If you are here, you must be really bored! I would have thought
the word "Technical" in the link would have sent
you running for cover. Did you run out of interesting stuff
to browse on this site? Or did you just click the link by
accident? What did you think you would find here? Is there
anybody (besides me, that is) who visits a site and says,
"I wonder how they did that? I wonder what tool they
used? I wonder why they did it that way?"
don't know. But what the heck? I'm here to share my experiences,
and this web site has been part of my finch experience. So,
here is the how and why of FinchAviary.com. Please keep in
mind that although I am a software engineer by trade, I am
less than an amateur when it comes to web development and
design. My web education consists of a few beginner HTML books
and some pretty good books on Perl and CGI. My artistic and
page layout skills are nonexistent. Experienced web designers
will probably get a good laugh out of this. But if you are
new to web development, you might find something useful here.
if you couldn't care less about any of this -- oh well. You
didn't have to click on the link, now did you? Get that click-happy
mouse under control and visit the pages that actually mean
something to you! Here's your ticket out of this nightmare:
Take me back home, please!
This site was developed using Macromedia
DreamWeaver 4. DreamWeaver allows you to work with your
web pages graphically, which makes it easier to lay your page
out and to create a pleasing look. Many developers are strongly
opposed to using a graphical interface for web design because
the HTML generated by such software tends to get ugly. I found
the source generated by DreamWeaver to be pretty clean, but
you can look at it yourself and decide.
recommend you learn a little about HTML before working with
an editor. Although DreamWeaver makes generating HTML very
easy - you probably won't know what to do with it unless you
understand the basic elements behind HTML. The good news is
that the basics are not very difficult. HTML is just a way
of tagging text so that it can be represented in a special
uniformly formatted way across browsers of very different
In addition to using DreamWeaver as an HTML editor, I also
take advantage of its site management capabilities. A site
management tool will automate tedious tasks such as updating
links when you move or rename files through its site management
interface. It also can check for broken links on the site
and can handle transfer of files to the web server.
FTP stands for File Transfer Protocol. This is the means by
which you can transfer files from your local PC to the web
server, where they can be viewed by others. I use DreamWeaver
to accomplish this task for any of my HTML files and graphic/video/audio
PRO to transfer CGI/Perl scripts in text mode or to do
large batches of file transfers. A trial version of this software
is available for free download to home users. Text mode must
be used to transfer Perl scripts because of the difference
between the way Unix and Windows handle the end-of-line condition.
I found WS_FTP PRO to be more reliable than Dreamweaver when
transferring large numbers of files at once.
CGI/Perl scripts are programs that are designed to run on
the web. They are useful for any form-based logic (eg, guestbooks,
surveys, comment forms, etc). Your web server must be set
up for running Perl scripts in order to use these on your
site. Creating these scripts takes a little programming knowledge,
I've tried many different graphics editing programs for creating
and editing the graphics and photographs that appear on this
site, including PhotoShop, Paint Shop Pro, and Macromedia
Fireworks. At first, I found these programs difficult to work
with. After studying photography for a little while, however,
I have taken a strong liking to Photoshop CS. It can make
even my pictures look decent. It has a pretty large learning
curve associated with it, however. A limited version of Photoshop,
called Photoshop Elements, is available at a much lower price
(around $100) and can do many of the things that Photoshop
can, if you want the power without the excessive cost.
those of you who want an easy photo editor, I originally had
used Microsoft Picture It! Publisher Platinum Edition to touch
up most of the graphics taken during the construction of the
aviary. I originally purchased this program for creating photo
album pages from my digital camera pictures. It took a little
getting used to, but once I was familiar with it, I found
that I could create web graphics and touch up my photographs
much more quickly with this tool than with any of the others
(I do not use it's web page generator, however). Be warned:
it is a Microsoft product and has its flaws, including periodic
system crashes, even on top-of-the-line equipment [only when
it's really important, of course]). Still, Picture It! is
capable of producing some rather sophisticated photo effects
using a simple interface at an inexpensive price (inexpensive
is the key word here). If you are a graphics guru, you won't
want to abandon your tool of choice, but if you are not comfortable
with those high-end tools or don't have the budget for them,
this program might address your needs.
We are currently on our second generation webcam. The first
webcam used a free program called TeVeo VIDiO Suite to run
my webcam. I chose this software because it was one of the
few webcam applications that allowed streaming video to be
viewed through the firewall at my office. It also was capable
of producing some pretty quick frame rates, even when you
logged on with a dial-up. In addition, it did not enforce
any advertising other than a link to their page - no annoying
slow loading banners and no pop-up ads (I will not use any
tool or service that inflicts a pop-up advertisement on my
visitors). However, TeVeo support gradually declined until
it was non-existant and their site was hacked from time to
time. Eventually they went away altogether.
decent free streaming webcam alternative is Camarades.
