Playing around with Ajax

There is always something new that comes out. And sometimes it is so hard to catch up with what’s happening. If you are just starting out making websites and learned HTML, once you learn it… you find out there is more to learn with Javascript, with CSS. To make your website look nice, you still need to know your graphic softwares, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator. Then you find out there is some animation software, there is more to learn. Macromedia Flash, and Flash has it’s own scripting language, Actionscript. And you learn you can’t do databases, you need some server side programming language, some database where you have many options, either PHP, ASP/, JSP, Cold Fusion, Perl, Miva Phyton and more with so many database options, MySQL, PostgreSQL, Microsoft SQL Server, Sybase, Oracle and a lot more. After you learn all of that, it just does not end there. You can learn about SEO, and techniques on special ways to do things. Tableless sites in CSS, CSS rollovers, Spritenavs, Suckerfish Navs, better transparent PNGs, cross-browser techniques, scalable designs and a lot more.

Some people get discouraged with all these things to learn but all I can say is, you do not need to learn it all. And collaborate with others. Or how I do it… just find out what everything can do, and just learn specific parts that are needed on a project. And gradually increase knowledge as more projects come in.

After I first read about Ajax or Asynchronous JavaScript + XML on the article on the Adaptive Path website a few months back when former co-worker Jason Kent sent me the link via an ICQ message at work I took a quick look at read and read through it quickly since I still had a lot of work to do that time. I said to myself, great, now I got something new to learn again, when is this going to stop? Can I still catch up with all the new things coming out? The article sound a bit complicated showing all these diagrams and the only Ajax I knew then was some laundry soap.

Although I already had a good grasp of the concept, I never tried it out until just recently, actually last 2 days ago. I was just working on an email contact form and needed to add an anti-spam code generated on an image that the user must type in a text box to avoid spam bots submitting the form. The code should not be found anywhere and should be save on the server. After discussing this with Mike Lopez via YM, he suggested the Ajax approach and I said, nah, I got a lot of projects to finish, I will just do a page reload and study Ajax some other time. But he told me it is not as hard as you think. It is really simple, it only takes 30 minutes to learn. And through the process of looking for a good tutorial online, he found Sajax made by Modern Method which is an Ajax toolkit. Yes it did make Ajax easier.

With my inferior Javascript skills, it still took me 2 days to get it work (but not working whole day on it, only in the night time). I had problems passing the values of variables from Javascript to PHP and back. And when I found out what was causing the problems, they are super simple dumb reasons. I shared Sajax at work and Mike Hawkins showed my something else. He showed me Xajax and after reading about it, it seems Xajax is offering something better. But I haven’t really tried Xajax out yet. I might try that out on my next Ajax implementation.

Philippine Web Awards

I have been fortunate in the past to be part of the web awards in 1999 and 2000 as a finalist and won in the People’s choice awards. And in 2001, 2002 I was a chosen judge. In 2003 was my first time to go to the awards not as a judge nor competitor. Everyone’s skills just stepped up and getting in the finals is not as easy as it was before. 2004 I felt totally unknown in the web awards and I still went there to watch. 2005, at least they contacted me to be a semi-finals judge again. My company had three entries this year and only one reached the semi-finals.

The Philippine Web Awards posted our profiles and they mentioned my blog. Grabe kakahiya. lolz. Puro problema lang ng buhay ko nilalagay ko sa blog ko. hahaha.

Anyway, I did ask them to take it off the site. Pero hindi na matatanggal sa printed materials.

Thanksgiving na dito sa US, so Happy Thanksgiving to everyone. A long weekend from now to Sunday. A good time to catch up with pending work.

Pero right now… inaantok na ako. Sleep muna… zzzzzzzz

Pare, walang pera sa hosting…

I still remember these words from a friend of mine. We were partners in an old company before I got tired of the company. I got tired making websites. Designing and even more tiring, a bunch of web development projects. The price tag was high, but the work was hell. I was a Zombie everyday due to lack of sleep. That is why I got tired of working as a web designer/developer that time. I felt the price to amount of work ratio was not proportionate since I just got so tired that the money was a small value that I would give up for getting more sleep.

