About this Site


Content

The purpose of Relatively Ambitious is to showcase my life and work to anyone who is interested. It serves as a resume, a portfolio, and a blog. I express my feelings and opinions through my writing, poetry, and blog entries. I express my creativity through galleries, my photography, and the design of the site itself. This is a place where my friends and family can go to catch up on what’s happening in my life and where anyone else can go to see what I’m all about.

Hardware

Relatively Ambitious has run on a 2006 MacBook with a 1.83 GHz Intel Core Duo processor, 2 GB RAM, and a 320 GB hard drive since March 2012. It is running Mac OS 10.6 Snow Leopard and a MacPorts installation of Apache 2, MySQL 5, PHP 5, and WordPress 3.

Prior to that, Relatively Ambitious ran on my 12″ PowerBook G4 from March 2011 to March 2012. This was the same G4 that I bought to get me through college. It had a 1.33 GHz It ran on the a 1.33 GHz PowerPC G4 with 1.5 GB RAM and an 80 GB hard drive. Before switching to my PowerBook, the site ran on a 1.25 GHz Mac Mini that I purchased used from the UNH Computer Store for $300 in 2005. It had 1.25 GHz Power PC G4 processor, 1 GB of RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, a combo CD Burner/DVD reader drive, and Mac OS 10.4 Tiger. It served a dual role as my server and Sally’s everyday computer until we purchased a MacBook for her in 2006. After that it was used solely as my web server until it died from a logic board failure (possibly due to a power surge) in March 2011. It is now a nonfunctioning part of my Mac Museum.

Previously, Relatively Ambitious was served off of a PowerBook G3 Lombard with a 333 MHz G3 processor, 384 MB RAM, and a 4.5 GB hard drive. This was my main computer until May 2004 when I bought a 12″ PowerBook to replace it. It sat in my living room while I used a Blue and White G3 to serve the site, but I decided to switch to the PowerBook due to lower power requirements, more memory, and a faster processor (by 33 MHz, ooh).

The server is located at my house, and connects to the rest of the world through a cable modem. Although my cable connection is great for surfing the web, it does not offer fast upload speeds, so the site will load slower than sites that are hosted by private companies. (I get a max of about 24 Kb/s, which is fine for pages that just have text, but not for galleries). I also have a router that probably slows things down too, but oh well, what do I want for free. In the past, I also used my server to stream music from my Powerbook to my speakers and subwoofer so I could have my Powerbook on the couch and not be physically connected to them. I don’t really do this now that I have a desk that I can actually sit at, but it served the purpose well when I needed it.

Software

This site runs on Apache 2, PHP 5.3, and MySQL 5. WordPress is used as a content management and display engine.  This was a big change for me as I was previously writing all of the code for the site on my own.

History

Relatively Ambitious (formerly JayZone) is the third website that I have made. My first site was called Jay’s Mac Page. It was the first time I had ever designed a website and it was a page, really, just one page. I was in seventh or eighth grade when I did this and I thought it was cool. The site was hosted by Geocities, which later became Yahoo!Geocities. I used their Java based editor to place and edit my pages. The graphics were made in Ulead Photo Express because it had drop shadows and “cool” textures. I knew nothing about html or design at the time. As the title suggests, the page was about Macs. This was the era before my photography, poetry, blogging, or software, so the site only contained articles that I wrote about Mac stuff. Ironically, I didn’t own a real, usable Macintosh until I was a Sophomore in high school, but I was talking about things that were running on current Macs in 1997. Go figure.

Jay’s Mac Page eventually spanned out to a multi-page site and simply became Jay’s Mac. I redesigned it three times, but still never learned any HTML, CSS, JavaScript, or anything else that would give me more control. I’ll try to dig up some of the graphics and articles from it to give people a taste of what it had. The site soon ran out of steam and I stopped developing it.

I didn’t work on another website until the summer of 2004, which is when I wrote the first version of JayZone, my second website. Development on version 2.0 began about two months after version 1.0 was released. I had originally planned to make 1.0 much different than it was, but ran into time constraints. I decided that it was best to just post it. I unfortunately didn’t realize how bad it rendered in Internet Explorer for Windows until after it was up. By the time I noticed its problems, I was already developing version 2.0 and decided to let it wait until then. In December of 2004, I released version 2.0 of JayZone, which introduced a brand new site structure, tabbed navigation, compliant HTML, new graphics, and a CSS based layout. This version fixed many of the Internet Explorer rendering problems and made JayZone look much more professional. JayZone 1.0 was released during my freshman year of college; 2.0 was released during my sophomore year.

