9 May, 2004

Surprise, I redesigned the website. It may not look that different on the surface, but the xhtml has been completely redone. I had been thinking about redesigning the website for the longest time because I didn't like how Netscape 6 rendered it. Well, that last version of the website had been created after Netscape 6 had come out but before anybody had started using it, and I really didn't care how Netscape handled the site because I couldn't stand the program. I was always a big fan of Netscape 4, but Netscape 6 was just a hog. I actually uninstalled Netscape 6 shortly after having tried it out because of how bloated and slow it was.

So, what got me really thinking about it all again was the introduction of Safari, which I noticed renders sites in very much the same way that Netscape does, but I didn't know what to do about it. Then, I got to check out Dreamweaver at work, and I noticed that it didn't use tables as a website building block. It appeared to use these div-tag things. Now, I couldn't figure out how they worked mainly because I was able to devote no time to studying it. I even picked-up Dreamweaver for home, meaning to work with it, but it just sat on my computer. I think I spent a Saturday afternoon or two, reading through the tutorials, but I didn't feel like I was learning anything new or interesting. I was more than happy to just keep creating my xhtml with Notepad so what did I need with a big sulky program?

So, nothing actually happened until I got the opportunity to design a website at work. I quickly decided that I would use this opportunity to figure out this whole new way of developing websites without tables. I actually lucked out here. I got a good solid two weeks in which my bosses held back on the shit-work while I figured this div-tag crap out. So, at the end of those two weeks, I had finished the heavy lifting and grunt work on the Pereira Lab website. Getting the finished text took a lot longer, but the hard part was done.

And, the first week of work was all wasted. Well, it's not like I actually knew anything about div-tags when I started so the first thing I had done was to substitute div-tags for tables. This was all going very annoying and frustratingly slowly until I finally had the brainstorm that div-tags were not tables and didn't have to be treated as such. What a revelation that was. There wasn't anything inherently important about div-tags. The secret was in the cascading style sheets. And, I realized that anything could be assigned position attributes.

So, just like that I was able to get rid of all the parental div-tags. Things could be placed. They didn't need bunching or supporting or layering. They could just be placed. Whoa! What a revelation. Things got a lot more interesting after that.

So, at some point after having started on the work related website, I decided to see how many of these new tricks I could apply to my website at home, and I really wanted to see if I could crack this whole Netscape rendering problem. This is really where I started to love the fact that anything could be placed. In fact, I went a little placement happy. Just take a look at the main page. Everything is placed. All the buttons. All the logos and graphics. Nothing is attached to anything else until you get to the block of text.

This was the one thing that worried me. In a world where everything is given an exact placement, how was I going to handle items that might vary in length? Huh? How was I going to handle that? Turns out that once you start giving everything an exact placement that you can still have adjustable elements within it. This was another big relief. No, really, I had been worried.

The only problem with the redesign is that I really wasn't able to devote much time to it each week so it was simply taking forever to do. This is the main reason I never mentioned it in the journal because I didn't want to create an expectation and leave people wondering when this grand redesign was going to take effect, and after about two months, I was really starting to get frustrated. So, I guess it was about two weeks ago, I decided that enough was enough and that I was going to get through this. You may have noticed there was a new journal entry every week starting around the end of March through most of April and then nothing.

So, the whole website redesign has taken about three months.

Okay, I do have another concern about the redesign, which is that it looks like crap on Netscape 4 and also on Opera. Yeah, I know, those browsers just don't handle CSS2 very well.

But, I have checked out the redesign on Internet Explorer and also on Firefox. On what? Well, see, I didn't want to install Netscape. It's still a bloated monster, and I was worried about how the site looked on anything besides Internet Explorer. I was using Dreamweaver as my code editing program instead of Notepad, and I was also using Dreamweaver's code viewer as kind-of a second opinion for how my code would render. But, this worried me. I simply didn't know how close to Netscape and Safari that Dreamweaver was displaying the damn code.

It was actually the web comic User Friendly that helped me out here because it was doing a week on Mozilla, which is the open-source version of Netscape, and the comic mentioned that there was a browser only version of Mozilla called Firefox. Well, I checked that out. Saw that it looked reasonable. It doesn't appear to suffer from too much bloat, and it renders just like Netscape, which I expected. What I didn't expect was the astonishing resemblance to Safari in not just the way it renders but also in appearance. The resemblance is so striking that I doubt it is a coincidence, and I actually wonder if the guys over at Apple Computers have ever mentioned that the open-source Mozilla is the basis for Safari? Hell, I bet Mozilla is the basis of their email client, too. Both their browser and email programs have all the same features as Mozilla. Has anybody ever said anything about this? I mean I'm sure it is true. They freely admit that their newfangled operating system is based on FreeBSD, which is an open-source operating system. Why not go open-source with everything else, right? I just don't know if they have admitted to it for the browser and email.

