Welcome to the Course

LUG Programming Course, 14th January 2008
In this first lesson, I spent some time asking the students about their programming backgrounds. There are three web designers, four programmers, three web masters, and an enthusiastic beginner.
Their computers ranged from Windows Vista, Windows XP, to Mac OS X, Debian, and Ubuntu. Fortunately the software I have chosen should work on all these platforms.
Most of the lesson was spent downloading and installing software. I only managed to ensure that everyone had Firefox and Firebug installed and working. Next week we'll see if Aptana runs OK – some people have 512MB machines, but I hope that's not a problem.
Once the downloading, and network connections were worked out, I spent a little time discussing the history of the web from the birth of HTML developed by Sir Tim Berners-Lee in 1989, through Mosaic, Netscape Navigator, to Firefox, Safari, Opera and Internet Explorer. Then I gave an overview of the topics we'll be looking at, together with some simplifications, which are described below.

Simplifications

In order to concentrate on JavaScript and Ruby, I am placing some restrictions on our use of HTML and CSS. I'll only be explaining the rudiments of XHTML version 1.0 Transitional DTD. For CSS, we'll stick to basic elements of the CSS 2 standard. The version of JavaScript that we'll be programming to is JavaScript 1.5 which conforms to ECMA-262 Edition 3.
All three types of content (XHTML, CSS, and JavaScript) will be kept in separate files, to avoid parsing problems. The reason that I don't want to see JavaScript in a <script></script> tag is partially explained by Douglas Crockford. Apart from the decrement operator, such as index-- within SGML/HTML comments, or decrement operator followed by the greater than symbol index-->0 in HTML/XML comments, there are also problems with HTML in string literals, and life is too short to be worrying about these things.

Observations

Almost everyone seemed to know about Firebug for Firefox, which is good news. It is also available for Mac OS X and Linux, unlike two other favourites, Web Developer and HTML Validator, which both seem to be Windows only.
Whoops, perhaps not so...
Actually both Web Developer and HTML Validator say they are available for Mac OS X and Linux, so perhaps it is the Firefox add-ons site that is wrong (no “Install Now” button on Mac OS X or Linux). I'll check this out next week.

What's Next?

Next we'll start JavaScript programming for real, using the Firebug console, and then moving on to a simple HTML/CSS/JavaScript file trio, the following week.