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HTML5 and CSS3 ~ Ready for Primetime?

It is time to be provocative and not be a Luddite. Before jumping on the latest technology for your website, a through analysis of your customers and viewers is warranted. It is an old saying that not all money is good. The same can be said for technology. Not all technology is good. This is very important and may apply to the audience of your web presence. Everyone wants the latest and the greatest but this may or may not apply in the case of your on-line audience.

 

There are tools that can give you the insight to appropriately and correctly determine the answer to “upgrading” your web presence. If you are using an Apache web server, tons of useful information is stored in the access logs for the server. Some of the useful data from these raw access logs are:

  • The IP address of visitors to your site;
  • The length of time that the visitor spent on each page that they viewed from your site;
  • The actual pages on your site that one visits;
  • The type of web browser that was used by a visitor to your site;
  • Information as to the type of visitor to your site. That is, human or a spiderbot.

 

Because these logs are huge, there are programs on the market, free and subscription based that can mine the data and extract useful information for the daily access logs. Two popular log analyzers are Google Analytics and AWSTATS. It is not the purpose of this blog to explain in detail how they work.

 

Suffice it to say that these log analyzers can give you hourly, daily, monthly, and annual data trends. These trends are important. The more important of the trends is the browser usage percentage. An analysis of this data will tell you if a high significant number site visitors are using browsers that are capable of correctly interpreting CSS3 and/or HTML 5. If a significant number of your visitors are using older browsers, it may make good business sense to stick to older technologies such as XHTML 1.0 and CSS 2.

 

A prime example is that of a former client who killed his business because he listening to wrong advice. His site is established as a portal for a magazine for and about African Americans who own and ride Harley-Davidson motorcycles. In April of 2005, only 20 visitors a month come to his site which is constructed in Adobe Flash. Consequently, there is almost no search engine optimization, SEO, of his site and it takes an inordinately long time to load the initial home page.

 

In redesigning the site, I use dynamic pages that are based on PHP and MySQL. Within three months the visitors increase from 20 visitors a month to 400 unique visitors a month. By the end of twelve months, the daily unique visitors average 600. Sixty percent of these visitors are from the United States. Forty percent of the visitors are from an average of 23 countries. The site is developing a consistent monthly following of 500 visitors.

 

By establishing a section for the posting of colors and contact information of motorcycle clubs from around the Untied States, quite a few visitors visit the site several times a month. The colors are segregated by states. An analysis of the access log files also shows that many of the Windows visitors are using Windows 98. And, many of the Macintosh users are not using OS X. Thus several of the more computer intensive pages that contain video and audio files are avoided by about half of the visitors to the site.

 

Although there are quite a few pages that are avoided by half of the visitors, there exists enough content for those with older computer operating systems and browsers. After three years of success, the owner decides to install a poor implementation of a Web 2.0 content management system. The results are disastrous. In less than four months, ninety-five percent of the site viewers disappear never to return.

 

The moral of this tome is to upgrade in a manner that does not alienate a significant number of site viewers. And remember that 20 percent of all the American Internet surfers on a daily basis have some sort of physical accessibility problems, e.g. ~ visual, aural or ambulatory. Or, the visitors could be using some dumb phones that have Internet capacity. These cellular phones are neither Blackberries, iPhones nor Android phones.

Back to the Future - Data Deduplication

Earlier this month, I attended NSIA’a conference at the Santa Clara Convention Center. While there were many great and motivating speakers, I personally enjoyed the hands-on labs. I was able to participate in five. The labs were intensive but very worthwhile learning experiences. We were able to deviate away from the printed examples to “break” some of the demos and actually see how one could recover in short order from cloud computing disasters.

Albeit, the hands-on labs are not the subject of this post. The real intention is the enjoyment in seeing that the industry is finally realizing that storage is not limitless. There needs to be a tighter reigning in of data bloat. The new buzz phrase is data deduplication.

Although a new concept for most of the attendees of the conference. Old dinosaurs like myself have practiced this concept with varying degrees of success. Data deduplication a process of compacting information stored so that it can be retrieved and expanded at a rapid rate. Ths one saves on computing time and storage costs.

In the 1970’s and 1980’s, this was known as database normalization. The concept is exactly the same. Now the dataset operated on is the large volume of data stored in a server data center. This applies to data inside databases as well as data stored in personal datasets belonging to individual users.

An example of redundant data are the 400 copies of the PowerPoint presentation on Tiger Wood’s dream home. It would be nice to save only one copy and have an index pointer in each of the 400 personal datasets to point back to the one copy. This kind of data duplication is more common than one thinks.

In the manner of databases, one really needs to analyze the size of the database and storage requirements. For example, if one has a dataset of one half of a million addresses, over one megabyte of data space is saved by not storing the two character USPS code. By utilizing 2 to 5 character tokens for data such as city and street names, significant amounts of data space is saved.

