There Is No Cat

A huge orangupoid, which no man can conquer

Monday, January 2, 2006

Site reborn

The site that's been eating my brain for the past four months is finally live. I actually did a soft launch of it the day after Christmas, but January 2nd marks ten years to the day since the original site was announced, so today marks the official launch. I put a lot of work into the site, basically most evenings and weekends for a four month period. A big chunk of the site is based around repurposed blog software, specifically WordPress 1.5.2. That was pretty interesting to work with. I got to know quite a bit about the software. In order to get it to do what I wanted it to, I had to write a plugin and edit a couple of others, and create a whole theme, because it just wouldn't do to have my site looking like every other WordPress site out there.

There's also a fair amount of custom development outside the WordPress environment involved. The two best features, to my mind, are the revamped database of programs available on shortwave radio and the database of receptions of various shortwave stations submitted by club members over the past seven years, both of which were custom development. Both make moderate use of AJAX, but do so in such a way that the pages degrade gracefully if your browser doesn't support the versions of Javascript required to work that way. I'm indebted to Jeremy Keith's wonderful DOM Scripting book for spelling out how to do this; I mean, I was always aware that you could do Javascript this way, but his book puts it in one place and in a manner that makes things really clear even if, like me, you've basically dismissed Javascript as a great way to make your site inaccessible and unfriendly to search engines. (I wrote about my impressions of the AJAX-related books out there a while back; the Foundations of AJAX book was also invaluable to me.)

And it was critical to me to make the site as accessible as possible. Shortwave radio has a significant audience of blind and visually impaired users who find, much like the rest of us, that radio has better pictures. I wasn't able to test with blind users, but I did add the ability to turn off the AJAX enhancements, because the vague pronouncements I've read that AJAX makes your sites less accessible compelled me to. In the end, the parts of the site I can test with automated tools are compliant with the W3C's WAI guidelines levels 1 through 3 with one minor, trivial exception in level 2 (in one case, I jump from second level headers to fourth level without an intervening third level head, but the fourth level headings in question are in the right navigation and just aren't as important as third level headings elsewhere, so I'll live with being dinged by the stupid tools).

The old site served the club well for ten years. It looked good when it was unveiled in 1996, and even won a couple of design awards. And search engines loved it; the site is the number 1 and 2 results in Google for "shortwave" and number 1 for "shortwave radio". But I let it stagnate after a few years because it was a pain to update, because I didn't want to mess up those wonderful search engine rankings, and because the hosting company I was using added a couple of useless disk-eating "features" that I didn't want, which made it impossible for me to add anything significant without triggering disk space overage messages and site shutdown. Feh. The hosting company was great ten years ago, but two purchases of the original company over the course of a decade left small users like me lost in their system, and they never ever upgraded the host capabilities (we were grandfathered in with what we had, and if we wanted any changes to that, would have to upgrade to their more expensive offerings). The move was long overdue.

I sent in my request to cancel the old hosting account yesterday. They were the best ten years ago, but now they're just offering ten year old hosting.

And today, I have a bright and shiny new site. Phew!

Posted at 1:17 AM


Note: I’m tired of clearing the spam from my comments, so comments are no longer accepted.

congrats on the new site! it looks lovely even at my standard 800x600. i am struck that you've been listening to katherine edwards and wussy, both of which made my 2005 "favorites" mix cd. i should stick one in the mail to you, no?

happy 2006!

Posted by shirley at 7:53 PM, January 2, 2006 [Link]

"i should stick one in the mail to you, no?"

You should stick one in the mail to us, yes.

I found out about Kathleen Edwards on CBC Radio 3 on Sirius. I really like the one album I bought; I'll probably get her first one before too long.

The Wussy was a Christmas gift from my brother, who is a brave brave man. Lucky him this year; we hadn't bought the album yet. :-)

Posted by ralph at 11:21 AM, January 3, 2006 [Link]

Nice job on the NASWA website, Ralph. Are there any intentions to have an electronic subscription to the Journal available in .pdf? and are the dues shown, current?

Posted by Jason at 12:54 AM, January 18, 2006 [Link]

The dues shown on the site are indeed current.

We talk about PDF periodically, but given that one regular column is still produced with a typewriter and glue, it's not a practical option at this point.

Posted by ralph at 7:51 AM, January 18, 2006 [Link]


This site is copyright © 2002-2020, Ralph Brandi.

What do you mean there is no cat?

"You see, wire telegraph is a kind of a very, very long cat. You pull his tail in New York and his head is meowing in Los Angeles. Do you understand this? And radio operates exactly the same way: you send signals here, they receive them there. The only difference is that there is no cat."

- Albert Einstein, explaining radio

There used to be a cat

[ photo of Mischief, a black and white cat ]

Mischief, 1988 - December 20, 2003

[ photo of Sylvester, a black and white cat ]

Sylvester (the Dorito Fiend), who died at Thanksgiving, 2000.


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