A few weeks back, I talked about using my web page as a showpiece for what I could do with my newly-honed programming skills. So how’d that work?
Like any development project, it suffers from scope creep and missed deadlines. My goal was to have it online by Thanksgiving. My goal now is to have it online by 2012. Only a month, right?
To recap, I decided to build it on the ASP.Net platform, which is a Microsoft-based technology. I could have gone with WordPress, but my meager graphics skills would limit me to canned themes. (More talented souls than I can write their own. Some people make a living at it.) I wanted to back it with SQL Server, since that’s the database I’m most familiar with. This would let me write an app that would let me update the site on the fly without having to take the page down or overwrite it whenever some new bit of news came in or a story became available.
I also wanted the site, regardless of the technology, to make my blog and Twitter feed available on the home page. How did it work?
One problem I ran into was GoDaddy. If you’re using WordPress or Drupal, two popular open-source content management applications, GoDaddy is great. You can run them on a Linux or a Windows server without too much trouble. ASP.Net? That’s a Windows-based server platform. No problem. Microsoft provides free versions of Visual Studio to give you most of what you need. It’s the back-end that proves a challenge.
The main reason I wanted to use SQL Server to store all my data was to use the management studio, which usually makes transferring data easy. Well, it does if your given at least a reasonable amount of permission to access the database space you’re paying GoDaddy for. But GoDaddy locks things down and wants you to their database management application. When that looked like too much work, I switched to GoDaddy’s preferred daabase, MySQL.
I’ve tended to avoid MySQL since, despite being open source, is own by Oracle. Every bad thing you’ve ever said about Microsoft is true about Oracle, only they brag about it. A big fear among us professional geeks was that Oracle bought MySQL because it was cutting into the market for their overpriced, bloated database platform. (I think Microsoft and IBM are doing a better job taking away Oracle’s market share, because their products, yanno, work. Without bleeding your bank account dry so quickly in the process.) Still, I found connectors that would allow me to use MySQL with a .Net-based web page, and the commands are similar.
It works only with a newer version of MySQL. Which GoDaddy doesn’t run. And don’t complain. They’re not selling it to you; they’re giving it away with your server space. Yeah. Go ask Facebook about shoddy free products and see how fast they move when their users don’t like something. Anyway, I sucked it up and went back to the old stand-by, SQL Server.
It took a lot of hand-coding and cutting and pasting, but I now have a database of all the books and short stories built. I just have to plug everything in. I also need to put together a newsletter page. Unfortunately, for now, that means resurrecting the old Yahoo newsgroup for now. I wanted to do something like Constant Contact, but right now, I don’t want to spend anymore money beyond web space that writing can’t pay for. (Buy my books. Feed my family. Put my kid through college. Buy me a bitchin’ web site! Hint, hint.)
Of course, there are the usual interruptions, interruptions I don’t mind so much. Holidays. Taking AJ to Michigan one weekend. (OK, the city wasn’t so hot, but helping AJ plan his first moves after high school was great.) And I’m back in school for this quarter, learning yet another technology, Java. All that’s worth putting off this project, and if I’m not willing to do that, I’ve got bigger problems than trying to wire up a web page to a database.
Now that the architectural problems with the site are ironed out, I’m able to start hammering away at it again. Look for the slick new jamesrwinter.net before the end of the year.