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Virtual Mechanics Newsletter
-- Helping You Get The Most Out of Your Website --
September SiteSpinner WebTips


A new school year is upon us, and fall is just around the corner. This month we talk about how to add multimedia files to jazz up your website, how to use 'iframes'. One of our readers has posted how he runs SiteSpinner on his Mac. Also, if you are looking for a winter getaway, B&B Casa Esperanza looks nice. And lastly, Student Discounts.

In this issue:
Design  - Adding Multimedia files to your website
The Anchor Tag (used to create links) is very versatile. It can be used to link to a new page, open a mail program or execute a Script. In fact, the anchor tag can be used to link to any file on your web site. But so what? Links are used everywhere!

Yes they are, but when you link to a different type of file, it produces a different result on the visitor's system. A link to an ".exe" file opens a dialog to start downloading the file to your computer. A link to a JPEG file opens an image in your browser.

Why do they do that? Neither file is a HTML document. An Executable file is not executed, but downloaded.

The reason is based in the World Wide Web itself and how web content is delivered to your computer from a server.  Many people tend to confuse the Internet with the World Wide Web. The Internet has been around for over 25 years as a means to connect computer systems together. Initially, the majority of  information on the Internet was transferred as files and later through newsgroups and e-mail.

It was not until the invention of the World Wide Web by Tim Berners-Lee in 1990, only 18 years ago, that Web Pages and Web Sites became possible. The WWW provides a protocol by which information can be located, transferred and processed. HTTP allows HTML web pages to be sent so that a Browser can receive and interpret the data. But the WWW is not restricted to HTML.

A question I often receive asks how to add multimedia files to a web site. In many instances this is very simple. A multimedia file can be transferred in exactly the same way as a HTML, JPEG or GIF file. Simply create a HTTP link to the file and away you go.

The WWW provides the framework by which files are transferred and processed but it does not provide the application to actually process the file. I am sure that most of you will understand that you need a Browser in order to view Web Pages. HTTP provides the mechanism to transfer the HTML file but it is the Browser that will interpret it.

Browsers include a lot of applications that many of us take for granted.  It is Obvious that the browser will interpret the HTML and display the text. It will also display GIF, JPEG and many other image file formats. Audio files however, are not officially supported by all Browsers.

When a multimedia file can be loaded and executed without any other information being provided, it is usually enough to simply provide a link to it. When you wish to provide more control over the multimedia application, you will need to use a specialized tag such as BGSOUND, EMBED or OBJECT. These tags allow you to pass parameters to the Plug-In that can control many of its functions and operations.

The bottom line here is that in order to play a multimedia file, the viewer will need to have an appropriate application installed on their computer. Just because an AVI, MPEG, Flash or other file works on your computer don't assume that it will work for all your visitors. The general rule is if you are going to use multimedia files, you should also provide a link to a downloadable player and you should not automatically play the multimedia file unless you have warned your visitor and given them a chance to either download the player or leave. Since multimedia files tend to be very large, you should also warn your visitors of the size of the files before they are downloaded.

So you have set up your multimedia files, provided links and been courteous enough to inform your visitors of everything they need to know. Is that it? Not quite.

You cannot take it for granted that any multimedia file type can be put on your server even if you do provide a player. The reason is that the Server and your Browser may not know what to do with the file.

Why not? If you think about it, it will become apparent. When you link to a HTML document the server knows that you want it transmitted to your Browser. If you access a CGI script however, the server will not transmit the file but will execute the script. When the browser does start to receive a stream of data from the server how does it know what to do with it? It may receive a stream of Image data followed by some HTML, a bit of Javascript etc.

Your Browser will know how to process the data because the Server will add a MIME type to each block it sends to it. MIME is an acronym for Multipurpose Internet Mail Extension and is used to enable the Browser to identify the data it is receiving so that it can launch the appropriate program to process it.

