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Strip 537, Volume 4, Page 20

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< Piro >

screenshot of the very first Fredart site...

"coding blu3s"

Sunday - March 21, 2004

[Piro] - 17:58:00 - [link here]

It's been a while since I've actually sat down, designed and coded a web page. Coding has never been my strong point, even though over the years I've taken enough classes in programming that I should know SOME of the basics. It makes me cringe to think about it, but my first programs were written in BASIC and stored on cassette tapes for PET computers (weren't those fun?). The next step up was classes in COBAL, FORTRAN and Pascal, where output to hand in was usually recorded on a DECwriter. True, I wasn't around for punchcards, but there were stacks of cards in the computer center.

That was high school. :) Hey, I could program a mean dice rolling program, but that was about it. I didn't take any more programming classes until I was a Graduate student in college, and by that time I was scratching my head trying to figure out how to program in C in a windows enviroment. Bleah. I did manage to put together a rudimentary drafting program - it didn't work very well, but it did work, and it was fascinating to see what the mathematical underpinnings of some of these programs really are.

After many rather feeble attempts to keep up with the intricacies of languages and concepts that were being developed and used to make computer programs, I came to the glum conclusion that I didn't have the mental makeup to be a programmer.

That was until the net came along. The great thing about web pages is that HTML is a pretty simple language to learn. It was pretty easy to make simple websites, and you could make more and more complex wesbites gradually as you learned more. I was able to create some decent looking, functional web pages pretty easily. I also had an edge over many people who put pages together because I wasn't restricted to images found on the net, I liked to make my own. Programming is indeed an art form, but the nice thing about HTML was that it let me take advantage of the kind of artistic abstraction I was actually capable of - the kind you can tweak in Photoshop. :)

Of course, the web didn't stay static for very long. Static pages that never change aren't really very interesting, nor did they take advantage of the real capabilities of the internet. Early in 2000 I decided that I wanted to try to build a dynamic site, one that would be easier to update, less update-goof-proof (a very serious consideration with someone as scatter brained as myself). I dove head first into building the new fredart.com site using PHP. It's not bad, considering the fact that I'm not really a programmer -- I solved problems in ... unusual ways, sometimes ^^;; I'm actually quite proud of the darn thing, though I'd never share the code with anyone, because I don't want them to die laughing. ^^;;

Later that year I threw together the first design for the Megatokyo site... which, er, is pretty much the same design you see today. As I've mentioned before, the first version of the MT site didn't work - it was just a template really, all in HTML. Thankfully, others were a little more capable of making the site work and added functionality to it. Actually, Largo had only two days to make the site work at the time, but he got it working.

Since then, the backend of the site has had at least one major rebuild. We replaced the text-file based database with a mySQL based backend. That's served us pretty well for the past few years, but... I think it's getting a bit long in the legs. I've felt for a while now that the website needed some attention, and I've decided to go ahead and do something about it.

No, my programming skills have not reached some level where I can code a robust backend for the MT site. Hardly. But I've found someone who can, and sometime in June the new site will be ready to go. What kind of changes are we talking about? A far more robust navigation system for reading previous comics (for instance, you'll be able to select if you want to read just the story comics, include DPD, leave out SGDs, etc), you'll be able to search for comics by dialogue, character, location (inspired by the Megatokyo Database v0.75) and you'll be able to search rants as well. It's pretty sad when even I have to use a fan-built system to search my own comics and Google to find things in my own rants.

I figure you readers have suffered with the archaic navigation system and the Dropdown of Doom long enough and deserve better. Oh, and yes, I'm going to finish the story and character sections too, so shut the hell up about them, please. :)

Now, I can't really do the back end justice, but I still feel that I'm the one who needs to do the templates and the site design. Don't you hate it when one of your favorite websites changes drastically? When the web designer looks at the chance to re-design the site as a chance to wipe the slate clean and re-do everything?

Me too.

I'm not planning on changing the MT website that much. More tweaks than anything, adding new features, trimming things, making them work a little better. I feel its better to take a design that works and just try to make it better than to completely redo everything.

That being said, the real fun has been getting up to speed on current web standards. Ugh. Shoot me now.

Well, its not so bad, actually. I picked up a Visual Quickstart Guide HTML for the World Wide Web and read thru it to catch up a bit. Honestly, none of my site coding has ever really met HTML standards, even remotely. My CSS implementation was sketchy as best. So I figured I should start from scratch and try to do things right for once.

So far, it's been pretty interesting. I've managed to assemble the new site using strict XHTML and using CSS for all the layout (no tables! yay!) which is great, but I'm not sure if I'll go quite that extreme for the final site - depends on testing and stuff.

Anyways, it's been fun getting my feet wet with site design again. It's a real pain, but it's rewarding too. Of course, I have already spent too much time on this this weekend, and now I am behind getting started on mondays comic, but ah, that's just normal for me :)

< Dom >

Ah, PS4... one of the only games missing from my collection

"All-consuming nostalgia"

Monday - March 15, 2004

[Dom] - 19:00:00 - [link here]

So I'm on this big classic gaming kick right now. A few weeks ago, I bought a Genesis to replace my broken one, though I have yet to hook it up to my new TV--since I only have RF cables, the system currently resides at my parents' house, waiting for me to get off my butt and find out what model it is so I can find some A/V cables for it on eBay.

I don't know why I'm feeling nostalgic lately--maybe my epic struggles with the ponderous camera and stupid platform jumping portions of Ninja Gaiden are making me long for the days of 2D platformers, where your only enemy was the level designer, not the !#$&ing camera. I mean, I haven't been able to play a Sonic game since Sonic and Knuckles, simply because the modern cameras have a hard time keeping up with the speed of the game, and Ninja Gaiden is the same way. I've died many times to the camera suddenly deciding that Ryu doesn't need to be on the screen anymore, instead taking up happy residence in the ninja's stomach. Or from frustration at the camera's refusal to center properly without having to dip into the ponderous "free look" mode, usually getting shot in the process.

Or maybe I'm eagerly awaiting Samurai Warriors/Sengoku Musou's arrival, and playing the last good beat-'em-up before the Dynasty Warriors/Sangoku Musou series, Streets of Rage 2.

But whatever's going on, it's weird--nostalgia's popping up in all sorts of places for me. On Saturday, before I went to a birthday party, I saw Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory playing on TV, and was entranced, thinking about when my dorm floor used to call me the Candy Man, due to my habit of buying large amounts of candy and hanging it from my door for everyone.

I think I'm turning into the target audience for horrible remakes like Defender, Frogger and Pitfall. And that scares me. It really, really does. Because as many have pointed out before, nostalgia is a way of looking back at the past and conveniently forgetting what was wrong with it. I don't figure that I'll succumb to it fully and play bad games just because they're remakes of old ones... but it's scary to think about how easy it is to say "Man, I loved Choplifter when I was a kid!" and pick up something randomly vaguely related off of a store shelf.

Now if you'll excuse me, I think I'll fire up Shining Force 2 on the ol' emulator. Stupid battery backup going dead...

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