Those early days… I already proposed to concentrate on hosting alone and not to concentrate on designing and development. And I still remember my partner’s words… “Pare, walang pera sa hosting, ang pera sa na development.” (Man, there is no money in hosting, the money is in development) Well only in web development have I experience closing a P1Million deal, as well as a P600,000 worth deal in a single year. Mysteriously… if you get paid in small chunks for the deal… and expenses always come… you never get to hold that large amount of money. And the projects that were targeted for 3 months often turn out to be 1 year. It was not worth it for me having no sleep for these big one-shot big deals. I was so tired… I gave up on the whole company.

I decided to work in the academe teaching computer subjects. And decided to give business another shot… this time concentrating on hosting and domains alone.

As my partner once said there was no money in hosting… I believed otherwise, it may be small, but it was a regular payment. It was passive income in a way. Like a vending machine, like a pinball machine, like an arcade video game machine, not much to maintain. No need to have an employee at the place of business and people pay money. You just go occassional check ups that everything is running fine.

Last week I had 109 websites on my server. Today I already have 117. And I still have tons more of inquiries or hosting and domains. Most active countries are the Philippines and the US, but clients also exist in Australia, China, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, Riyadh and Romania. Although good things may be happening… hack attempt happen more often since more websites are exposed, and serve as more known target places. Even if there is no such thing as 100% security, I always try my best to get nearer to the 100% secure with the help of the opensource communities online sharing knowledge. Not an easy task, but for technical people, opensource is still cheaper than commercial software. But for the non-technical people, the time needed to learn opensource softwares or high extra help to manage an opensource server may cost them more and might as well get commercial software with good customer support.

My company is still not earning a significant amount to depend on my company alone, but it is doing better than my company before than concentrated on web design and development deals with a steady amount of income. Not really really big, but still a steady amount. Keep everyone happy, and you keep everyone on the server.

Today, I am still like the way I hated it several years ago, having no sleep. But the no sleep today is more worth it.

For Jamie

I know Jamie is only 3 years old, this may be too advanced for her. But this is not for her to make, this is only for her to realize. Realization of the possibility is sometimes what will drive her do more better things. To show her that what you see, you can recreate is already a powerful thing to me. It lessens the losers in the world that easily say: I can’t do that.

I was a Lego® child since 4, but my real big Lego® sets came in at the age of 6. All these sets are now Jamie’s. Some people say Jamie is smart, and they are judging this on how she speaks. At the age of 3 she can do interesting conversations, has nice pronunciation, and knows a bunch of stuff. But this is not what I am looking for at this moment. I want her to wonder how things work, can see symmetry, color balance and uniformity, do simple jigsaw puzzles, get to count in small numbers and get a simple concept of length units. Talking is nice, sounds smart, but even up to college, there are a lot of good talkers that know nothing. The government in any country has a lot of them.

I like Lego® since it gives you simple rules of measurement, where you measure in the unit of Lego® “dots” which are the circle heads that connect each part. Designing something, from a tree, a house, stairs, whatever, teaches simple symmetry and alignment. Sometimes you are already teaching simple math without knowing it. In centering alone, just tell Jamie, ang ganda ng gawa mo, pero igitna mo ito… and if she ask paano or she says naka gitna naman, bring in the counting of circles on both sides. Just start with that and she will learn more as time goes on. She will learn about planes of symmetry, lines and planes and 3d space without knowing that she is learning. Turning objects in her head. And when school comes… she will appreciate more the number line, the mid point, median, mean, the dot, circle and sphere, area and perimeter, union and intersection. It is just asking her to make the right things.

Anyway… we will have a good Lego® session when I get home this December. Right now, just show her these pictures, do not ask her to do it, because if you do, and she can’t, frustration comes in. And when frustrated, it really depends on the person, sometimes, the more motivated they get to do it, or some totally give up. Jamie is too young to get totally motivated to get to do it when failure arises, although I have seen my trait of having this attitude as early as 6 years old in playing video games or any game. And a common line I would hear from my dad is: And hina-hina mo naman. accompanied with a laugh since he always did better. I do not plan to do that with my children, it will depend on how I see their motivation to do better is working for them.

