Three Websites, Three Web Tools

Finally finished the revamp of three web sites and I used three different web tools to do the job. One is a Blog tool, one is a CMS and one is a Wiki tool. So first question, why three different tools ?

It was a very good lesson to me, because I learnt that all these tools are targeting different requirements.

If your web site content is like a diary, a record of something and you don’t mind to present your content in a chronological order – then you should use a Blog tool. If your site is a news oriented site and you need to present your content by sections or categories, then you should use a CMS.

Lastly, if your site is like a knowledge base, you need to update the same piece of content again and again, and you want to present your content like a mind map – Wiki tool is the way to go.

Lesson Learnt: Different tasks require different tools.

Web 2.0 ?

All a sudden there is a lot of talks about the Web 2.0 – i.e. Gmail, Google Map, Flickr,, Technorati, Wikipedia etc. etc. They all use commonplace technologies such as AJAX, RIA, Wiki, Blog, tagging etc. etc.

But what exactly we are heading to ?

I recently revamped one website ( from PostNuke to Dokuwiki. And apart from some minor hiccups, the installation / configuration was smooth and Wiki is really a lot easier than CMS (if your document requires changes after changes like

And I am sure, there are better tools out there to make the web to be our web / application platform. Don’t wait, try it out.

Lesson Learnt: Time to evolve to next generation of the web.

IT Episode 3 – More Flowcharts

So in the good old days, flowcharting was the mean to save punch cards and therefore money. But I soon found out that it saved me time as well …

Somehow in year 1 the professors in the university had a strange habit – that was to distribute the assignment, first thing in the class. In other words, they distributed the previous assignment results, then the new assignment, only then they started teaching.

That was great, you know. I could then draw up the flowchart for the new assignment in the class … after all, I knew all the stuff the professor wanted to teach the class. By the time the professor finished his teaching, I already completed the flowcharting, desktop coding, compiling and testing. The only thing outstanding for that assignment was to punch the cards and ran it …

You see, I just saved an hour or two of designing, coding and debugging as I had finished all, virtually in my mind, by the elegant flowcharting.

Lesson Learnt: Save more time, and mistakes by proper planning.

IT Episode 2 – Flowcharting Maniac

So every line of code required a punch card (see Episode 1), and obviously for a poor student like me I had to find ways to use less card as each card costed some money. You know, the more bugs the program had, the more cards I needed to re-program (i.e. re-punch new cards). And if the program was in-efficient (e.g. lots of lines to do one simple logic), the more cards I needed as well … So, the solution was (is) Flowcharting.

Flowcharting is not new, but if you asked 100 modern-time developers the question “Which is your favorite programming tool?”. I bet 95 of them will answer “My IDE (Integrated Development Environment)”. And the other five will answer “My hand …”.

But to me, the best tool was (is) the Flow Chart. If one could not draw up a flow chart to describe the solution, I don’t think the program would work. Anyway, if you wanna know the basics of flowcharting, check out here.

Lesson Learnt: Good planning for everything, and for programming it is called flowcharting.

IT Episode 1 – Keypunch Machine

OK, it is time to blog something about IT (the trade I am in), but I reckon it makes little sense to blog the latest and greatest (as you can find easily in Internet) … so, what about something really “retro” ? Let’s start from the early 80’s (the time I get in touched with “Computing”) …

Way before the mini-computers, micro-computers (i.e. PCs), we have mainframe computers. And the only way (back then) to instruct the computers to do something smart (or stupid), was to use “Punch Cards“. To record those silly computer instructions to the Punch Cards and to “run” it, you need to do couple of silly things …

  • Get some blank punch cards by buying them from vending machines. If I recall correctly – 1 quarter for 50 cards.
  • Or you could “borrow” some from your friends, other computer centers, or other universities 😎
  • Then reserve a keypunch machine (or here) in the data center and punch in the computer programs (e.g. FORTRAN, PL/1, COBOL), line by line, with those machines.
  • Hand in the computer program (i.e. the deck of punched cards) to the computer room service desk, and the operator would submit the cards to the mainframe computer (see the card reader on the foreground …)

Lesson Learnt: WARNING – Don’t drop the punched card deck, or you need to re-sort the whole program …