February 18, 2002-- Newsletter #168

By Joe Burns

Goodies to Go (tm)
February 18, 2002--Newsletter #168

This newsletter is part of the internet.com network.

Announcement Goodies

Have you ever wanted to be an author? Well, this may be your chance. We are looking for some beginning level articles on ASP, Perl, PHP, Java and XML. In an effort to provide our readers with a taste of other technologies we are looking for introductory articles to be published later this spring.

If you have a short or multi-part article that you think would be of benefit to beginning level web developers and designers then email us at articles@HTMLGoodies.com.



Goodies Thoughts - So Much to Learn!

With the constant flow of new technologies, updating your skills and learning new technologies can be a very ominous task. The cornucopia of technologies can be even more intimidating to someone that is just starting out. Where to begin?

Do I buy a bunch of books? Do I sign up for some college courses? Do I access some web-based resources? Do I get professional training? What about web-based training? Do I attend some technology related seminars? Do I join a user's group?


All of the resources above will get you started and/or help you to better your skills. Do you need to do all of that to learn? No,  not really. Everyone learns in different ways at different rates. Choosing what's best for you and making the time to actually use the technology is the key.

So, what books should I buy? Well, books are a must with almost any technology. I usually have at least 3 or 4 books on every technology that I use. I generally purchase a couple of tutorial style books that walk you through learning the technology. I will also always purchase a good reference book that I can use to research the weird errors and problems that I inevitably find. There are a wealth of tutorial style books available that will help you learn any technology over the course of a day, a weekend, a week or whatever you like. As for the reference books, I tend to lean toward the Wrox books (those are the ones with the red covers) and some of the IDG series of Bible books.

So, what about college courses? College courses can be great for two reasons. You get college credit for spending the time and effort. You get access to the immense amount of college resources, i.e. computers, libraries and faculty. The only drawbacks would be the cost and time it takes to complete the necessary course(s). Many people simply don't have the luxury of waiting an entire year or two to get up to speed on some technologies.

Do I access web-based resources? Absolutely. There is a staggering amount of information available on the internet. Take advantage of it but make sure you test what you learn. As you know, just because it's on the internet doesn't necessarily make it true or correct.

Do I get professional training? Professional training is often the quickest way to learn about a technology. It is an intensive and focused way to learn. It has one major drawback, however, it is usually insanely expensive. Many one week intensive training courses can cost you upwards of $2,000 or more.

What about web-based training? This can be a good alternative to attending a traditional professional training course. Web-based training courses are typically presented in a couple of different ways. They can be implemented like a sort of internet correspondence course allowing you to read lessons, do exercises and email questions. They can also be in the form of a webcast which is like watching a speaker at a conference. You will usually see slides and hear live or recorded audio from the speaker. Generally, the biggest drawback to this type of learning approach is the lack of interactivity with an instructor. This type of training will definitely cost a lot less than your traditional professional training, though.

Do I attend some technology related seminars? Technology seminars are a great source for learning about new and upcoming technologies. They can also be a great help for someone trying to decide what technologies to pursue. You will definitely get a broad range of input and ideas from these events but, like traditional training, technology shows and seminars can be quite cost prohibitive.

Do I join a user's group? User groups are probably one of the best resources for developers. They provide a forum for developers to get together and discuss technologies. User groups can range from general computer clubs that cover the whole spectrum of computer technologies to groups that cover very specific technologies. For example, I am helping to build a .NET user's group in Indianapolis. Most user groups are centered in larger cities so you might want to start there and see what's available in your area.

Just remember to take some time to see what technologies spark your interest and then jump on in. If you are serious about becoming a professional developer you may want to consider specializing in only a few related technologies. With new technologies coming out all of the time, you may find yourself being more marketable as a expert in a few fields rather than a "jack of all trades".

Whatever you choose for your technologies and methods of learning, good luck! It can be a lot of fun!

Thanks for reading!


Quiz Goodies

How do you create a form for users to log-in? The form would have a text box for the username and a text box for the password.

