Create a Custom SoapExtensionAttribute

In order to have the method call our custom SoapExtension we need to create an object that extends SoapExtensionAttribute.  It is a farily simple class with two overridden properties.  Here’s the code:

 [AttributeUsage(AttributeTargets.Method)]
public class AuthenticatonSoapExtensionAttribute : SoapExtensionAttribute
{
private int _priority;
public override int Priority
{
get { return _priority; }
set { _priority = value; }
}

public override Type ExtensionType
{
get { return typeof(AuthenticatonSoapExtension); }
}
}

You’ll notice about the only thing of real substance is the Extension type property which simply returns to us our custom extension.

Create a Custom SoapExtension

The last piece to pull this all together is a custom class which extends the SoapExtension class.  In this class we are going to write the code that does the actual authentication.  We are going to check for the AfterDeserialize stage and then first make sure we have a valid SoapHeader.   Once we do that we are going to call the static validation method and pass in the SoapHeader as we did above.

 /// <summary>
/// Custom SoapExtension that authenticates the method being called.
/// </summary>

public class AuthenticatonSoapExtension : SoapExtension
{
/// <summary>
/// When overridden in a derived class, allows a SOAP extension to initialize data specific to an XML Web service method using an attribute applied to the XML Web service method at a one time performance cost.
/// </summary>
/// <param name=”methodInfo”></param>
/// <param name=”attrib”></param>

public override object GetInitializer(LogicalMethodInfo methodInfo, SoapExtensionAttribute attrib)
{
return null;
}
/// <summary>
/// When overridden in a derived class, allows a SOAP extension to initialize data specific to a class implementing an XML Web service at a one time performance cost.
/// </summary>
/// <param name=”WebServiceType”></param>

public override object GetInitializer(Type WebServiceType)
{
return null;
}

/// <summary>
/// When overridden in a derived class, allows a SOAP extension to initialize itself using the data cached in the GetInitializer method.
/// </summary>
/// <param name=”initializer”></param>

public override void Initialize(object initializer)
{
}

/// <summary>
/// After the message is deserialized we authenticate it.
/// </summary>
/// <param name=”message”></param>
public override void ProcessMessage(SoapMessage message)
{
if (message.Stage == SoapMessageStage.AfterDeserialize)
{
Authenticate(message);
}
}

public void Authenticate(SoapMessage message)
{
ServiceAuthHeader header = message.Headers[0] as ServiceAuthHeader;
if (header != null)
{
ServiceAuthHeaderValidation.Validate(header);
}
else
{
throw new ArgumentNullException(“No ServiceAuthHeader was specified in SoapMessage.”);
}
}

}

The method that we are really concerned with is the ProcessMessage which checks for the stage and then calls the Authenticate method.  This in turn calls our static validation method which checks for authentication.  At this point light bulbs should be going off!   Since we have a SoapMessage object do we not know which method is being called?  Yes!  Could we modify the ServiceAuthHeaderValidation to check for a database instead of hard coding things?  Yes!  Now you are starting to see where this could really go.   SoapExtensions are powerful and only limited to your imagination.

When I Test It, It Doesn’t Work, Why?

Once you get your SoapExtension in your solution setup and press F5 to debug it within Visual Studio  it will launch a new web server on a random port and bring you to your service.  You enter the parameters and submit the form and it by passes your validation.  Why!?

This is suppose to happen and here is why. If you go to the service invoked from VS through the browser interface it will not invoke the authentication and it isn’t suppose to either. The reason is you are not invoking the service via SOAP but rather just a standard POST from a form. Therefore, the SOAP extension is never going to fire. This should be disabled when you publish your web service to production as only SOAP messages should be allowed. If you have a case where you need to allow GET and POST calls then the method of a custom SoapExtension isn’t going to work.

As a benefit, Visual Studio builds the form for you automatically when you press F5 and allows you to pass parameters to the web method, but it does it via POST. If you invoke the web method from a console application or a real client making a SOAP call, you have to pass in the username and password.  I actually consider this behavior a feature.  If we didn’t use the SoapExtension to secure the method, we’d be forced to pass in username and password all the time which would mean we’d have to always call the secured web method from a test client.   Speaking from experience this isn’t fun.  Of course you should have Unit Tests for each web method anyway but it is really easy to pass in the params to a web form while debugging.

