Web Design

I’ve redone ttwagner.com. It’s no longer a random integer between 0 and 255, but instead, a decent-looking site. I’ve integrated some of the cool things I’m hosting there as well. I came across a few interesting things I wanted to point out.

The world DNS page is incredibly intensive, and, since it’s not dynamic, there’s no sense in “generating” it each time. So I used the command wget http://localhost/blah/index.php -O index.html to “download” the output, and save it as index.html in the web directory. Viola, it serves the HTML file rather than executing the script.

But the HTML output was frankly hideous. The page was written as a, “You know, I bet I could do…” type thing, written to fill some spare time (once upon a time, I had lots of it). So I’d given no attention to outputting ‘readable’ HTML. It was valid code and all, it just didn’t have linebreaks or anything of the sort, made it a nightmare to read. But I really didn’t want to rewrite my script to clean up its output so that I could download it again….

So I installed tidy (which sometimes goes by “htmltidy,” including the name of the Gentoo package). A -m flag tells it to “modify” the file in place (as opposed to writing it to standard output). The code looks much cleaner; it’s not indented, but I can live with that!

I also found that mod_rewrite is useful in ways I hadn’t envisioned using it before. I developed everything in a subdirectory (/newmain), and then just used an htaccess override to make it “look” like the main page (at ttwagner.com/ ). This simplifies things greatly, as it would complicate my existing directory structure. (It’s imperfect: you “end up” in /newmain anyway, but my goal isn’t to “hide” that directory, just to make the main page not blank.)

I’ve also found I Like Jack Daniel’s. (Potential future employers: note the missing “that” in that sentence, which changes the meaning completely!) The site is a brilliant compendium of useful information, focusing on, well, Apache, PHP, MySQL, and gzip, generally. The “world DNS” page was quite large, so I decided to start using gzip compression. He lists a quick, simple, and surefire way to get it working. (The one downside, and it’s really a fundamental ‘flaw’ with compression in general, is that you can’t draw the page until the whole transfer is complete. This has an interesting effect as you wait for the page to load: it just sits there not doing much of anything, and then, in an instant, displays the whole page.) It may be possible to flush the ‘cache’ more often, resulting in “progressive” page loading, but this would be complicated, introduce overhead, and, if done enough to be noticeable, also defeat the point of compression. (Extreme example: Imagine taking a text file, splitting it into lots and lots of one-byte files, and then compressing each of them individually. Net compression: 0. Net overhead: massive!)

3 thoughts on “Web Design

  1. I thought the method was a bit strange.

    The main ‘advantage’ was that I didn’t even know you could append/prepend code, so it gives me the ability to easily change a directory full of stuff. (For example, passing custom headers, since they get prepended.)

    That said, I’m running into odd issues with it failing to cache anything, ever, so I may try it other ways.

  2. Pingback: Matt’s Blog » Web Compression

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