I can view their video from behind the firewall at work, but
they popup an advertisement for their site (a FinchAviary.com
no-no). Clicking on the video also takes you directly to Camarades
site. In addition, video stops transmitting after a certain
time limit. I did not care for these nuisances, so I opted
against using Camarades to handle my webcam.
heard of the possibility of using Microsoft Windows Media
Encoder for streaming video, but I haven't had the opportunity
to look into this alternative. I am not sure whether this
option would accommodate visitors who access the website via
a Mac (knowing Microsoft, somehow, I doubt it).
second generation webcam was a network webcam. The webcam
is a server unto itself and has its own internal software
so that no additional software is required to run it. In fact,
you do not even need a computer to run the network cam.
Video clips were edited and rendered with Pinnacle
Studio DV 8. I highly recommend this software for novice
home videomakers. Of the consumer-end video editing packages,
I found this one the easiest to use, producing the most polished
results (other products I've tried include MGI Videowave and
Ulead's Video Studio). Higher-end packages, like Adobe Premiere,
are very expensive. I've used Premiere and it has some pretty
cool effects and capabilities, but the learning curve is steep
and it crashed my system a bit. For my personal stuff, I don't
really need that level of sophistication.
Photographs of the construction of the aviary were taken with
a Canon PowerShot S100 Digital Elph camera. Size and/or Resolution
was reduced for faster web-page loading. Alternatively, video
frames were grabbed from a Canon Ultura or Canon ZR40 MiniDV
digital camcorder for use as still pictures on the web site.
While the resolution of the video camera is not as good as
the digital camera, the output is still high enough quality
for web page use.
photographs, including photographs of the birds, were taken
with a Canon Digital Rebel (300D). Again, size and resolution
were reduced for faster web=page loading.
Videos were recorded using a Canon Ultura MiniDV or a Canon
ZR40 digital camcorder and captured using Pinnacle Studio
DV Firewire capture card (included with Pinnacle Studio DV
The first generation webcam was a Logitech
QuickCam Pro 3000 webcam . This is a USB camera. In order
to connect the webcam in the aviary to the server in our basement,
2 USB active extension cables were required. USB technology
limits the length of a USB cable to 5 meters (about 15 feet).
In order to supply enough power to transfer data over greater
distances, a hub is necessary. Each active extension cable
contains a built-in single-connection hub. If active extension
cables or hubs are not used, the device may not work. Since
streaming video means transferring large quantities of data,
we decided that we should not risk any other cabling and we
shelled out the bucks for active extension cables (they cost
about $25-30 a piece).
second generation webcam is an Axis
205 network camera. This webcam has a built-in server,
so it does not even need a computer to run (it has a small
computer inside the cam instead).
I decided to create this site, I created some ground rules
to ensure my site would live up to certain standards. Although
this is just a personal site, I wanted it to have the feel
of a professional one. I knew that wouldn't be totally realistic
since I am not a web developer by trade, and particularly
because I lack skills in the field of graphic design. But
there are certain things that I could do to ensure my visitors
a pleasant experience.
You will find no commercial advertising on my site. I
do provide links to sites that sell finch-related products
because I know how difficult it can be to find some of these
things. But I have no financial interest in any of these companies,
nor do I receive any compensation for promoting them. I do
not make use of loud or annoying graphics to link to such
sites. It is not my intentions to boost the sales of any business
- only to help you find what you might be looking for. It
makes no difference to me where you buy your supplies from
as long as you find what you are looking for.
times, I take advantage of a free product or service provided
by another company. For example, PicoSearch
used to fuel my site search tool. TeVeo VIDiO Suite used to
run my webcam. Part of the agreement with such companies usually
involves including a link to their site. This is the only
type of advertising you will see here. Note that I replaced
the PicoSearch search tool with a script because they began
inserted flagrant ads onto the results page.
will not use any product or service that inflicts an advertising
banner on my site. I've found that the banners often incur
significant download times. And on a personal level, I find
them to be annoying and distracting, and I disapprove of some
of the deceptive techniques used to get a user to click on
I will not use any product or service that imposes a pop-up
advertisement on my site. Pop-up ads are my biggest pet peeve,
and you will never see one originating from this site, I promise.
being said, I have no influence over the external sites that
I link to. While you will not see banner advertising or pop-up
ads on FinchAviary.com, you may run into them when following
links from my site to external sites.
A domain name is an inexpensive way to give your site a little
more polish. In reality, it only means that you pay a few
bucks a year for the right to use the name, but it carries
with it a positive reflection on your site and the connotation
(real or imagined) that you are really serious about your
subject. Most importantly, it helps visitors to remember your
URL. Thus, I registered FinchAviary.com as my domain name.
Perhaps the greatest benefit to registering a domain name
is that it is not tied to any particular hosting service.
Should I decide to change to a different web hosting company,
my URL will stay the same. Thus, visitor's bookmarks will
still work and the switch would be transparent to everyone
One of the biggest challenges for me was to design a navigation
path that would make it easy for guests to find the page they
are looking for. I find it frustrating to know that the information
I am searching for is available on a particular site, but
I just can't seem to find the right page. I've worked exceedingly
hard to make it easy to find the information or page you are
looking for, but I realize that I still have miles to go.
I will keep trying to improve this aspect, but I've found
that the more information you have, the easier it is for topics
to become buried. The more accessible I try to make them,
the more cluttered the interface becomes, the more difficult
it is to navigate again. It is a real catch-22.
assist in navigation, I've provided the following features: