Jerry Bryan's Web Pages

About My Web Site

I started my Web site for the most pedestrian of reasons: I got tired of losing my bookmarks anytime I switched to a different computer.  I might switch simply because I use several different computers, or because I might upgrade my computer.  Also, I would lose my bookmarks if I needed to format my hard disk to install a new version of Windows.

Therefore, my original intent was to create a Web site that had links to Web pages that I found useful, and I wouldn't lose my links if I reformatted my hard drive or moved to another computer.  I used Netscape Composer to create my Web site because it was free and it was easy to use.

However, I quickly discovered that there were occasions where I couldn't quite get a page to look the way I wanted using Composer.  Netscape Composer is not a Microsoft product (quite the contrary!).  But problems with Composer remind me of problems with Microsoft Word.  Sometimes, you just can't get things to look right with Word, whereas it is easy to do so with WordPerfect.  And if you have trouble with WordPerfect, you can always use Reveal Codes to see what is going on.  However, Word does not have Reveal Codes, and Microsoft seems rather arrogantly proud of this limitation of Word.  The Help file says that Word doesn't have Reveal Codes because it doesn't need Reveal Codes (hubris in the extreme).

Netscape Composer doesn't have Reveal Codes, either.  But in the case of Web pages, you can see and edit the HTML source.  I think of HTML source as the moral equivalent of WordPerfect's Reveal Codes facility.  Therefore, I learned HTML.  However, the HTML created by Netscape Composer is horrible.  I couldn't stand to use a text editor go into a Web page created with Composer, even just to make a minor tweak or two.  Therefore, I quit using Composer, and Notepad became my HTML editor of choice.

In the midst of trying to come up with a good tool for creating my Web pages, I also tried Word and WordPerfect.  Both of them have the capability of doing a Save As... to save a document as a Web page.  But the Web pages that both of them create are pretty terrible, so I stuck with Notepad.

Once I started creating a Web site, I quickly became hooked and went well beyond just using my Web site to store my bookmarks.  My Web site now contains information from a number of my interests: math, Rubik's Cube, family history, quotes and pithy sayings, etc.  These days, most of the content has to do with genealogy and family history.  My web pages are really just for me, but I put them on the Internet as a way of sharing with anyone who has similar interests.

Technical aspects of my Web site:

  • I now use CSE HTML Validator as my HTML editor of choice.  Using it is much like using Notepad, except that it validates my HTML, whereas Notepad of course does not.

  • I have used style sheets extensively to improve the look and feel of my Web pages.

  • My Web pages have very little graphic content.  I want them to be simple and to load very quickly.  Also, I have worked very had to make my pages ADA compliant so that they are accessible to the visually handicapped.  I don't have a text only version, but the one and only version of the site tries to be accessible.

  • I use a program called BK ReplaceM extensively to make global changes to my Web pages.  It is an excellent tool, but beware its power.

  • I use a program called FolderMatch to manage backup copies of my Web page and to coordinate the ability to work on more than one computer.

  • I use a program called FileZilla to FTP my Web pages to my ISP's Web server.  I have tried several other free FTP programs, but all the rest have attributes that I don't like.  Mostly, they are very unreliable.

    To say that most FTP programs are not very reliable is not entirely fair.  FTP is not a very robust protocol, and most FTP programs quit when they detect an error.  A good FTP program needs to keep trying and to resynchronize when an upload fails.

    WS_FTP is one of the most popular FTP programs, and I used it for several years.  But I found WS_FTP not to be very good at recovering from transmission errors, plus it cluttered up my Web site with log files.  I have also tried using Internet Explorer.  It's little known that Internet Explorer has a halfway decent FTP interface that looks just like Windows Explorer.  But as an FTP client, Internet Explorer is too slow and it does not recover gracefully from transmission errors.

  • Most of my text is a black font on a light pink background.  Fixed format items such as census transcriptions are rendered in a black font on a light blue background.  Links are rendered in a black font with a very light yellow background.  Placing the mouse over a link changes the background temporarily to green.  The background for a recently visited link is a very light green, sort of an echo of the green background from when you clicked on the link.  The exception is that links in census transcriptions have a standard black font and a light yellow background.  Census links stand out sufficiently with the yellow background without also including a special font color.

  • With respect to my family history pages, I use a bold font to highlight surnames.  It is traditional in genealogy to highlight surnames with upper case letters, but I dislike that convention.  Transcriptions of old documents such as deeds, wills, census, etc. have a light blue background.

    It has been difficult to find colors that work well on all monitor types.  I'm constantly fidgeting with the colors, and testing them with different monitors and different browsers.  I'm not sure I yet have the perfect combination, but I'm pretty happy with where I am so for.

    The most common use of links within transcriptions is to link censuses together.  For example, a person's 1850 census entry may be linked to their 1860 census entry which in turn is linked to their 1870 census entry, etc.

    People who are my direct ancestors are generally rendered in a blue font rather than a black font.  I have tried using a background color other than white to highlight my direct ancestors, but there are many narratives where highlighting my ancestors in this manner gives a very muddy effect, so I have settled on a standard background color and a blue font for my ancestors.

  • Most of my pages have a little rectangle at the bottom that will return you to my home page.  The rectangle is a golden rectangle, with the ratio of the length to the width being the golden ratio (approximately 1.618:1).

    The golden ratio is irrational, and can't be rendered exactly.  Also, the golden rectangle on my Web page is further broken down into smaller rectangles, each of which is also a close approximation to a golden rectangle.  It is one of the nice properties of the golden ratio that it can be broken down or built up recursively, and the ratio remains golden.  That's why the golden ratio appears so often in nature (for example, in sea shells and in flower petals).  The golden ratio also shows up frequently in art, music, and architecture.

    The golden ratio approximations on my Web page are taken from the Fibonacci sequence.  The Fibonacci sequence is 1,1,2,3,5,8,13,21,34,55..., where the first two numbers are 1, and subsequent numbers in the sequence are the sum of the previous two.  The ratio of subsequent terms in the Fibonacci sequence converges to the golden ratio.  In my "return to the home page" rectangle, the red rectangle is 13x21 pixels.  The green square is 21x21 pixels.  The "red plus green" rectangle is 21x34 pixels.  The blue square is 34x34 pixels.  The "red plus green plus blue" rectangle is 34x55 pixels.  Successive points dividing a golden rectangle into squares lie on a logarithmic spiral.  The successive squares and rectangles form a figure which is called a whirling square.  I used the colors Red, Green, and Blue because my initials are RGB.

    I wish to thank my friend Martin Webster for helping me with the design of my rectangle.  First, he taught me how pixels work for image files (and they don't work the same for computer screens as they do for printers, for example, so it can get pretty complicated).  Second, he helped me with the color scheme.  I knew I wanted to use red, green, and blue for my rectangle.  But using pure red, green, and blue caused my figure to look too much like a cartoon.  Martin helped me tone down the colors so that they look more professional than a cartoon.

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This page last edited on 29 Nov 2013.