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Sunday, June 12, 2005

Virtual migrations....

Yesterday was one of those nearly ideal weather days in Belfast, and thanks to my perch atop the apartment building (only the fourth floor, but high enough by Belfast standards) I was able to enjoy most of the blue sky as it passed (quite literally) by my window. That is, whenever I bothered looking up from the computer....

I did get to spend about two to three hours sitting outside Roast drinking coffee and reading the Saturday Guardian, but the rest of the day was devoted to completing the move of my web site from Rutgers Newark to the University of New Hampshire. I don't start officially at New Hampshire until the first of July, and there is little else I have to move in the physical sense since my US residence is actually much closer to UNH than to Rutgers. In that sense this web site move was the equivalent of packing things up in one location (and deciding on what to discard in the process) and unpacking at the other (and deciding how to arrange the furniture in the process).

Over the past several weeks I've been doing some preliminary work. First was the issue of finding a reasonable location. This is a story in itself given the bureaucratic maze established for getting onto university servers; UNH offers less generous server space than Rutgers, and for security reasons the accommodating but ever vigilant computer folks give you some bizarre address which just won't do for web site. It took a few days to get the powers that be to provide me with a functioning "alias", but in the end it was all so simple, and I had my 99 MB of space on their web server under the new address of http://pubpages.unh.edu/dubnick/contact.html.

Second was the issue of how to organize the webspace. When I constructed (so to speak) the Rutgers web site, I applied a logic that that made sense at the time but was soon completely ignored if not forgotten. The result was quite a messy bunch of folders that somehow gave the impression of a well-organized web site when viewed on the surface (or at least I thought so). This time I followed the advice found on the Web itself, with the result that the site can be certified as a possible means for maintaining my sense of identity as I enter the age of possible senility. At least now I'll be able to recall what I wrote and when I wrote it....

Third was the move itself, which was actually started about two weeks ago as I attempted to make the transition incrementally by doing one or two items a day. By Friday it became obvious I would have to just dig myself in and do the deed, and so Saturday (with the exception of the Roast break) I did the job -- or at least did most of it. Now if you visit any page on my Rutgers web site you will be "rerouted" in about three seconds to the home page on the UNH site. It still has some rough edges and "dead link" problems, but I'm pretty confident that this 20 hour effort (yes, that is how much time I spent in front of the computer yesterday) did the trick....

Well, almost. A couple of those hours was spent trying to figure out how to move my blog which I stupidly established at the Rutgers site last November. I should have just gone with “blog*spot” knowing that I was in search of a new position, but all that is spilt milk and I am now facing the problem of "migrating" the blog to a server in anticipation of Rutgers reducing (or terminating) my server allocation in the near future. An attempt to move it to the UNH site didn't quite work -- and I am not that savvy to figure out why. A search of the blogger.com knowledge base and a general search of Google has not been helpful in figuring out how to either migrate to 'blog*spot' or some other service. What I have learned is that none of the options are easy. Almost all of those bloggers who comment on migrating -- some of them obviously much more technically sophisticated than I am -- note that the process is filled with all sorts of barriers and problems. It seems I am likely to lose easy access to almost all the posts in my growing archive if I make too radical a change of blogging services. Nevertheless, I am tempted to go with a major move that would involve learning new software and making a monthly financial investment in this blog project. I think I'll give this a good deal more thought over the next few weeks....

Fourth, and actually after the move was made, I put some time into redesigning the look of the site itself. For the past two or three years I've been stealing ideas for web design from a colleague whose approaches to this kind of thing I've found to be very sensible. I started this thievery while Al Roberts was still situated at Queens University in Canada, and he was kind enough to help me along with some advice on font faces, etc.. Since that time now has moved on to head the Campbell Institute at Syracuse University, and every so often I will visit his personal web site to get ideas. A lesson learned from following Al's lead is that subtle and simple is best. Over time he has headed more and more toward gray and white as the basics for designing a professional looking personal web site, but of course I've always stepped over those boundaries and added stark reds and yellows and blues that make my site a bit too garish and busy. This time I did the same, although trying as much as possible to avoid the sharp yellow backgrounds with red text. In terms of simplicity, my site is quite a bit scruffier than Al's, but hopefully it's navigable for anyone seeking an article or information.

It is now early Sunday morning and I am starting my day once again in my perch, but this time the view out the window is of a more typical gray sky with clouds rolling by rather quickly. As is the case with most Belfast days, it is possible that I will get a view of some blue sky and at that moment I will scurry down to buy a copy of the Sunday Observer and spend what might be my last opportunity for a quiet weekend morning at Roast. By this time next week I will be frantically packing up for the trek back to the US on June 20. That move will probably be less demanding -- and perhaps less time-consuming -- than the one I just completed....

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