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Personal Blog

Since about December, I have been modifying my website with some pretty big changes here and there (for example, the H1 element is now centred and rounded). 

Many of the changes that have come have been very subtle and not changed any of the usability of my website. However, with the latest update, I also took a look at how 'BalfPopup' was working on my website and noticed it was highly inefficient. I made several changes to this so that it could be used with much more ease. However, at the same time, I broke one of my gallery's oldest features - the previous and next buttons. 

These were very useful and will have to return at some point very soon. They are also featured on my microgallery tool as well but do not work there either.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news

Every version of iOS is a masterpiece of artistry and creativity that makes designers reconsider their design language, particularly in the field of technology. 

A result of that is that when Apple began to remove curved user experiences from it's operating systems several design teams across the world saw this and followed suit. 

Version 3.x of my website focused on the move from skeuomorphic things like my notepad style notes, box shadows everywhere and generally ugly interface to a much flatter interface. The interface was very square. This is how most flat interfaces start off. Apple's did, and back then square designs were in and curved ones were out. But slowly but surely Apple's own design language has changed to encourage the use of subtle curves into their operating system.

Well, you may or may not have noticed, some subtle curves have made their way into my website, and it all started with something as simple as my little quick alert box (try running a code sample of my website to see what I mean). You'll also have noticed that all the buttons on my website are curved too. This change is minor and fairly unlike the version 3.0 move from skeuomorphic elements to flat ones, but it's important and it's been received very well. 

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news

As part of the JavaScript tutorial on my website, I introduced testing code live on my website. Testing code was a major piece of making the tutorial work, but it was always going to be very straightforward with JavaScript and require no real security concerns since it runs in the user's browser.

Today I began to develop a way of testing both PHP and Python samples that exist on my website. I aim to have this ready by mid-March but it is slowly being rolled out across my tutorials with much of the PHP tutorial already set up for this. 

I'm hoping this will be useful and bring further benefits to using my tutorials which I'm very proud of.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news

After a long time of a very square/rectangular look to my website, I have brought back subtle curves here and there across the website. These curves are designed to make things like buttons more obvious as well as add to separation. There has been a lot of exploration around what suits it and what doesn't but I think the changes I have made are very clean and follow design techniques of today.

For example, input boxes and windows now have curves. You may have also noticed that I have introduced a new quick alert to the site as well as the newest version of BalfPick.

I'm aiming to make my design a combination of curved buttons and elements built on a flat design and think I've done it well so far.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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After having integrated push notifications into my website way back in early 2016, I'm now removing them from my website altogether. I think we can also agree, push notifications are quite an annoying thing these days and I've decided to remove them from my website - I never sent any for a while anyway.

From now on, the only push notifications that anyone will receive are from my blog. I intend to have an option to subscribe to these somewhere on my websites.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news

Recently after an amount of thought, I have decided to finally make the switch from a sans font to a serif font. I am keeping the Roboto font on my website for things like the site links and masthead, but for the content, I have finally made the switch to Roboto Slab.

This is not necessarily going to stay, the thoughts of the readers and viewers are what determines what I do on my website, and whilst some have already expressed that they preferred the sans font, I am on the mindset that a serif font can also do the job well here.

I will revert this if the survey results do not show that people think this works well on my website.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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All of my existing tutorials are being updated over the next few weeks with some small but very nice changes.

These changes are all inspired by my own experience of teaching. Firstly, all articles within tutorials will now have learning outcomes - what you are expected to know by the end of the article. Secondly, I am adding an "Over to you" section to many tutorials that allows you to try out some tasks based on what has been covered in the article. Thirdly I am now working on actively adding downloadable versions of all code samples across my website - this will include tutorials as well as pages like ZPE. This, again, will take a while for me to finish.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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In case you hadn't noticed, for the last few days my website has been completely ad-free. Yup, that's right!

One of the original features of my website was the sidebar, and it's original purpose was to serve ads to users on my website and make a bit of money. Some months I would make as much as $40 which covered my website costs. But from last Monday I have been trialing out not running ads on my website at all and I'm quite happy to continue this.

Statistics now show a trend that people are less likely to trust a website if it has ads on it, so it makes sense. On top of that, after looking at my own website advert analytics I have noticed more people have ad-blockers than don't - so it no longer makes as much as it used to. So really, there's no point in me continuing with ads.

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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A2 Hosting are an amazing bunch of people. I wouldn't have learned half of what I know about setting up a server if it had not been for them so I'm very thankful to them. They offered a very good service at a very good price but they also had their problems.

When I first set up my VPS early last year I got a lot of help with setting up DNS records and so on (something I can do myself nowadays) but what I didn't get I got from a website I came across a few years ago called DigitalOcean. 

I cannot tell you how many times I've googled something and found an article on DigitalOcean that explains a perfect solution to my problem. More and more I started to think it would be good to host with DigitalOcean but I stuck with A2 until about November. 

In November I got hosting credit for DigitalOcean so I thought I'd give it a try and see what DigitalOcean was like, especially now since I am more competent with setting up my own server. I wrote the server_setup script that I use to configure a server, created my first Droplet and transferred a recent site backup to DigitalOcean. Boom! It worked.

Performance wise, on the front end DigitalOcean was a bit faster than A2, which to me seemed unbelievable since A2 was blazingly fast as it was. 

But I mentioned A2 had problems. There weren't many of those and I think A2 are fantastic but they did have one thing lacking that something that is more tailored to system admins/developers should have and that is snapshots. When I first moved to A2 I asked if they offer snapshots but unfortunately not. DigitalOcean provides snapshots! Snapshots allow me to make backups from time to time, for instance before a big update or whatever. It also means I have a secondary, weekly backup of my server. 

So all in all, I'm sad to be leaving A2 but happy to be moving to my fourth host for my fourth iteration of my website. Hello DigitalOcean!

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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I'm going to be working on a few major things over the next few weeks. My main focus recently has been refurbishing my website with a much more elegant backend and I'm happy to say this was finished on Sunday the 7th after hours and hours of work.

As part of the redesign, I took out my developer tools. I was just this morning looking at my Google Analytics page and found that actually, my developer tools were my most visited pages on my website. As a result, in the next few weeks, I will bring them back. 

Girder will also see some fixes and improvements, although as I have mentioned, it's largely a finished project now anyway. I particularly think I will bring in printable columns and flexes to the next version. I'm also going to move it to a SASS/SCSS based stylesheet that will make it easier to select what you want from it.

Poor old Dash hasn't seen an update for a while now either, so it's time for me to get on with the main project I'm working on.

ZPE hasn't seen an update for months because I've begun work on ZPE 2.0 but that shouldn't be the way it is. In fact, I am going to make big changes to ZPE 1.5 in the next few days to make it perform better. I will not stop supporting the Java version of ZPE until the code in the new version is 100% compatible with the Java version and all features are available in both versions. I also may not even drop the Java version, because it's really good as an educational tool now.

BalfBar 1.2 has had some fixes over the last few days so make sure to download that. I will also be putting the code up for the amazingly lightweight BalfPopup tool that, in my eyes, is better than Magnific Popup due to the size of it. 

Posted by J B Balfour in Website news
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