Web-Based MySQL Administration with SQL Buddy

I always find it interesting to see what software people are using to build websites. I’m always open to new applications that might make my job easier or less stressful. With that in mind, I’ve decided to start posting reviews and tips about some of the software that I use. Today I’ll be writing a mini-review of an application that I’ve started using to perform routine database maintenance tasks on my development box.

SQL BuddySQL Buddy is a web-based MySQL Administration tool that’s free, open-source, and easy on the eyes. I’ve installed it on my development machine and I’m loving it so far. Most web developers are probably familiar with PHPMyAdmin, and this does pretty much the same thing, but it does it while looking quite a bit nicer. It’s also got some tasteful interface enhancements (yes, that’s code for AJAX minus the abuse) to make the whole thing feel a bit faster. I haven’t done proper benchmarking, but it sure feels faster than PHPMyAdmin on my machine while managing my little databases. And the interface seems pretty well considered. It allows you to easily edit multiple records on a single screen.

It was REALLY painless to install. The download for the program is only 167KB zipped. To install it just unzip and drop it on the server. That’s it. Then point your browser to wherever you placed it and log in as one of your MySQL users. Easy.

I only have minor issues with SQL Buddy. The interface for browsing records in a database looks so much like a regular desktop application that I expected it to work like one, allowing me to click on rows and edit the data in place. Unfortunately it doesn’t work like that. You have to check a box and then hit the edit link to edit all selected rows on another page. It’s a minor issue but I’d like to see it changed. Due to the open-source nature of SQL Buddy I’m sure it’s only a matter of time before someone adds edit-in-place.

SQL Buddy is a nice, simple piece of software that allows you to easily edit your databases from the web browser. I don’t know if it will ever be more popular than the deeply-entrenched PHPMyAdmin as the de facto standard database editor for web hosts and developers, but it’s quickly become my favorite web-based editor. Highly recommended.

The Last Word On IE8 and Browser Targeting

The Internet Explorer team has yielded to reason (or maybe a barage of letters and comments from angry web developers) and had a change of heart regarding the default rendering behavior in the next version of their web browser. The first sentence of the latest post on the IEBlog sums it up:

We’ve decided that IE8 will, by default, interpret web content in the most standards compliant way it can.

Thank you IE dev team! Now I plan to get back to thinking about the web instead of worrying about one piece of software.

Better Email Reply Headers with Thunderbird

Mozilla Thunderbird is a great free email client, but one thing about it has always bugged me: When you reply to a message, it puts something like “Scott Nellé wrote:” above the quoted text. Every other program I’ve ever used includes the date and time as well, which helps give context to the message. Unfortunately there’s no apparent way to change this from the options panel. But there is a way to do it. Here’s how:

  1. Open the options panel. In Windows, go to Tools > Options… (For Mac OSX Thunderbird > Preferences…, for Linux Edit > Preferences…)
  2. Click the Advanced tab and then the Config Editor button.
  3. Find the preference named “mailnews.reply_header_type” and change its value to 2 (it’s probably set to 1 by default.)

Your replies should now show something like “On 2/28/2008 9:25 AM, Scott Nellé wrote:” above the text you’re responding to. Sweet.

Check Mozilla’s site for more info about reply header options in Thunderbird. Though that section mentions editing user.js, you should be able to make most changes in the config editor as mentioned above.

More On Version Targeting in IE8

The debate over Internet Explorer 8’s proposed version targeting continues, and issue #253 of A List Apart features two good articles about it–one on either side of the fence. Jeremy Keith’s article (he’s on the “nay” side) suggests that IE8 should launch as a beta with version targeting disabled to see just how much it breaks the web. This is a brilliant suggestion and I can think of no better way to evaluate the need for a version targeting system. In fact, now that it’s been proposed I think it would be foolhardy of Microsoft to approach it any other way.

As a bonus, and in defense of not crippling IE8 by default, Keith’s article offers this line which is solid gold:

If IE8 is going to differentiate itself from its predecessor by having better standards support, then surely we can assess how it will render websites by simply viewing those websites in a standards-compliant browser like, say, Firefox, Safari or Opera.

Nice one, Jeremy.

Internet Explorer 7 Automatic Update

Today is the day that Microsoft will be pushing out Internet Explorer 7 as an automatic update. I’ve taken a few precautions to keep IE6 at least for the time being, but with any luck I’ll be able to let it go soon. I’ll be checking stats for some of our client sites at USM with an eager eye toward any sharp drop in IE6 usage starting today.