I hope you find this useful and now don’t feel so daunted because your team leader asked you how you were going to authenticate web service methods via a database.  The only thing left is for you to implement your required features.  Of course, if you are on an Intranet, instead of using username and password as we did in the previous post you could at the point of Authenticate(SoapMessage message) use the user’s integrated credentials and check for various groups in Active Directory or even using Enterprise Library Security Block.

British ISPs are trying to bring down Pirate Bay

It has been a long-lasting UK’s struggle to block access to The Pirate Bay, and it finally turned out that the country’s High Court delivered the following decision: the UK’s broadband providers must get involved with the measures taken against the BitTorrent tracker.

According to the BBC report, Everything Everywhere, Sky, Virgin Media, TalkTalk, and O2 are ordered to stop their subscribers from accessing the stigmatized BitTorrent tracker. The BPI claimed that the websites like The Pirate Bay destroy jobs in the United Kingdom and undermine investment in new UK content creators. However, BT asked for a couple more weeks to consider their position on blocking access to the website.

Since November last year, the BPI has been asking a number of Internet service providers to voluntarily block access to The Pirate Bay, after doing the same with another site offering infringing links – Newzbin2. But the broadband providers replied they wouldn’t do so unless court ordered.

Now the ISPs admit that they will have to follow the High Court’s request, but add that such measures aren’t part of a long-term solution. Responsible companies will comply with court orders addressed to them, but they strongly believe that changing consumer behavior to fight copyright violation also needs compelling legal alternatives, like the agreement with streaming services, to provide users legitimate access at the right price.

Meanwhile, the British Pirate Party claimed that this move won’t help the content creators get more money. Although the court order didn’t come as a surprise, the truth remains that the country finds itself on a slippery slope towards online censorship.

Everyone knows that there are many alternatives to bypass website blocking, but the industry believes it should keep trying. It also points out that the principle that downloading copyrighted music is against the law hasn’t been reinforced by schools or parents. However, this opinion isn’t shared by Jim Killock, the executive director of the Open Rights Group, who said that the court ruling was pointless and dangerous, because it will fuel calls for stricter online censorship of many kinds, from porno to extremism. As you can see, online censorship keeps growing in scope and becoming easier.

Google could not fulfill its promise to reduce its dependence on search revenue

The world-wide known search engine Google had a 5-year plan intended to reduce its dependence on search revenue to 65% by next year. Which, apparently, didn’t work right.

According to the local media reports, this figure appeared in the paperwork related to the Google vs. Oracle trial and showed that in fact Google was off its targets by many miles. The plan saw the company receiving over 35% of its 2013 revenue from outside its search operation. That’s what Google wanted to reach back in 2010.

It seems that Internet commerce and an initiative to bring Google services to TV were on the list of things Google was going to shift to. After the experts saw the paper, they most likely laughed and assumed that Google TV and commerce ambitions didn’t really happen. According to Herman Leung, Susquehanna Financial Group analyst, two years ago Google was a little more aggressive than it is now.

Actually, the projections for the company’s different businesses were part of a presentation to Google’s board of directors two years ago. The search giant tried to convince American District Judge William Alsup to keep the papers secret, saying they were commercially sensitive. At the same time, making the company look silly over failing to meet its goals doesn’t count as “commercially sensitive” to the judge. Jim Prosser, a spokesman for the company, claimed that the papers didn’t represent current thinking about its business operations, but he forgot to say why it was so important to have this data suppressed.

The paper also reveals how Google sees an emerging threat from cooperation between the largest social network in the world, Facebook, and Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Google was worried that Facebook-Bing users might bypass it. Meanwhile, its own YouTube business was estimated to generate $5 billion by 2013, due to a $3 billion contribution from its own TV project, which actually never happened.

