Benad's Web Site

It took me several attempts before I finally built the web site you're seeing right now. Those attempts were not complete failures, but close.

The HTML Dump

A while ago, Apple offered the "iTools" service for free for all users of Mac OS 8 and up. It came with a free "@mac.com" email address and some web site hosting tied to their free (but small) disk storage called iDisk.

That was in 2000. At that time, this was one of the rare free hosting services that would not spam your pages with their advertisements, a practice common to both GeoCities and most of the "free web site" hosting given by Internet service providers with a subscription.

The problem is that iTools, even after it was renamed to ".Mac" after it became non free, offers akward URLs to your web site. Mine was http://homepage.mac.com/benad. Well, that's a mouthfull. "What's your web site?" "homepage dot mac dot com slash b e n a d."

So, having limited use to make it that much public, I used it as a dump of static HTML pages. Why only static pages? Because that's the only thing allowed on the .Mac HomePage service.

And dumping I did. Under the ungracious banned "Update Coming Soon!", I rotated on the page HTML widgets that I found, priding myself that I could convert them info XHTML 1.0 strict. No CSS, no colors, just flat XHTML.

You can take a peek at what it looked like back in 2004 here

DHTML

Eventually, I convinced myself to do something about that "Update Coming Soon!" banner. Attempting to show my prowess in software development, I started experimenting with dynamic HTML pages using JavaScript, moo.fx and prototype.js. And what a mess that was.

No, those JavaScript libraries were quite helpful. But Microsoft Internet Explorer 6 made every attempt at doing anything a nightmare. My goal was to make a nice looking page using CSS and highly interactive with JavaScript. A bit what HTML 5 is attempting to be, without Flash. Yet, every time I made something work perfectly in all Mac browsers, it would spectacularly break on Internet Explorer. And since back then half the people were using Internet Explorer 6, I couldn't simply ignore it. That, and it would look like I can't properly write code for those users.

So I left the prototype here, and reverted back to my "dump page".

TiddlyWiki

As a consequence, my next attempt resulted in just plain lazyness.

I discovered TiddlyWiki, a web page that you save on your disk and that acts as a self-modifying, self-contained minimalist wiki. It looks good, makes it easy to edit, and can be extended easily with plug-ins.

Since the iDisk is mounted as a drive on the Mac, I simply edited a TiddlyWiki page from the mounted drive, and as soon as I would save the modified page, a read-only version was automatically accessible as my new home page. No coding required.

It looked quite nice and helped me focus on the content, but there were a few big problems.

First, it would heavily rely on JavaScript, to the point that if you have JavaScript disabled it would look completely broken. This means that trying to see the page from a mobile web browser would likely fail. Well, in the end it worked "acceptably" on Opera Mini, but that's only because it's just a fancy visual proxy to a remote full copy of Opera running on some server.

Second, because you need to run JavaScript to generate the page content, then that would make it impossible for Google or anybody else to index the text on the page. So that means that searching "benad" would not point you to my page.

Finally, what does it tell about me? That I'm too lazy to write my own code? You can look here to see how it looked like.

Moving On

At least my TiddlyWiki page helped me ask myself the right questions: What is the point on my web site? What's its raison d'être? Should I bother? This is when I started to figure out the design of my current web site.

Read more in About This Site: The Present.