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  1. #1
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    Collecting Data via Front Page

    I've got two separate questions that relate to FrontPage and data collection.

    The System I Was Using...

    I had people subscribing to my e-zine by simply clicking on an e-mail and saying "subscribe." It wasn't the greatest system but worked OK. But I was having to manually add each new subscriber into my e-mail data base by right clicking on their e-mail address and adding them to to my address book. Then I still had to manually add them into the e-zine group listing I created within my e-mail address book for the e-zine.

    Revised Problem.

    I am trying to get paid advertisers for my e-zine and web site so I need collect more specific data on site vistors. I created a short questionnaire where people can answer several statistic grabbing questions and still subcribe to the e-zine.

    I want to

    1) List those stats in a database and so I can create a media kit with those stats
    2) Ad the new subscribers into my e-zine group address listing

    I tried to go into the form I created on Front Page and change from "Send to e-mail address" to "send to database."

    Then clicked "Options" to try to create the data base

    It said, "Couldn't Create Field--Exception:Invalid Argument."

    Does this error message mean I don't have Active Server Pages? (Not sure what that means but it's mentioned in the book.)

    Is there some other way to do that's not too technical.


    The only thing I know to do at this point is to send the form info through e-mail; manually key results into Excell and manually key e-mails into my e-zine address group.

    I hope to get better design software and also invest in data collection software, but this is what I've got at present

  2. #2
    Yugo full of anvils bronze trophy hillsy's Avatar
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    It sounds like you're using FrontPage's built-in tools for creating mailing forms etc. If so, all I can say is "Run away! Run away!"

    That said, there's probably no real need to invest in better data collection software and/or design software, though it could make the job easier. The job's not as hard as you may think though. Probably all you require is a little bit of server-side processing knowledge and some help from the friendly crew at Sitepoint

    Before we go any further though, do you know any of the following:

    The OS for the hosting server (generally Linux or some other *nix, or Windows)

    Whether any of the following are available on the server: PHP, ASP, ColdFusion

    Whether any of the following databases are available: MySQL, MS SQL Server, MS Access

    If you can find out some of this info (your hosting provider should be able to tell you), it's a 100% certainty that someone will be able to help you out

    <edit>
    Hmmm - looks like you're probably on Linux (according to Netcraft, anyway). It'd still be good to have the info listed above, but I'm guessing a PHP/MySQL solution may be in the offing...
    </edit>
    Last edited by hillsy; Oct 17, 2002 at 16:12.
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  3. #3
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    I'm checking with webintellects, my host, to get the info. you requested.

    I also asked them if they needed to set something up for active server pages.

    I have MS Access on my computer. Don't know if that's what you meant. In any case, if you meant me to ask my host about this I did, just to cover all bases.

    Stay tuned....

    Thanks

  4. #4
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    I just heard back from webintellects.com

    Here's their reply

    The server is a linux server and supports php and mySQL. ASP is not supported.

  5. #5
    Yugo full of anvils bronze trophy hillsy's Avatar
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    Right. PHP and MySQL it is. Unfortunately I'm not the best person to help you with that as I'm more into ASP/ColdFusion. But that's OK - you are on the best forums on the web for asking PHP/MySQL questions

    There's a few places you could start, but I'd recommend getting a feel for what PHP and MySQL are, and how they work. Then you can start doing some work with them and post back to the PHP forum with any questions as you're going along.

    OK - to get started you can't go past any of Kevin Yank's books/articles. Have a look here for a very good article or here for a book based upon the same (you can download the first four chapters free, too).

    It may look a bit intimidating and technical at first, but it's not really and Kevin is very good at explaining things. Plus learning a bit about PHP & MySQL will really set you up well for any future stuff you may want to do - on your site or for someone else.

    Good luck, and don't forget to ask if you've got any questions
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  6. #6
    Yugo full of anvils bronze trophy hillsy's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Teena Stewart

    I have MS Access on my computer. Don't know if that's what you meant
    You're right - I meant does the host support it. But if you have it on your PC it'll come in useful for helping you design/maintain your MySQL database.

