>> Friday, June 18, 2010
I've redesigned my author web site, www.alangratz.com, once again. This time it was for practical reasons more than aesthetic reasons, but I did take the opportunity to create a site that's a lot cleaner looking, and definitely more in character for me. (I liked the graffiti look of my most recent site, but it never really felt like it was an accurate reflection of me or my books.)
After the death of the last of our Windows XP machines and the failure of Vista and Windows 7 to run most of our older software--in particular, the old version of Dreamweaver I'd been using to build and maintain my web site--something had to give. I couldn't update my web site unless I fired up a buggy, unstable version of Windows XP that was achingly slow and randomly crashed every few minutes!
Not only was I not excited about purchasing the newest version of Dreamweaver for $399.00 (!), I also wasn't quite sure it would actually work on my new Windows operating systems. (Thanks, Microsoft!) Besides, we'd had such an unpleasant time with Vista we were ready to swear off Windows operating systems for good.
So part of our change included switching to a Linux operating system--specifically, Ubuntu. The first thing I tried to find then was a good open-source html editor so I could rebuild my web site, but there wasn't one standout among the programs. I dual booted Linux with Windows so we could use either one, which meant we could still use a Windows-based html editor if we had to, but Wendi and I have both enjoyed Ubuntu quite a lot and we're really trying to eliminate any rebooting into Windows just to use one particular program. (We still have to do so to use our scanner. We were still Windows users when we bought it, and had no idea Canon refuses to support Linux when we made the switch.)
Enter "cloud computing." For the uninitiated, cloud computing is the term used to describe working with programs and services that are entirely online, not a program you've loaded onto your own computer. Blogging services like the one we use here, Blogger, are good examples of cloud computing. The only thing we need is a computer with internet access. The rest Blogger (and its parent company Google) takes care of. Google Docs, Google Calendar, GMail--Google is staking a claim to indespensible cloud computing programs, and we're following right along.
As a matter of fact, the Blogger interface we use for our blog has been so easy to use, modify, and update, we thought, "Hey, why not just build the new web site out of Blogger?" So that's exactly what I did. When you click through, the web site will hopefully look more like a web site than a blog--which is all trickeration done with lots of template hacks. The new web site is, essentially, a blog in which only one blog post is shown at a time, thus making it look like individual static pages. I took out the timestamp, the comments, and the forward and backward buttons, and there you have it--a web site built in the cloud.
Not only does the decision save me money, it actually makes it easier to update my web site. Now, instead of downloading a page from my remote server, editing it in Dreamweaver, then uploading it back onto the server, I merely call up my web site, click the edit button on whichever page I want to modify, make the changes, save, and I'm done! I'm also not tethered to one particular computer with my html editor loaded on it. Now I can access the inner workings of my web site anytime anywhere I have a computer with internet access. And it'll be easy to add new pages when Fantasy Baseball comes out next year--essentially all I have to do is add new blog posts.
There are drawbacks to cloud computing, to be sure. You're essentially saving your original on someone else's server, which could go down or out of business at any time. (Google is a pretty safe bet not to do either, but it could still happen.) There are privacy and security concerns as well when your material is hosted elsewhere, but those aren't a big deal to me. I'm not dealing in state secrets or financial matters. For my purposes as a lowly author who wants to spend more time writing novels than web pages, cloud computing seems like a perfect fit.
So there you have it. The changeover is complete, and hopefully I won't have to be doing a major site redesign any time soon. Give the new site a look and kick the tires for me. If you find any problems, do let me know!