Posts Tagged ‘history’

My Epoch

Thursday, October 15th, 2009

Today, I’d probably be some low-level code-monkey in an office somewhere, with a sizable cache of money saved away, but I wouldn’t really do much in my off hours. I wouldn’t learn all that much new, besides some programming stuff, I wouldn’t have my own site, and I wouldn’t have my own WordPress blog.
Essentially, I’d have the most boringly plain life.

On February 19th, though, I read a blog entry about the CSS Zen Garden, which shot me off in a completely different direction. I learned about entirely new industries, and found the place I want to be. I call that date my epoch. Everything else in my life was just leading up to it.

But why did I visit that site?

  • I was half-heartedly making something for ‘my first client’, and maybe I wanted inspiration. If I wasn’t making a webpage for him, I might never have revisited the CSS Zen Garden, at least not in the same way.
  • The site was recommended by an instructor in a course that had nothing to do with that subject. If I had gotten a different instructor for that same class, I may have never heard about the Garden.
  • I had only made a serious attempt at a website because I was roped in by another friend, who I only met because of a strange time coincidence in his own life, and his own life-altering experience. He very nearly died before he met me.

(At the same time, I think web design did interest me, and it’s in my blood to push myself towards art. I have no clue if I’d have ended up deciding to learn web-page making in my off time, and then finding the community I found.)

The blog entry I had read was linked from Dave Shea‘s resources page: Doug Bowman’s write-up about his CSS Zen Garden submission. Today, I retraced my steps: After reading that, I had went to his blog. His latest entry at the time was a link to the blog of Eric Meyer, who pined about the need for a new way to lay out documents. His second link pointed me to Shaun Inman‘s post from 2006 that talks about making equal-height columns of content, and the javascript he had developed as a fix to do that. At that moment, I remember reading the comments and thinking to myself, “I have no clue who these people are, but that doesn’t matter. I’ll know them, eventually.”

Reading back on them today, I see very familiar names. Eric Meyer, of course, said something. There was Ethan Marcotte, also known as ‘beep‘ (the unstoppable robot ninja), who actually just got married on Saturday, and who was then still using the name ‘sidesh0w‘. I saw Andy Clarke, who goes as ‘Malarkey‘.

It strikes me that virtually everyone from this world is unknown to the average person. As far as computers go, everyone knows about Bill Gates and most people know about Steve Jobs, but that’s almost it. What about Jeffrey Zeldman, the Web Standards Pioneer, who created (and is executive creative director of) Happy Cog, the biggest web-design company in America? Molly Holzschlag, who managed to snag, and who worked to bring modern web standards to IE7 and IE8? Jason Santa Maria, the leading print-designer on the web, and creative director of A List Apart? And hundreds of other names I have no time to link to.

But that’s alright. The world is just such that we only ever learn a few names from the most powerful companies. But I know my own, and I’ve found my place.

Photo Gallery

Thursday, May 21st, 2009

I just finished more work on the old Atomicat Photo Gallery.
I was working for him last year, basically, at the same time as I was take what was essentially my first every-twenty-years-vacation. I figured I’ve been going to school since I was four or five, and I’ll probably be working until retirement, so I might as well take a year off to do some other stuff.

The site was the first website I’ve ever designed, and went through a couple drastic redesigns. I created the modern logo, which I’d say is fairly decent, and experimented with things like floats and whatever else.
The CSS on that site is disgusting. I didn’t really ‘get’ the id attribute, and so I had classes in every little thing. Extensibility was fairly unneeded, so I would end up creating a little class to do one thing, and then paste that on whichever element needed to do that. The result was something like HTML with half the semantics of HTML. Is <div class=”floatl”> any better than <div style=”float:left”>? It seems I’d completely ruined the core idea behind CSS.

The gallery was something else: Hours upon hours of hand-crafted goodness, as from a seamstress who turns away the sewing machine to make each careful stitch with her own sure hand.
In short, it was a mess. There were eight pages to be taken care of, each with images that had to be named specifically for that page. Any images you wanted to add had to be specially named for yet another page. Each item had to have the name/description engraved in the html, to be passed in an ugly GET variable.
Tonight, I went through the motions of creating the database and putting everything in it. I took every bit of repetition in the gallery and put it in loops. The gallery went from seven pages to one; the page went from eight individual items to two (I could probably turn that to one); and that item or two is loaded in from SQL.

I guess I’ve still got to do tags, but I’m finished for tonight. I’ll have to eventually upgrade the entire site up to my current standards, and then upgrade it again to the standards I’ll have by the time I’m finished.

This is shaping up to be quite a year.


Friday, April 24th, 2009

“Yahoo is closing its GeoCities personal home page service, and with it will go an era of self-expression on the Web that’s largely been replaced by social networks and blogs.”

Wow, and I only cancelled mine a couple months ago!
I had first gotten a Geocities account in college, when I wanted to put up some random applets, which are now found on the programming tab of my site. I also uploaded my resume.
All in all, it wasn’t a great site. It also wasn’t designed nearly so grotesquely as most of the others.

I remember Geocities as it says in that article: It was a backwater. Any time I was Googling something and found myself on a Geocities page, I considered just pressing the back button before reading anything. After all, what good could come of such information?
At any rate, it’s an ambivalent moment: One more old piece of the web, hailing back from the darkest ages, is fading away; but it was a wonderful piece of history. At the very least, historians must write about it.
What other monstrosities from the past are haunting us? Besides IE6.

On another note, I may have mentioned how slow this blog is.
I’m using a mobile internet connection, which has an impressive bandwidth of about 7.2Mbps (which actually works out to a still-reasonable 6.2Mbps), about 80KB/s throughput (If I get the full 800KB/s, it’s because I’m downloading ten things at once), and a rather slow latency.
In fact, WordPress seems to load thirty-three (!) different scripts, which altogether takes about a minute. After that, it has the forty-four images, which is another minute. Somewhere during the images, though, I can at least start writing.
I’d read from certain places (Dave Shea at messoblue had posted on this topic not too long ago) about CSS sprites, where every image is collated into one big file, which is used with hidden overflows and positioning to get the proper image showing out of it. The end result is something a bit smaller, but that one image only needs one server request. I’m sure anyone with a satellite uplink appreciates it when someone uses an sprite sheet.
In my case, I’m sure it would shave off a whole minute of waiting, for every single page. I imagine the browser needs to communicate with the server before it can decide to use its cached version?
Another thing I want to know is if I can condense the JS files into just a few. They look to be modular so that I can switch them with custom versions, or update them easier. As it is, I might go without certain features of extensibility, if it means I don’t have to wait a minute or more before writing.

I think my server is partly at fault. It loads in a quarter the time on localhost. (That’s a bit sarcastic; I’d expect localhost to be near-instant, as it’s located directly on my machine.)

(Oh, there are eleven different CSS files, too.)