    Let's not go there just yet though
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  7. #7
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    Ug. Looks like I have my work cut out for me.

    Thanks for the help. Actually, before I even posted that question about the data base I was seriously considering changing over from PC to Mac. (I work as both a designer and a writer and need to straddle the fence. I'm facing increasing virus problems by using a PC but I still need to be able produce information that can be easily accessed on PC by most of my clients.)

    I haven't been particularly happy with FrontPage because it's got so many problems although it has some nice features. I've been considering getting Dreamweaver but I really don't know if it's better than FrontPage. I also don't know how it does with forms and allowing you to interface with data bases. Do you know if DreamWeaver allows you to use Active Server Pages?

    Do you know anything about DreamWeaver (either PC or Mac version)

    I guess what I'm talking about is the importance of interfacing.

    Before I go through all of this trouble to learn PHP an MySQL, I'd better make sure what software I plan to stick with and what system I will be working on.

    I had been considering changing to a different host and after you posted your comments about ASP I decided to just go check out goddaddy.com a bit more. I see where they do offer Active Server Pages and they have a tutorial. I wonder if since webintellects.com doesn't offer ASP if this is why I can't presently get that feature to work regarding their forms interface. Makes sense to me.

    I guess the simplest solution right now might be to changeover to godaddy.com and select the package that offers that ASP option, but there's no guarantee I won't still have the problem.

    I'm so ignorant. If I were to set up an ASP data base and then changed to a MAC, would I have to set everything up all over again?


    Is there a benefit of PHP and MySQL over ASP and Cold Fusion. I know virtually nothing about these.

    Thanks for your help. Just trying to turna round and head in the right direction before I get too far down the wrong road.

  8. #8
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    "If I were to set up an ASP data base and then changed to a MAC, would I have to set everything up all over again?"

    there's actually no such thing as an ASP database, ASP is a language that interfaces with a database, and since ASP is microsoft, you'll find a lot more help for ASP with Access or ASP with SQL/Server than, say, ASP with MySQL

    also, when you set up a database on a host, it doesn't matter whether you are running a Mac or PC on your end


    "Is there a benefit of PHP and MySQL over ASP and Cold Fusion"

    PHP, ASP, and ColdFusion are interface languages, MySQL is a database


    i would start out by weighing two factors: which language are you likely to feel most comfortable handcoding, and then which database/language combinations does your host offer

    the reason i mention handcoding is that if you use a tool like frontpage or dreamweaver to pump out your interface language, then when it doesn't do what you want, and you have to go in and tweak the code, will you be able to?

    i came from a database background and then learned html, long before there were any languages like ASP or PHP or ColdFusion, so with my background in isolating the sql away from code, and the way ColdFusion uses tags to do that, i found ColdFusion to be phenomenally easy to learn

    they say that if you're a VB programmer, you should learn ASP

    anyhow, if you are looking for hosts at the same time as looking for a language, you will end up going around in circles

    decide on a host and then use the language/database it offers, or else decide on a language/database, and then go looking for a host

    rudy

  9. #9
    Yugo full of anvils bronze trophy hillsy's Avatar
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    I agree with pretty much everything Rudy said.

    It seems you might be a little confused by the role each of these tools is playing in the overall entity known as a "website". I'll attempt to clarify...

    FrontPage/Dreamweaver/GoLive/whatever
    These are just authoring applications. Programs like FrontPage queer the pitch a little by offering drag-and-drop database connectivity and suchlike (using ASP? I'm not sure) but ignore that stuff. Put bluntly, it's crap and you can do a lot better writing it yourself So all these programs do is spit out code that you will eventually upload to your server.

    And like Rudy says, it doesn't matter what you're using on your PC/Mac. All the server cares about is the code that comes out of it. Personally I use Dreamweaver on a PC, but I also work with someone who uses it on a Mac, and on occasion I need to use FrontPage (ugh). All this is uploaded to the same server.

