Google Static Maps

Added on: Monday 20th April 2009

Google Maps have been around a long time now and have been integrated into numerous websites and applications but in some cases are overkill.

A little while back Google released their Static Maps API which basically takes a set of parameters and generates a 'static' image of the map.

This requires no javascript at all so the solution is ideal where you want a lightweight page or where users might not have javascript turned on.

On the downside you can't interact with the map - zooming, panning or clicking markers but in many cases there is no need to.

For example, on many websites the Contact Us page may have a standard Google map - but is that really necessary? All you need is a marker on the map at the location of the office or premises - no one wants to zoom in or out and any additional information (directions etc) can be supplied in the narrative os there is no need to click on the marker.

We've now added Static Maps as an option to the Maps module in our content management system and this page advertising the Chagford Two Hills race shows it in action.

Unfortunately at the moment it is not possible to add customised markers but I think that will probably come.

jquery form validation and IE6

Added on: Friday 17th April 2009

The validation plugin for jquery is a simple way to add sophisticated validation to any forms on your website. However, I recently had a problem with IE6.

The validation on the website I was working on was fine in Firefox and Opera and indeed Internet Explorer 8 but in IE6 the Submit button went straight to the next page without checking the form.

I noticed there was also a javascript error just before the page submitted.

A quick search on Google took me straight to the jQuery Validation website where I quickly found that this was a problem with the character encoding of the page.

It seems that if the character encoding is set to UTF-8 then there is a regular expression in the javascript that throws IE6. If the character encoding is ISO-8859-1 then all is fine.

The suggestion to resolve this was to track down the expression and removing the offending characters. However, as I was using the packed version of the file, I couldn't use this so I installed the unpacked version instead.

Obviously in the unpacked version the code is different as the validation worked fine in all browsers that I tested.

To summarise then - if you are using jQuery validation and your character encoding on the page is utf-8, use the unpacked version of the script.

I thought I'd post this as it saved me hours of messing around. And thanks to those before me who have found the solution to the problem.

Reading Publisher Files without Publisher

Added on: Friday 10th April 2009

I was recently sent a file containing a poster design to put on a website that I look after. The only problem was that it was a Microsoft Publisher file and I don't have Publisher on my computer.

Well I do have a copy of Microsoft Office on CD but I am loathe to install a program I hardly, if ever, use just to open a single file.

Other programs with proprietary file formats such as Word have a free viewer available and are also so widely used that many other progams can read and write to them.

However, it seems that Publisher isn't. A search on Google revealed solutions ranging from 'it is not possible' to an article on Microsofts' website showing how to load the file into Microsoft Document Imaging and save it as a tiff file.

Again this latter solution involved loading a program that I would seldom use - so I wasn't interested.

After looking at several technical forums it seems that there isn't another program that will read a Publisher file.

Then I found the link to convert to pdf. This is a beta online application which does 'exactly what it says on the tin'.

It couldn't be simpler - you point it to your file (there is a 6MB limit) and then click the Convert button. I uploaded a 100kb file and it was ready to download or email in a matter of seconds.

The list of supported file formats is extensive and includes Word, Excel, Powerpoint and Publisher as well as WordPerfect, OpenOffice and StarOffice and several image file types.

A PDF file may not be the ideal solution but for me it was fine as all I needed was to extract some of the text and have it as a download.

Flexible working

Added on: Monday 6th April 2009

An amendment to the Flexible Working Regulations issued by the Department for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform comes into effect today.

The right to request a flexible working pattern will be extended to cover employees with parental responsibility for children aged 16 and under.

There are other criteria they need to fulfill such as having worked for a company for at least 6 months but effectively this could mean changes for employers, especially if they haven't got the IT infrastructure to deal with this.

However, at its simplest, all that is required is an Internet connection to provide email communication with the office and for those that have it a secure VPN.

This is where SAAS (software as a service) applications come into their own as everything you need is online already.

Further information:

A CRM solution for flexible working.