Well , this isn’t what I thought it was going to be when I started. I originally intended to publish some obscure engineering texts in the form of a web based book that might have been useful to other engineers.
It is still my intention to do this, and I’ve actually written a fair amount of documentation, the problem was the website, I didn’t have a website and I didn’t know how to make one — how hard can it be I thought, everyone and their dog has a website — must be easy.
Well, it is and it isn’t; two chimps with a keyboard can probably knock out a website — even the British Government has got one (ok, they’ve got a lot more than two chimps), so it easy — but to do it properly, to make it look good, to make it feel right, to make it work on all the different web browsers, well, that’s actually quite hard.
Now I’m an engineer, so I wanted to do this right — I wanted precision, method, replicability, revision numbers, libraries, prototypes, documentation, user guides — you know, engineering stuff.
I wanted to make a template website that I could use and reuse as needed to create various web books.
Unfortunately, the web doesn’t have a user guide — it has thousands of them — not to mention all those people who have an opinion and all the other people who have a contrary opinion. It’s all a bit of a nightmare.
I’m not a web developer, but I have spent 30 years writing software for industrial control systems and I know my way around programming languages and software control, so I thought HTML 5 and CSS 3 would be more of the same — they’re not, they’re way off.
HTML 5 and CSS 3 are fiddly and awkward; you will have to type the same thing in over and over again (colour values, margins, padding), there is no such thing as a variable or constant or even the equivalent of #define statement — and for those of you on this side of the Atlantic, they misspell colour and centre.
Right, so the purists out there will be venting their outrage and my inbox will be full of vitriol:
“Hang on, you silly man” they’ll say (or words to that effect) “these are mark-up languages and style sheets not programming languages you’re not being fair”
Hmm, they might be right, I don’t know — it all just feels a bit unfinished to me.
So I swore at the dogs, frightened the children, apologised to my wife and I battled my way through, I built a website and then I wanted to add things, I wanted to display code fragments, I wanted formulae, I wanted tables (don’t get me started on tables). In short what I really wanted was Word on the web.
There is a lot of stuff out there to help — jQuery plugins that you can use for all of this, Java script that you can use for everything else — but then you have to figure out how it all works — and I did, and it took ages.
So it occurred to me while doing all this, that the website template might, in itself, be useful to others and so I decided that the first publication should be this website as a template with information about it and the instructions needed to use it.
And this is it, you’re looking at it.
I planed the website to be, in effect, an online book; I wanted it to be simple, unobtrusive and nice to look at.
I also had the ludicrous idea that I might make some money out of it, at least enough to cover its running costs — so when you’ve stopped laughing take a look at how to pay for it.
I hope you find it useful.
Ok, if you’ve been following this, there has been a bit of hiatus in my usual lack of progress—I took a bit of a break.
It wasn’t exactly a break; I hadn’t been taking my version control seriously and things were getting a bit out of hand. I did have a version control system, it just wasn’t very good: I just kept increasing the revision number at regular intervals and backing every-thing up each time I did so.
This was fine up to a point, but I now have 78,000 files in 35,000 folders and 150 zipped revisions. The whole thing is taking up 7 GB of hard drive space most of which is identical copies of files that haven’t changed between revisions.
So I decided I needed some proper version control and after some though I decided to use Git and GitHub; and that’s where I’ve been for the last few months; figuring out how to use Git and GitHub—they’re bastards to learn, so I wrote it all down and made it into another Practical Series Publication, you can see it here.
I also posted some information about an old Land Rover Defender that I own (she’s an absolute beauty), you can see it all here, some pictures of the dogs too (in fact, judging by my inbox, the dogs are the most popular part of this website).
The upshot of all this is that this publication is now under proper version control and is also available as a repository on the GitHub website—here. That’s me, handsome looking bloke, top left.
Oh, I’ve also done a major proof reading exercise on chapters 1 to 9 — thanks to everyone for pointing out my mistakes — I feel suitably chastened.
Anyway, I’m back on with it now—Christ this is taking longer than I thought— I reckon I’m halfway through, just another two years to go then.
I hope it will be quicker than that—I mean Mark Watney got off Mars in half that time and I don’t even have to grow potatoes.
Right, back on your heads†1—here comes Section 10.
June 2018 — Chester
|†1||A very, very old joke.|