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Personal Blog

I introduced my gallery over 3 years ago when I decided to write in whilst on my yearly get away to Dunkeld. I have finally updated it.

This means that I haven't quite finished adding the original content to it, but you'll see it performs much better for both my server and for you in terms of waiting.

Please be aware that some links on my website will no longer work as expected if they link to the gallery. I aim to have my gallery updated with all the content from the original gallery by the end of tonight. I also realise that a lot of people aren't even interested in my gallery as of recent, but I also have to point out my gallery is not for everyone. I built it as a way to share photos with my family and to build my own kind of 'scrapbook' of photos.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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As the pilots of the planes that crash into the Severnaya bunker say in Goldeneye:

Negative so far. Everything seems normal

Well now everything actually is normal. The transition has been made from jamiebalfour.net to jamiebalfour.com. jamiebalfour.com now points to my new host, jamiebalfour.me and jamiebalfour.co.uk will be here in about 2 and a bit months time (due to restrictions on the transfer of domains, they can only be transferred 60 days after registration, and sadly .co.uk renewed automatically just before I started the transfer).

I had to make some changes to BalfBlog, and I have no idea why these changes were actually needed, but they were (actually, come to think of it, I have a rough idea it might have something to do with the DocumentRoot directive in Apache2, but I'll test that out).

In the meantime, if there are any further issues across my site get in touch via Facebook or my contact form on my website. I've still got a lot of stuff to try out at the moment so the site may have some issues due to this.

What's new

There's a lot of new stuff coming to my website because of the change to running my own system from the ground up (well in a VM). 

My favourite new feature is the use of PHP 7. 7 is supposedly up to twice as fast a PHP 5 and I see a huge performance gain on my website. OPCache is enabled to reduce the amount of time spent parsing the PHP in the first place too. My site was always fast but now it runs only one core and 512MB of RAM and yet it performs better than it did on the shared host where I had 3GB of RAM and four cores. Ahh the benefits of VPS!

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news

Now that I am finally nearing the finishing line for this huge change to my website I'd like to update everyone on what's happened and what problems exist.

First off, I now have a new website, jamiebalfour.net. This is only temporary. I will be switching back to jamiebalfour.com as soon as I can (I'm awaiting transfer on this). All of my subdomains are currently hosted on .net, and whilst this may change, I'm not sure there's much point in worrying about this kind of stuff. 

More crucially, since I'm now hosting on a VPS, I've had to learn how to do things without cPanel and the like. Nothing was too difficult. I originally worried about setting up subdomains but they've been painless and easy and I also like doing things this way a lot more. 

HTTPS or SSL is also now free since I found a fantastic CA that offers free certificates. I'm limited in space and memory and CPU power, but despite this, I've still found this to be a more performant option. 

From One.com to Arvixe

One.com was the second web host I ever came to, the first being 123 Reg but I never took advantage of it as I had no idea what I was doing. When I opened jamiebalfour.co.uk in 2010, I never thought about using it for anything at all apart from sharing my software. In 2012, I decided to ditch the original template and begin a redesign. Still not a web developer myself, I went for a table based design. In early 2013 I decided to build it to do more. I learned both PHP and CSS and made my first dynamic website. In the second part of 2013, I learned JavaScript and responsive design and made my website more flexible and dynamic. 

In 2014, I made the change from one.com to arvixe.com. This was a big change for me. It sparked the point when my website had a meaning to me and that I actually was interested in web development for the first time.

As well as this, the plan was to use the new package to do more than just that. I wanted to run Python-based and Ruby-based websites on it too. Alas, this never came and the site was merely the way I managed to expand my website. 

Within the first year or so, I experience a huge amount of downtime. Almost half of the first year I was thinking about moving away from Arvixe. Toward the end of 2014 however, I was moved from Seahorse to Ayeaye. It offered 3GB of RAM and a quad-core CPU - a huge improvement. I saw much less downtime and my site was far more responsive. As time went on my demands became bigger and bigger and Arvixe was perfect for this. 