Famous work of some artist. Famous, but I do not know who the artist is.

The recreated artwork in Lego®

I got the pictures from

Clients who do not know who to blame.

Clients come in all flavors…

The type of client that makes life colorful, are those that do not know who to blame. those that does not know where the mistake is. But no matter what the problem is, your fault or somebody else’s or sometimes their fault, it will all be your fault.

But I am a pretty patient person. Tell me all you want to say. You may be mad, irritated or a flaming hot screaming client. And I will just listen and find out what the problem is… fix it if it is a problem of my service, and if not, simply point out what is causing the problem.

But I still, do not leave the client in the dark if it is not a problem with my service. The best I can do is calmly point out the problem and lead them into the right direction to get their problem solved.

Now with a growing number of clients, having more than 100 websites on my server, this is just a beginning. I know it will be tougher as the number increases. Bring it on!

Fill up my server more so I can hire a full time techsupport personnel. To the point that every 5 to 10 minutes, a new client will have a problem because they do not know what they are doing, and will call up, email or chat with the company.

As more clients come in, I am taking this challenge. Give me more so I can hire a call center to handle you all when you get to 500 maybe.

I feel bad, I feel good

I feel bad…

…so many projects, so little time.

…some delayed, way delayed.

…so many clients, so many customer support inquiries, so little sleep.

…Philippine Web Awards, still need to do judging, so little time.

…program on registration, database, etc for the San Diego Taekwondo Championship on October 29.

…Pritchon, Martal, JLM, Some work on Mansmith, Waters coming soon…

…so many clients wanting to resell, waiting for my go signals on many matters… Lex’s signup forms, JL’s plans.

…Server administration… *&&@#$%^^&#@!% you hackers. You make life harder.

…YDS Website, forever under construction, PayPlus+ integration, trouble ticket, FAQs, billing system…

…Hosting clients with super delayed payments. Don’t worry I am not going to mention who you are. Your domains are going to get stolen.

…Computer problems, still some important files on my hard disk fried by the Sept 20 San Diego lightning storm.

…two YDS websites out of competition at the Philippine Web Awards.

…zero money, bought plane tickets.

I feel good…

…my family loves me.

…I am going home in the Philippines in December. Vacation approved. Leave at Dec 3. Come back on Dec 27.

…First salary after my increase, (but does not mean i have more money, it means I can pay the bills easier.)

…New Domain and Hosting Client, Gema just paid for her domain transfer.

…One YDS website got into the semifinals of the Philippine Web Awards., please vote for her site. Visit, register and vote.

…Amor helping out the company

…Wifi at North Olympus home on Monday. #@#$%$&^# that DSL. Never came to us.

…100+ clients, I can’t memorize them anymore, I remember in 1999, I know each and every domain, I even know configuration settings of each one. I can easily login remembering everything. Clients never got more than hmmm… 30 I guess. Today 100+ clients paying on a regular renew, just make them happy so they do not go away.

…I am alive, clean living. God is alive.

…I am starting to learn more about my Dad’s decision making.

Life is Good… Life Sucks… But still good… But still sucks.

Things I wanted to talk about but did not have the time to…

It’s been a long time since my last post because I’ve been so busy lately. And bad things happen to make things even harder.

My PC Problems

As usual PC problems never go away. One time my PC kept rebooting and at first I thought it was Windows, but even before it enters Windows, it reboots just a few second after POST. So it can be a hardware problem. I check some CMOS settings and everything looked fine and the weird thing was even within the CMOS settings it was rebooting. And I checked the system health within the CMOS setup and noticed the fast climb of the temperature. Once it reaches 96o centigrade, it reboots. Imagine that, just 4o less than boiling point at STP. The processor fan was still running, but the problem was mainly it was just a bit loose and the heatsink was not sticking well to the processor.

