HTML – Definition List – My New Favorite Thing

It is sad when one gets so excited with such a trivial bit of obscure code. That is what has happened to me… again. This time I stumbled across the Definition List tag. It operates similar to other types of lists, you start with a containing tag <dl> and populate it with a list of items. But, where it differs from ordered and unordered lists is that there are two item types in the list; Definition Term <dt> and Definition Definition (or Data Definition) <dd>. Most all browsers will render the two lines differently, typically indenting the <dd>, like so:

a place to grow food
a place to grow knowledge

The code looks like this:

<dd>a place to grow food</dd>
<dd>a place to grow knowledge</dd>

But, what got me so excited was the prospect of being able to seamlessly style to different types of data in a list. It is when you add CSS to the mix that things get interesting. Rather then showing you what can be done by adding CSS, I encourage you to go give it a whirl.

You might ask how I got this far without having learned anything about this before. That is one of the pitfalls of being self taught, and rather haphazardly self taught at that. I tend to wonder around HTML learning little bits here and there, I took no structured course, just learned what I needed when I needed it. It is a process that works as everything I learn gets puts into action right away and the chaff gets dismissed. But, it also leads to holes in my knowledge of HTML and CSS.

Safari on Windows?

I need to have a Mac if for nothing else so I can test and debug the web sites I create. Every browser has its quirks and some of the sites I work on have a higher then average Safari user base. That’s one reason I bought the MacBook last year, even though I primarily run XP on it. But now, Apple has removed my need to have a Mac with their release of Safari for Windows.

I can only guess that they are using Safari as a tease to Windows users in an effort to wet their appetite for more Apple software that can only found on the Mac. But that seems a bit of a stretch to me.

Don’t get me wrong, I love it. As a grumpy user who is not willing to sacrifice an ounce of system performance, I run XP on my Mac with Boot Camp, not Parallels, I have to reboot into OS X to test web pages. Well, not anymore, now I can run Safari right there in XP next to Firefox and IE7.

The newest rev of the MacBook Pros really peaked my interest and I am seriously considering upgrading in the fall. But the release of Safari for Windows has given me pause, serious pause. Because now I don’t need a Mac anymore. I have to weigh if it is really worth dropping an extra $200 for Vista and Parallels if I get the MacBook Pro. Hmmm…

But, in one way this release is not out of keeping, it continues the intrusion into Windows space started with Quick Time and iTunes. And it is a nice alternative, except a great alternative already exists in Firefox.

My guess is that Safari usage (on windows) will settle down somewhere between Firefox and Opera, closer to Opera as anything past Firefox is really just for the fringe who simply want to be different, and let’s be frank, who want to be difficult. As much as I like competition in the software arena, the desktop version of Opera is pretty unattractive. I use it a few times a week, but only for testing. It’s just too buggy and I have not found that it does anything better then Firefox. Heck, I’d rather use IE7. Oh, actually, Opera (and IE7 for that matter) does do RSS better then Firefox. Firefox is poop when it comes to RSS.

Portable WordPress

OK, so now you have XAMPP on your flash drive and you’re showing it off to all your friends. One of them (the wise-guy) will ask, “uhhhh… so, what’s that good for?” DOH! Well, here is an idea to avoid this moment of embarrassment and shame, “Well.” you say, “I use it as a development environment for customizing WordPress.” Smack-down! You win.

That’s right, if need a sandbox for developing WordPress and you don’t want the whole world to see your mistakes, you can install a local copy of WordPress and mess about with it to your heart’s content. This works if you install it on your local hard drive, or on your flash drive. It goes where ever you have XAMPP installed. And here are step by step instructions on how to do it. These directions start with installing XAMPP on your local hard-drive, but to install it on a flash drive, follow my instructions, then pick-up again after that’s done. Also, when creating the database, I found my options did not exactly match what is in the tutorial, but is was nearly the same: utt8_unicode_ci.

XAMPP: The Easy and Simple Web Server

XAMPPAre you an HTML and CSS jokey like me who needs to occasionally dabble in the magical art of PHP, or some other, server side environment? Are you deathly afraid of and confused by this stuff. Me too. But I found XAMPP a couple of years ago and it is a simple and easy web server you can install on your own computer to run a web server and test out some PHP. It runs on Windows, Mac, Linux, and Solaris. I run it on XP.

Still a little nervous about installing a web server on your computer, how about installing it on a USB flash drive? No problem! Download the ZIP archive (not the EXE, that’s for regular installs) from their site and extract it onto your flash drive. Then simply run the setup_xampp.bat file, let it run for a minute and presto! Instant web server!

Now XAMPP is like any other program in that you have to start it before you use it. In the folder on the flash drive there will be file called: xampp_start.exe, double click it and the server starts up. Windows may give you a warning, click through that. A terminal window will open up (small window with black background and white type), don’t close that, just minimize it.

Now you have a web server running! Great now what. Well, first check to see if it is working, open your browser and type in http://localhost. You should see something like, “Welcome to XAMPP for Windows Version 1.6.2 !”. Yea, it works!. If it does not, you are going to have to look elsewhere, I barely know how to run it.

OK, now you want to use it to render those PHP pages you created. Here is the thing you need to know, the files you are developing need to be in the Xampp folder. Not just any folder, the htdocs folder, like: E:\xampplite\htdocs\ (assuming your flash drive is letter E). So drop a folder (let’s call it ‘web-content’) with some PHP files (one of which should be named index.php) in there and type in “http://localhost/web-content&#8221;. If your PHP files are written correctly, you will now be looking at them all processed and looking like they will when uploaded to a server (assuming that server runs PHP).

To shut the web server down, look for the “xampp_stop.exe” file in the main XAMPP folder and click that.

I run XAMPP Lite by the way. It’s a smaller install and since I don’t know how to use any of the added stuff that comes with the full XAMPP, I figured it was a better choice.