What is a Blog?

I get asked this question a lot, and I’ve never really liked the answer “a weblog is an on-line diary”.  I’ve never kept an off-line diary, so that answer just never reached me.  I prefer to think of a blog in a different way.

Have you ever run into someone you haven’t seen in a while, and asked them what they were up to?  Have you ever met someone new and asked them what they do?  To me, a blog is a pre-emptive answer to either of those questions.  If you’re reading my blog for the first time, welcome!  Look around, and you’ll get an idea of what I do, what I like, and a little of how I think.  If you’re an old friend, great to see you again, and here’s what I’ve been up to.  Sorry I haven’t kept in touch better, I’ve been really busy.  Drop me a line and I’ll try to do better.

Whether or not a blog is good depends on how much the reader cares about the question you’re answering.  Not being lame is critical though.  If you’re interested in blogging but are concerned about being lame, check out Naked Conversations and learn both good and lame by example.  You can find my review at http://www.rjdudley.com/blog/Review+Of+Naked+Conversations.aspx, or use the link below to get the book from Amazon.

If you read the blog for Naked Conversations, you’ll hear Shel Israel talk about his friend Ernie the Attorney, whom Shel met researching the book.  By the time they actually met in person, Shel considered Ernie one of his best friends; that Shel had come to know Ernie just by reading his blog.  That’s exactly what I’m talking about.  Ernie had already answered the question “Here’s who I am, and what I do.”

As far as small businesses are concerned, think about some of your long-time customers.  You know them and their preferences, and they know you.  You probably have some inside jokes, and they’ve seen some of the amazing stuff you’ve done.  These are your best customers, and your fan club, too.  They’re your brand evangelists–the folks who don’t work for you, but bring you new customers through their word of mouth.  Turning new customers into long-time customers can be a lengthy process (duh!), but your blog can help.  Introduce your staff (like they do at Aldo Coffee), show off some of your cool work (like at The Wedding Blog or Lincoln Sign Company), share something funny, but not one of those “you had to be there” moments.  People who just find you will be “in the loop” in no time, and your business will be so much the better.

April BADNUG Meeting

BADNUG will meet April 20 from 6-8 pm at Communifax HQ in Cranberry Township. Please join us as Tony Casale of Communifax discusses developing custom server controls and HTTP handlers, with real-world experience and examples. More information at http://badnug.org. Directions to Communifax at http://communifax.com.

StoreFront 6 Error: Cannot Find web.config

If you’re receiving this error when you Compile Components, chances are you have multiple websites on the same computer, and you’ve simply connected to the wrong one.  Exit FrontPage or Dreamweaver, then start back up again and open your site.  Run Compile Components again, and make sure you’re connecting to the correct site.  The path should read http://localhost/SITENAME/ssl/management/clientaccess.aspx.

Flash-based Photo Gallery

Another little gallery app I used recently is ThumbGallery from FlashRelief.  It’s $20, but that’s really cheap considering how nice this gallery is.  You don’t need Flash at all–they provide you with a pre-compiled Flash control which you embed into a web page, and you configure the whole thing with a simple XML file.  Downside is having to make both a thumbnail and full size image yourself, which can get tedious if you have a lot.

We used this recently on our prom corsage and boutonniere gallery at http://www.bloomery.com/promgallery.htm.

Still Getting Mileage From nGallery

nGallery was a great application on its own, but Community Server is just far too much overhead when all you need is a simple gallery app.  Even though it haven’t been updated in a while, nGallery is still one of the better gallery apps out there.  After quite a bit of template tweaking, I have very customized gallery up at http://www.cleantownusa.com/gallery/.  The template seems difficult at first, but after fooling around with it for a little bit, it’s actually quite easy.  You need either a great mind’s eye, or you need to use the refresh button liberally as you tweak, and very liberal use of source control for the different template bits is highly recommended.  “I told you so”, in advance, for those who don’t.

