Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Looking and leaping

The regular, riveted reader (hello?) may have noticed me wittering on about tidying up, structurally, on the trumpet news web pages after which I currently look.

I started last night and it's been a disaster. As I write, the PC at home is grinding away downloading the whole blessed subsite again - squillions of zetabytes - because the local copy is now such a pig's ear that it's unrescuable. Well done that Vogel. Naturally I did not back the whole site up before I started as that would have taken time and been intelligent. It is only good luck that prevented me from wrecking the online version too: I realized what was going on early enough that I was able to stop it uploading before utter disaster overtook me. There probably will be some pain-in-the-neck consequences but not much compared to how it could've been.

Things to note:

  • It's sometimes quite a good idea to take a backup before carrying out major change. Yeah really. Even if you are sure you know what you are doing.
  • In fact, being sure you know what you are doing should always be taken as a portent of disaster round the next corner. Especially if you are me.
  • Dreamweaver can tell you that it's OK to move or delete things when actually it's not. How so? It's usually very reliable on this: one of the reasons I love it so much. But when the links are inside scripts, maybe not! The old pages which I was trying to sort out were written using NetObjects Fusion (nb nb this is not Cold Fusion!) and contain eight billion lines of JavaScript. Dreamweaver doesn't see links in this so it will quite happily let you move or delete files that the scripts need. Oops. As in: big oops.
  • I don't know if Dreamweaver is better about links in scripts which it generated; nor whether perhaps there's some way of turning on the more detailed checking that could have saved me from making this terrible Horlicks out of everything.
  • I apologize for the pejorative use of Horlicks. It's good stuff and I love it.
  • I don't think you can easily edit pages generated by NetObjects Fusion unless you have it. Certainly, Dreamweaver has no idea how to display them and shows you a gigantic mess. If at this stage you had the Dreamweaver "automatically fix errors on opening" feature turned on (which I never do), then you'd have just wrecked the page. Maybe if you were a script guru then you could just work directly on the code, but if you want to use a nice editor (yes that would be me) then I suspect that there is no alternative. There's no point at all in buying NetObjects Fusion at this stage, no matter how good it is.
  • Interestingly, something similar came up on the SocPsych subsite I manage for one the bits of the "Medical Research Centre" (thank you Kia) where I work. I was able to do minor changes by hand but as soon as anything bigger was required I couldn't get near it without Fusion. Since we didn't want to buy and learn this we just redid the whole thing in Dreamweaver, and have not looked back.
  • Redoing these ITG pages isn't really an option. They are just an archive of old stuff going back to 1998 and should just be left, not have endless effort expended on them.
  • I think I am probably going to have to give up on most of the intended restructuring. I can do some minor admin bits but the moves of these old stories and graphics - which I thought were of minor difficulty - are now almost impossible without acquiring software or spending a lot of time tweaking code by hand. I feel too old and tired to do this latter. It is a pity that the pseudo-root of /news is littered with all this historical garbage but it is not actually causing harm.
  • There is an argument that says that as I have tolerated these somewhat messy structures for five years I should just shrug and walk away. It would certainly have been nice and friendly to sort it out for my successors but as it is it may be wise to just make sure they understand the issues, and leave them to it.
  • There's one bit of restructuring I could still do that only involves moving some graphics files so that they are closer to the html files that need them. This would make editing far easier, and I know that in the last five years there has been no script involvement here. I might do this (having taken a backup) as it is almost guaranteed safe and free of consequences, other than the intended ones for the convenience of the editor.
  • Oh dear, I am generally a bit narked. As usual, it was self-inflicted, and well-intentioned, which does not make it less annoying, believe me. Tsk.

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