A New Host

I finally decided it was time to move my collection of pages to a hosting service. Around the beginning of January of 2006 the company that owned my former Internet service provider (Interlog) was bought by another company (again). This news was kept rather quiet until it was formally announced to their customers almost six months later.

This new company talks about their continuing efforts to provide improved tools and services for their customers. It sounds good in theory except they decided to discontinue allowing users to run cgi-bin scripts. They supposedly sent an e-mail message to customers announcing the change but I never received the message. I didn't find out about this change until some months after the fact when I checked on the web stats generated by use of a cgi-bin script that was run each time a page from my site was loaded.

I wasn't particularly happy at this point. Some time ago I had lost access to the server based web statistics and had to resort to using cgi-bin scripts so I could get at least some basic information about which pages were being accessed on my site. The way the service on Interlog was going, I had said a year or two back that the next logical step would be the shutting down of cgi-bin access. It turns out I was right.

This situation started me thinking it was time I moved my web site to a different host before they shut down the ability to have any web pages at all. A while later, a friends web site (or conversation) mentioned how cheap many web hosting services have become. It didn't take much time searching the Internet to realize the truth of the statement. I could get a lot more storage space and features with a hosting service and for a lost less money than I was paying Interlog. The money I could save by downgrading my Interlog account to their most basic plan would cover the cost of an external hosting service. I could continue using Interlog for e-mail so I wouldn't miss any useful or important e-mail while I made the transition to a new host. I have a lot of people and places that have my old address. It would take some time to get my address changed everywhere. After that had been done, I could eventually stop using Interlog all together.

I started looking around for a hosting service and a domain name registrar. I wanted to use a hosting service and name registrar that were Canadian. After a few weeks of looking around, off and on, I had the choices pretty much narrowed down to one of three hosting services. I eventually decided on the least expensive of the three hosts. The other two offered storage space in the 10's of gigabytes which was way more than I felt I was ever likely to use. At the time, my site was only using 7 megabytes of the 10 megabytes I was allowed. As for the domain name registrar, I settled on the one my friend was using. It seemed one of the less expensive registrars and had ties to a larger company involved in name registration.

With the new year approaching, I decided to wait until just after Christmas to start setting things up. It turned out to be a much easier and faster process than I expected based on the last time I had set up a web host for a client. I registered my new domain name just after midnight. When I got up after some sleep, I found that the domain name had made its way in to the whois system about six hours later. Setting up an account with the web hosting service I had selected and getting my web pages set up on it also proved equally painless. By 5pm, that same day I had everything up and running and my site was accessible to the world on the new host.

With the move to a hosting service I have about 50 times the disk space I had before. I have useable web page statistics, the ability to run cgi-bin scripts, the ability to use PHP based tools and services, and I can also use databases on the site if I need them. All this for less than I was paying my old host.

I have some ideas for enhancements to this sites which will make use of the extra disk space. For now, I am just happy to have more freedom and control regarding what I can do on, and with, my web site.

History and Credits

I created this site with a few simple ideas in mind. I wanted it to be visually appealing while being easy to navigate, fast to download (even for people using slow dial-up modems), and viewable by the largest possible audience regardless of browser.

The last time I re-designed the look of this site was in the summer of 2000, almost six years ago. For most of this past year (2006) I wanted to update this site and give it a fresh new look. In addition to giving the site a more modern look, I wanted to make it easier for users to move around the site, and to find the additional pages of information I wanted to add (such as documentation for some of the software projects).

One day, during the course of using my web browser, I discovered the site of the Any Browser Campaign. I later found out I had originally discovered the site in the summer of 2004. At that time I just bookmarked it and then forgot about it. The timing of my rediscovery of the ABC site proved fortuitous. It also resulted in my finding the Open Source Web Design site which has lots of free templates available for download.

I liked the general layout of the header of the "Any Browser" site and using a line to separate the header and footer from the main content. The graphic in the header gave me the idea of using an image for the different sections of my site to help tie pages in related sections together. This still left me to determine how I wanted to layout the main content.

I wanted to keep the colours and page title graphics from my old site. This allowed me to limit my choices to templates using a blue colour scheme when I started searching the "Open Source Web Design" site. After a little while I found the Blue Haze template. I liked its side menus and the formatting of the main content area. It gave me the idea of linking to the validation (and "Any Browser") sites in the footer. It also gave me the idea of using the main index page as a place where I could inform visitors of changes to the site and its content.

I now had the idea and a starting point for the style sheet to use for my site. I created two sample pages (one with side menus and one without) to test the new look and to make adjustments to the style sheets. Once I had the basic design done I applied it to all the pages on my site, wiped out the old site, and uploaded the new set of pages and graphics. Some of the pages in this site required me to add some extra information to the style sheets to handle some HTML elements not covered by the style sheets I used as a starting point.

You will see from the site news archives page that I continued to make some minor changes to the style sheets as I fixed, or just cleaned up, the formatting (ie. tightened up some of the spacing) on certain pages. Some of the adjustments were to avoid wasting too much space when the pages were viewed with the browser window set to a width of about 640 pixels. I prefer to use a browser width of 640 pixels as it allows me to have two browser windows side by side, or one browser window and some program windows beside the browser.

I have tested this site using Netscape 7.2 and 8, FireFox 1.5 and 2.0, Opera 9, Blazer 4.0 (the browser on my PDA), and even Internet Explorer 5.5 and 6. Using the different browsers allowed me to find and fix errors in the style sheets. There was a minor error in the positioning of the side menus when the site was viewed by Internet Explorer but it didn't affect the usability of the site. I rarely run Windows so working around an IE bug wasn't a priority for me. I did eventually find the solution to the problem so this site now looks the same (except for differences in available fonts) in Linux and Windows using all of the previously mentioned browsers. You can even view and navigate this site using a text only browser such as Lynx.

Additional Credits

The page title graphic images I create myself using GIMP and a Script-Fu script I wrote. The script makes it easy to create new title graphics as I need them.

The bluish image of the Earth which you see in the top-left corner of this page (and the main index page) is a cropped, resized, and rotated version of a picture I obtained from the Copyright-Free Photo Archive. The original full-sized photo was taken by NOAA (US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration).

The other icons which appear in the header of the pages in this site were taken from the GNOME, KDE, and/or Tango desktop projects.

The first two images in the footer are from the validation sites to which they are linked. The "Any Browser" icon is from the collection of images provided on the Any Browser Campaign site and was edited slightly to better match the other two footer images. The "Ohloh profile" image is from the Ohloh site to which it links.