HTML5 – a few bullet points

HTML has been on a wild ride. Sure, HTML started as a mere markup language, but more recently HTML’s put on some major muscle. Now we’ve got a language tuned for building true web applications with local storage, 2D drawing, offline support, sockets and threads, and more.

If you’ve never had exposure to HTML5 before, that’s okay, but you should have worked with HTML, and there are some basics you should know about like elements, tags, attributes, nesting, the difference between semantic markup and adding style, and so on.
If you aren’t familiar with all these, we’re going to make a small suggestion (and a shameless plug): there’s a book called Head First HTML
with CSS & XHTML, and you should read it. And if you’re somewhat familar with markup languages, you might want to skim it or use it as a reference while coding HTML5.

html5_1920x1200

5 Reasons why you should be using Google AdWords

Googe adwords logo
Google Adwords Logo © Google Inc.

Reason 1: The Google audience / user base has traditionally catered to technical audiences and more importantly, to Internet savvy users.

The kind of users who are confortable about buying online .

These users (the tech-savvy, buying kind) are more likely to use Google than Yahoo or MSN).

Reason 2: Google AdWords delivers instant results – you can have your ad campaign up and running in 10 minutes flat. Compared to this Yahoo can take anywhere from 2 to 5 days while they manually review ads.

Reason 3: With AdWords, you can go target your prospects geographically down to countries, states and cities. This is a great advantage for businesses selling hard goods or services – they would prefer local prospects as opposed to someone half way across the world.

Reason 4: My favorite quality about AdWords is that it rewards good ad performance – that is, for an ad that converts (clicks/impressions percentage) exceptionally well (high click-through-rate (CTR)), your ad will get better ad placement as well as better pricing.
Google wants to display the most relevant ads for the user. So… it makes perfect sense that YOU will pay less per click, the higher the click through rate of your ad is.

Click-through rate is simply the percentage that users click on your ad. For example, if 100 users saw your ad, and 2 people clicked your ad to visit your website, your click-through rate would be 2% (2/100).

Reason 5: Your competition cannot see the exact amount you’re bidding for your keywords or the CTR your ads are getting – a distinct tactical advantage that Yahoo lacks.

Basically, your competition will NEVER be able to tell how you are marketing your product, unless they use a trick I’m going to show you later 😉 So, they won’t be able to copy off of your marketing and steal your prospects.
Bottom line – bringing instant traffic to your websites and converting those prospects into satisfied customers is a much better option than waiting around for your search engine rankings to.
And, in my opinion, Google AdWords is game in town when it comes to PPC advertising.

Learn the Code (But Only What You Must)

We know. When you see words like “code,” mysterious acronyms like “HTML” or phrases like “Hypertext Markup Language,” your brain starts to buzz, little red warning flags start to wave and you turn away saying, “Yeeee … not interested.”
It’s a natural reaction if you’re poking into new territory. But you’ll be surprised how easy it is to sort out and understand high-tech alphabet soup with a little plain talk and clear explanation. In this step, we’ll look at HTML basics in three parts:
1. What is Hypertext Markup Language?
2. How Does It Work?
3. Understanding HTML Tools

Even if you’ve decided to let a pro take over your business Web site design, you’ll have more control over the look, content and function of your site with a basic knowledge of HTML.

What is Hypertext Markup Language?
Yes, it’s a new language to learn.

But HTML has been the basic framework of all Web design for as long as it’s existed, largely because it’s easy to understand.
It’s just words. Plain text, common words mixed with some special but simple “punctuation” marks.
You may be surprised to learn that every Web page, no matter how many slick tricks and graphics it has, is built on nothing but text. It’s like that old wizard behind the curtain: You don’t see him – unless you know where to look.
Go to a Web page you like and right-click your mouse on an empty space.

When a menu appears, look for “View Source” or “View Page Source” and left-click it.
A new screen appears, filled with plain English text and familiar punctuation marks – but arranged in a different way. (If it’s one long unbroken block of gobbledygook, pick another page. Whoever wrote the code didn’t bother to break the text into lines and sections for easy reading.)
This is HTML and it controls everything on that page – every sentence, every graphic, every link and form, every sound, all of it. Your Web browser reads this text and translates it into the visual, functional Web page.
It’s as user-friendly as code gets, and you don’t need anything more than a word processor or simple text editor – like Notepad – to write or manipulate it. And it works on any kind of computer with any operating system.

Tips and tricks

  • Let site visitors open a new browser window from a link: By adding a link on your Web site that opens another browser window, you can point your site visitors to other Web content without having them leave your Web site.
  • Add maps and directions to your site: Want to make it easy for customers to find your business? Add a map or driving directions to your business or other location on your Web site using the Map & Directions module.
  • Add a hit counter to your Web page: Hit counters keep a running total of the number of times that your page is viewed. They don’t distinguish between the number of times that you look at your page and when a customer looks at your page. However, they do give a visual clue about the pages most used pages on your site.
  • Add a scrolling marquee to your Web page: Use scrolling marquees to highlight new products, post breaking news about an award that your company received, or let customers know that a special offer is about to end.
  • Add a slide show to your site: Use a slide show to emphasize new products, to highlight products on sale, or even to display products that your customers might not usually find. You can create your own slide show with our tool or leverage your photos that you may already have on Flickr.
  • Add a PayPal Button: You can insert simple HTML code to display PayPal “BuyNow” buttons directly into our Web pages. To offer credit card or direct PayPal payments, you must sign up for PayPal Express.
  • Add an embedded video player to your site: You can embed one of several different video players in your Web page including Mydeo, YouTube, or Google video.

How Does It Work?
Text alone is just a collection of words. Once strung together in a sentence or paragraph, punctuation makes them understandable and gives them meaning.
In HTML, the punctuation marks are called “tags.” Here’s a simple example:
Say you want to add the line, “Is HTML really so easy?” as its own paragraph on your Web page. In Hypertext Markup Language, it looks like this:
<p>Is HTML really so easy?</p>
To give emphasis to a word using italics – “Is HTML really so easy?” – add another pair of tags:
<p>Is HTML <em>really</em> so easy?</p>
Now, to put the same word in boldface, add another pair of tags:
<p>Is HTML <em><strong>really</strong></em>so easy?</p>
When a Web browser reads that code, this will appear on your page:
Is HTML really so easy?
You’ll notice that for every tag, like <p> for the start of a paragraph, there is also a closing tag – in this case </p>, for end of paragraph – that includes the slash mark /. The italics tag <em> means “emphasis,” and <strong> means boldface. (Old school HTML uses <i> for italics and <b> for boldface, but working with the newer tags will prepare you for using CSS – or Cascading Style Sheets – for even more flexibility and functions). Of course there’s much more to this language than three pairs of tags – far too much to cover here. But if you want to keep going, these are great places to start:
• HTMLGoodies.com
•Web siteTips.com
•PageResource.com
•EchoEcho.com
•Jukka Korpela’s HTML Primer

Understanding HTML Tools
As we mentioned earlier, you really don’t need any special software or programs to work with HTML. Plenty of Web designers use nothing more than Microsoft Word to create HTML content.
Let’s decipher one more techie acronym here in case you run across it:

ASCII – say “ask-ee” – stands for American Standard Code for Information Interchange, the most common standard for handling text on computers. ASCII documents are basically text files, easily viewed and managed.

Because HTML works with any operating system – Windows, Mac, Linux – saving your HTML files in ASCII text format is the easiest and most effective way to go. In Microsoft Word, just choose “Simple Text,” “Text” or “Text Only” when it’s time to close and save your file.
Text editors are simpler than word processing programs, but cover your same needs for writing HTML. On PCs running the Windows or Vista operating system (or OS), you’ll find Notepad or WordPad built into all but the oldest versions; on Macs, it’s SimpleText.

There’s a big advantage, however, to getting an inexpensive program like the CoffeeCup HTML Editor, because it lets you easily switch between a text screen and a visual editor so you can see how your HTML looks on a Web page.

Hope we’ve taken the mystery out of this universal code.
It’s a language anybody can learn, there’s no secret handshake to join the worldwide society that uses it, and “speaking” even a little will give you more power over your new business Web site.
Maybe more than the competition.