Arvixe to A2Hosting

After 3 years of Arvixe to the month, I decided to switch to A2Hosting. This is a huge change that brings lots of new benefits to my website, particularly, as mentioned earlier, VPS hosting. I've been contemplating VPS for about 6 months now as it would allow me to do more than just host a website. It will also give me the flexibility to experiment with other technologies such as Node.js, Django (Python) and Ruby on Rails and much more. I've got less space on this server but I'm not bothered since my whole website and all of its subdomains and my projects comes to less than 4GB. 

I've now officially abandoned jamiebalfour.com on Arvixe and until it moves over, jamiebalfour.com will be unmaintained. jamiebalfour.co.uk will also be in the same boat until it switches over, which will yet be another 60 odd days since it auto-renewed before I could stop it.

I'm hoping for a very happy time now with my new VPS package and I hope to have my website fully up and running by the end of the next week!

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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I've finally made the move from shared hosting to VPS!

This change is the biggest site change I've made in 3 years. But three years ago when I switch to Arvixe's shared hosting I didn't know as much as I do now about server administration so it was a good move to switch to a more advanced shared hosting package that Arvixe provided from the One.com shared hosting I started in 2010.

Arvixe has been great. Apart from downtime which I experienced in the first year, I've had no real trouble with them. Now that I'm a pretty mature web developer and system admin, I felt it was time to make the next move.

VPS

Virtual Private Servers are basically a system running in a virtual machine. I chose to go for the un-managed VPS, which meant I had a lot of work to do and there's no support. However, I've persevered and made it! And you are now on my new jamiebalfour.net website. 

Oh yeah. Also, this is actually costing me slightly less every year somehow because now I get SSL free which means that I don't pay $30 a year for it.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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Morning everyone. Today and tomorrow I will be doing some essential site maintenance that will take down every subdomain hosted on my website. Some of the more popular ones are clickit.jamiebalfour.com and code.jamiebalfour.com. blog.jamiebalfour.com will still redirect you to my blog.

I'm hoping to minimise the effect of these updates but I realise that BalfBlog and ZPE both depend on code.jamiebalfour.com to check for updates so they will not work at the present time.

The last few weeks have made my website more secure and more performant. I have spent a lot of time making my site work with cron jobs so now my site it is even easier to make a cron job as well as improving my own admin portal, automatically backing up the site every month, backing up MySQL databases automatically and so much more. Most of the stuff I am doing is all about refactoring code and making my site more efficient. I'm also preparing to move to a different server with the possibility of VPS being enabled, so I want my site to be able to 'just move' to that server with minimal disruption by making scripts that do all the resetting up again for me.

All subdomains should be up and running for now. FTP, SFTP and SSH for these subdomains is also re-enabled. 
Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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Thanks to some of the comments I received today about my website, which were largely positive, I will be changing my website quite considerably.

The comment that has stuck with me, and it's reinforced by the fact I've thought about it myself is that my website has become too big. I've developed a plan of action to tackle this problem in as few distruptive steps as possible (since now my tutorials have been gaining more popularity and my website is being used by many, I don't want to disrupt that).

My plan is this:

  • Revert back to a single blog again, my Projects Blog will move back into my main blog. 
  • I will merge Software into my Projects section. 
  • I will create a completely new website (I've been thinking about this since early December) for my professional works
Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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After hours of work and countless cans of juice, I have finished my website update for early 2017. Nothing has changed on the front-end except for my menu, which now implements BalfBar 1.2 and also now has padding on the dropdowns as well as new uppercase text.

This update did focus primarily on updating the back-end, primarily introducing DragonScript 2, the replacement for my January 2015 DragonScript package. This new version is much faster and works on the idea of hashing data rather than storing it in an array. It's a huge performance improvement that makes this website speedier than ever. On top of that I have been stripping parts of my website that are no longer needed with a focus on not only making the website faster but streamlining it so that it is easier for me to update and add to.

Disruptions have been minimal as I continued to support DragonScript version 1 on my website simultaneously with DragonScript 2, but as of five minutes ago, the two year old version has been retired. 

Will DragonScript 2 get a release? I doubt it. I don't plan to make it available now because it would be too much work since it is now intertwined heavily with my website. It is possible I will develop a more open, WN Project based on DragonScript, but not yet.

