The joys of PHP

It is a wonderful thing when something you think might be really complicated turns out to be really simple.

On, I have three columns. The left one holds links common to all pages, including the internal site navigation; the centre one holds all the content; and the right one has links and stuff relevant to that page.

The problem with the left hand column is that if I want to make a change to it, I would have to do so with all the pages one by one. While this wouldn’t be too much of a burden at the moment, when the site starts to expand it would become seriously time consuming.

Fortunately PHP (; comes to the rescue. By typing the HTML for the menu content into a separate HTML file, called say “menu.html”, I can then call up that file anytime I like using:


And that’s it!

So all I have to do is update menu.html and ALL the pages change in line with that!


Plenty has happened since I last posted. I have had a total re-think of how I am going to ‘do’ Instead of going for a graphics-heavy Dreamweaver approach, I’m going to do it in Linux, more or less hand coded, using Bluefish and The Gimp, and make it accessible and fast loading on as many browsers as I can test it in.

This approach, however, has its downside. I still can’t get my internet connection to work on Linux, so I have to do all my work, save it onto a floppy, then log into Windows to FTP it to the web host.

Why am I bothering? Because I think it’s important. The coding part of the process is far quicker and more controlled, using Bluefish, and the Gnome environment I work in makes it easy to test and plan. Not least because of the multiple desktops – I have Bluefish open in one, various browsers in various others, Writer in another, in which I keep my site plan updated, and one desktop has a terminal, where I can do any file management stuff. It’s simple, straightforward and gets everything done perfectly.

Because of this new design decision, it means that I can change the layout of this blog to suit the whole site. I’ll still keep it hosted at Blogspot, though, simply because it’s too easy not too!

More reading…

I have abandoned ‘Consider Phlebas’ with a third of the way to go. At the end of the day, I don’t like SF enough to read nearly 600 pages of the stuff.

So, fiction-wise I am reading ‘Lolita’ now, which hopefully will be a quick one. The few chapters I have read make it clear what a superbly written book it is, and it should be a real joy.

Non-fiction-wise, I have still got Boris Johnson’s ‘Lend Me Your Ears’ on the go, though that is a good dip-in-and-out-of book. I’m certainly enjoying the early Politics section which covers the early 1990s, specifically on Europe. Obviously it comes from a sceptic viewpoint, but it is still filling me in on a time when I was too young to know what was going on.

I am also seriously keen to start John Naughton’s book. In fact I might do so tonight.

My site / Firefox / Web design

Work is continuing on – though it is going to take a while to complete as I seem to have a lot on at the moment. Still, the front page is nearing completion, the side bar of my frequently used sites is going to come in really handy!

On the right hand side I am going to have various ‘advertiser’ links, so adwords from Google, Amazon etc and advocacy links. At the moment I only have one of these, for the Firefox browser. I recommend this brilliant piece of software to everyone. It’s faster, has more features and more secure than IE, and it is free, too. One of the things that annoyed me about Mozilla, and Netscape before that, was that some of the rendering of the HTML left a little to be desired – a lot of this has been sorted out now in Firefox. For some reason, though, it doesn’t pick up the stylesheets for the Palimpsest home page! Strange, because my other sites which are built in exactly the same way seem to work fine…

I have completed the contact page on my current work-in-progress, which uses a simple PHP script to send the details through to an email address. The site is looking rather good, though, and my progress can be monitored at

Consider Phlebas

This is still going well, and I am hooked into the action scenes. Banks does write well, especially in his early books. Mind you, this is going to have stiff competition as I am going to treat myself to a copy of John Naughton’s book about the internet later today, which I have been after for a while.

New Site has been registered and a basic template put in place. Not sure about the colours yet, they might be a bit too dark. I did loads of work on the plan last night so hopefully tonight I will be able to sit down at Dreamweaver and bash most of it out.

Still not sure what I am going to do about this blog. I would like to be able to have different topics that I could assign to posts on here, and those post then feed onto the relevant page of my main site, but that might be a bit ambitious for my limited abilities. I will put a post onto the PCPlus forum and see if anyone has anything suitable. Otherwise I may as well stick to Blogger, though I have been looking at as another possible system.