Since the release of JayZone 2.0 in December, I have added some articles, albums, and photos, but have not really changed the way the site worked. Around March of 2005 I changed the look of the news and changelog boxes, and themed the entire site in shiny black and orange to celebrate the release of Mac OS 10.4 Tiger, but otherwise had not added anything major until the release of version 2.1.

In July of 2005, I released JayZone 2.1, which included new database-driven News and Changelog pages. I created new graphics and CSS for the News and Changelog boxes (which were easier to maintain and faster to load due to smaller graphics), added a search, and added user comments. This was the largest change to JayZone since I originally released 2.0 in December. It made updating my front page much easier and allowed me to update more often. It also turned JayZone into a sort of weblog, which was a major turning point for the site.

September brought JayZone 2.2, which included dynamic Albums and Galleries. I did not have time to convert galleries to the new dynamic system, so they did not see improvement, but Albums no longer relied on the iPhoto templates I used to use. I also added a categories feature to organize news posts, a feedback form, and a bunch of bug fixes. I made major modifications to the underlying structures that generate dynamic content, moving much of my code into libraries for easier management. A small maintenance release, JayZone 2.2.1, was released 2 days after 2.2 and fixes some small bugs.

Since the release of JayZone 2.1, I had been thinking about how to improve the layout of the site. I didn’t like the fact that the site was not centered (due to its tabbed menu system), people were confused by the navigation, and I thought there was a lot of wasted space. I began working on new layouts that used fewer graphics and more CSS, and also started working on graphical layouts in Photoshop. The Photoshop layout won, but I sliced it up in such a way that it uses fewer graphics than previous versions.

As I created the new layout for JayZone, I also decided to refocus the site on myself which led me to change the name and restart the versioning at 1.0, thus creating my third website (even though much of the code for it is based on JayZone). I changed the name from JayZone to Relatively Ambitous to reflect a shift in focus to a more journal-centric site. The new layout looks more like a weblog and the name says more about my personality. Why RelativelyAmbitious? I am involved in a lot of things in my life and have a lot of interests: work, school, programming, a website, a home life, and photography are a sample. That makes me ambitious. I don’t always have enough time to spend on all of my endevours, so they are not always constant or completely finished, which makes me Relatively Ambitious. It represents a goal I have to someday drop the Realatively part and just be Ambitious. Relatively Ambitous 1.0 was released in January 2006.

In June 2006 I made a graphical update to the site which I considered 1.0.1/1.1. It consisted of a more interesting background (diagonal lines instead of a solid color), glossier graphics, and a brighter banner. Since then I’ve added new features here and there, most notably the new Album system that I added in January 2008. April 2008 brought my first visual refresh in almost 2 years! While the first refresh was intended to brighten up the layout, this one was intended to darken and sharpen it, displaying my new focus on making my photos pop.

As 2010 approached, I looked at the big list of todo items that I had for the site.  There were lots of things that I wanted to add, but they would take me a long time and would take away from the time that I had to post content.  I started to think about ditching my hand-coded site for something else.  There is an open source content management system called WordPress that provides posting, galleries, comments, themes, and search – pretty much everything that I was coding by hand.  After a lot of thinking, I decided to switch to WordPress.  I wanted to focus on content, not coding.  I’ve really enjoyed writing all of the code for previous versions of the site, but it was just time for me to move on.  As of late March 2010, Relatively Ambitious started using WordPress and moved to a new URL.

One of the benefits of WordPress is that it is theoretically easy to create a theme for your website… if you have the time. While I’d love to come up with my own site theme, I just don’t have the time so I purchased on from a theming company. It cost me $45 and went live in July 2011. It includes a nice blog page, pre-built sidebars, and pretty lightbox photo viewers. I have made very minimal modifications to it and have instead focused on adding new content to the site, which is the whole reason I switched to WordPress in the first place.

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