After that was solved… there was a recent lightning storm in San Diego that woke up the whole neighborhood where I lived. There was one big strong one that lit up my room and my lights blinked even if they were off. And my PC was on during the night. What the lightning broke was one phone line splitter, one DSL line filter, one 56k intenal PCI modem and a bunch of bad sectors on my hard disk. The PC was totally unoperable. Although I had a Celeron Windows PC hanging around and a laptop, a lot of needed files were in separate places on my AMD PC that was struck by lightning and the hard disk had bad sectors everywhere.

I can use an external USB/Firewire hard disk casing but my data was in two different hard disk and I have only one external casing. Taking them in and out of the casing was a tedious task to do. Aside from that, two of the partitions on one of the drives were in NTFS and not in FAT32. And the other hard disk was all NTFS. I got a Mac Mini Recently and even if it can read the NTFS drives, it is read only. MacOS can only write to the FAT32 file system. My only hope is to do a Partition Magic, but the drive must have enough space to be able to do the non-destructive partition changes, or else, I need to copy everything to my other drives and reformat the NTFS partitions to FAT32 and put the files back. And I need to do that on my Celeron PC.

Opening and closing the PC, putting on and removing the hard disk, moving files from hard disk to hard disk all consumes time. But if not done right away, more work is going to catch up on me. So far chkdsk was already done on my 120GB hard disk and was able to retrieve most files. I can do partial work but thework files are on the NTFS partitions. My other 80GB hard disk is currently undergoing chkdsk and when that is done I need to copy my billing statements to my clients and other papers like invoices, proposals and contracts. It’s October and I need to send out October billings.

The Mac Mini

I got a Mac Mini. Only 512MB memory since I will upgrade the memory myself to 1GB. Also got a Hyundai 17″ TFT LCD Panel Monitor. Kensington Wireless RF keyboard and mouse. Mac runs fine, pretty fast and everything how a mac should be, so generally it is great. But what do I do not like?

I am a keyboard shortcut person on the Windows PC. I use the keyboard a lot in many ways that many people will use the mouse instead.

I bodies of text in anything, in word processors, spreadsheets, browser text boxes, anything with text, I use these shortcuts very often:


In the Mac, it can also be done. Like instead of Home, you use Alt-Left, and instead of End, you use Alt-Right. No problem, I can train myself with the changes, but the problem is in some applications it does not work. It works on MS Word for Mac, in the text in Adium, it wants the Home and End, and in Dreamweaver code view, it does not work at all. Yes I am trainable to new conventions, but each application in the Mac does not follow the same conventions. And I am forced to use the mouse.

Another thing… In Windows… many applications have keyboard shortcuts, but not everything has a keyboard shortcut. But everything that does not have a keyboard shortcut, I memorize the “Alt” key sequences using the menu bar underlined letters.

Common ones I use often are like

Alt>I>I = Image Size
Alt>I>S = Canvass Size
Alt>I>P = Crop Selection
Alt>I>A>C = Adjust Contrast/Brightness

Alt>O>C>A = Auto-fit column width
Alt>O>R>A = Auto-fit row height
Alt>O>C>H = Hide Column
Alt>O>R>H = Hide Row
Alt>O>C>U = Unhide Column
Alt>O>R>U = Unhide Row

Alt>F>U = Page Setup

These are just a few of them. And on the Mac, the only shortcuts I seem to be able to use are the shortcuts given and cannot activate menu items with the keyboard alone. Unless there is something I really do not know yet and I still need to figure out how to do them on the Mac. So right now, I am forced to use the mouse.

I still picture myself using the Windows PC as my main general all around computer to use. And I will use my Mac Mini for work specific things that is related to graphics, audio or video. For coding I will still use my Windows PC mainly because of the keyboard shortcut convenience and speed and for websites, the Mac will be used for view testing. And of course Linux still powers my server. Stable, economical, perfect for a server, but will not use it for general all around use.

Investor Workshop

One of my favorite books on my shelf is RIch Dad, Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki. Although this is not a book only for business people, most business people like it. The book mainly talks about Robert Kiyosaki’s two dads. One rich, one poor, and how he learned from both, but followed the advice of his rich dad when it came to the topics about money.

