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Google's KML an open standard

15th April 2008

Google has offered its protocol for map information, KML, as an open standard, Google announced today.  Geospatial information is getting ever more accessible thanks to bodies like Google and geonames.  Their efforts mean that it's easier than ever to extract a list of locations and turn them into an online map - and better still- without paying someone!  This further opening up can only be good news

Avoiding viruses

14th April 2008

New viruses can often get around anti-virus software because anti-virus software just doesn't know about them.  Here are our top tips for avoiding viruses:

  1. Use a proper firewall.  If you're plugging directly into a cablemodem, it makes sense to go and buy a router which puts a physical barrier between you and the internet.  Ask your local computer store for help.
  2. Don't download dodgy software.  Hackers often use tempting lures such as bootlegged software to install nasty viruses on your PC.  If it looks like a website you can't trust, don't download anything from it.
  3. Don't open spurious email attachments.  Not even from friends, if you're not sure what the attachments are.
  4. Keep up to date with "Windows Update".  This removes malicious software on a regular basis.

Programming Tools of the Future

8th April 2008

We use two main languages for developing software - PHP and C#.  Because of the way the internet is maturing, these two languages are converging in terms of the number of features they offer, and in terms of syntax.  If you consider that C# started out (essentially) as Visual Basic, and PHP started out with very little support for Object Oriented Programming, you'll understand what I mean about converging - although they are still far enough apart for techies to splutter into their Red Bull at the sentence above.

Traditionally, PHP has been the open source option and C# the commercial option with all the whizz-bang features and tools.  But there's an amazing new piece of software on the block - the mono project - which is an open source version of C#.  Well, I say new - it's now into version 1.9, but it has had little exposure.

We're fans of the mono project, although there are technical reasons why we don't use it for commercial projects at the moment - and I guess until they're solved, the lack of exposure will go on.  One problem is that there is no development tool for mono aimed at Windows users.

So come on Miguel de Icaza, help us out!

Internet Explorer 8

3rd April 2008

Internet Explorer 8 (Beta version) is now available for download from www.microsoft.com.  But beware!  If your job involves testing websites against Internet Explorer 7, make sure you download 8 onto a spare machine.  IE8 wipes out IE7 rather than installing alongside.  What it does offer is an 'IE7 emulation mode' which you can get just by pressing a button.  However, we've already found a flaw, in that IE7 used to make you click Flash components to 'activate' them befor eyou could use them, whereas IE8/IE7 emulator doesn't.  Not not quite an IE7 emulator then, Bill.

Testing

2nd April 2008

There's no sharper reminder that testing is crucial than the recent BA/BAA baggage handling fiasco.

Systems can be perfectly specified, schedules can be finely honed, bosses can be ready, but if they haven't made sure that testing is going to happen (and made time for it, no matter what) then things will go wrong.

Proper testing reproduces the 'live' situation as closely as possible, thus making sure that, as far as can be known, the reproducible parts of the system will almost certainly work.

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