Categories
Blogging Web Design

Introducing CSBlogs.com

Between studying hard for my masters degree — and applying for jobs for when it ends — I have managed to find some time to set up a new website called CSBlogs.com

People who have been reading this blog for a few years will have seen HullCompSciBlogs.com mentioned a few times, for those that haven’t it was a service which aggregated all of the blog feeds of computer science students at the University of Hull.

John Van Rij did a great job of keeping that service online, but unfortunately doesn’t have time to maintain it anymore. Since the service went down I have grown to miss it — I guess I didn’t realise how much enjoyment I get from seeing how well everyone is doing from back in Hull — current students, alumni and even lecturers.

In order to resolve this problem I set up CSBlogs.com with the aim of getting all of the Hull Computer Science bloggers and others from around the country onboard.

The project is entirely open source, under the MIT license, and can be forked, modified and improved by the community on Github.

The website itself is hosted on Microsoft Azure and utilises CloudFlare to provide security, analytics and a global content delivery network. Node.js is used as the backend programming language and the MongoDB NoSQL database is used for persistent data storage. Nodes packages are used extensively, including Express.js for routing, Handlebars for data-binding to the front end and LESS-Middleware to improve CSS development.

Complicated acronyms aside I have worked hard to make setting up a local development environment and contributing source as easy as possible for beginners via the instructions I have written on the homepage of the Github repository. I would really recommend any 1st or 2nd year students give it a go — open source development looks great on your CV! And if you need any help contact me as per the instructions.

We are currently in the process of setting up all of the required frameworks and technologies and writing guides for how to get involved (this has actually been one of the more challenging and interesting parts of the project so far) and hope to have a working minimum viable product in the next week.

At this point I would like to thank Charlotte Godley, Alex Pringle & Rob Crocombe for their extensive help in getting the project to where it is now. Charlotte has taken on a role of project management, Alex has developed a rudimentary database controller and Rob has been working on implementing less.js support and developing a theme for the site.

I will keep the blog updated with progress on the project.

Danny

Categories
Blogging Web Design

DannyBrown.net updated

The website on both Desktop and Mobile platforms

Recently I’ve updated my website, dannybrown.net, to remove out-of-date information and make it easier for users to get to content they need.

Rather than having a list of projects I’ve completed and an over-the-top introduction the site now consists of a short introduction and a few rectangular tiles for commonly accessed information from the site — namely this blog, my CV, my LinkedIn profile and a contact email address. Any information that was previously on my website is in those resources.

In addition to the changes made on the client side I have also enabled IPv6, SSL and a Content Delivery Network via the free service provided by CloudFlare. IPv6 support will allow people who don’t have an IPv4 address to connect to my site without issues — which is important seen as we’ve technically ran out of IPv4 addresses. SSL will encrypt traffic between the user and my CloudFlare system and the Content Delivery Network will mean that my content is stored closer to the physical location of many international users resulting in faster download speeds.

On my server side I have also updated my configuration to allow for the use of dannybrown.net/cv and dannybrown.net/blog so you don’t have to remember dannybrown.net/cv.pdf and dannycomptuerscientist.wordpress.com respectively.

In the future I’m hoping to run this blog using the Ghost Blogging Platform hosted in the same Microsoft Azure instance as my static html website. This will allow me to have the same HTML/CSS theme on both and use all of the lovely features provided by Ghost. Currently I don’t think ghost is quite ready for my usage, due to the large amount of posts I have which have image galleries (which ghost doesn’t support) and the lack of two-factor authentication for logging in. However, these issues are currently being worked on and I hope to make the switch soon.

Danny

Categories
Web Design

DannyBrown.net – Restyled and Rewritten

As some of you may have noticed over the past few weeks dannybrown.net has been updated — not only has the style changed, but so has  much of the content. Previously my old domain, dantonybrown.com, showcased a portfolio, contact information and linked to this blog, but did so over a number of pages. Then when I bought dannybrown.net I got rid of the old site and simply redirected the domain to this blog. This new website showcases everything you need to know about me at a glance in one, simple to navigate page.

Planning

When I was in the planning stage of the project I decided very early on that I wanted the site to work just as well on mobile devices as it would on desktops. This is partly because an ever increasing number of people use their smartphone as their primary web browser and partly because I envisage many of the sites users to visit it after I give them one of my business cards, presumably whilst on the move or sat in a conference on their mobile device.

Whilst planning I also contacted my friend Harry Galuszka to get some professional graphic design done for my logo and some of the images I use. I’d like to thank him for his help 🙂

DannyBrown.net Tablet View
DannyBrown.net Tablet View

Development

The website is written in HTML 5 with CSS 3 providing the responsive styles and JavaScript providing some of the interactivity. Whilst developing the website I tried to keep everything really simple, and human readable, without producing really bloated code. I feel I achieved this aim because the entire website is only 120 lines of HTML, 270 lines of CSS and a few libraries.

I used Notepad++ as the source editor for this project, due to its fantastic syntax highlighting, and a Custom-built Linux Virtual Machine on Windows Azure as the host, which I FTP’d my files to, to test them in action.

