Wednesday, May 5, 2021

HTML Goodies: The Web’s New DNA, Part One

The time has come and you have decided to learn how to
create web sites. Very good! Here are some options: you can learn the ins and
outs of HTML, enhance your capabilities with some CGI, throw in some SSI and a
little CSS, break out the XML and you’re well on your way. Of course, just
because English is based on Latin, Greek, and the Germanic languages with a few
extras thrown in, it doesn’t mean that you have to learn all those languages in
order to learn English! So too with the Web! There’s a new kid in town and he’s
a little different. They call him .NET (“Dot Net”). The question is,
can you start here?  Although a little background with HTML and maybe
even ASP might be helpful, it is not essential.  Perhaps you
should skim through the HTML tutorial (click
here
) and then return here to learn some really neat technology!


 

You’re familiar with web pages that just sit there while you
sit and look at them, and with those that jump around and sing while you sit
and look at them, and you’ve seen some that “interact” with you – as in, you
fill out a form and submit it. On the other hand there are programs that run on
your computer that truly interact with you. You are involved constantly in the
process of doing something with the program, such as the process of balancing
your checkbook in your finance manager program using your bank’s online banking
feature. Neat stuff! Wouldn’t it be great if you could get all that
interactivity over the Web? The folks who came up with .Net thought so!

 

Microsoft’s Dot Net Architecture (DNA – all puns deliberate,
I’m sure!) lays the foundation and provides the tools to build just such an
interactive “Web Application”. Dot Net provides the means to overcome obstacles
that have traditionally been in the way of the development of true web based
applications (eg “Session State” – more later!). In this series of articles, I
will be taking a look at the building blocks of such an application, taking you
step by step through it’s development and introducing you to this immensely
powerful technology that in this author’s humble view, is going to open up new
vistas of Internet use. To answer my earlier question, “can we start here?” – I
believe this is an excellent place to start – in fact, if you have experience
with other web application development technologies – set it aside! This
is a new animal, and calls for fresh thinking.

 

OK, what exactly is Dot Net? It’s easiest to clarify by first
saying what it is not. It is not a language. In fact, one of its beauties is
that is allows the use of several languages seamlessly in the same application
(for example, in a larger project there could be several programmers each using
their own favorite language, but each interacting seamlessly with the others –
maybe not a good idea to do, but it’s great that you could!) The big advantage
here is in the ability to reuse code from another application that may not have
been written in your language of choice.

 

Dot Net is a strategy for delivering applications over the Web
as Web-based services. In the case of our earlier example, it would be possible
to build a series of pages that provide all the functionality of the checkbook
program, including the interaction with the bank’s on-line system, and to offer
this as a service delivered over the web. This is a form of the Application
Service Provider model (don’t confuse those initials with Active Server Pages –
ASP – which is the predecessor to .Net). Components of the .Net strategy
include platforms (Microsoft’s “.Net Servers”) which include the .Net Framework
(.Net’s foundation infrastructure) and a set of programs or tools for
developing and running .Net applications. Microsoft’s latest Office products
include features for .Net, and of course, there’s Visual Studio.Net – the
comprehensive integrated development environment. There are new languages to
use in your development, including Visual Basic.Net, C# (pronounced “C Sharp”),
the Java like J# and others. Some of these are distributed along with Visual
Studio.net. Although I may make reference to Visual Studio.net and these
languages, or use them in examples, it is not my intent for this series of
articles to provide a tutorial for these products. Instead, I want to introduce
basic web application development using .Net with the most basic (and cheapest)
set of tools possible.

 

This series of articles will include a number of development
exercises for you to perform. To complete the various tasks you will need to
have access to both a web server and to a development environment.  The
web server needs to have been updated with the latest .Net Framework.  The
server can either be a hosting service (see
here for more info
) or, if you have Windows 2000 (Professional or
Server) or XP (Home or Professional), you could use your own computer as a
development server.  To do this, make sure you have either the Personal
Web Server or Internet Information Server (recommended) installed.  Use
Windows Update to obtain all the latest updates for your computer.  The
.Net Framework will be installed along with the other updates. 
For the development environment used in our examples, visit
www.asp.net
– Microsoft’s home for ASP.Net – and look for the Web
Matrix Project. Download and install it and you are on your way.  (If
you happen to have Visual Studio.net then you don’t actually need the Web
Matrix Project, since it is like a subset of the Studio.  You may want it,
however, if you would like your work to look just like our examples.)

 

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