Tuesday, 14 October 2014

Supporting PHP in Visual Studio

I was very recently asked to lend my support for maintaining a website we have which is written in PHP. Now normally I’d run straight off to my trusty little 2010 macbook (which, by the way, has NOT degraded in speed in all that time nor does it require constant reboots..do you hear that windows? I digress) and use any one of the free or cheap plethora of tools to help with this task. Personally I tend to use Aptana Studio. Just for once I thought I would try and leverage my normal windows work machine for this task and so I turned straight to Visual Studio. It turns out that there is an add-on for studio made by the guys at Devsense. So using the Visual Studio Extensions and Updates manager I installed the add in called ‘PHP Tools for VS 2013′ (which is on a 30 day trial) and awaiting the amazingness…..

Time passed and true amazingness did not happen and so I decided that I would just get on with my work instead.

I downloaded the source for the website put it onto my machine and then started the process. As the project is an already existing site i needed to run the ‘Project From Existing Code’ menu item available from the File/New menu item. This takes you through a simple wizard and at the end of this process you have a visual studio project with all of your PHP code. Great, so now down to it…. Unfortunately what I did not realise was that this site made use of PEAR extensions, thus everytime i tried to run a page with email capabilities it would just break unable to resolve the necessary libraries.

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Written by Conrad Rowlands, Team Leader and Developer, DSCallards

Wednesday, 8 October 2014

Augmented Reality

So, IBeacon…. You may or may not have heard of this technology, Indeed up until a year or so ago I must confess that I had not. These funny little items then ended up on my desk, 3 in all, and I wondered what to do with them. As with most things that cross my desk eating them was an option but they looked pretty inedible so after an interval of some months I instead opted to find out what I was supposed to do with them. So i headed over to the Estimote website who are the manufacturers.

 “Estimote Beacons and Stickers are small wireless sensors that you can attach to any location or object. They broadcast tiny radio signals which your smartphone can receive and interpret, unlocking micro-location and contextual awareness.” Instantly I can imagine that sales and marketing teams are practically wetting themselves at yet another opportunity to push their unwanted wares upon us in yet more insidious ways. I know that the first and every other subsequent app that tries to promote their wares to me in this way will be removed from my life for ever. I do not need any help in spending money. However looking beyond the more obvious tired use case for these beacons and examining the phrase ‘contextual awareness’ raises some real and positive use cases that I as an individual would actually subscribe to. ‘Contextual awareness’ or ‘Augmented Reality’  is the process of providing supplemental information about an environment or area that would further help the user to understand or interact with his/her surroundings; that is, enriching the real world with appropriate digital information ensuring that that ‘viewer’ has access to a fuller understanding of the environment which they find themselves in. So real world examples…. Well mostly people are trying to sell you stuff.. sigh, you know the drill, you walk into a department store and as you approach the perfume department the stores app will sense your proximity (and odour!?!) and will tell you what special offers are available today.

Click here to read the full blog.

Written by Conrad Rowlands, Team Leader and Developer, DSCallards

Wednesday, 1 October 2014

Blogging: Lead By Example

“If you want it enough you’ll make time.”

It’s a phrase I use often in meetings or one-to-one  situations when someone is letting me know how they are super busy and can’t fit “it” into their life.  I’m not different I didn’t ring my mum again this week because I was just too busy.

Of course that’s absolutely nonsense. I chose not to ring her for one of many reasons, all utterly plausible and all legit but the one reason that was not plausible or legit was that I didn’t have time. When I was waiting for the pasta to boil, instead of watching half an hour of the x factor, while waiting to pick my daughter up from yet another dancing lesson all time that could have been better used … but I chose not to.

And so it is with writing a blog. In our office there is a notion from the hierarchy that content is king. I am part of that hierarchy and believe that content is king passionately. Why is Google Google because it has content – lots of it and with it they have huge power. On a different level it’s still the same, if you write a good blog and put that content out there in the ether you see how many people read it -  good content eventually finds its way round and for those that it is addressing it’s important!

I work with some prolific blog writers, mainly technical people who use others’ ramblings to help themselves so feel at one writing articles in the hope that they are giving something back into the environment they take from. However out of that techie-to-techie world getting staff to write blogs or content becomes harder. The Sales Team have come up with some excellent ideas of helping others, answering the questions they had when they started, but their second or third blog becomes harder.  The Administration staff struggle with “who’ll read my blog  anyway” syndrome which is strange because when questioned they all accept they read blogs to help them with day-to-day activities.

Then there is management, it becomes a mix of all the above.
They are not technical enough to write technical to technical.
They are too savvy to write the “Beginner’s Sales” or “How To Guide”.
They are not specialist enough to write “The Top 10 Social Media Skills” or “Top 15 One-to-One Questions”.
They wonder who would read their solutions, help, problems, ideas anyway.
And of course … managers don’t have time!

Written by Adrian Handley, Managing Director, DSCallards