Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Safari on Windows?

I need to have a Mac if for nothing else so I can test and debug the web sites I create. Every browser has its quirks and some of the sites I work on have a higher then average Safari user base. That’s one reason I bought the MacBook last year, even though I primarily run XP on it. But now, Apple has removed my need to have a Mac with their release of Safari for Windows.
I can only guess that they are using Safari as a tease to Windows users in an effort to wet their appetite for more Apple software that can only found on the Mac. But that seems a bit of a stretch to me.
Don’t get me wrong, I love it. As a grumpy user who is not willing to sacrifice an ounce of system performance, I run XP on my Mac with Boot Camp, not Parallels, I have to reboot into OS X to test web pages. Well, not anymore, now I can run Safari right there in XP next to Firefox and IE7.

The newest rev of the MacBook Pros really peaked my interest and I am seriously considering upgrading in the fall. But the release of Safari for Windows has given me pause, serious pause. Because now I don’t need a Mac anymore. I have to weigh if it is really worth dropping an extra $200 for Vista and Parallels if I get the MacBook Pro. Hmmm…

But, in one way this release is not out of keeping, it continues the intrusion into Windows space started with Quick Time and iTunes. And it is a nice alternative, except a great alternative already exists in Firefox.

My guess is that Safari usage (on windows) will settle down somewhere between Firefox and Opera, closer to Opera as anything past Firefox is really just for the fringe who simply want to be different, and let’s be frank, who want to be difficult. As much as I like competition in the software arena, the desktop version of Opera is pretty unattractive. I use it a few times a week, but only for testing. It’s just too buggy and I have not found that it does anything better then Firefox. Heck, I’d rather use IE7. Oh, actually, Opera (and IE7 for that matter) does do RSS better then Firefox. Firefox is poop when it comes to RSS.

Monday, June 04, 2007

XAMPP: The Easy and Simple Web Server

Are you an HTML and CSS jokey like me who needs to occasionally dabble in the magical art of PHP, or some other, server side environment? Are you deathly afraid of and confused by this stuff. Me too. But I found XAMPP a couple of years ago and it is a simple and easy web server you can install on your own computer to run a web server and test out some PHP. It runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris. I run it on XP.

Still a little nervous about installing a web server on your computer, how about installing it on a USB flash drive? No problem! Download the ZIP archive (not the EXE, that’s for regular installs) from their site and extract it onto your flash drive. Then simply run the setup_xampp.bat file, let it run for a minute and presto! Instant web server!

Now XAMPP is like any other program in that you have to start it before you use it. In the folder on the flash drive there will be file called: xampp_start.exe, double click it and the server starts up. Windows may give you a warning, click through that. A terminal window will open up (small window with black background and white type), don’t close that, just minimize it.

Now you have a web server running! Great now what. Well, first check to see if it is working, open your browser and type in http://localhost. You should see something like, “Welcome to XAMPP for Windows Version 1.6.2 !”. Yea, it works!. If it does not, you are going to have to look elsewhere, I barely know how to run it.

OK, now you want to use it to render those PHP pages you created. Here is the thing you need to know, the files you are developing need to be in the Xampp folder. Not just any folder, the htdocs folder, like: E:\xampplite\htdocs\ (assuming your flash drive is letter E). So drop a folder (let’s call it ‘web-content’) with some PHP files (one of which should be named index.php) in there and type in “http://localhost/web-content”. If your PHP files are written correctly, you will now be looking at them all processed and looking like they will when uploaded to a server (assuming that server runs PHP).

To shut the web server down, look for the “xampp_stop.exe” file in the main XAMPP folder and click that.

I run XAMPP Lite by the way. It’s a smaller install and since I don’t know how to use any of the added stuff that comes with the full XAMPP, I figured it was a better choice.