Tuesday, 30 December 2008

Subtly improved website

For Christmas this year I got a tremendous cold so I'm keeping it all to myself. A by-product of this is that I can get on with some of those little jobs that I've been meaning to do for ages, although my voice recognition software has got a bit snotty with me over my gravelly voice.

Consequently, I've re-vamped my website slightly to include the new cover images for The Horsepower Whisperer and The Wormton Lamb. The forthcoming attractions scattered around the site haven't fully come forth yet but like the early signs of spring they are definitely budding.

When it came to publishing to the web I'd forgotten how to do this completely. Good thing I'm clever and can work it out from scratch. If I was less bright maybe my memory would be better. I guess it's all part of the yin and yang. Or is it ying and yan? I suppose I can get by without remembering things because I can always work it out again. Eventually. Remembering it straight away would be better. I would get the same sense of achievement, though, even if it is a bit spurious.

For those who are interested I use Filezilla to look at my ftp server and Serif WebPlus to design my site. What I should have done was logged into my ftp server using my password and set up an incremental update through Serif. When I'm happy with my offline changes and previewed it to my heart's content, I just publish to the net. But my ftp server doesn't let me in straight away, so I began blundering about with files in Filezilla, which used to be necessary when I was hammering out my web pages from raw pieces of html. In the screen shot I would connect to the web and start clicking and dragging across the new files.

But Serif WebPlus just makes life so easy for a non-professional web designer who comes back to his files after months away. So long as each changed web page retains the same name as its predecessor, the new files just over-write the old. When I come to add the new features dreckly (good word) Serif will simply add them if they're not on my ftp server and the referencing that goes on behind the scenes makes the links work between the pages. I don't have to open up Filezilla and do it individually - it knows what's been changed and moves only these files across. It really is a fantastic piece of software.

And I've discovered this trick about screen shots! I've often wondered how this was done so I asked the web. (It's essentially ALt+PrintScreen but you need an image editig programme. Mine is OpenOffice Draw and this saves by default in an .odg file that none of my image editors recognise. Boo! But I found that it will export to JPEGs! Hooray! That way Blogger can accept them as pictures.

Updating these minor change shad been good revision for me and I've learnt a few new things along the way. Maybe I should catch a cold more often.

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Monday, 4 August 2008

More power to your e-lbow

Here's another first on the Anarchadia book blog - a photo of the new computer I'm using. I'm not really a computer enthusiast - stuff with engines and wheels gets my motor running - but after all the problems I've had with I.T. I can't fail to be excited with this new grey box with lights on it. For a wireless connection there's a lot of leads going all over the place. I had to call orange 5 or 6 rimes to get connected and after setting all this stuff up in my study upstairs I brought it downstairs to eliminate the connectivity problems. It turned out that it was the browser settings at fault on my new machine. Anyway, those helpful people on the end of the Orange phone line sorted me out.

As if one photo of it isn't enough, here's a picture of the screen. Cor, though, it's big, innit? That's so that I can do my graphics more easily. As you may recall, I spent most of my Easter holidays trying to format a word document into a pdf. Before that I attempted to make a video for YouTube but it ended up very jerky. This wasn't because I was starring in it. It was because the file transfer process needed a higher disc speed than my laptop could manage and frames were dropped out of the video.

So far during 2008, it's felt like I've been continually finding the limits of what I could do until I was in a little bubble of restriction.

Well, now the bubble's burst. I no longer have any idea where these limits are thanks to a more powerful desktop from pcspecialist.

Not only do I now have Open Office Writer to convert my documents smoothly into pdfs, but I also have the rest of the open source (i.e. free) Open Office package, like Draw, which is so much better than the unnamed package I had previously. Did I mention it was free, too?

I also have a Flash animation editor called Sothink SWF Quicker. This has allowed me to hack into the flash banner that Helen Cowan at Flying Flounder did for me and modify it with different fonts to suit the new revised website.

Ah. Yes. The new revised website.

There hasn't been much activity on this blog recently because yours truly has been making the most of the poor weather. I have another marvellous piece of software called Serif WebPlus X2. I'd put my site together using html and css. And recently I got everything in the right place when viewed in Firefox. The only trouble was, when viewed using Internet Explorer, which is the default application for the vast majority of users, everything was jumbled up.

I needed something that gave me what I saw and I am happy to say that WebPlus has done just that. After all that messing about with absolute and relative positioning, all I have to do is drag and drop. Professional web designers would probably decry its use but I've achieved in a couple of rainy weekends what was failing to happen after months of repetitive effort. I believe it is also W3C compliant, which is apparently a Good Thing and means I might win an award or something (probably a something). The reason I think this is because I had a pop up message warning me that my site wasn't compliant and asking would I like to fix this? So I said yes.

Whoever's behind WebPlus must have realised there were people like me who found the inability to see what they achieving incredibly frustrating. They've really come up with the goods as far as I'm concerned. I've re-built my website while improving its structure and appearance. And there's loads of other things it can do like set up mailing lists.

The only trouble is, this new slicker looking site is making my book covers look a bit staid.

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