On the content level, I wanted to design a page-lay-out that would be easy to read, pleasant to look at and yet not too stern. I wanted to come up with a format that would allow me to tell an interesting story on every page and spice the stories with nice illustrations and photographs. I looked around for ergonomic guidelines and design rules, and tried to apply those rules as much as I could. Though I don′t pretend to be a professional designer, I always try to make things accessible and beautiful.
I hated the limited possibilities of free text editors under Windows. But then I discovered that there was such a thing as Vim, a DOS port of vi/ex. As you will know, ex is an extremely versatile editor that was packaged with UNIX since the beginning of (its) history and vi is the full-screen front-end for it. The only problem with vi/ex is that its commands seem to be designed for martians, not humans. But those who have mastered it, can make it do virtually anything. Today, you would probably use Perl or Python.
Using Vim, I was able to write scripts to make changes to the common elements in the pages. But this turned out to be a very error-prone approach.
Some time later, I discovered HTML-kit, a versatile freeware HTML editor. This helped me to write better HTML, but not to apply and change the templates over all the pages of my site.
The design of my site consisted of a low-contrast background image that suits the content of the page, blue headers and footers and a text on a yellowed paper colored background. Site navigation was through 4 clickable icons on top of each screen. A number of these elements have survived.
At the end of 2003, I found out about HTP, a HTML preprocessor. This gave me the chance to separate between templates and content and to make clever text replacements, even to generate automated tables of content. After mastering HTP and writing a number of scripts to edit all the files in a directory, I was able to manage my site in the way I wanted.
Uploading the html files remained a tedious task, though. I wondered if it weren't a better idea to use PHP on my webserver to do the things that I now did on my PC at home. The possibility of using PHP only came years later, when I moved my site to my own domain on glowbug.nl. I haven't done so, yet.
Meanwhile, in 2012 I ported the scripts to Linux and started to use the Linux/Posix version of HTP. Surprisingly, this forced me to improve a bit on my source code, as Linux and the Linux/Posix version of HTP are fussier about syntax than the WIndows version.
I also used some scans of some conventional photographs I made with my Canon A-1 camera. Some of these were very good, such as the picture of the 6AU5 valve, taken with a 1-second shutter time to profit from the orange/yellow light emanating from the heater and show how the light reflected from the shield around the CRT of my 545B scope. With my first digital cameras I couldn't make this kind of picture, as the photographs became are too dark and they had problems with infrared light. Using photographic film is by far the best way to show the colors of glowing objects but it is expensive and time consuming.
In spring 2003 I bought a Sony DSC-P71 digital compact camera. After this, I could make pictures quickly and transfer them to my computer instantly.
In late October 2008 I bought a digital SLR camera, a Nikon D60. This one gives even better photographs. With this camera, I can control speed and aperture as I want to, and it makes much better photographs of glowing objects. I tried it on an EF80 being tested in a tube tester. But for most pictures, the main obstacle to good pictures still is good lighting. I'm still broding on a photo set and some way to use slave flashes and diffusers for flashlight.
I also used a free Microsoft photo manipulation program that came with Office 2000. I had it on my laptop from work, but not at home. I used it to produce the background graphics and buttons for the first version of E-page.
At home, I installed Windows XP and Office XP in early 2002. The Microsoft Photo Editor program that came with it, was less powerful than its predecessor. Frankly, it was a bummer. It uses a primitive algorithm for image scaling, that causes moiré effects and its sharpening procedure causes a lot of speckles. I started to use HP Photo Editor, that came with my HP printer. That gave much better scaling options and allowed me to correct white balance a bit. I also tried the photo manipulation software that came with Nero 7. That was even better, but the user interface was a bit awkward.
Finally, I was tipped by a colleague about a brilliant open source, freeware photo and graphics editor called GIMP. I was warned that the user interface was a bit clunky and inconsistent. But that was more than outweighed by the excellent photo manipulation algorithms, different options to manipulate and correct colors, the possibilities to correct perspective faults and perform operations on selected areas. I quickly learned how to produce some sort of logo that I could use to imprint watermarks on pictures. The GIMP has a lot more possibilities that I will learn. It can also be used to draw graphics to further spice up the pages.
I didn't want to spend big money on a CAD software package and tried using Microsoft Paint, which was prohibitively awkward. Good freeware software to draw schematics was hard to find, but finally in November 2008 I found TinyCAD, a freeware schematic capture program available for Windows. I have first used it to draw the “Principle of Operation” circuit for the Heathkit V-7A VTVM and found it was quite easy to draw schematics with it. Though the component libraries that came with it, are a bit of a hodge-podge, it is easy to edit the library symbols and make them into something that approaches ISO electronic symbols. I will certainly be using TinyCAD for more diagrams.
To be more precise: I wanted to replace the table based lay-out of my site by a lay-out that was totally controlled by CSS positioning. That turned out to be harder than I thought.
In 2005, when I moved my site to glowbug.nl, I changed the icons on the top of the page to buttons, whose appearance was controlled by CSS. But I still needed tables for the main lay-out and for the lay-out of figures with accompanying text.
I did a lot of searching, and from a number of sources, some of which are: ValidWeb.nl, Digital Web magazine, The noodle incident CSS guide, WebsiteTips.com, I learned just enough to use CSS positioning and make it work across different browsers.
On 2008-07-20 I published the new home page and a new chapter of the site, Intricate Instruments. At the same moment, I published the slightly adapted versions of the pages under Projects and Neon. Because the main text area for the pages had become a bit narrower, I had to check all of the pages to make sure the alignment of photographs and diagrams was OK, and none of the photographs was too wide. In September and October I finished the task of converting all pages to the new design. A lot of older pages, especially the ones describing radios and scopes, did't yet have an introduction paragraph and were not adapted to the standard layout for a figure with a caption.
In that course, I have also replaced more than three quarters of the photographs, making new renditions of the original files. Some of the pictures were too wide. Others I found too small, not showing enough details. There were also a lot of photographs that had ugly colors, caused by bad lighting. Most of those could be improved using GIMP. Finally, I decided to add a watermark to all of the photographs I had re-rendered. After some experimentation in HP's Photo Editor, Nero and GIMP, I found out how to quickly make watermarks from a template using GIMP. Some of the photographs still carry one of the early watermarks, those I will replace in due time.
On 2008-10-19, I finished converting all of the pages to the new lay-out and improving more than half of the pictures using GIMP. Since, I have added yet more pages. But the site will never be complete. I have at least 20 more collectibles that deserve a page of their own. And improvement will continue. If you think you have suggestions, please don't hesitate and go to the contact form.