Robert Kiyosaki recently had an Investor Workshop at the LA Convention Center last October 1. Being on his mailing list, I received an email about the event. It cost $150, in Philippine Pesos that is more than P8,000, but it was really worth it. It looked like there were 2,000 people there and he was really great. His knowledge shared will really charge a lot in the way you think. He also tells you about the common pitfalls people do why they never really succeed. He talked about taxes and other problems with the government laws that you have to watch out for. Knowing the rules to take advantage of the rules and not fall into the wrong paths. He talked about 3 top investments and he had excellent speakers on every type of investment. He talked about inflation and currency and investing off-shore. And although he talks all about money and how to gain more money and get rich, methods he used himself by using real estate, gold, silver and gas. He did not promote nor was trying to sell any real estate, gold, silver or gas shares. He was just sharing his knowledge. And it is very nice to know that he also has a foundation that is helping out schools integrate into some lessons as early as grade school just to get students better equiped with financial knowledge. It is his social responsibility to help lessen poverty. Since he does believe that war, divorce, illegal aliens, and other problems are really money problems. So his foundation is to help educate the people learn more about financial knowledge to make a change in the world.

And the things I learned and changed some of my thinking was… I like gas, I am not going for a sole proprietorship and will register a corporation, I am not getting my 401k or IRA. But I still need to save up and earn more so I can invest more and make money move and work for me so I do not work for money.

Unexpected Growth

I have been running a small business since 1997. First a computer shop, then a web design company that became a web-based application service provider because of the demand. Competition made prices go down, and development time shorter. Companies were killing each other in the market in the Philippines. Concentrated only in Metro Manila, and with so many web design and development companies around, the work was just too much already for the amount of money received. Many people started to concentrate on receiving off-shore outsourced projects trying to compete with India who is known to be the highest ranked in sales of these kinds of IT projects.

I took a different route, with a my company, I decided to go to the US. Working at a company doing the same thing I have always been doing, making websites. And still maintaining the business I run after working hours.

Being in the business world since 1997, I have faced basically all the challenges a business encounters. But since this is a small business, the problems I encountered were at a small scale. I already know the challenges of growing too fast, and not growing at all. Sometimes it is more comfortable growing just at the right rate.

Right now, I am growing at a faster rate than I expected. This is a good problem though since more earnings are coming in, but I still have a little fear of not being able to deliver all the responsibilities I may have. But I have already learned my lessons in the past.

And from these lessons, as a counter measure, I decided to stop selling anything. And I need to streamline all operations, from billing, project management, customer support, sales, everything. But if the clients come to us, we do not turn them down. It is still a manageable amount of clients. But we only do passive selling, only selling to those who come to us and not going and seeking clients. And so far we are still selling based on client referrals alone.

My server was a home to less than 30 websites when I came here to the US in July 2004 and I have been in the business on serious web hosting starting 1999. Today I have more than 90 websites hosted on the server when I started selling in Dec of 2004. It is not even one year yet, and my clients have already tripled. I decided to sell hosting actively when I did a server upgrade last September of 2004. Both sales in the Philippines and US picked up. 2/3 of the earnings are still from the Philippines and 1/3 from the US.

I advised the company to stop selling in August 2005 so we can streamline all operation processes. Right now there is no serious problem. But once 3, 4, 5 or even more clients need customer support all at the same minute and are the impatient type who may have some temper on the phone, this will be a big problem already.

Since last Friday, September 9, 2005, I have been having less sleep just doing some damage control. Fixing everything there is to fix before the real action comes. I am currently fearing the potentiality of events that are not even happening yet, but I have experienced similar situations in the past and I never liked that situation. So I am trying to build up my sand bags before the flood comes. The earlier I start, the better, the faster and harder I do, the more comfort I will get when it becomes hard.

I do back ups more often now than before. Information management is also a must process. I really got a lot of data to manage that look totally unmanageable, but I am slowly getting there. Just a little more time, things will be ready.

Many thanks to my all around office manager, sales manager, assistant web support, customer support, billing, accounting, everything assistant Amor Lopez. She gets many task out of the way.

