Editors, validators, samba shares and needless exes

Well it’s a week and a bit in to the tt280 web design course and I am enjoying it and finding doing it on Linux is not too hard so far. Below are a few items I’ve had to deal with or useful things I have found so far.

First Class Conferencing

The course uses a series of conferences in the OUs online system called FirstClass. There is a web front end and for posting a quick message or reading through the site it is ok but to really participate and be able to search and change how you view things you really need the Windows or Mac client. I’ve found the Windows version runs fine in my VMWare virtual PC. I hope they OU starts rolling out its moodle project soon though.
BlueFish HTML Editor

I’ve chosen BlueFish as the HTML editor I am going to use. I needed something that gave me a bit more help than just vi, kate or kwrite ( i.e. syntax highlighting ) but that would still let me get at the base XHTML tags. I really like the BlueFish interface and it’s light and quick to use. It also looks like you can do an awful lot more with it that the stuff I’ll be doing.

Offline Validation

The course stresses the need to have good quality XHTML that conforms to standards and suggests use of the W3C validator to check your pages but the site can be quite slow. So I was very pleased to find you can install a version of the validator on your own machine to run under Apache. These instructions made it really easy and quick to set up.

Samba Shares and Passwords

I wanted a simple way to keep all my files in one place but still be able to access them from the VMWare virtual PC so I decided to use Samba to share a folder on my host Linux system. I found this hard work with the Shares option from the KDE System Settings. It’s not intuitive at all and it seemed I couldn’t add my own user as a username to access the share. I added it by hand but then the virtual PC kept prompting for a password and username and regardless of the various combinations I could not get access.

A bit of googling and I discovered that I needed to set a Samba password using the smbpasswd -L command. Doing “smbpasswd -L simon” allowed me to set a password for the user simon and now I can use that to map a drive on my virtual PC to the shared folder on my Linux host.

I really must look into Samba properly one day.

Needles Self-Contained Animations

On the whole completing the course so far has been quite easy with Linux but there was one animation provided by the OU that showed the exchange of messages over HTTP and this was a self-contained exe so I could only run it on the virtual PC. The animation itself was very basic and could certainly have been done as a movie to watch in some format or at worst as an embedded flash movie.

Warriors of the Net

As a quick refresher of how the Internet works the course asks us to watch the movie Warriors of the Net . I thought it was really cool and would recommend it to any one who wants a quick overview of the net and TCP/IP . Very entertaining.

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