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July 2006

Doing something...

Since I finally have a reliable server with PHP 5, I've started rewriting most of the code that powers this site (the big mess of PHP 4 array hacks known as RdMise).

It's been pretty easy as far as PHP goes, though as usual I seem to naturally attract annoying bugs and weird implementation details. The new code seems faster, but that might be because I haven't even redone the blog yet.

It shouldn't take me very long to finish or get bored of that. Either way I've got nothing planned until September and I'm not sure what to do. :/

So

I'm going to be starting sixth form (again) in September. It'll be strange being effectively a year lower, but it's not like there's much else I can do...

I picked Maths, Physics, Chemistry, and Psychology. Mainly because those were the only subjects left on the form after I'd crossed out the ones that I'd hate to study for a week, never mind two years.

Also, I just remembered that I got rid of the closest thing this site had to actual information about me (that paragraph in the sidebar), so a proper "about" page is on my todo list.

Minor change time

  • Made the Atom output code use XHTML only if the post is actually well-formed, so I look like slightly less of an idiot.
  • (I think) I fixed the charset problems with my feed parser. XML in PHP still really sucks.
  • Added partial term highlighting to the search, not that it's used very much.

And with that I'm going to say that three and a half out of seven is good enough and assign this code the imaginery version number of 1.2.

What's that supposed to acheive? Well, hopefully it'll stop me messing about with it for a bit and concentrate on more important stuff. Like deciding what I'm going to do in September...

PHP 5

Surpass Hosting have finally got around to installing PHP 5 on this server, so I thought I might as well switch this site to it.

Only one minor problem - the fact that it's installed as CGI stopped my HTTP authentication from working, so I just stuck %{HTTP:Authorization} into my RewriteRule to force Apache to pass the variable. Not sure how secure that is, but meh.

So here it is.

I only broke the site a few times uploading my new style, and it seems to all be working now. It started off quite rough...

(I made a rough sketch of the new site design in my notepad)

...but most things were there. I just wanted a design with simple colours, a single navigation area, and a few little shiny bits.

Notes

  • With the top bar gone, it made sense to have the breadcrumb bit vertical. The small logo fitted better, and I changed the top-level site name to "Robert Marshall" from "rdmsoft".

  • There's nothing particularly wrong with rounded corners, but they're a bit overused, so I decided to chamfer mine. I couldn't take the lazy option of using a -moz property this time, so I used images, which gives cross-browser workingness and anti-aliasing for free.

  • I made it so any page can declare a bit of content to appear in a box under the menu, the main benefit being I don't have to scroll past it all when I'm on a small screen.

  • What's a redesign without a couple of pointless transparency effects? Hovered links fade out a bit, and you can just see the top corner of the content area behind the menu.

  • I've done too many off-white stylesheets. Plain ol' #000 and #FFF on this one, at least until it starts hurting my eyes. Which I hope it won't.

Browsers

And what's a redesign blog post without commenting on other browsers? I use Firefox, but I wasn't going to put anything up without testing it in at least IE and Opera, and it turns out it was actually useful to do so.

Opera

I only had one problem with Opera - I had hidden the old → signs with "font-size: 0;", which was a bad idea. Opera seems to set a minimum font size by default, which is a reasonable thing to do (and can be done in Gecko with a pref), so I changed it to "display: none;" and everything was fine.

Safari

I wouldn't normally test Safari, though I saw iCapture and thought I might as well throw a link in there. Everything seemed fine.

IE

I didn't hit any major problems with IE, though I don't know if that's despite its reputation or because of it. It seems that IE6's age means people are really familiar with its flaws, so it's easier to make a design that doesn't trigger them in the first place, or at least fix them when you do.

It's not a bug, it's (the lack of) a feature.

CSS3 opacity, min-height, 24-bit PNG transparency, generated content. Slightly annoying, but nothing major. Only the latter caused real problems - my corner/margin stuff was based on the assumption that the images would always load and push the text down. I fixed it for IE, which also fixed it for Gecko with images disabled. Everybody wins. ;)

Okay, so it is a bug.

I did trigger the Peekaboo bug with my twisty maze of floats, though it's worked around with an easy hack, and it's one of the things fixed in IE7.

Stuff to fix

  • Text isn't always aligned like I want it in IE. Might be a bug, though it's unlikely.
  • I'm still not sure exactly what I want in the boxes on the home page.
  • Feeds page is understyled, needs some spacing to make it easier to read.
  • Some of the markup is still pretty ugly from supporting different styles in the past. The CSS is pretty clean now, the HTML should match.
  • Opera's minimum font size seems to be causing problems with the tag clouds.

That's enough typing for now, I've got some football to pretend to be interested in...

tH