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What is AJAX? A not so technical answer

Ajax‘ is thrown around a lot, but there’s still a lot of confusion about exactly what it is, especially in non technical circles. So here is a quick run through for those of you who aren’t deep in weeds technically.

Ajax stands for Asynchronous Javascript and XML, but what it really means is a way for web pages to query the server without reloading the entire page. Without Ajax, submitting information back to the server involves submitting the entire page back to the server and refreshing the entire page in the browser. But with Ajax, the entire page doesnt need to be submitted. In javascript the browser can make a request in the background to the server. The Asynchronous comes from the fact that the request happens in the background while the user is looking at the page. When the javascript web request finishes it returns data to the browser, sometimes as XML. Its not always XML, a lot of times its JSON or text, but XML was first and that was how it was named. The browser then manipulates the data returned and uses DHTML to display it.

For an example of AJAX put your mouse over here AJAX

In short: Ajax is a way for a web page to communicate with the server without having to reload the entire page.

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August 28, 2008 Posted by | Browser, Internet, Technology | , , , , | 1 Comment

Windows shortcut keys guide

Are you spending too much time using your mouse instead of the keyboard? Using the mouse too much can harm your arm, and good way to reduce that use, is by using the keyboard more, and that’s why I’m going to provide you some keyboard shortcuts that may come in handy, once you get used to them.

You might already be using the Windows key (unless you are using IBM, because they don’t have it) but how much are you using it? For the rest of this document, I’ll refer to the keys like this:

[Ctrl] = Ctrl key
[Alt] = Alt key
[Win] = Windows logo key
[Esc] = Esc key
Etc… You get the picture

So let’s start with the feature I like the most:

[Win] + [E]
This combination opens a new Windows Explorer. This feature I use a lot. Mainly because I work with so many computers daily, and they all have their shortcuts saved differently. Some have it on the desktop, some don’t. Some have it in the quick launch, some don’t. Some even don’t have it in the Start -> All Programs -> Accessories. So this is a nice habit to have, whenever you need to navigate on your hard drive (or an external drive or CD) you can use this combination.

[Win] + [R]
When I got used to using the Win+E combination I was a bit sad to find out that Internet Explorer does not have a win+? combination. Maybe they don’t want to integrate the Internet Explorer too close to the OS (they’ve been there, done that – see more on wiki: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_Internet_Explorer scroll down to the United States v. Microsoft part). So how would I open Internet Explorer on any machine (I don’t know where users hide their shortcuts)? – Well this [Win] + [R] combination always comes in handy. It opens the “Run…” box. Now if you know the .exe name of the program that you want, then just type it in here. Here’s a list of my common shortcuts:

iexplore – Internet Explorer
excel – Microsoft Office Excel
winword – Microsoft Office Word
wordpad – WordPad (you guessed it )
notepad – Notepad (again)
calc – Windows calculator
mspaint – Microsoft Paint
inetmgr – IIS administration
cmd – Command Line
mstsc – Microsoft Terminal Services Client
(you can specify arguments like:
“mstsc /console”: This will connect you to the console session of the computer that you are connecting to (the target computer must be running Windows version >= XP)
“mstsc /span”: This will give you a Terminal Server Session that spans over your multiple screens (if you have multiple screens connected and configured) this also requires you to update the Terminal Services Client if you are using XP.
msconfig – System configuration
(be careful with this one – you can specify what services you want to run at startup and things like that, but when you have this much power, you know that it includes a risk that you can make your pc do unexpected things)
regedit – Registry Editor
(As the one above, this gives you power – there are amazing things you can do with the registry – especially if you’re a developer, then you can extend your application’s features through the registry)
mmc – Microsoft Management Console
(Here you can manage many things on your computer, but you need to add SnapIns first in order to use them.)
I’ll let the list stop here.

[Win]+[U]: Utility Manager. I normally don’t use this unless I want to sit far away from the screen and read something, then the Magnifier comes in handy. This is also where you can start the “on-screen-keyboard” if you don’t have a keyboard… (But then again you wouldn’t be able to press [Win]+[U], right?)

Back to the list now!

[Win]+[D]: Show Desktop! This one I use a lot. I always have a lot of windows open at the same time, and sometimes I need to see the desktop. So instead of grabbing the mouse, moving the cursor down to the bottom of the screen, finding an empty space on the task bar, right click -> Show Desktop, I just press [Win]+[D]. And if I regret this action, I just press [Win]+[D] again, and I’m back where I was!

[Win]+[F]: To get the most out of this feature, you should consider downloading the Windows Live Desktop Search Assistant (http://www.microsoft.com/windows/products/winfamily/desktopsearch/default.mspx) – The [Win]+[F] is the same as clicking on Start button -> Search. Here you can find files on your computer by specifying some search criteria.

[Win]+[Ctrl]+[F]: Search for computers.

