Thursday, May 29, 2008

Putting the audio files online

Much of the day has been spent finalising the web pages for the podcasts. The general layout of the podcast introduction page and the page containing additional information and opportunities for accessing each item had been prepared some time ago but needed to be finalised and tested and recent audio files added.

The audio files can be played, using the media player on the page, or by clicking the Download Name of Podcast link. Right clicking on the link allows the user to save the file to a computer or portable digital player.

A page providing information about how to listen to and / or download the audio files is provided to help users who have not previously used audio files online.

The other page that had to be created was the xml page containing the RSS feed information. Podcasts can be accessed automatically when someone subscribes using the URL of the xml page and inserting it in RSS reader such as Bloglines or a podcasting program.

Getting the xml correct was a challenge as there are definite rules to follow. When the page is saved and then opened any errors are noted and the text on the page will not be displayed. Particular care has to be made that there is no white space - empty lines - in the code and that characters, such as ampersands, need to be coded - eg. instead of the symol (&), the symbol (&) followed by the combination letters (amp) and a (;) is used (no brackets of course in the actual code).

The coding chosen to be used for the RSS is the coding used by iTunes - details as to what is required can be found on the iTunes Specifications page. For the podcasts to be included in the iTunes store an account needs to be established and then a form completed to submit the podcasts.

After completing the pages I then tested the RSS using Bloglines and the Live Bookmarks feature in the Firefox browser. The RSS feed worked with the four items at present online appearing in the list of both sources. After much trial and error it was a good feeling to see it actually functioning properly.

Now that all the pages are set up any additions should be straight forward.

When the next audio file is added online, the section of coding for individual items will be copied and added to the existing code and then the information altered for the new item.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Web design for all computers

A major challenge when creating pages for the Internet, whether pages for a website or an online exhibition, is that people viewing the pages are going to be using different computers and different operating systems and different browsers. These variables will all affect how the finished page will appear on a computer screen. A page may look great on the computer where the page is designed but not as impressive on another computer screen.

Always check the pages in at least two browsers. The most commonly used browsers at present, in Australia, are Internet Explorer and Firefox. If the pages work in both of these browsers they should be OK. Sometimes specific coding that works in one browser may not apply in the other browser so alternative coding may be required to produce the desired effect.

Internet Explorer sometimes ignores coding that is not correctly entered - Firefox rarely does this - so if there are problems with a page in Firefox always check the coding carefully (particularly ending tags).

Different versions of browsers can also affect how a page looks on the screen. For example a page viewed in Internet Explorer 7 may appear differently to the same page viewed in Internet Explorer 6.

Different versions of browsers can also affect how a page looks on the screen. For example a page viewed in Windows XP may appear differently to the same page viewed in Windows 98.

The size of the computer screen will affect the way web pages are viewed. Some people have computers, often passed down from family members, with monitors with small screens while it is now possible to purchase computers with 22 inch screens.

Screen resolution also affects the appearance of web pages on a screen. A webpage designed in a screen with a resolution 1280 x 1024 pixels could look very different in a screen with the resolution 800 x 600 pixels.

To some extent it is a case of knowing your audience. Web pages for local history will often be viewed by people with older computers so it is best to design pages that will look reasonable on smaller screens.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


A useful website on a wide range of IT issues is Computers & Technology - . The site contains links to a selection of articles on a wide range of topics as well as product reviews.

There is also an online newsletter to which you can subscribe to receive regular articles. Online newsletter topics - About computers; Podcasting; Web design; Blogs.

I have been receiving the About computers newsletter for several years now and find it useful for an overview of what is available and an introduction to new developments.