Xing 3.0

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This website was created five years ago as nothing more than an experimental playground for me to mess around in, confident that no one would ever look at it. Hence the banner on the home page proudly proclaiming "Welcome to my Worthless Site!" However, I've reached a point where I'd like to start curating a website I can actually link people to, even though as of this moment, there's nothing particularly noteworthy on this site.

Thus, I've reworked this website to be a bit more presentable. Nothing fundamentally has changed about how the site looks and feels; the version number increment is because this feels like a paradigm shift to me, even though the visible changes are limited.

The majority of the changes come in the form of new prose, mostly centered around the home page and information tab. The main screen now contains links to stuff I've done, the about page now describes me in addition to the site, and the contact page is more than just an email address now. Other noteworthy changes include an update to the legal license at the bottom of each page; Vizsage, whose license I had used for years now, doesn't actually host their license anymore. My site had been linking to a dead page for a while. So, the change here is that the entire codebase is now GNU Affero v3. GNU does allow for commercial use, unlike Vizsage, but honestly, I don't really care anymore. Thus, my non-code content has also been expanded, from CC BY-NC-SA to just CC BY-SA. I'm not a lawyer - I know I can't revoke rights granted via Creative Commons after giving them, but I think going to a less restrictive license is okay. I'm not actually sure, but I'm rolling with it. On top of that, the logo in the header is no longer a picture file - CSS text stroke support has now reached a point where I'm comfortable rendering that in browser. On top of that, it turns out the font used, Cooper Black, is available for free via Adobe Typekit, so I not only have a higher-res logo, but I also am no longer treading that legal gray-line in terms of font / logo usage.

On the backend, lots has changed. 000WebHost has been rather nice to me over the years, considering they were offering free hosting. However, I've grown really tired of them. Deleting my site multiple times isn't even the worst part - I usually keep pretty good backups, so content loss has been minimal. Rather, it's the broken promises, such as the inclusion of popup advertising (despite promises of no ads) and the mandatory 1 hours sleep time every day (despite promises of 99.9% uptime), that have gotten annoying. The tipping point was the forced injection of a 000WebHost branding banner on every single page. I've tried to display:none; it via CSS, but then they added in a !important inline style. As of a few days ago, visibility:hidden !important on body>div:last-of-type still catches it, but I doubt it will hold. More importantly, I can't justify hosting something I actually want people to see on a platform so unpredictable and unpresentable.

Luckily, I recently found out about The Gwiddle Foundation, who provides free web hosting to students. They only offer 3GB of bandwith a month, unlike 000WebHost's 10GB, but they also have no ads, no forced downtime, and, as of right now, no lies. They also offer real SSL certificates via Let's Encrypt, meaning I'm no longer forced to use Cloudflare's flexible SSL option, which is awesome but less secure than a real, end-to-end certificate. That's not something I've implemented yet, but it's coming. As such, I've decided to migrate my entire website over. My original 000WebHost subscription is still valid, and accessible here, but it'll remain frozen in time as I update my new site here. Who knows. Maybe it'll be an interesting memento to examine in a few years.

A few other smaller changes over the last month have also happened, so I'll list them here to wrap this up. First, I finally brought back the month filters on my blog - that was something that existed prior to my 2016 redesign (Xing 2.0) and I never got around to bringing back until now. Second, the PHP code that injects headers and footers have been rewritten to be directory agnostic, so hopefully any stray pages that didn't have a nav bar should be fixed. Third, I went back to my old laptop and dug through its directories to dig out old files whose links had broken when 000WebHost deleted my site, such as all those physics demos for EFTDC2 in old blog posts. Those should be restored now. Fourth, and finally, I made a few minor updates to my new Tetris game, including scaling the game board to the screen size (at startup; it doesn't dynamically resize) and replacing the next piece and held piece indicators with picture files.

That's about it. This is a pretty small update as of this moment, but hopefully it opens the way for many more changes to come down the road. I don't know what will become of this site, but I'm optimistic to find out.

Posted By: Michael Xing

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