A smarter month and year input field: solving the credit card expiry conundrum

Every computer-savvy keyboarder has run into this problem before: you’re typing your merry way through a credit card payment form, pounding out your address and credit card numbers, tabbing between the fields so you don’t waste time mucking around with the mouse, when you come across the dreaded expiry date fields:

Expiry Date Fields

You groan. You know what’s coming next. Your card expires in April of 2019. Are they expecting you to type ‘A’ for “April” or to key in “04”? Or maybe it’s just ‘4’? Murphy’s law guarantees that whatever sequence you try typing these options in, it’ll be the last one you try. You sigh. You either try the different options haphazardly, holding your breath and cringing when it doesn’t change, or changes to select the wrong value. Finally, you give up and move your hand those excruciatingly-far 6″ to the mouse, and sigh in despair as you resort to clicking on the drop-down box and scrolling through the entries to select the one you’re looking for.

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FastCGI for IIS Final Released, Congratulations to the IIS Team!

Congratulations are in order for Microsoft’s IIS development team – today they’ve just announced the public availability of the final version of the IIS-FastCGI ISAPI Extension – a long-awaited and much-improved way of running just about any open-source scripting engine on IIS, safely and quickly.

The Microsoft [[MSFT]] FastCGI module for IIS 5.1, 6, and 7 (with Windows Vista and Server 2008) have been in the works for quite a while now, and we’ve been using them since the first beta release – they’re good. While the biggest benefit will be seen in using FastCGI w/ IIS7 to take advantage of the new kernel-mode caching, it’s still a huge improvement over the old way of running scripting engines for languages like PHP on Windows.

The Problem: Most open-source scripting engines like PHP and Ruby on Rails were initially developed on/for the *nix world. On Unix-based platforms, the easiest way of creating multi-threaded applications is just to run the same app twice or more (The CGI model). On Windows, that doesn’t work out so well, because it takes a lot more resources to create another process. So these engines released Windows-specific single-process multi-threaded engines; the only problem was, they weren’t stable. Too many race conditions in some very non-thread-safe code wreaked havoc on many Windows systems, with the PHP developers themselves giving “Stability on IIS” the lowest level of concern.

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“People Hate Making Desktop Apps…” Since When!?

What a crazy day for technology. It all started with Paul Graham’s ridiculous link-bait article “Microsoft is Dead,” earlier today. Since then, the web has been in an uproar – just how do you define success, innovation, power, creativity, and can companies just “die” anyway? Never mind that conversation – Paul Graham surprised us there though. He’s normally a sane and very much down-to-earth person with a lot of insight on Web 2.0 and what it takes to be a startup. But that’s not what we’ve taken up a problem with – what’s really gotten to us is how some people are using his article as grounds for an argument that Desktop apps are old, dead, and a pain-in-the-ass to make.

The particular post being referred to is Ryan Stewart’s “Why Do People Hate to Build Desktop Apps?” It comes in response to the article by Don Dodge and a conversation with Simon Bateman. Now that the background’s succinctly (hopefully) out of the way: While Ryan’s article makes a valid a point about the ease-of-use of Microsoft’s .NET Framework and Adobe’s Apollo and just how powerful-yet-easy these two technologies make desktop software development – his entire article is based on an invalid premise! People don’t hate making desktop apps!

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Creating a (Unified!) Vendor-Neutral Markup Standard

Take a look at any blog, wiki, forum, etc. Specifically, look at how posts are created, filtered, and displayed. There are dozens of different ways for authors to specify the formatting and content of their articles/posts, and hundreds of ways to render the results. Some blogs rely on now-famous 3rd-party markup implementations like Textile and Markdown, some use bbCode, and quite a few still rely on plain old HTML. Then you have vendor-specific proprietary implementations and many more, popping up as the need arises.

We’re not trying to standardize markup formats, on the contrary, there is no real benefit – and the web can always do with a bit more diversity. But what does need standardization is how post-markup data (the article text) is stored in the database and later rendered. In the past, this wasn’t a problem: each “platform” had its markup format, and stored the output straight in the database. Then the platform triggered the markup language’s bundled HTML renderer and converted the database contents to HTML for display.

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A Clarification on WordPress

Day before yesterday, we posted an article about how WordPress was king of the blogging world, and how close to impossible it would be for it to lose its position. Amongst the comments, trackbacks, emails, and pingbacks directed our way, we find it necessary to clear up some points. For sake of communication and clarity, we’re using bullets to explain:

Most importantly: that wasn’t a review of WordPress. Just a discussion about how WordPress amongst others “spoils” developers!

  • WordPress isn’t necessarily the best engine, just the best platform. The difference is, it might not have the best code and features out there, but as a product together with its community, resources, and developers, it’s the platform for you to use.
  • The reason why WordPress will find it much easier to remain at the top compared to others that have taken the fall is that it’s open source, friendly, and free. That means people are more willing to help it out. Business 101: “open & flexbile” companies take much more and much longer to fail than “closed & rigid” companies do.
  • We’re not saying WordPress will remain the best product, but that even if a far better product came out (like the promising new-comer: Habari), WordPress will remain the tool of choice simply because of how widespread and prevalent it has become.
  • WordPress is not a company, it’s an open-source project. Automattic is the company. They come together, but WordPress is a separate entity, that continue developing and improving with or without Automattic. Don’t confuse the two.

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How WordPress Spoils Developers

When you’re done reading this article, check out our clarification for more info.

WordPress took the online world by surprise. Undoubtedly the single most influential tool in the blog-boom, WordPress has not only revolutionized the web as we (used to) know it, but also completely changed the daily ins and outs of web development forever. It’s not just about the power and perfection of the package, but also the coding standards, community benefits, and open source modeling. In short, WordPress has changed the face of web scripting for everyone.

The most obvious impact WordPress has had – on everyone – is that there really isn’t much room for another blogging platform. No matter how good of a competing product someone might make, it’s near impossible for anything to ever overtake WordPress as the tool of choice for the job – no matter what that might be. WordPress isn’t perfect, and we’re the first to admit it. It certainly isn’t the most lightweight blogging platform nor is it the ultimate CMS, but that most definitely hasn’t stopped it from conquering the market.

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