News

I'm no blogger, but very occasionally I'll add bits of news below:

Trialling a new contact mechanism - Update

25 September, 2015

Things seem to be working reasonably well. I have tidied up the code, and added some JavaScript to validate the form interactively before it is submitted (it's also checked on the server because some people disable JavaScript). I've also opened up the Guestbook. Thanks to the previous facility being disabled by my ISP, I haven't had a message left for me since June last year, so desparately need some submissions before the end of 2015 - I'd hate to have a blank year after all this time! Please, feel free to sign my Guestbook!

Trialling a new contact mechanism

21 September, 2015

For many months now, visitors have been unable to get in touch via the contact form. This is because I was using a simple script provided by my ISP, but they decided to take it down because of security concerns.

Since then, providing an alternative has been reasonably high on my priority list, but I can't pretend that the lack of messages hasn't improved my work-life balance! Still, I've just had a bit of spare time, so I've put something together. It is highly experimental, and no-doubt will need to be refined as time goes by, but let's see how it goes. Initial tests are encouraging.

As always, please understand the time pressures that I am under, so if you are asking a complex question, it will take a while to get back to you. But feel free to test the form, and if it seems to be working, I'll write one for the Guestbook as well.

I apologise for the time it's taken to get around to this, but in fairness, I can be found in a handful of forums if you look hard enough.

Go to the contact me page...

New Website Home!

28 January, 2014

As of 2014, this website has a new location - http://www.markhennessy.co.uk/ - please update your bookmarks! Old bookmarks and links will be redirected to the new location for the foreseeable future, but if I ever decide to change my broadband supplier, the redirect pages will probably be lost.

And that's all you need to know - please feel free to stop reading now. But, this move has prompted a moment of introspection, which turned into the rambling thoughts that follow for anyone who might be interested in my little bit of the web:

I have had a website since 2000, and it has gone through many changes in that time - though fortunately for me, the Internet Archive hasn't captured the most embarrassing of the early versions!

In all that time, I've simply used the hosting that came with my ISP. Of course, back in those days, an amount of web space was an important part of the offering - even the free "pay as you go" dial-up accounts came with a decent chunk of webspace. The allowance was pretty generous back in those "Web 1.0" days - I think it was something like 25MB.

Anyway, that served me well. No pun intended! My early webpages were little more than experiments; I fancied learning a bit about HTML, and my learning style requires me to actually do something to figure it out, and to do that something, I need some form of motivation. Some pretty webpages that my friends could see (and mock!) did the trick, and I enjoyed it. Back then in those BC (before childen) times, not only was I building stuff, I had the time to write it up for half a dozen people to see. Happy days...

Then, sometime in late 2001, Google discovered it. And suddenly, I was on the front page of search results for a variety of obscure queries. Emails almost literally started flooding in. I exagerate only slightly! Emails that were from people I didn't know. Emails that were not mocking in any form. Suddenly, the word was out there, and I can't tell you how strange this felt at the time! Remember, this was 2001... Everyone has a website today - it's so very easy to throw together a Wordpress site or similar - no need to learn HTML or anything, but back then personal homepages were the preserve of a certain type of geek. What had I become???

So anyway, encouraged by feedback, the website gradually grew through several different styles, with a major relaunch in 2004. I remember how modern it looked back then, yet how dated it was when I finally refreshed it at the end of 2013! Sadly, I haven't had much time for the website in recent years because I've been so very busy with more meaningful things like moving house and starting a family. Hopefully, things will gradually improve as time goes by.

Anyway, I digress. Back to the hosting.

Towards the end of 2004, Force9 (Plusnet) had the audacity to start monitoring the traffic used by websites hosted on their servers. I mean! With the free service I was using, I was entitled to 100MB per day, but it turned out I was using well in excess of that. A series of measures quickly took place - reducing image sizes being one - which helped initially. The really sneaky move was to set up additional free accounts with Force9, and divide the website across them - Force9 had no problem with this, and eventually I ended up with a total of 4 free accounts, giving me a massive 400MB per day. This was quite a faff - making sure links worked correctly was awkward to say the least - but at the time I couldn't justify anything that involved paying cash. Remember that I make no money whatsoever from this website.

Despite this, however, parts of my site would occasionally get taken down, which required another round of grovelling emails to Plusnet technical support, giving them my assurance that it wouldn't happen again. But how in all honesty could I promise that? I'm not able to control who visits my site, and I'm not able to prevent links to my site being placed on popular blog sites like hackaday.com and instructables.com. Much as I like Plusnet, this aspect of their service is very poor, and with no sign of it improving any time soon, the move to a dedicated web host was inevitable.

For those who have never done this, it's an amazingly difficult consumer decision - there are so many web hosting companies out there, and it's nearly impossible to make a sensible comparison between them. I couldn't come up with a shortlist, and in the end went with a recommendation from a friend - although as you chase back that decision it sounded like it was pretty much a random choice at the time. Let's see how things go - it does seem reasonably simple to change web host if required.

I've registered this domain name via a different company. Although many of the hosting companies offer a domain name as a free part of their service, it seems to me that it's best to keep this separate - at the very least, that makes it easier to move hosts. A domain name company merely pays to register the name - once set up, there's actually very little they can get wrong (famous last words!).

Anyway, I now have "unlimited" bandwidth, so things should be rather more reliable now. It means that I can use more pictures, and rely less on the thumbnail-enlarge model that was appropriate in the dial-up days. And of course, I have the option of PHP/MySQL interactivity now, so perhaps a blog engine or image gallery could be used. We'll see.

I have lots of ideas for new content, but bitter experience has taught me not to make promises. I will say that I have about 4 half-written loudspeaker reviews and some basic electronics stuff that needs a lot of work to finish. I also have a house to fix and a day job!

Anyway, for anyone who has read this far, please update your bookmarks!

Thank you.