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About This Site

About This Site
Basically, the idea for this site was to have somewhere to post up information about my various projects, since explaining them and generating one-off diagrams for people as I try to explain some idea or another to them was getting to be a pain. Also, with a few people in my broader (less nerdy) group of friends interested in the MP3 player project, I needed somewhere I could just post the updates and get them all to check in on. However, once I started this, it quickly grew into being a general (albeit very nerdy) site, where I wanted to cover other stuff, such as photography and other not-so-computer-oriented things, and maybe even put a general everyday blog in the mix... Anyway, I thought was a rather appropriate name, and most people seem to agree!
The Design
I was really making it up as I went along, playing with colours and layouts until I got something that was readable and didn't cause your eyes to bleed. I hate sites which depend on Flash, JavaScript, CSS and other things that people even now might not be able to use. They're fine for added content, but I want the site to be accessible by as many people as possible, and so this site, even though it uses JavaScript and CSS, is still usable even on the most basic of browsers.

The idea for the graphics came from the notepad I was doodling site designs in. I had a list of links down the left and the title across the top, and so all I did was rewrite them in crayon pencil (thanks Sarah!), crumple the page, tear them out and scan them in. A huge amount of Photoshop wasn't necessary here - they're the real deal! As for the background, I just scanned a blank page from my trusty notepad and cut appropriate tiles which I then mirrored to give a seamlessly repeating pattern no matter how big the page gets. A carefully built table means it stays intact no matter what browser or what window size you use.

Finally, the "you are here" and section-subsection breadcrumb links are sort of necessary because there is such a deep hierarchy of information that it would look very messy - not to mention the size it would be - if it were to be all done in crayon buttons. It was also an exercise in "can I get it to work" as with different depths, different sublinks or groups are needed and the logic actually turned out quite complicated. But it works so far and makes it nice and easy to navigate, so I'm happy with it... For now.

How It Works
Ah, the nitty gritty of it all. The backend is basically a bunch of PHP scripts which decide, based on the page you're looking at, what buttons to put where, populate the page with its various sections, and then insert the appropriate content. The content itself is stored in text files, one for each page, making editing pages pretty easy and almost free of involvement with code. Separate scripts compare the current page to a look-up table which determines what subsections should be available in the subpages list to the left of the content, and the level they're at. For example, this About section only has two levels: this one and the simple About page which you get if you click the main About link on the left. The script will give links at the same level for this page as there are no further "children" of this page. It makes more sense than I'm making it out to here!
The Future
Eventually I plan to have a dynamically generating gallery I can just upload an image to, pick an album and let it do the rest. I'll also add a contact section and a public comment section (provided it doesn't get too abused!), and maybe even a mailing list for update notifications. Possibly might add thread comments for posts specific to a particular blog entry, project, article or whatever, or maybe even a full-blown forum. Who knows, maybe even a webmail @robthenerd service!
All far in the future anyway, given the teensy amounts of spare time I seem to have these days... Call back soon anyway and see how the site's coming on!

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