Anyway, my website redesign looks okay on both Internet Explorer and Firefox so I've got my fingers crossed that everything looks okay on your computer, too. In fact, the site should look almost indistinguishable from browser to browser, which is more than I could say for the old site design.

Oh, wait, there was one surprise. After I finally uplifted the new site this morning, Firefox rendered the thing like crap until I cleared the program's cache. Weird.

16 May, 2004

I was so exhausted last weekend. I was just determined to get the website redesign up and working, and I think I was up until something like 2 or 3 AM Saturday night trying to work the bugs out of the comic's PHP code. Yeah, there is just nothing like finally getting all the files uploaded and have the first thing you look at be an error message. Stupid typo. Okay, I got that worked out. The comics displayed just fine.

Of course, I was so exhausted on Sunday I hate the journal entry I wrote that day. I was determined to write something. I wanted to do my little surprise speech, and I wanted to talk about some of the changes I had made. But, the damn entry is just flat. I was so tired. The entry reads like a travel log. There's no energy or life to it. I hate it. Hate it with a passion.

So, I've just been dying for the chance to do another entry. I kind of figured it wouldn't happen until this weekend. The main problem being that I couldn't think of anything to write. My brain has been in serious dead-mode all week. Of course, I would be on the bus or at work, and I would realize that I had forgotten to mention this or that about the new website. And, I would want to do something about it, but I can't at work. I could get into serious trouble if I did any personal stuff like dicker with the website while at work.

So, I would get home, and I wouldn't be able to remember any of the stuff I had thought of while at work. See, this is how ridiculous the work situation gets. I can't even make notes to myself at work about writing, comics, or website stuff while at work. All of which left me at home in the evenings stewing at the website because I couldn't remember any of the stuff I wanted to add to the journal and unable to think of anything new to muse about.

Anyway, I think I can remember some of the stuff I forgot to include last week. Oh, but the first thing I have noticed about the website redesign is that Netscape still seems to have trouble rendering the site when you first go to it. I found I had to click reload at least once before Netscape would start placing everything where it was supposed to go. Weird. As if it simply wasn't bothering to load the external style sheets. I had the same problem with Netscape 4 and the external javascript.

Oh, yeah, and I went poking around Apple's website and found where they say that their built-in web browser and email programs are based on open-source stuff, but I couldn't find a place where they actually admit that the programs are based on Mozilla. I swear, have you ever compared Safari to Firefox? They are the exact same program. The only differences I could find were in the theme and how some of the options were set. Oh, okay, found it finally way down the list. Safari is based on the KHTML rendering engine. Now, that is interesting. So, I wonder who is imitating who here?

And, that's not even any of the stuff I forgot to mention last week. The funniest thing about the website redesign is how big the external style sheet files have gotten. I know the XHTML code is nice and clean and short, but the CSS files are huge. The old website had one maybe two CSS files, but the new website has tons of them. Every single page has to have its own CSS file because there is just so damn much information stored there. In one way, it is kind-of cool because it does make the XHTML files easier to read, but it also makes them more cryptic because of the volume of information that is stored externally.

Now, I tried to be smart about the website redesign. I've heard rumors about how people have grown to hate tables so much that they refuse to use them. Well, I'm not interested in going that far, and I'm really not interested in doing something just because it is new. So, I really tried to go with what works with the website. I didn't want to try and be overly fancy or anything like that. So, even with all the newfangled CSS2 placement code just lurking in the background, I wasn't beyond taking advantage of a table or two. There were even places where I just felt that tables worked better.

Sure, maybe I just hadn't done enough investigation into CSS2, but I'm not interested in doing that. I want to do what works, and I'm really happy with what I've got. For no particular reason, the pages I am most proud of are the comic archive page, the journal menu page, and the pictures menu page. I'm really proud of the pictures menu page. I think it looks cool

Oh, yeah, I'm also proud of the fact that the comic history page displays the episode title on the depth gauge in the upper right had corner of the screen. I really like that, and I really like calling it the depth gauge. I know. I know. I think I hear that kind of thing referred to most often as the menu map, but I just love calling it the depth gauge. It's just got a ring to it that I love.

Okay, I'm impressed that I've remembered as much as I have that I wanted to cover in a new journal entry. I'm sure I'm forgetting lots of stuff, but I simply don't care.

Oh, yeah, a friend of mine asked me what is so special or different about XHTML, and I said nothing. XHTML is HTML with a little discipline. It's really kind-of silly as far as I'm concerned, but I've gone with XHTML just because it sounded like fun. Besides, I get to say that my website doesn't just use html. It uses X-html. Just as if it is Xtreme sports or Windows Xtreme Programming.

Oh, by the way, the X in XHTML stands for extensible and not extreme, and I just have absolutely no idea what that means. Okay, I just looked it up. It means extended. Wow, I should have guessed.

copyright © 2004 by keith d. jones – all rights reserved
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