DannyBrown.net Desktop View
DannyBrown.net Desktop View

Testing

As part of a campaign to get developers writing code that is well optimized for internet explorer Microsoft have started giving away 3 month subscriptions to a fantastic service called BrowserStack. BrowserStack allow you to test your code in Virtual Machines hosted online, allowing you access to devices and operating systems you might not normally have access to. Below is a screenshot of me testing my website on an iPhone 5, a device to which I would normally have no access:

DannyBrown.net iPhone Emulator
DannyBrown.net in an iPhone Emulator

Using this service I was able to test my website against, and make changes to fix layout issues in the following Browsers:

  • Internet Explorer 6/7/8/9/10/11
  • Firefox 3.5 onwards
  • Safari on Mac
  • Safari on iOS
  • Opera Mini
  • Opera Mobile
  • The Android Browser
  • Chrome for Android
  • Google Chrome

On the following OS’s

  • GNU/Linux
  • Windows XP/Vista/ 7 / 8 / 8.1
  • Mac OSX
  • Android (tablets and mobile versions)
  • iOS (iPads and iPhones)

Therefore ensuring I had tested my website on a wide variety of hardware. Its a shame to see that Windows Phone and Windows RT is not currently supported, but this was not too much of an issue as I own devices which run those operating systems myself.

The Future

The website is now installed on a shared Website instance on Windows Azure, in future I will be restyling this blog to fit in more with my website, however I think I will keep it hosted in WordPress.com as I like the fact that they automate backups and installation of new features and bug fixes to the WordPress platform, saving me a few jobs.

On the site itself I think I will be adding more information about my projects, and my education — e.g. module grades and links to download or view software made as part of coursework — soon.

Thanks for reading,

Danny

Categories
Microsoft Student Partner Programming Web Design

Microsoft App Builder Rewards

Yesterday Microsoft’s App Builder Reward Program Website went live. The scheme is very similar to that of the Windows Phone Rewards Program that was introduced last year in that application developers register, claim points depending on applications they’ve produced and then cash in these points for rewards!

Points mean prizes!

Due to one of the back-end developers for the site going on holiday and a looming “go live” date Ben Nunney and Paul Lo from Microsoft asked me to step in to fill the void. So, over the weekend I got the site ready and now its up.

There are a multitude of fantastic rewards available!
There are a multitude of fantastic rewards available!

So what’re you waiting for? Go ahead and Register as an application developer and start redeeming your points to get those fantastic prizes!

Danny

Categories
Life Mobile Application Development Programming University Web Design

Easter Projects Update

Finally users can see Scottish Lighthouses

Worldwide Lighthouses

Earlier in the holidays I posted a blog post about what I was intending to get up to. One of the things I needed to get round to doing was fixing my brothers website, Worldwide Lighthouses. After a data loss last year and a loss of back-ups we had to start from scratch, many of the features that users — and my brother — loved on the site we’re lost as was most of the actual content.

Now, things are back on track. I’ve spent a portion of the last week or so fixing issues with the Custom-built content management system and now, finally Michael can upload information about Lighthouses outside of England and users can view them. I’ve also stopped most of the deadlinks returning 404’s and instead they now show a coming soon message, which is slightly better for SEO in the long run. I’m currently working on the module of the CMS which works on Lightships, after that will come fog signals, daymarks and finally the glossary.

5Hives

Another project I wrote about was 5Hives, a website for a local bee keeper who wants to start his online presence in an affordable manner, but be able to update his website with new products and information without the need to constantly refer back to his webmaster. This is therefore the second Custom Content Management System I’ve created this week.

5 Hives Progress
5 Hives Progress

It’s not the best-looking website in the world at the moment, but the basic Database input and output works. I’m gonna put all my effort  into making it pretty over the next week whilst we wait for the http://www.5hives.co.uk domain to transfer from 123-reg to Fatcow hosting.

Sweepy Cleaner

Over the holidays I’ve been rewriting sweepy cleaner, its been going well and my code is now much more tidy, more managable and easier to understand, all of which are good things! Today, thanks to Mr Shane Gravestock, I added in a game sound track — to accompany the menu sound track — as well as a new sound effect for when the hoover dies — i.e. when you hit some furniture or the sides of the screen.

I’m going to upload a pre-release version of Sweepy Cleaner to the marketplace tonight, come back here to get the URL to be able to download and play it later.

Meta blogger App

I’ve been working hard on my other projects, but I’ve still made time for the metablogger app. I now have a fairly solid user-interface. I hope to have the app complete and submitted to the Windows Phone Marketplace sometime next week.

Thats all for now,
Danny

Categories
University Web Design

Signing up for Societies and Worldwide Lighthouses Errors

Today was an enjoyable day :). I woke up late on the day of rest, around midday and spent some time talking to Jessica before heading into cottingham to get some essentials from the co-op — particularly bread! Its interesting how I’ve gone from buying just any old bread to spending a minute or some comparing deals and working out what is the best deal, I’ve discovered every penny saved helps — Hovis is 20p cheaper than Warburtons — thats 1/10th of a pint of Snakebite!

When I got back I promptly made myself some tasty bacon toasties (without setting anything on fire, which was a bonus!). Soon dinner rolled around which was Sunday Roast. It was nice but I think I can describe the Yorkshire pudding best by using a 4Chan Style green text story.

>Be in Yorkshire
>Have Yorkshire Pudding
>This should be amazing
>Oh god this is horrible
>Son, I am dissapoint 

After dinner I officially signed up for societies (RockSoc and ComSoc) and my societies card, I think this was £8.90 well spent as both offer an opportunity to make lots of new friends with similar interests to me as well as tons of activities from Saturday nights out to Spiders to LAN gaming parties on a Wednesday afternoon.

Later, in preparation for such an event I played a few round of Counter Strike: Source with Shaun. After I’d got bored of being absolutely destroyed (I used to be good, honest!) I started working on a new Administration Panel for Worldwide Lighthouses.

For those who don’t know me well or haven’t read my previous blog entries I shall introduce you to Worldwide Lighthouses. It is essentially a website run by my brother to showcase his photography — his subject is more often than not an aid to nautical navigation. It runs a bespoke Content Management System which I created in PHP, using MySQL as a backend database — the creation of which has spurred me on into programming and Computer Science in general, so the project has been mutually beneficial for me and my brother.

Today I was coding a more secure log in and user account control system for the Administration system which of course resulted in a few errors (pictured above) which have yet to be cleaned up, but I’m sure will be done tomorrow.

I’ve just had a shower and I’m ready for a good long sleep before an early start and busy day tomorrow.

Thanks for reading,
Danny

Categories
Web Design

This town is becoming like a Ghost town…

Sometimes you can only express your feelings toward a town with Specials Lyrics.

Traditionally my group of friends have had their weekly night out on a Thursday night – its toward the end of the week to get you in that relaxed weekend mood, the pubs are fairly full and most importantly its student night — which means cheap drink and more money left over for KFC! Seens as I leave Saturday it was evident that tonight would be my final night out in Dunstable.

I spent it with these Jokers!

My lovely girlfriend Jess and two of my close friends, Sam and Shaun — the picture sums them up perfectly.

However, these were the only people out – not just in our group of friends, but pretty much the only people out in the (usually) busiest pub in Dunstable. It shows how much of a difference the exodus of University Students makes to the town, and in just two days I’ll be one of the many who have left.

In lighter news we’ve finally managed to get round  nameserver issue which was preventing users from being able to access worldwide lighthouses — A website my brother and I work on (he provides the content, I work on the back-end systems and produce a custom content management system. Hopefully the new version of the site which is built with mobile browsing, HTML5 and faster server-side processing should be ready before I leave or shortly after.

Thats all!

Danny

Categories
Web Design

Final Days…

Today is my final Wednesday in Dunstable for a few months, and possibly the last wednesday where dunstable is my perminant residence. This is both exciting and unnerving, a relief and a worry. Though I’ve moved house once before I’ve always lived in Dunstable so this will be one of the biggest changes I’ve ever gone through. As well as change of location I’m moving away from my Family, Girlfriend and Friends — all of whom are incredibly important to me.

The last two years of my life have certainly been the best so far, I’ve made some incredible (hopefully lifelong) friends, met my girlfriend and generally had a great time, so moving on without these people with me is daunting, however I can’t wait to meet new friends and discover more about what it is to be an independent adult – as well as have great fun and learn more about Computer Science.

So, I have two days and nights left before I leave at 7am (ish, depending on my ability to wake up) Saturday morning and I intend to make the most of them, spending lots of time with those dearest to me (even though a lot of my close friends moved away last weekend).

This all sounds gloomy, even though it is in reality the start of possibly the 4 most exciting years of my life! So in other good news I spoke to the bee keeper man again today and provided him with some examples of my previous work — namely http://www.semiskinned.co.uk and http://www.worldwidelighthouses.com Hopefully he’ll get back to me either tonight or tomorrow and ask me to carry on with the project, which will be great news!

Thats all for now – thanks for reading,

Danny.

Categories
Web Design

Welcome to Danny – Computer Scientist

Hello,

Welcome to my small portion of the internet, I’ve been intending to start blogging for a reasonable time now – and during this time of change I thought it was as good a time as any. The time of change is of course the change from living at home with my parents in Dunstable to starting university in Hull.

I was inspired to start writing — hopefully daily —  by the film ‘The Social Network’ in which Mark Zuckerberg blogs almost compulsively during his time studying computer science (the same course as me!) at Harvard during the initial stages of the creation of Facebook.

I intend to post mainly about my Computer Science studies but also about some web design work I will be doing in order to make a bit of money on the side. Speaking of web design work, today I managed to find a new customer – a local bee keeper who wants to sell his honey on-line and modernize his website, this may result in two websites and a nice bit of money for me. I can’t wait to get on with it!

Thanks for reading!

Danny.