February 2007 in the Life of Ben (Blog)

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Calthorpe Enters Hantsweb Awards 2007 (28th February 2007)

On 2007-02-20 I e-mailed Warren Brand at Calthorpe Park School that the Hantsweb Awards 2007 had opened for nominations.

There are lots of categories to choose from. It seemed to me we’d fit in “Most Accessible Website” and “Best School and College Website” but wasn’t sure if this was allowed. So I e-mailed them and they very promptly replied:

Yes, you can enter multiple categories. If your website has made particular measures to make it more accessible, or highly interactive, but falls under the remit of another category as well (in your case, Best School and College Website) you may want to enter it into multiple categories to reflect this. In order to enter into multiple categories you muist fill out the form twice, once for each category.

Hantsweb Awards.

So that’s what we did. Just a day or two later, we are now listed in both categories:

I think we’ve got a good shot at the accessibility category, although some of the past entries are pretty impressive.

There’s some stiff competition in the schools category. We aren’t helped by my non-existent design skills but our realign means a lot more student work will be getting up there. We’re refining the navigation and I’ll be making some backend tweaks to improve performance, so maybe we’ll get a runner-up spot thanks to this.

Learning HTTP Caching and PHP (27th February 2007)

In short: it’s way out of my league but I’ve got something with basically works. It seems you have to know all the following (and maybe even more) before you even get started:

HTTP 304: Not Modified by Anne van Kesteren was also helpful. I now understand enough to make PHP generated pages just about work with HTTP caching.

Testing with Web Sniffer was the most help:

They return a 304 Not Modified response status without sending the page if:

I ’ve only applied this to the Calthorpe Park School test site. I don’t think it is a complete implementation and it’s very messy. It’s working with the caching Firefox and Internet Explorer 6 do but I want to do more testing and tidying before I show it on any forums.

My GP and my Hands (19th February 2007)

In the past my doctor has prescribed steroid creams and suchlike to try and help the skin on my hands. Since none of these has worked, she now reckons it’s just the type of skin I have, rather than due to something I’ve caught.

The condition is often aggravated by stress. This rings true to me since it flared up in the midst of a demanding website layout I was working on commercially last year.

Apparently it’s all to do with how the skin oils itself. When stressed, it retains this oil and the skin gets dried out (aka gets skanky). Her advice is to avoid soaps and to wear gloves when washing my hair. She recommends using a special shower gel when washing and applying a hand moisteriser occassionally throughout the day.

The moisturiser is like a small vat of gloopy goo...quite nice if you like that sort of thing. It seems to be having a positive effect so hopefully it’ll do the job. I haven’t tried the new shower gel yet. And I need to get some gloves somewhen.

URLs Sorted! (17th February 2007)

With help from chaos and zcorpan from Accessify Forums, we got it sorted. All the pages of Project Cerbera are now canonicalised on their technology-neutral URL.

The topic where we traded RewriteRules until it works is MultiViews and Canonicalising URLs.

Invasion of IE7 (14th February 2007)

According to the Project Cerbera logs, Internet Explorer 7 is being rolled out very quickly. Just as the Microsoft folks predicted.

Hits to Project Cerbera from start of 2007-01-01 to start of 2007-02-14
Browser Hits Proportion
Total 867,613 100%
Msie 647,476 75.6%
Firefox 171,951 20.0%
Other 56,617 6.5%
Msie 7.0 145,262 16.9%
Msie 6.0 494,352 57.7%
Msie 5.* 7,757 0.09%
Msie 4.* 82 0.00009%
Firefox 2.0.* 97,891 11.3%
Firefox 1.5.* 61,704 7.1%
Firefox 1.0.* 11,705 1.3%
Opera 15,614 1.8%
Safari 7,016 0.8%
Netscape 3,855 0.4%
Mozilla 3,681 0.4%
LibWWW 3,532 0.4%
Unknown 2,220 0.2%
Konqueror 159 0.0%

These things can be very skewed by different devices having different caching practises, by devices calling themselves things they are not and so on. But still, the biggest cause is probably computers updating to IE7.

MultiViews, PHP and Canonicalising URLs (13th February 2007)

Striving for technology-neutral URLs, I enabled MultiViews in Apache. I eventually found that PHP’s apache_lookup_uri will resolving MultiViews URLs. This enabled my PHP scripts to adapt the navigation and do their other magic things again.

But I’ve now got two equally valid URLs for each resource, which isn’t cool. I want to make all incoming requests redirect to the technology-neutral form but can’t figure out how. I’ve asked for help...maybe a set of RewriteRule directives can sort this out?

If I come across a way which works, I’ll write a little article about it. Web searches haven’t brought much up.

Mum’s Birthday (10th February 2007)

We went to the Hatchgate pub for a meal to celebrate my mum’s birthday. The food was delicious and we actually shared a lot of laughs. Overall a great evening. Would normally have been better if Zoe had been there but with things they way they are, that wouldn’t have been the case this time.

Leaving Myriad Islands (9th February 2007)

As nobody seems to share my vision of a professional, productive and planned approach to Myriad Islands, I’ve decided to leave. There were plenty of good times, great times in fact. But I can’t stand to see the community going round and round in circles when it could be pushing forwards.

Myriad was the last thing I was working on in earnest. CFG Studio 2 has gone about as far as I can take it, which is further than I thought possible. So, in effect, this is me retiring from GTA modding.

Everything I’ve released will remain available from this website. Including my Myriad Island files.

It’s the end of an era for me. Time to find something else to put my energies into.

JasonB sends Port Orchid (7th February 2007)

The Port Orchid island for MISA is one of the biggest islands. It’s been in development for a long time and today, JasonB sent me a 22MB pack of Max files. I’ll be passing these on to other team members and hopefully they can get it in-game for some alpha testing.

Project Cerbera 2.0 Goes Live! (7th February 2007)

About a month in the making, you are now seeing the upgraded Project Cerbera.

Spamming W3C (4th February 2007)

One of the less well publicised tools available for checking websites is W3C’s Checklink Service. The online version is limited to 150 documents at a time but it does operate recursively. Set it to trundle through a directory with fewer than 150 documents and it’s tremendously useful.

I run it in the Summary Mode so the report doesn’t include every single HEAD request it makes. Speaking of which, I’m not sure if Project Cerbera 2.0 respects HEAD requests correctly...it might be sending the message body like a normal GET. Another thing for the to-do list!

A lot of pages are changing their name and/or location in this version. I predict that my .htaccess file is going to be putting on a lot of weight. Careful use of RedirectMatch should minimise that, especially given the detailed and consistent naming conventions of my tutorial pages.

Textstudio Update (1st February 2007)

My homebrew text editor has gained some more features, lost some bugs and become more useful once again. It doesn’t happen quickly but every few months I look back and notice how much it improves.