13 November 2006
This past week I was reminded of a website maintenance chore I’ve been neglecting. An observant and sympathetic reader noted our link to the Meade Archive was broken because the site had moved. This kind of thing happens all the time, of course.
Cross-linking to other information is the best thing about the Web, but also its Achilles’ heel. Sites move, change, and disappear at an alarming rate. I have, at this point, thousands of links from within AotW to other sites. If there were dozens or even a hundred, I might be able to click on them every three months or so, to check to see that they still work.
Since that’s not practical, I depend on a lovely little automatic tool called the Xenu Link Sleuth (review w/screenshots). It’s a Windows desktop program–written by Tilman Hausherr–that runs through the site checking every link and reporting results. It’s quite fast, and also free. I’ve using it for 4 or 5 years now, and recommend it highly.
Xenu produces a variety of reports to show broken links, redirects, and other link issues. You can control how deeply Xenu spiders your site, include or exclude directories, and configure the reports to meet your needs. Very easy.
Word to the wise for our new digital historians: check those links, prevent link rot. ‘Course, now that I’ve done my first check in about a year, I have a huge pile of issues to chase down and resolve.
It’s not all glamor and glitz, you know.
21 October 2006
Public thanks are overdue to Bill Turkel for the flattering profile on his blog, Digital History Hacks. He makes me and AotW look really good, and finds the things of which I’m most proud from the last ten years online — in two paragraphs. Hail Turkel.
Of course, now the pressure is on me to step it up …
12 October 2006
In a previous post I talked about how an aspiring digital historian might learn some fundamental software technologies applicable to building a dynamic website. Today I’ll try to better explain how those work together to produce web pages.
In the simplest kind of website, a person using a browser requests an HTML page by clicking a link or typing a URL. The browser then sends that request across the great wide internet to a webserver–a specialized kind of software program living on a network server. The webserver finds the requested HTML file on it’s filesystem and returns it to the requesting browser. The browser interprets the HTML and displays the resulting page on the user’s screen.
Antietam on the Web (AotW), and many other sites, however, need more sophisticated functions than can be provided by plain old HTML. In our case we’ve chosen a combination of tools including PHP and a mySQL database to help get the job done.