I must admit that there’s a part of me that will miss IE6. Over the years I’ve built up a pretty extensive knowledge of its bugs, and I’ve developed a great aptitude for fixing issues triggered by those bugs. Once its gone, all that knowledge will be of no use and I’ll have one less valuable skill as a developer. For the good of everyone else, however, I’m willing to make that sacrifice.

Update: I’m a little disappointed at the ease with which I dodged the “forced update.” All it took was disabling automatic updates. The more complicated instructions that were floating around only seem to have applied to server versions of Windows. I’m still interested to see how overall IE6 usage changes going forward. A quick and unscientific survey of stats for a handful of sites shows that somewhere between 40% and 50% of Internet Explorer users are still using IE6 or lower. Those numbers come from sites with a fairly general (not specifically high tech) audience.

IE8 Passes the Acid2 Test

Somewhat recently, Microsoft let slip the news that they are indeed developing Internet Explorer 8. Now they’ve released another interesting piece of info: As of December 12, 2007 IE8 passes the Acid2 test. If that means nothing to you, run (don’t walk) over to the Web Standards Project’s Acid2 Browser Test Page.

Passing Acid2 doesn’t necessarily mean that IE8 will be the browser that web developers have been waiting for, but it does mean that the IE developers have spent time adding features that many of us consider important. The fact that Microsoft is even thinking about Acid2 is a big win for the web, and the fact that their next browser will pass the test is huge.

Beta Week

Two betas were released this week which will probably be met with a resounding yawn from the average computer user, but which should be exciting for web developers.

First is the new version of Adobe Apollo, now called Adobe AIR (or Adobe Adobe Integrated Runtime–they want you to be doubly sure that it is indeed an Adobe tecnology.) The new name is silly, but this release marks the inclusion of full HTML and JavaScript support, making it possible to develop cross-platform desktop applications using easy-to-learn technologies that I’m already familiar with. I’m excited. I hope to put together some experiments…some time soon-ish.

The second release will interest developers who run Windows, and Mac-envious members of the general population. Apple has released the beta version of Safari 3–their web browser–for both Mac OSX and Windows. For the first time, Windows-based developers will be able to test websites in every major browser on one machine. With this release, Apple has eliminated my only real reason to buy a computer from them. I’d still love to try one out, but now it will have to wait that much longer.

You can get the Safari 3 beta for OSX and Windows at Apple’s Web Site.

Update: On the day that Safari 3 Beta was released for Windows, several security flaws were found in the software. Wired’s Compiler blog has more info about the security flaws. Safari 3 is beta software so this isn’t too surprising. I would suggest that the software is currently unfit for general web browsing, but will remain useful for browser testing.

Mozilla Thunderbird 2.0 Released

Mozilla has released version 2.0 of their Thunderbird email client. You can read about the new additions to Thunderbird on Mozilla’s website, and in-depth coverage should be available all over the web shortly. In the meantime, here are some first impressions:

  • It’s pretty fast. I don’t have data to back it up, but after a cursory evaluation it seems faster than previous versions.
  • It looks pretty good. The default theme has new icons and a few other touch ups. I thought the last version looked fine, but I guess they felt the need to tinker. It still looks like Thunderbird to me, which is nice. They appear to have borrowed the new junk mail icon from feedburner, and it looks out of place.
  • They’ve added a tagging feature!
  • The tagging feature is a rehash of the old label feature, and could use some more work. Now you can define your own tags (in addition to the 5 default ones that take their names from the old labels) and apply more than one to a single email. Unfortunately, it only shows one highlight color at a time, which is not ideal. I would like to have seen tagging implemented more like del.icio.us or ma.gnolia, or like gmail’s label system.

All told, I’m pleased with the new version of Thunderbird, and I’m looking forward to testing the new features more extensively.

You can download Thunderbird 2.0 from Mozilla.

Full-Page Screenshots with Firefox and Page Saver

A great website requires many details working together in harmony, and not all of these details appear “above the fold.” Many elements, from header to footer, must come together in order to effectively communicate a message. Whether you’re presenting your own work in a portfolio, or saving inspirational work from a designer that redesigns too often, why would you want to take a screenshot of just the thin slice of a site that you can see in the view port at any one time?

A while back I was admiring an incredible site and decided I wanted to save it for inspiration. I briefly considered the prospect of taking a bunch of screenshots and cobbling them together in Photoshop, but figured there had to be a better way. Fortunately, I was able to find one; I’ve been using the Pearl Crescent Page Saver extension for Firefox ever since. It is compatible with Firefox 1.5 and higher on Windows, OSX, and Linux.

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