[Win]+[L]: Lock the computer! If you work at a company with just some degree of security, I guess they have told you a couple of times to lock the workstation/pc when you leave your desk, right? Well this [Win]+[L] is just easier than [Ctrl]+[Alt]+[Del] and then selecting “Lock Computer” or [Enter]

[Win]+[M]: Minimize all windows. This is similar to [Win]+[D] but this does not hide windows that are not minimizable. To restore minimized windows, press [Win]+[Shift]+[M]

[Win]+[Break/Pause]: Show computer properties. (Same as right clicking on my computer and selecting “properties”)

[Ctrl]+[Shift]+[Esc]: Show the Task manager! This is a very useful shortcut, when your pc does not respond to your mouse clicks, or it is running slow, then it’s easy to use this combination, and spot the process that is running slow, and perhaps kill it if necessary.

At this point you might see many programs/things that you could start up without having to use your mouse (and still do it faster). It takes practice, but you will get there eventually if you want to. Best of all, this just might save you from some pain in your arm, coming from over-usage of the mouse…

I hope this will be of use for you, and will at least have shown you something that you didn’t know about windows shortcuts. Have a good time using Windows !

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August 28, 2008 Posted by | Microsoft, Technology | , , , | Leave a comment

Series on Funny Laws of United States – Arkansas

Arkansas Funny Laws:-

– Hunting camels is prohibited.
– Any misdemeanor committed while wearing a red mask is considered a felony.
– There is a possible 25 years in prison for cutting down a cactus.
– Donkeys cannot sleep in bathtubs.
– A class 2 misdemeanor occurs if one places a mark upon a flag which is “likely to provoke physical retaliation”.
– It is illegal to manufacture imitation cocaine.
– When being attacked by a criminal or burglar, you may only protect yourself with the same weapon that the other person posseses.
– It is unlawful to refuse a person a glass of water.
– You may not have more than two “relationship” toys in a house. (I’m guessing you know what those are.)
– The bullfrog-hunting season is permanently closed.
– It is illegal to sing in a public place while wearing a swimsuit.

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August 22, 2008 Posted by | General, Life | , , , | Leave a comment

Court clarifies open source copyright

It’s a big day for open source software as a U.S. District Appeals Court ruled that just because a developer gave code away for free doesn’t mean it’s not copyright protected.

The win, which stemmed from a railroad hobbyist spat, was praised by Stanford’s Lawrence Lessig. The details can be found in the court ruling and all the analysis on Techmeme, but what you really need to know is that the ruling makes open source licensing legit. Copyright concerns have been a big overhang for enterprises. I’m no lawyer, but it sounds like this ruling is essentially an all clear bell for enterprises that rely on free software. If you have open source systems you may want to hook up with your corporate counsel/licensing guru to determine what it means to you.

Bottom line: All enterprises will have to do is pay programmers in attribution–giving credit where it’s due and sticking to the open source licensing rules. The good news is that there seems to be some licensing structure that’s legally valid. What follows are the key excerpts from the ruling:

Key excerpts:
Traditionally, copyright owners sold their copyrighted material in exchange for money. The lack of money changing hands in open source licensing should not be presumed to mean that there is no economic consideration, however. There are substantial benefits, including economic benefits, to the creation and distribution of copyrighted works under public licenses that range far beyond traditional license royalties. For example, program creators may generate market share for their programs by providing certain components free of charge. Similarly, a programmer or company may increase its national or international reputation by incubating open source projects. Improvement to a product can come rapidly and free of charge from an expert not even known to the copyright holder. The Eleventh Circuit has recognized the economic motives inherent in public licenses, even where profit is not immediate.

And…
The conditions set forth in the Artistic License are vital to enable the copyright holder to retain the ability to benefit from the work of downstream users. By requiring that users who modify or distribute the copyrighted material retain the reference to the original source files, downstream users are directed to Jacobsen’s website (a party in this spat). Thus, downstream users know about the collaborative effort to improve and expand the SourceForge project once they learn of the “upstream” project from a “downstream” distribution, and they may join in that effort.

And…
Copyright licenses are designed to support the right to exclude; money damages alone do not support or enforce that right. The choice to exact consideration in the form of compliance with the open source requirements of disclosure and explanation of changes, rather than as a dollar-denominated fee, is entitled to no less legal recognition. Indeed, because a calculation of damages is inherently speculative, these types of license restrictions might well be rendered meaningless absent the ability to enforce through injunctive relief.

As noted before it’s time to call corporate counsel to see how this ruling applies to your systems.

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August 18, 2008 Posted by | OpenSource, Technology | , , , | Leave a comment

Series on Funny Laws of United States – Arizona

Arizona Funny Laws:-

– Hunting camels is prohibited.
– Any misdemeanor committed while wearing a red mask is considered a felony.
– There is a possible 25 years in prison for cutting down a cactus.
– Donkeys cannot sleep in bathtubs.
– A class 2 misdemeanor occurs if one places a mark upon a flag which is “likely to provoke physical retaliation”.
– It is illegal to manufacture imitation cocaine.
– When being attacked by a criminal or burglar, you may only protect yourself with the same weapon that the other person possesses.
– It is unlawful to refuse a person a glass of water.
– You may not have more than two “relationship” toys in a house. (I’m guessing you know what those are.)
– The bullfrog-hunting season is permanently closed.
– It is illegal to sing in a public place while wearing a swimsuit.

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August 18, 2008 Posted by | General, Life | , , , | Leave a comment