Web plans

My grip on the URL is shortly to be ended, and rather than hang onto it I have decided to let it go. It was always my intention that whelp would act as a site for me to do my web design stuff through, but it never really happened.

As I have got plenty of other stuff going on at the moment and I could do with a new site for me personally, I think I am going to register either (if it is free) or The best thing about the former is that I could offer email addresses to my family! The latter might be better for me long term though. We’ll see which is available, that will probably make the decision for me. I haven’t been able to check because of the IT difficulties mentioned below.

Anyway, I have loads of plans for the new site and what will go onto it. Basically I am going to cover all the bases of the stuff I am into: reading, writing, computing, web design etc. I thought about changing the hosting of this blog to the new site too, which I think I can do from within Blogger. If it doesn’t look right, though, I can always just link to it and maybe have a feed of some of the more recent stuff on my site.

Anyhow, it will be an interesting project, and one that I am going to get cracking with this evening, almost as soon as I get home!

Internet hell

I am starting to suffer big time from cacky internet connections. For some reason Gmail is running appallingly slowly, and it hasn’t been possible to check my emails all day. It is only a beta, I guess, and of course it might be a problem on the office server. Annoying, though.

I’m suffering a bit at home as well, last night Matthew was trying to access the internet to do a bit of research for his RE homework and it just didn’t want to play ball. We are on AOL at home, largely because it is easy for him and my gf to use, though it is a pain as I have to be in Windows to use the broadband – from linux I have to use dial-up.

I am thinking about wiping my PC and starting again, as it is pretty slow on all counts. It’s just the thought of copying all my files across onto CDs is too much to bear… but it will be worth it. I have installed and uninstalled so much on the Windows side that the whole thing must be clogged, and despite having AntiVir, a firewall and Spyware monitoring software installed and running, I am not convinced that something nasty isn’t at work somewhere.

By running the system restore CD, I could simply install SP2, AOL 9, some drivers, Dreamweaver, MS Office,, Webstyle and some games and I would be done. Then just install Linux in a small partition for my use, and leave it at that. But where am I going to find the time?!

Current Reading

I am currently reading Consider Phlebas, by Iain ‘M’ Banks. It is the first Science Fiction novel I have read since I was a kid, and I have to say it took quite a long time to get into. The problem, I am only slightly ashamed to admit, was the funny names.

Still, now I have got used to daft things like having apostrophes in the middle of names and stuff, I am starting to enjoy it. It’s fairly fast paced, and Banks keeps the action coming. One of the slight problems I have is that I believe Banks uses several standard SF motifs and ideas, but never bothers explaining them. Fine for most fans of the genre, but they tend to fly over my head. Still there are plenty of political parallels in this which I can pick up, and Banks doesn’t shy away from the serious stuff in favour of making it all about zapping aliens.

Palimpsest have an informative ‘M’ Banks page

Brian Clough 1935 – 2004

Sadly, Brian Clough died yesterday. As a Nottingham Forest fan, he obviously meant a great deal to me from a football perspective, simply for what he achieved with the club. It would appear that 30 years after he first took charge at Forest, they have returned to where they were before him – a bog standard second class team.

It was also his life which has fascinated me. I usually steer well clear of sports biographies, but made an exception for Clough’s two excellent books. The bragging is there, of course, but his achievements were remarkable. He is a candidate for a posthumous knighthood, it is a scandal that he didn’t receive one in his lifetime.

After his disastrous spell at Leeds United (where he told the star studded squad on his first day that all their achievements were meaningless, because they had been won by cheating) many have said that Clough couldn’t handle big stars and that therefore he wouldn’t have been a successful manager of England. Nonsense. If the superstars wouldn’t play his way, he wouldn’t have picked them! He’d have assembled an England squad made of his kind of player, and rather than have a rag-bag of big name players, he would have forged a team from rough diamonds, as he did at Forest and Derby.

Anyway, rest in peace, Cloughie. You’ve earned it.