Data deduplication has become necessary because of the relative inexpensiveness of data storage devices has caused us to become lazy in storing information. Today, we generate information that is deemed necessary to store at alarming rates. 

Data centers are no longer exclusively used by large corporations. The file server data center is starting to invade homes. But that is a discussion for another time.

Engineering or Liberal Arts

Once again, the age old debate has reared its ugly head. Is engineering better or is liberal arts better. There have been numerous authorities who have voiced opinions on this subject without explaining or exposing their biases. From the outset, permit me to state that my undergraduate degree is in civil engineering. And I studied in the early 1980’s for a Masters on Finance. The Masters in Finance was a liberal arts degree with a concentration in mathematics.

Being a high school nerd, I loved not only science but history and literature. For you see, many mistakes have occurred because societies have often forgotten history in pursuit of greed and amassing large sums of wealth. This has been the problem in the United states for at least the last 40 years. We have pursued technical excellence on some level but have forgotten what made this country great.

American post-secondary education in the late twentieth century pushed either technological or liberal arts to the detriment to both fields of endeavor. I submit that education must not be taught as one or the other but both. Arming a student with a broad range of skills delivers a better society. Most people do not realize that Mr. Lear of Lear Jets renown also helped to develop the music industry. He, in addition to inventing high performance corporate jets, invented the 8-track tape player.

The invention of the 8 track tape player was important because people could now carry and listen to their favorite music in the privacy of their automobiles. This severed the need to be tethered to a radio station. One could record music from there 12 inch vinyl records and 9 track tape players onto a smaller self contained medium. Thus we see that engineering was good for the liberal arts.

Jobs and Wozinak with Apple Superboard and Apple IIcJust a few years later, the personal computer industry had its creation. All of the companies at the time built devices that were contained in clunky anti-decor boxes that were oh so not fung shui. Finally, the Apple Computer Corporation, with the invention delivered to the world a computer that was styling and functional. This was the Apple IIc. Liberal arts starts to assist and enhance engineering.

Apple followed the belief that form drives function. Thus the acceptance of Adobe fonts brought publishing and mass production of graphic arts to the common man. Apple’s corporate philosophy looked towards the liberal arts side for growth and market appeal. On the other hand, Apple products were notoriously terrible for utilization of running the accounting and management side of businesses.

This is where the Microsoft products displayed the greatness of Bill Gates. Microsoft Word and Excel were never the best word processor and spreadsheet programs on the market. There advantage was that they could successfully translate 97% of all electronic documents from other programs. Thus one could leverage their investments.

Both corporations, in their own implementations realized that form and function are form a completely symbiotic relationship. One can not live without the other. Engineering and technology gives us the ability to create and to solve problems. Liberal arts directs us to optimum solutions that are ultimately beneficial to all of society.

water closet sketchIf more engineers had studied liberal arts, we would not have the mess that we have in the City of San Francisco today. The Department of Public Works wants to flush millions on pounds of bleach through the system to get rid of the impending odor of dried human feces in combination sewers throughout the city.

This problem was caused by politicians going hog wild over low flow toilets. If one had just studied the notes of Thomas Crapper and other modifiers of the indoor toilet, it would become as clear as drinking water that there is a need for five gallons to flush the solid waste from the house to the manhole in the middle of the street. Once there, the system which is all gravity fed could push the solids to the sewage treatment plant miles away. Because of the force of five gallons of water, sewer systems are relatively flat.

And yet, history was not studied as most modern engineers in America have no concept of history. Thus it is evident from the problem with low flow toilets, the MacArthur Maze, 25 lanes of traffic into 5 lanes) that there is a need for the study of both engineering and liberal arts. A well diverse education is more powerful at developing long term workable solutions to problems as opposed to either a liberal arts or engineering only education.

Welcome. It is here where I am going to add my opinion about the current state of useful technological advances on personal computers. I am well versed in UNIX, Linux,  Mac OS, and Microsoft Windows desktop and server versions.

Not all innovations are really new or completely useful to the persons who are really the market that should be of concern. For example, the iPad is really a poor implementation of the original color Newton from Apple. Steve Jobs was just 14 years ahead of his time. Not all of the features of the original color Newton are instituted in the new iPad. Thus, for me, there needs to be a significant decrease in price before I would buy one.

In addition, the iPad is not a Kindle killer. I am an avid reader of books. I like the power curve of the Kindle and the ability to hold up to 3000 books. This device will serve me well on my trips to the PRC. It is a sixteen hour flight from San Francisco to Beijing. No need to recharge my Kindle on the trip. Plus who needs photographs when reading Catcher in the Rye or Ulysses or The Souls of Black Folk. Good literature stands on its own.

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