Jamie Balfour BSc

Welcome to my personal website!

Technology enthusiast

I am very interested in technology, particularly relating to computer science. I am most interested in web design and development.

My main hobby is programming. One of my most well known products from this is ZPE. I also am the sole creator of BalfBlog, BalfBar and BalfSlider.

A little bit about me

In 1997, when I was six years of age, I got my very first computer. I was always very interested in the ins and outs of it and dismantled it to see how it worked.

Years later, in 2016 I received my BSc (with honours) in Computer Science, obtaining a First class degree.

I'd like to welcome you to my website and hope you enjoy using it as much as I have enjoyed building it!

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Jamie Balfour BSc
Full stack developer

Personal Blog

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 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 in 2014. 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!

Whenever I am asked why I bothered building a personal website or why someone needs a personal website my reply is often something along the lines of 'it's fun' or 'it's my hobby'. But I very rarely touch on the benefits of my personal website.

There are a huge number of benefits to my own personal website. I get around 500 visitors a month on my website. I use it to showcase my work to potential employers, to get myself on the internet in a public way that people can connect with me through but there are also other things. I enjoy learning and teaching, so my website is also a source of information where I put tutorials to help others learn stuff that I know. 

But really what's the benefit? My first answer is that it's professional. The brand that my website pushes forward gives me a uniqueness that appears on all of my work now. The orange and blue theme of my website is also apparent on my CV, any letterheads I send and on certain emails. This looks highly professional and people like to see this. I also believe that having your own brand puts you above others who do not. 

The second reason that having a personal website is that the website is, well, personal - it's all about you. LinkedIn is great for connecting but it's full of other people too. Go to jamiebalfour.com and who do you think you are reading about? That's right, some guy called Jamie Balfour. There's nothing about John Szymanski or Murray Smith on there (well there might be). This keeps the reader focused on you. You can write soley about how good you are and all of your achievements and yeah, be a narcissist, blow your own trumpet!

The third reason I would say having a personal website is a must is because it gives people an easy way to read about you. A personal website allows people to read about you from all corners of the globe. Social media is great, but it's also ladden with other things, like other people, a like LinkedIn.

I will admit my website is more of a personal project that evolved into something more. For anyone in computer science it's pretty nice to show that you can build a website from scratch, so I did exactly that (it shows a lot of perseverance too). 

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.

Today I am releasing the latest version of BalfBlog and using it on my website to power my articles!

The latest version of BalfBlog had the core focus of being able to manage a system like my articles system. Well now, after 3 years of development BlackCat is being replaced by a much younger (started in January 2016) content management system. 

BalfBlog is far from perfect for this and a lot of work is still needed. I say this because, at present you need a dashboard for each BalfBlog system. Also, whilst the project was only recently renamed BalfBlog, it was never to be the full time name. So please help me come up with a better name for BalfBlog that reflects this new feature.

The new system brings a lot of front end features too, such as being able to use the BalfBlog search which will search for words you enter only in that blog/section. You can do this using the search box at the top of the section, this allows you to search based on the category, keyword, title, tags or anything else you may want to search for. This gives a lot more specificity over what you are searching for compared with Google's search provided on my website.

On top of this, updates are easier to apply to these sections of my website than before and I can manage content using a more useful content management system.

So all in all, it's been a great move.

I'm very happy to say that a big update has just been finished in relation to my website. I had been flattening some elements of my website and since becoming a far more competent designer, I very recently came up with an idea. 

In 2014, I started to building styles that unintentionally left my website with no singular style, towards a much more gradient-based website. Early this year I pushed this further and my site was full of gradients and so on. Gradients are nice and everything, but they make things difficult when you want a consistent style. 

Today and yesterday, I began to work on a new interface, known as 'Silver Orange' since the colours of choice and grays and oranges (there are very few other colours in the range). 

Allow me to show you some examples.

Conclusion box

The conclusion box before

Conclusion box

The conclusion box after

The above images show the conclusion box on my website. You can find this in articles and reviews. It's new look removes gradients and flattens the interface by removing curved borders and box shadows.

The Epic Form

Epic Form was the name of my forms. This is an example of a button.

New button

The new buttons on my website are flatter and less curved.

The buttons are obviously more flat than they were before and the same goes for the whole form input design. I've also dropped the name Epic Form which has been in use since 2013.

The Epic Form

The original bibliography.

New button

The new bibliography.

The new bibliography fits in better with the new design

As well as flattening the interface of gradients, a lot of curved borders that have existed for the last few years have been removed and replaced with nice borders.

Finally, I have made my colour scheme far more obvious and consistent. You should notice this pretty much immediately.

So there you have it, the latest update to my website.

I am experimenting a slightly new design with the sidebar on my website at the moment.

Instead of the standard white sidebar, I have taken inspiration from one of the websites I built a couple of days ago for a company. 

Feedback on that company website has been really powerful - most of which stated they liked dark sidebar and the bright content section. They also said they preferred the left hand sidebar to the right hand sidebar.

All of this got me thinking about my own website design too. So I decided to implement it here too. 

For a long time, I have been looking into new ways to improve my website, particularly the desktop website as I really like the mobile and tablet versions of the site (this comes from the fact that they had more skill put into them as I had learned more by then).

My mobile and tablet website stay exactly how they were before - perfect.

If you like or dislike, let me know. 

Oh and I will be bringing a new feedback form to my desktop website.

Today, I discovered a few security enhancements that I could apply to my website so in the next few days I will be working to improve the login system further as well as making the site more reliable when dealing with threats.

I'd like to thank Jonathan for his unsuccessful attempts at breaking into my website and Ben for suggesting it.

Yesterday I worked tirelessly to make my site more modular and many new fixes. On top of that, I have just made my site far more flexible and easy to update.

I'm expecting to be able to work on my site in a far better way now as well, keeping it far more flexible and making changes far easier. As a result I released version 3.6 just yesterday, 1st January 2015.

Happy 2015!

I've updated a few features on the site, particularly I've had to remove the snowflakes animation as it was slowing the performance of the system that was browsing the site - not good for usability!

I've also added a more friendly settings panel as pictured:

When the settings button is clicked this appears as a modal dialog like a lot of other features across the website.

I've also changed the search box, and whilst it looks the same, it is far easier to maintain and should appear better on older browsers, including old versions of Firefox and IE.

In just under 30 minutes, my Halloween theme for my website will be coming down and the site will return to the normal form. 

I hope you have enjoyed my site in it's 2014 Halloween form. As always mid November it turns to a Christmas theme. 

It also should change automatically without me needing to do anything, provided the time on the local computer is correct, as I chose to write this in JavaScript rather than on the server - giving your computer more work, not mine!

Site accessibility

A lot of the original functionalities that once existed here have been removed.

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