Thanks to my wife who has been doing good as a presenter of out business. Just like a pro IT professional.

Thanks to my backup people, Mike Lopez, excellent backend skills, good logical thinking. LAMP opensource advocate. John Kelly, who is helping out in a design right now.

Thanks most of all to my clients who believe in my business as I work very hard to give you the best service possible. Thanks for referring even more clients.

Now it is back to work for me. Less sleep again and let’s get all of these things done. And have a good night sleep again a week after.

Working Convenience

While working at home… I have two desktops and one laptop. All emails and PDA synchronization runs on the laptop. That way if I need to be on the go, all planning and client correspondence comes with me.

One PC is mainly for work, and the other PC runs all sorts of stuff like TV, radio, CDs, music, and other entertainment while I work.

But with the tables I got, and how they are arranges, sometimes even just opening the other PC makes me lazy since I have work to do on the work PC. So the PC that serves as my TV is just there doing nothing. My laptop… all my emails are there… I sometimes find it inconvenient twisting my body all the time since the laptop is on my left. And with my table… my legs go all the way in and my legs cannot move freely to turn to the left.

All these extra efforts I believe affects my productivity and health as well putting my body in various contortions just to reach stuff.

Now I have seen all these nice corner desk at various office furniture websites. But all of them will still require me to spend some money. So I decided why not still give it a try with whatever I have and try to make it work. So I started rearranging things and the two most time consuming parts in doing this is the bunch of wires which I often call spagetti.

I still don’t find it convenient facing my laptop at where it currently is. I rather slip out of the table to free my legs and face the left completely. But then I will need a new table. So I still spent some money… I bought a Tabletote. The Tabletote is a product of Instand, manufacturer or portable laptop tables.

This product could be taken apart and easily fit a good laptop bag. So aside from having a new table, if ever I will be on the go with my laptop, I will bring the table along as well.

Although my Tabletote has not arrived yet, and I chose the longest shipping period since that is the cheapest shipping rate, this is the result of my current setup.

Big Fire

I woke up today with fire trucks passing by at 10 minute intervals. At first I thought they were the police and some major crime is going on, maybe some hostage thing… Or maybe some big accident going on where ambulances were going back and forth bringing people to the hospital. Being the Filipino I am, I even felt like going there on my bicycle and figure out what is happening, the Filipino “Oshosho” thing where Filipinos mysteriously like watching danger enfold in front of them unmindful of the danger. But I am not in the crazy world of the Philippines, where the country is a circus.

So I decided to check the news instead. There was a big fire in the mountaneous areas of Rancho Penasquitos. It was hard to determine where it really was with the areal views of the fire, but as the helicopter cameras panned from side to side, checking the shapes of the mountains and taking note of the location of the focused residential areas, I fired up Google Earth and it was pretty easy to figure out where everything was.

In the middle of the mountains are walking paths that are regularly cleared by bouldozers for people that jog/walk/hike/bike in the area. These paths that I have personally jogged and biked through sometimes seemed to stop the fire from spreading further into other bushes.

The wind was making the fire continue and go on and was moving it towards the north and east at times. My location was at the southern part of the fire. And residents living at the houses where the fire was heading were asked by the police to evacuate and most were being brought to Mt. Carmel High School that is a close walking distance from where I am. If they were bringing people there, I guess we already in a safe location.

TV news says there are 3 planes and 5 helicopters dropping water and fire retardants. It is already 6:30pm. Still hearing all the fire trucks passing by every now and then. Low flying helicopters passing by every few minutes. The news says, the fire is not yet dead and may take about 2 more hours to consider the fire completely exterminated. The news says people at the relocation areas may be allowed to go home at about 9pm. And even if the fire it not yet completely dead, they say it looks like the worst is over.

This all happened in the middle of the mountains, not a sigle residential home got burned. This is not a big forest, but mainly full of shrubs and bushes. So if ever there were people in the middle of the mountains, it is not that hard of a terrain to get out or get lost. Some areas are just too steep to run down, because if you trip, you might tumble down the mountain just like how Jill did when following Jack when he fell down and broke his crown.