Writing for the Web -- 01/12/07

Today's entry grew out of Clarence's comment about yesterday's entry.

He wondered why I used FTP for my entries and then added "I figured it's because you started out creating basic code and that's easier for you somehow" Well, he is right -- I started out on the Web writing HTML code.

Back in the summer of 1996 Jill and I were fooling around with Geocities, setting up Web pages. The first Web page I did was actually in Nancy's name, a Web page for a youth soccer team that we were coaching. We had an inexpensive HTML editor program, one that acted like a simple word processor -- if you wanted to make some text bold you would just highlight it and click an icon marked with B for bold (or I for Italic, etc.) and it would insert the appropriate HTML tags around that text. Jill looked at the results and said that HTML was easy, why not just type in the code directly, and that's what she proceeded to do for her page and what I did in building and maintaining the soccer team page.

Those early pages weren't very elegant -- mostly just text running the full width of the screen with a few tables to show game scores and schedules of games and practices and even a couple of photographs. I can't show them to you because the site was deleted years ago -- when we set up the ID for Nancy (she was the coach, I was assistant coach -- I had never played on an organized soccer team but Nancy had actually played on a coed recreation soccer team when she worked for IBM in Endicott, NY) a typo in the date of birth field showed her birth year as 1996 -- so a couple of years later, when Geocities had grown to millions of members instead of thousands, they decided they needed parental approval for anyone under a certain age and, since they saw Nancy as only two years old, that included her site. Somehow we were never able to persuade the Geocities robots to change her date of birth and they cleared away her soccer site.

In the meanwhile, in September of '96 I started my own site on Geocities. I wrote things in Notepad and then moved them to Geocities. Eventually I began using the Geocities online editor -- but then even using the editor, I would type in HTML and use the editor to double-check what it would look like. The trouble is, I sometimes lost entries if I lost my (dial-up) connection or if there were some kind of problem on the server side of things. So then I would go back to using Notepad, but it was difficult to see exactly what things would look like online -- I could use a browser to look at my HTML but that didn't show what it would look like inside the framework of the Geocities page (and sometimes stuff that looked okay on my PC came out messed up when it got online).

As I said, those early entries were full screen width -- but in those days that wasn't all that wide -- a standard PC display with a VGA graphics chip was 640 by 480 pixels. 1996 is when SVGA with its 800 x 600 pixel display replaced VGA as the standard PC display (yes, it was around before then, but that's when it became the standard). The standard display today is 1024 x 768 -- so you can imagine how annoying text spread that wide would be to read -- so years ago I took to putting my text in a table to restrict how long the a line of text would be. (The size of the table I use varies, but it is usually around 700 pixels wide, and has generally varied between 600 and 800 pixels.) The monitor on my desktop PC is set at 1152 x 864 and I have no idea how I came to set it at that -- until I looked just now I would have sworn it was at 1024. (My work PC -- which is a laptop that I have plugged into a docking station connected to a keyboard and mouse and a 19 inch flat panel display -- is set at 1280 x 1024.)

At some point -- sometime early in 1991 -- I switched to using IBM Homepage Builder, a WYSIWYG editor. I write in Edit mode, using the tools icons to insert links and pictures, check the appearance in Preview mode, and go into HTML Source to tweak it to look the way I want. I also use HTML Source mode to edit the code linking in the Halocscan comment feature and to write the code for the links to the previous entry and the next entry. (I also do the link updates on the home page and the list of entries for the year in HTML Source mode as well -- it just seems to me to be easier and faster to do that directly in the HTML.)

When I was still using Geocities, I would just copy and paste the HTML into their editor program and then save it but once I bought my own domain name I needed to use FTP so I looked around for a handy FTP utility and settled on Core FTP I use CORE FTP Lite, the free version for non-commercial personal use. I have it set to handle addresses and signon IDs and passwords for me. (There is a possibility I might do some commercial Web design and, if I do, I'll definitely buy Core FTP's commercial version.)

I suppose if I were to use blogspot or typepad or livejournal or diaryland or... etc., all I would have to do is customize the template and just open up their software (just like using the Geocities manager) and type what I wanted to say. But you know what, back in July I signed up for livejournal and did post some stuff there for a while, but I've not updated there since mid-October -- so much for that experiment.

Anyway, that's why I FTP my HTML code to my domain at Verve Hosting...

In Homepage Builder...

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