BTW – CleanTown USA is Pittsburgh’s favorite car wash and interior detail center.  Find them online at http://www.cleantownusa.com.  Shameless plug, but the marketing coordinator threatened to cut off my supply of free Mountain Dew if I didn’t say it.  I hope you understand.

Pittsburgh Code Camp Confirmed Topics

The folks at Pittsburgh Dot Net have
been busy with preparations for Pittsburgh Code Camp,
and they’ve released the confirmed topics:

-AJAX / Atlas for .NET
-An Inside Look at the .Net Framework Garbage
-Common Pitfalls with .NET and COM Interop
Application Backlog
-Introducing Iron Python .NET
-Introduction to
Custom Membership Providers (ASP.NET 2.0)
-Microsoft Composite UI
Application Block (CAB)
-.Net using Mono/Open Source
Implementation of Web Services with CRUD Generation
-Refactoring in .NET
-SOA-Building Services for Reuse
-SQL Server Integration
-Unit and Web Testing with Visual Studio 2005
-Using Attributes
and PropertyGrids to Manage System Configuration
-Using the Enterprise
-Windows Workflow Foundation for .NET

Looks to be an awesome day!  Pittsburgh Code Camp is April 8, and you
can apparently still regsiter at http://www.pghdotnet.org/CodeCamp/default.htm.

Using An Alternate Stylesheet With StoreFront 6.x

StoreFront includes some client-side design tools which plug into FrontPage or Dreamweaver, and they’re not too bad (especially for beginners).  One downside to these tools is that they completely rewrite the styles.css file each time you save your settings.  Not so good if you’ve made some CSS changes.  Instead of altering the styles.css, I recommend using an additional stylesheet.  Remember that styles are cascaded—that is, if you specify the same class in two stylesheets, the browser will mash them together and use both sets of settings.  If you specify the same element in both stylesheets, then the sheet which is listed last wins.  This is excellent for us, because you can add settings to all the basic classes in styles.css, and you don’t have to worry about losing your settings if you still want to use StoreFront’s design tools.

To make sure our new stylesheet is added to every page, you need to add one line of code to the CWebPage.vb file and recompile your site.  Open CWebPage.vb in FrontPage or Dreamweaver, and find the subroutine named PageHeader.  Scroll down to the end of the subroutine (marked by ‘End Sub’, at roughly line 938).  Add the following line of code right above End Sub:

response.write(“<link type=””text/css”” rel=””stylesheet”” href=””MyStyleSheet.css””></script>”)

You do need the double double-quotes where you see them, and remember to change the name of MyStyleSheet.css in the line of code.  This line of code will add a stylesheet link to the end of the header of every page.  Recompile your site using Compile Components on the StoreFront menu, and you’ll be good to go.

Now playing: Eddie MoneyGimme Some Water

Thanks for supporting local businesses, Chili’s

We’re getting a new Chili’s here in Butler, and trust me, that’s pretty big news in this small town. The pepper went up this week, and my mouth is watering. The general contractor is from Ohio, but the excavators and pavers are local companies. Thanks for that, Chili’s, I know you’ll get a lot of business from this town, and we appreciate the support back. Now, if you ever need flowers, call that nice shop practically across the street…

Second Set of Logitech Wireless Headphones for iPod going back

So my first pair went back because the headband cracked, and the headset couldn’t stay paired with the transmitter.  The replacements arrived fairly quickly, but the second set had a battery charging issue.  After trying several rounds of resets and pairing and more resets (keep the button pressed for 25 seconds!), Logitech is sending a replacement for this pair as well.  This is really disappointing, since I really like this product, but the toubles are making it less and less appealing. 

I’m not the only one suffering these problems; here are a few threads from Logitech’s support forums.





You’ll find more if you keep scanning their forums.  Wi-Gear’s iMuffs are a similar product that might be worth checking out.

Now playing: Jay FergusonThunder Island