Q & A Goodies

Q. How do you put music on a page?


A. If you are wanting to have some background music play while your page is being displayed you can use the BGSOUND tag like this:

  <BGSOUND SRC="filename.wav" LOOP="-1">

This allows you to designate a file to be played (SRC) in either .wav, .au or .mid format. You can control the number of times the music or sound is played with the LOOP attribute. To loop infinitely set LOOP equal to "-1" like in the example above.

There are other attributes available to you as well, such as volume and balance controls. Be careful, though, background sounds are an Internet Explorer thing that won't be available on other browsers.

If you simply want people to be able to listen to some music files that you have on your web you can use a hyperlink tag. Keep in mind your viewers will need some kind of audio software available on their computer that will recognize the file format you are making available.


Q. I have a scrolling message in a textbox and would like to have  larger text scrolling across the screen. I have consulted several JavaScript books but none seem to be able to provide any information. Can you help?


A. The easiest way I can think of is to use the String method of JavaScript to do this. Below is an example using the document.write function.

  <SCRIPT LANGUAGE="JavaScript">
    <!-- Hide from non-compliant browsers

    var testString = "This is a test string";



    Stop Hiding -->

If you copy this script into an HTML document in the <HEAD> section,  you can see the result is a 12pt, red, bold, italic font.

*** This question was submitted to our Mentor Community. The answer was provided by Chris, one of our JavaScript Mentors.


Q. Do you know where I can get statistics on how often certain web browsers and versions, screen resolutions and color depths,
and plug-ins are being used by the general web surfing community?

This would help me a lot in deciding what tags to use in my web pages and what media I can offer. Thanks for your time.


A. I'll bet you are wondering why you are reading the same question again this week. Well, that's my fault. I had narrowed down the questions for last week's newsletter and chose a question that was asking about web statistics on their site. However, when I did my cut and paste I put the question above in instead.

So, here's a much better answer to the question. Hopefully, some of you got some useful information out of last month's question anyway.

There are several sites that provide some statistics on different aspects of the surfing community at large. They can make for some interesting reading and help you determine how you may want to implement your designs. Here are a few of the sites:


News Goodies

Alright, this one is a stretch, but did you know that NYC is bidding for the 2012 Olympic Games and they have brought on a Silicon Alley venture capitalist to help promote the city?

Click here to read the article


Running a support center can be a very expensive proposition for a business. Read about an upstart company that is using new VXML technology to automate support systems.

Click here to read the article


Another .com bites the dust. This time it is the online movie store BigStar.

Click here to read the article

Quiz Answer

This is actually a very simple form. Coding the action after the user has entered the information is what can become difficult.

Here is the form in its simplest state:

  <FORM METHOD="POST" ACTION="process.asp">
    <P>Username: <INPUT TYPE="text" NAME="username"

    <P>Password: <INPUT TYPE="password" NAME="password"

    <P><INPUT TYPE="submit" VALUE="Login" NAME="submit">
    <INPUT TYPE="reset" VALUE="Reset" NAME="reset"></P>

You can use 2 text boxes for the user's input. The first is a standard text box with the TYPE set to "text". The second text box is for the password, so the TYPE is set to "password" which will mask the user's input as it is typed.

The rest is just your standard form. Many developers will set the action to call a special page to verify the user's name and password. In the example above the form calls an ASP page called "process" that contains the custom script for verification.


And Remember This . . .

Did you know that America's Uncle Sam was actually a real person?

Samuel Wilson (a.k.a. Uncle Sam) was meat packer and politician from upstate New York. He got his nickname during the War of 1812 when he stamped boxes of beef and pork for the United States soldiers with a "U.S." Since U.S. was not an abbreviation used at the time, jokes were made that U.S. stood for Uncle Sam and the name stuck.

From the stamp the joke grew to encompass all government issued supplies and some soldiers even began referring to themselves as "Uncle Sam's men".

In 1820, the first cartoon of Uncle Sam appeared in a New England newspaper. At the time he was clean shaven and wore a black top hat and tailcoat. Through the years he has evolved into the red, white and blue character that we know today.

Thanks for reading Goodies to Go!



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