Saturday, April 22, 2006

CyberSpace Moving. . .

I’ve been working on a new ‘look and feel’ for my personal and professional websites.

Until lately it’s been mostly a ‘back burner’ type project, something I’ve tinkered with when I felt I had some free time.

With the recent developments on the job, I've decided that I need to move the project to the ‘front burner’ and begin moving forward with it

I’ve had some serious design concepts in my head for the move. That’s generally the problem with projects I want to develop for myself, grand plans and limited time.

Some things I wanted to include were:

  • Fully develop the site using .Net and ASP.Net 2.0 and Microsoft SQL Server
  • A consistent yet different ‘Look and Feel’ for each site
  • A method for managing the ‘content’ that involves placing the content in a database for later storage and recall.
  • That the 'database driven' method would mean content on the site becomes driven from database contents, not static HTM pages.
  • Allow for multiple domains and sub-domains to be hosted through the same account and front end portal
  • Provide a way to incorporate the blog when/if I ever decided to move it from “blogspot”
  • Allow the look of the site to change without requiring a full underlying change to each and every page.
  • User registration/Login to provide a subscriber area for uploads/downloads as well as for content not available to casual site visitors.
  • Include a discussion forum, possibly linked to the blog where extended conversations could grow from a blog topic.
So, last evening, I decided to start doing a little research on how I could accomplish these goals, and several more, with the least amount of time and effort on my part.

I rediscovered a .Net ASP framework called “DotNetNuke” that unbelievably has most, if not all of my wish list already in the package! That’s right, despite having a ton of already completed components; I’m going to utilize a framework as the underpinning for the new portal. Imagine, a hard core, write everything from scratch, developer, like me planning to use a framework… what with that?? It’s hard even for me to believe!

One of the reasons I’m going to give this package a try is that it’s an “Open Source” project. That means it’s free, that if I make any useful improvements those cahnges can be added to the project, and, tested by the entire community. It also means that anything anyone else adds to the framework can be added to my site’s functionality as well.

Another reason is flexibility, the framework has many, many embedded features that it would take me weeks, if not months (or longer), to develop, and even then I’d be several more months sorting out any bugs.

Last, but certainly not least, is that the framework is based and located on the server, which means content updates can be done ‘online’ and from anywhere I have internet access, not only from a PC where I have FrontPage, Macromedia or another web development tool installed.

Once I’d settled in on DotNetNuke as the base of the revamp, I started looking for any problems others had encountered with the installation.

I found out a couple of interesting things. First, my current hosting provider, has had a lot of problems with folks attempting to install, and get new DotNetNuke sites up and running, without incident. Second, that there are providers who specialize in hosting DotNetNuke based sites.

This morning I found a host who not only provides an ‘Auto-Install’ option, but also includes multiple domain hosting, full .Net 1.1 and 2.0 support, component and web service registration as well as providing SharePoint collaboration services as well!

Having access to SharePoint, might not mean much to many of you, but, it’s a very powerful online collaboration tool. You can schedule online meetings, route documents for review and approval, or just simply build an online document library and grant access by user to individual documents, or entire groups of documents.

Considering I’ve also been working on a ‘virtual company’ concept, where I’d bring together other IT/IS professionals to form teams, and solicit projects, this is a very big bonus for switching. It was available from my current provider, but only through an ‘add-on’ service, not as part of the base package,

All of this, for the same price I’m currently paying for hosting.

Yes, I checked, they do provide daily backup of both the site and the databases (on site and remote site), and they include a tool for backing everything up locally to one of my machines as well.

So, I’ve signed up with the new hosting service, and shortly, hopefully later today, once I receive my temporary URL and get everything set up I’ll start porting the sites. The first one I intend to port is the family site I started almost a year ago and never really finished, once that’s up and running, I’ll point you all there for some feedback. Why that one? Well, it’s got a fairly limited audience, and moving it will have little or no influence on my financial situation if it’s not successful!!

If any of you would like to know the hosting service I settled in on, drop me an email and I’ll send you a link.

So, the “cyberspace move” is on. Like any other move, I’m sure there will be problems, I’ll temporarily lose some items, or forget where I’ve put them, finding them again only after I’ve rebuilt them. Also, like any other move, there’s excitement, and anxiety, but, in the end I’m sure it’ll all work out!!

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Comfort Addict said...

That sounds cool, Bill. I'll be interested to hear how it goes.

Bill said...

CA - Well, I got notification this morning that the new account was ready to go!

I've installed the framework, set up the SQL database(s) and started to experiment a bit with the Admin portal.

All in all a fairly good morning. I'm working through some 'rights' issues with tech support, and so far, that's been a pleasure as well!

Greg said...

hey when you get done yours you could do mine :-)

Bill said...

Greg - I feel like i did when I made the switch to Visual Fox... it's like everything is familiar.. yet different!

This framework is pretty slick though... the more I do, the more I like it!

(Oh.. Welcome back!)

Firehawk said...


Sounds like a neat adventure. I'm only a little surprised that there was something that was right up your alley already created. Open source is pretty neat, too. Good luck.

Bill said...

Firehawk - The OpenSource project is pretty incredible actually. It uses a modified version of the original Linux license... Where the developers earn most of their money from documentation and support type revenues.

There's a ton of code and libraries out there, and like the 'Wiki' generally get fixed fairly quickly if they're at all popular.

I looked at this back in 2002, but I didn't feel, back then, it had what I was looking for.. it's sure gotten better!!