Finally, on top of the menu getting a little update. I decided to push my dark theme further on my website, and for the first time have built dark code samples. The choice to do this was inspired by the fact I now use Adobe Dreamweaver again, and I really like it's dark theme. This now makes them easier to see on top of looking much nicer.

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This update removes even more skeumorphic designs and focuses even further on the flat design. It does however retract a bit on the statement I made about getting rid of curves, with more and more objects across the site being curved. Alas, I could not resist a couple of circular objects and feel they fit better than the square ones did.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news

It has taken me most of last weekend and some of today (I have other work to be doing for my PhD as well, so I can't give this full dedication) to get here, but I'm happy to say that DragonScript 2 is finally here on my website.

All pages have yet to have this but any page which is within sections from A-M are now enabled for DragonScript 2 apart from my developer tools. You can probably see the speed difference between the two.

Oh and it was exactly 4 years ago tomorrow that I rebuilt my website for the first time, and for the very first time used HTML5 and CSS. Version 2.0 was finally released tomorrow 4 years after a long struggle to rebuild the content. Now in version 3.7 I'm quite happy with the way things are, particularly now with DragonScript 2 and BalfBlog.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news

I am happy to announce that my website has had quite a few new changes in the last few weeks, all of which I am finishing now. They are almost all content based but some also improve the actual usability of the website.

DragonScript 2

Last month I began to implement an improved version of DragonScript, DragonScript 2. DS2, codenamed Robber, is a huge update that improves the performance of the backend of my website, thus resulting in shorter loading times for users. It will take a while for me to bring it to every page on my website since some are still using DragonScript 2015 and I have to manually change the PHP file to update the page to DS2. 

New page percentage scroller

If you are on my website reading this then you will see that I have implemented one of those scrollers that goes from left to right as you scroll further down the page. I thought this was a nice navigation element to bring to my website and it was pretty easy to implement so, well you know, I thought I'd give it a try. Lemme know what you think by the usual method!

Goodbye old email accounts

My website email addresses are now limited to the webmaster, information and the no-reply subscribe and admin. Getting in touch via the contact form now goes straight to my personal email address.

New tutorials

I've finished my MySQL tutorial and I am now working on a new tutorial on Web Design. This tutorial focuses on design techniques, design patterns and methods to make a website more efficient and usable. It's fully planned out (and believe it or not I am organising it using the web design technique called card sorting). This tutorial is already coming on. The inspiration to start this tutorial comes from a book I recently purchased on design techniques. It also comes from the fact I now consider myself a bit of a design geek, since I am absolutely obsessed with usability and aesthetically appealing designs now more than ever.

New site features

Since you can now access a JavaScript method without the need for plugins to copy and cut stuff on the web, I have added a Copy button to every code sample on my website. If you cannot copy using the execCommand function in JavaScript, an error appear for you in the form of an alert. This is a pretty cool little feature.

Changes coming

On top of this, clickit.education will finally shut down this year since I didn't receive enough in donations to cover it. The same goes for the zenlang.net website I never finished. I will be moving both to subdomains on my website (www.sites.jamiebalfour.com). On top of that my DevNet will no longer be maintained. All of this allows me to focus more on my personal website, which I guess is good. I may bring back zenlang.net at some point in the near future, but for now clickit.education will be the biggest loss. Like I said, it is all based on donations which were just not enough this year (there is also ad revenue, which I keep most of so I can continue to pay for things like Creative Cloud used to maintain this website).

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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In January of 2015, I redeveloped the backend of my website and released my DragonScript powered website. DragonScript is not really even a programming language or anything, so the name is a kind of misnomer, so I wasn't entirely sure about it, but I kept it anyway and it's my plan to keep the name.

My latest changes will be known as DragonScript 2.0. This is a backend change that should not affect the front of my website. However, it is a huge change. Part of this change is developing my old BalfPHP file into a more modern, object oriented version. DragonScript 2.0 focuses on a much cleaner and a more efficient, as well as overall faster, development that will focus on what's actually needed to make my website function and removes a lot of the ugly bits that were a part of it before. As well as this, DragonScript 2.0 utilises an object oriented approach.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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