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Reflections on a website, Post- Fowl-Feast

Having a couple of extra FREE days off from work thanks to the efforts of some nearly 400 year old sectarian radical zealots*1 and the way-more intelligent locals that helped them to survive, I poked around on the FREE website the Gorilla gave me. Being thankful, I decided to see what I could do with it.

Having a couple of extra FREE days off from work thanks to the efforts of some nearly 400 year old sectarian radical zealots*1 and the way-more intelligent locals that helped them to survive, I poked around on the FREE website the Gorilla gave me. Being thankful, I decided to see what I could do with it. Not much. Its extremely limited, has basically only one theme that looks really awful. The color combinations that can be chosen are fixed and are just slightly expanded choices from a limited palette. You can't kill the search applet that's tagged onto every page along with the "Dead Office" bug at the bottom of all the pages. I really didn't expect to get rid of the Dead Office bug but what's the point of forcing every page to have a search applet? Oh yeah! Its tied to Microsoft Live Search (aka MSN Search), another Microsoft product in sore need of customer attention, and another way to push up the ad click counts.

I tried using FrontPage 2000 to publish my website pages to the website. No way Jose! It will not accept pages via http or ftp even with the proper user name and password. The message I got back was that there were "no FrontPage 2000 extensions" on the server. The clue is that EVERY page on the site was tagged with the extension - aspx, in other words Active Server executable pages. As I mentioned before, Microsoft is pushing way out beyond the W3 Internet standards when its forcing the pages it serves to be "executed" on the server before being "published" to the web browser requesting the generic forms of the page. This is also enforced at least 50% of the time by the Microsoft web page server sending an error page to me when I used FireFox 2.0 to access the website. Published is the correct word to use since the page doesn't really exist until the active server creates it and then it gets rendered for the first time in the browser window in front of the user. There is no index.html, its index.aspx. This will shift the balance of required computational power AND the control to the server and away from the client computer. If this is what Web 2.0 is all about, I think its a big mistake.

The template mechanism, as exposed as a style sheet theme.css, becomes the means of pushing the style onto every page created by the "web site owner" (not really an owner at all!) since the layout, form and colors are enforced in the style sheet. I tried deleting, editing and renaming the style sheet to no avail. Trying to modify it using FrontPage 2K caused the Server to shutdown FrontPage and a nasty error message to pop-up and then an offer to send the typical "unexpected program shutdown" report back to the Microsoft mother-ship. This message is meaningless since Microsoft has shutdown support for FrontPage 2000. So its really unfortunate that Microsoft has limited the FREE website so much since its hard to determine what you can really do with the tools it has since there's not a whole lot you can do with them.

Always looking for a lesson to learn from the things I run into, there is one lesson to learn here. If you're inclined to build a web server or a Home Server (or a combination of both!) the idea of leaving it completely open and clear of platform dependencies or restrictions is the ideal. Don't expect your users to have one specific browser, a specific operating system or specific applications because sooner or later, one or all of them will change enough to make something break. And that is probably also the biggest difference between a proprietary operating system and web server and an open standards and open source operating system. In many ways Microsoft has become the Teddy Roosevelt of the 21st century, imperialistic, self-imbued with a manifest destiny and self-deluded by all of their PR and advertising.

I asked for my domain name back but since its Saturday in Australia I really don't expect them to be working today. We'll see how that will work.

*1 I find it somewhat ironic that our Thanksgiving holiday is derived from the actions of a bunch of so-called right wing conservative Christian heretics who later go about killing some of their own because of the suspicion of them practicing witchcraft! Nobody back then knew about ergot toxin.