    On the whole, Dreamweaver is much better than FrontPage in pretty much every way. Most notably, if you hand-edit some ASP or PHP code and then reload it into Dreamweaver, Dreamweaver generally won't change your code. FrontPage, on the other hand, is notorious (in earlier incarnations anyway) for rewriting your code to fit how it thinks it should look. Dreamweaver isn't a "must have" upgrade (especially if you don't do web dev for a living) but it will make your life easier.

    ASP/PHP/ColdFusion
    These are all server-side processing systems. They allow you to embed programming logic (such as retrieving info from a database) directly into your page. Basically what happens is this:
    1) Browser requests an ASP/PHP/CF page
    2) Server processes the programming logic in the page (e.g. gets records from a database)
    3) Server returns HTML results to the browser

    These server-side processing systems all use different languages. ASP uses VBScript or JavaScript. PHP uses... PHP And ColdFusion uses a tag based language called CFML (ColdFusion Markup Language).

    So in a sense, when you ask whether Dreamweaver "supports ASP" you're asking the wrong question. Dreamweaver and the like are just client-side authoring tools. A better question to ask is "Does the server support ASP?".

    Though in another sense it's still a valid question to ask about the authoring tool - for example it would be a right pain if - while coding your site - FrontPage went and rewrote (aka destroyed) all your PHP code because it didn't support it. I can't really speak to FrontPage's abilities in this regard - I've only ever used FrontPage 98 and it was awful. Certainly Dreamweaver will leave your code pretty well alone.

    Most people hand-code any server-side processing stuff. It's generally easier than trying to do it WYSIWYG (e.g. in Dreamweaver). However later versions of Dreamweaver (Dreamweaver Ultradev, Dreamweaver MX) do provide rudimentary support for building server-side stuff in a WYSIWYG/drag and drop environment.

    On the subject of which language to use, if you're planning on changing hosts I'd look for a host that offers ColdFusion. It's by far the simplest of the three systems to learn and to use (even people who don't like it won't dispute that) and it's very well supported in later versions of Dreamweaver. The downside is that the hosting normally costs a little more. Like Rudy says though - you need to decide on a platform then find a host, or vice versa. If you want to stay with your current host, then you'll be using PHP.

    MySQL/Access/SQL Server/Oracle
    These are all just database systems. You can get really in depth on them, but at the end of the day what they do is store data (email addresses, usernames, passwords, page text, phone numbers, whatever)

    Again, this is something that runs on the server, and your server-side system (PHP/ASP/ColdFusion) can pull information out of it and display it on the page it generates (see step (2) earlier).

    Most hosts offer MySQL, and it's a good choice. Access is OK for low-traffic sites and has the advantage of being very easy to use. Oracle and SQL Server are super-dooper high end databases that you don't need to worry about - I just included them here as you may have heard of them. Personally I design databases in Access then move them across to MySQL/SQL Server when they go live.

    So there you have it Sounds like you have a few choices to make. It's possible to build what you want using just what you currently have (FrontPage, Notepad, PHP/MySQL on the server) but that will involve a bit of a learning curve. At the other end of the spectrum, if you don't mind spending a bit of money you could get a copy of Dreamweaver and a ColdFusion hosting account, and do it that way. Simpler but more expensive. I guess the middle way would be to do Dreamweaver/PHP (which certainly works - just ask around here) or FrontPage/ColdFusion (which might work - but you'd have to check it doesn't mangle your code).
    Last edited by hillsy; Oct 20, 2002 at 23:50.
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  10. #10
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    This is really helpful and what I needed to know. Thanks for the detailed responses. It sheds a lot more light on the subject. I'll have to think this through carefully.

  11. #11
    Yugo full of anvils bronze trophy hillsy's Avatar
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    No problem

    Let us know how you get on and if you have any other questions.
    that's me!
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