About the EDM/2 Site

  Since becoming the editor of EDM/2, a number of changes have taken place. Some are minor, others are of more consequence. On this page, I will attempt to explain my position, especially on some of the more controversial issues such as HTML style and the INF format. Hopefully once you have read this page, you will appreciate why I do things, even if you don't do them the same way.
Before I get going too fast, I would like to share my browser setup, which results in an easy-to-view site, with fonts all properly sized and so on. I have my main font set to "10.Tms Rmn". I find that serif fonts are easier on the eyes, somehow. I have my fixed-width font set to "5.System VIO". This allows both this size, and the SMALL that we use on code to be clear and viewable. I do not override any of the page settings in my setup. The width of your browser will be best suited to viewing EDM/2 if the green horizontal rule just about these two paragraphs is just a touch shorter than the width of the browser. Ok, let's get into the whys of this site.

HTML versus INF

Probably the most significant of all the changes is that EDM/2 is not consistently published in INF format. I have several reasons for making this choice, all of which are pragmatic in nature. The main reason is that INF is very time-consuming, and I spend way too much time on EDM/2 as it is. At the moment we have a small team which occasionally converts a few more issues to INF. They are pretty close to being up to date, but not all the way there. If someone was to come along and offer to produce the INF version from the HTML version each month, I would be ecstatic. Until that day arrives, however, I am going to continue to produce only an HTML version.
A secondary reason is that HTML is cross-platform, whereas INF is proprietary. Why would anyone want to view EDM/2 on other platforms? I don't know, but I get letters about it regularly, so it is obviously important to many of our readers. In addition to being cross-platform, HTML is also becoming more and more capable. INF is virtually completely static, so anything that is not already in it is not likely to ever be in it. That means little to no layout control. Being a visually aware person, this is unacceptable to me. In addition, HTML is much more visible to the world at large, and this enables us to showcase the site, and earn a little ad-revenue to help cover our production costs. Our costs are minimal, granted, but so is our ad-revenue :)
There are some advantages of INF over HTML, but most of them can be worked around. INF is significantly easier to print, but with the articles being on a single page, this is less of an issue now. You will have to print a few pages, yes, but it only happens once a month, so it shouldn't be a big deal. HTML is more difficult to search. I strive to maintain decent indices of our material, although the meta-index is currently under development. I think that for most searching purposes, this is good enough. Add in our search engine, and we are doing ok, I think. This still doesn't help the copy on your harddrive, but again, it is only a question of convenience, not a total restriction. INF issues are contained in a single file. With the WPS, however, moving EDM/2 around is as simple as grabbing the whole edm2 sub-directory with your mouse and putting it where you want it. Not quite as convenient, but a perfectly workable solution.
Overall, HTML is a far more dynamic and satisfying medium, and I think with the whole and partial solutions I have come up with, the limitations are easily overcome by the advantages.

HTML Layout Issues

The particular style of HTML I use reflects my view of the web. I do use the occasional trick to help spice up the presentation, such as using tables for layout, using the very occasional single-pixel GIF to space things out, using client-side image maps even though these are not available on some browsers, and so on.
The basic philosophy that makes me choose these decisions is as follows: the web took off because of its graphical nature, and the more stylish a site is, the more awards, the more attention, and the more revenue it is capable of producing. There are some minor trade-offs associated with the choices I have made, but none affect accessibility or content. The presentation is inferior on some low-end browsers, and the whole experience will be less satisfying if you use a graphical browser with graphics turned off. No content will be lost however, and navigation remains convenient. I think that for the sake of pleasing the majority, it is acceptable to trade off a small amount of quality in the presentation for the minority. To throw some numbers out there, Netscape for OS/2 accounts for 85% of our hits, WebEx for 10%, and Lynx and other browsers for 5%. I will soon know what percentage of people browse with images off, but unless it is some staggeringly high number, things will continue on the way they have. I do check the site with both WebEx, Lynx, NS 2.02/2, NS 2.0/Mac, NS 3.01/Mac, NS 3.01/Irix, Opera 2.1/NT, IE 2.0/Mac and IE 3.0/Mac, so unless you are using some exceedingly rare and quirky browser, the worst you will see is a few broken link droppings if you use Netscape with graphics off. WebEx has a faulty layout algorithm for tables, and lets the text on the right move into the teal area on the left, but that is a bug in WebEx which is not easy to work around, so I don't.
You may have noticed that this page and the From the Editor pages now use single-pixel tricks to make more attractive paragraphs, a-la typeset text. I prefer this layout, but it is just too time-consuming to use this trick on the whole site, and for the sake of Windows Netscape 2 users without graphics on, perhaps it is better to leave the meat of the presentation dropping-free anyway. BUT, the From the Editor column and this space I consider my territory, and I'll please myself here. Let me know how you feel about this, one way or the other.
In any case, I get lots of appreciative letters and very few complaints, and I am able to resolve most of the complaints by far, so it is not much of a problem. For example, for 5-03 I have turned the links in the teal area on the front page and in the table of content into white text images, because the red caused problems for some viewers. I have changed the tables to variable width tables, so that more people can view it well. I removed the grey area to the right of the page, so that code that sticks out is readable. I tidied up the front page, because it was messy. I anti-alised my signature :) All of these changes are meant to increase the appeal and make the magazine more enjoyable and visually appealing. Eventually, I will likely use Cascading Style Sheets, but not until more than 90% of all visitors have the capability of viewing them properly. Perhaps when Netscape and IBM release Communicator 4.0 for OS/2, this will happen. Then again, it might be so bloated that most people stay with 2.02.
As I said above, if you have any difficulty with the look of EDM/2, or some of my views, mail me. I am a decent listener, and I have made many changes to the site because of reader requests. I listen much better to constructive criticism than to rants, though, so please phrase things nicely.



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