For the system to work, it is consequently necessary for both the server and the visitors browser to understand the Mime type. Unfortunately this presents a problem since you as the Web Page author, probably do not have access to either your ISP's server or your visitors Browser.

Most ISP's I have dealt with are receptive to adding a new MIME type to their servers provided it is legitimate and does not conflict with any other MIME types. Setting a MIME type up for your visitors is more problematic especially for Helper Apps which are not pre-configured in most Browsers.

For most software companies distributing multimedia applications over the Internet, this is a real challenge. Most web surfers are very reluctant to download and install additional applications on their computer unless they have a real desire to do so. Even well established applications such as Real Audio and Flash are not installed on all computers.

As a Website author it is important to know which multimedia additions to your Web Page will be generally supported and which ones may cause problems for many of your visitors. Does that nifty sound track or streaming video really add a lot to your web site or does it just server to drive away a lot of your visitors?
How To - iFrames
Frames, when used sparingly, can be a great tool for presenting a complex site. Unfortunately, they've always been abused and overused. Now, however, we have a new type of 'frame', the inline frame, or iframe.

The iframe was introduced in Internet Explorer 3.0. Now they are fully supported by all the major browsers. An iframe isn't bound to the side of a browser window. Just like an image, a floating frame can sit anywhere on the page. It goes where it wants to go and calls in what it wants to call in.

What can you do with iframes? Well, to start, you can call up another web page and then treat it like any other object. So, say you wanted to have a page, and in the center of the page you wanted to put some text with a scroll bar. You can define the frames size, location, border. With Web Engine, you can even animate it if you wanted. If you are into SVG, you could create a page of SVG content, then use an iframe to embed the SVG into an HTML page.

To get started with iframes with SiteSpinner or WebEngine, try this:
Create a new project.

Create a page of content. Put whatever you like into the page. Be sure to top-left justify the content in the work-window.

Now create another page. In the new page open the Foreign Object Editor and select iframe from the dropdown list.

Click the Page List button, and select the page you just created with the content. Check the 'Use Scroll Button' box and then Save and Close.
Now Preview the Project (double red arrows). You should see your Page 2 content in the window.

That's it! Play around with the parameters and see what you can come up with.
Community Tips - SiteSpinner on Apple and Linux Computers
These Tips are created by readers and SiteSpinner users and posted to the Virtual Mechanics Community Forums

Scotty writes "I am currently running SiteSpinner on my Apple iBook using Microsoft Virtual PC and Windows 2000 with great results! ..." > continue reading...
Site of the Month - B&B Casa Esperanza
Site Title: B&B Casa Esperanza

Site Author: Claudette Terrazas

Site Link:  www.casaesperanza.com

SiteDescription:  An exquisite romantic colonial B&B located in the historical district of  Merida Yucatan.

Built With: SiteSpinner

Review: I think SiteSpinner is an amazing product. I went from knowing nothing about web design to designing several web sites. The product  is user friendly, allows creativity, & always reliable.
Offers and Promotions - 50% off For Students, Staff, and Faculty

A new school year is upon us! All Virtual Mechanics products, including SiteSpinner and WebEngine are available at 50% off for Students, Staff, and Faculty of accredited educational institutions. Purchases of 5 licenses or more result in even greater savings. What's more, SiteSpinner and WebEngine come with webhosting free for a year.

Virtual Mechanics products can be used with any webhost, including those used by schools, and contains no adware or spyware.

SiteSpinner Features:

- Easy, 100% drag-and-drop page creation
- Pre-made web page Templates
- Built-in graphics creation and editing
- Built-in FTP Publisher
- Spell checker

If you are a Student, Staff, or Faculty of an accredited educational institution, simply reply to this newsletter with school email address.

Don't Forget to Forward This Newsletter To Your Friends!

As always, we welcome your feedback.

J. Peter White
Virtual Mechanics Inc.
< Celebrating 10 years in business - 1998 - 2008! >
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