Monday, January 28, 2013

accidental webpage

Once upon a time, in a far more innocent era (the late 1990s), I had a personal website on Geocities along with a lot of other people. I'd been introduced to HTML and the web while working for Time Warner's Full Service Network (FSN) in 1996. The irony of that last statement is that Time Warner wanted nothing to do with the web, as they rightfully saw it as the ultimate destroyer of what they were trying to accomplish at the time with the FSN. But I stood up an early copy of Apache (version 1 vintage) on several SGI workstations, and showed management how to use the web and browsers to manage all the far-flung SGI hardware we had to manage at the time. In the end I took those hard-won learned skills with me to another company called MicroClinique and used them to help build a web front end for a project called Theater Telemedicine Prototype Project (T2P2) using Java and Microsoft technologies.

In the mean time I discovered Geocities, and decided to set up a small personal website to play around with. I'd discovered Photoshop 4 while at the FSN as well as a group of 3D artists who were using it and other tools to create some pretty exciting fan art for both Star Trek and Star Wars (which is how I wound up with the Borg cube below). I also learned nascent CSS 1 and XML (msxml version 0.8!) programming, as well as Microsoft's dynamic HTML (DHTML) extensions in Internet Explorer 3 and 4. I tried to make a lot of that work with Netscape Navigator at the time, but NN was just pure crap, especially by the time NN 4 was rolled out.

In the end Geocities was purchase by Yahoo, where I had my email account, and it was made free to use. Then, about teen years later in 2009 Yahoo shut down Geocities and told us all that if we wanted any of the content in our old sites to come and save it, or else it would be lost forever. I'd pretty much stopped working on the site by 2002, having started to blog with Blogger in 2005. In fact, because of Blogger's limitations about graphics at that time I was using Geocities to store heavy images and then linking my blog postings back to them. By 2007 or thereabouts Blogger stopped downsampling images, and I started storing images to support my blog directly with Google. I still link back to my Flickr photography to this day.

Today I found the material I'd pulled off back in 2009 and moved it to the MacBook. I then dropped a copy of Tomcat 7, moved the old Geocities site under webapps/ROOT/Geocities, started Tomcat and finally pointed my browser at localhost. I had to clean out some HTML frame cruft that the old Geocities servers injected inline with my HTML content. As I was looking at the old HTML code I realized just how old and moldy it was; the HTML is littered with font tags, instead of using CSS to define the fonts. That's funny, considering I was beginning to use some CSS in the HTML as well. I suppose if I'd kept it up I would have transitioned everything to "proper" HTML.

As I said I'd spent some time learning how to use Photoshop 4. In the top page I used Photoshop to create the fake coffee ring as well as the shadow on the toast. I used Photoshop to add the Microsoft logo to the side of the Borg cube. And in looking back I used way too much drop shadow on the web page title "accidental webpage." I guess you have to live and learn. I've forgotten nearly all my PS skills; I'd be hard pressed to recreate any of the artwork you see, let alone anything more sophisticated. And the web has so moved on that I don't think I could create anything anybody would want. The creative excitement of the early web is pretty much gone, having been overwhelmed by apps on phones and tablets. And what I see these days is composed of way too much Javascript on very heavy web browsers (Chrome, Firefox, Safari, Opera, and IE). Although my curiosity and some of that old passion has been kindled a bit of late by NoSQL (Neo4J, HBase, Cassandra and MongoDB), middleware ESB (Mule and Apache ServiceMix), as well as Android. All of that is wide open and open source, and can run in the "cloud" as well as locally on your five-year-old MacBook sandbox.

I guess maybe I'm deluding myself thinking I can build something out of all this that's unique and contributes back to the greater whole. But I can at least try. And have a little fun in the process. I spend too much time behind the camera as it is, for somebody who isn't a working pro.