The Website and the Technologies used to Create it


... So what's all this about, then ?

When I was working for Oracle, I was the webmaster of one of the most popular sites in Oracle, which attracted users from all over the world. I knew that because I made them all register themselves with usernames and passwords, and actively monitored the users and the parts of the site they visited.

The reason I had so much information was that the site was built using the Oracle PL/SQL Web Toolkit, and was driven off of data in the database. This was before the days of the Oracle Application Server or Oracle's acquisition of BEA, so everything had to be hand-crafted. Initially, the site was running on a small Sun server under my desk running a very old version of Solaris. The database was version 8.0 something, but worked well. Oracle then went through a phase of consolidating servers, and mine was one that was in the frame for being absorbed. Resistance was futile, and the website disappeared into a bunker somewhere in Colorado. After I left, it apparently disappeared completely. I sometimes think that maybe it is still there, purring away unnoticed in the background.

Now I have moved on, and this site is running under Linux, with PHP scripting and a MySQL database at the back-end. These features give pretty much the same kinds of capabilities as I had at Oracle, although I expect my chums at Oracle might like to dispute that. I can store content in the database, and build scripts to help maintain it.

The technologies have moved on, and my knowledge of those technologies has improved, and so I have made use of Cascading Style Sheets to make maintenance of the look and feel much easier. Now, by changing one file, I can bugger up the look of the entire site !!

I have tried to make maintenance as easy as possible. Behind the scenes, much of the content is stored in the database. This includes the links on the Links page, the entries in the DVD library, the Origami library, the Java Games pages, and the menu. I have even built a php script to maintain the table of tables I am using in the database. Now, after much gnashing of teeth and false starts exploring the MySQL data dictionary, I have one script that allows me to maintain and display any table I choose to define.

Previously, the menu bar was implemented as a Java applet, but that was a pain to change. The effect is just as easily accomplished using css codes, and the content is now in the database, so with a few clicks I can reorganise the menu, add and remove entries, and so on without having to edit any nasty HTML code.

CSS has allowed me to move away from the standard Form widgets (textboxes, textareas, buttons, etc) to make my forms fit better with the overall site look and feel. Check out the feedback page to see what I mean.

For all the dynamic content, I have built maintenance functionality to ease the job of keeping things up to date. I have been reviewing that code, to make it as generic as possible. I now have one routine that can manage all the operations I need against all the internal tables used to build the site, which resolves a major headache I was having, because each new set of dynamic data required hours of work tailoring maintenance code. Now, new data is automagically supported.


Desiderata ?

What is Desiderata doing here ? Well, I think it is a very good set of words, well put together. There was some controversy regarding it's origin, but that has been largely resolved now. Far from originating in the 17th century as first claimed, it is pretty clear that it was written in 1927. Whatever ... I like it, so there we are.


Black background ?

I am often asked why I have used the black background on the site. Well, I think it looks cool, but it originally came about as part of a protest against draconian censorship regulations in the late 1990's. The idea was that any website that opposed the censorship regulations, which would not achieve their objectives anyway, should adopt a black background. The Oracle Presales Website that I ran at the time went black, and I have stayed with the idea ever since. I think I had the only black-background website at Oracle ! This background is not actually black, but a dark shade of grey, (RGB code #303030) which is much easier on the eye.

From this you may deduce correctly that I am against censorship. To have all the advantages of a Capitalist Society and to support government-imposed censorship is a total contradiction, in my view. If you would like to discuss, get in touch.


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If there is anything you would particularly like to see on the site, feel free to let me know via the feedback page.

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