Site Design Considerations
The Onion Omega2 Pro
Building For The Future
It may seem hard to believe, but at the time of writing, the World Wide Web, so ubiquitous that we use every day without a second thought in much the same way that we'd make a cup of tea, or toast is 30 years old! Tim Berners-Lee devised a much-needed method of easily linking document references in various locations and it eventally became the 'Web that we love so much. In time, as the Web grew, simple web pages developed into larger, more complicated entities and incorporated all manner of programming languages to enable us to surf, trade and enjoy content with ease. With faster broadband in many places, we rarely give a second thought to the infrastrcture and cost that this entails. This is what this (short) article will address. So what's the problem? Why shouldn't we maintain the Status Quo into the future? Surely as broadband gets faster we will be okay?
Yes, But No, But Yes
Well, the effects of keeping things they are now are much as the same as building bigger/wider/faster roads: the traffic will expand to fill the capacity and we'll eventually reach a stage where unless we can maintain the structure, things will start to fail. So yes, we can add more infrastructure etc, but no, it won't solve the problem long term. Unless you've been living under a rock, you'll have noticed an increasing clamour about climate change. One of the symptoms of this is that humankind's need for electrical power is constantly increasing, and despite the fact that we're now using more low-power devices and lighting than ever, before too long even this will struggle to be sustainable.
There will come a time, probably in our lifetime when the Internet as we know it now will not be able to function reliably as power needs other than the Internet start to take precedence. We could then be in a position where information that we rely on and is normally distributed as bloated web pages is no longer easily accessible. Something must be done! Of course, it's not practical for people to just stop using the Web, but we must find ways to mitigate problems, and this is where this site will, I hope, become something of a poster child.
Fight The Flab
So now I can actually get around to discussing why this site exists and why I made it the way I did. For some time now I've followed the Brutalist design ideology, and on this site, this means no frills. You'll hopefully have noticed how quickly the home page and this one loaded? That's because these common web page components are missing:
That's what you don't get here, and the net result is that the site is clean, reponsive, and cheap to visit. If you're on a mobile device and short of bandwidth allocation, the last thing you want is to be downloading 10Mb of pages bristling with extras that you'll ignore anyway. Also, I've moved all external links to end of the page to allow you read uninterrupted. And speaking of mobile...
- Beautiful images. Nope. The image at the top of the page is the best you're going to get, and although it's smaller, and not in colour, it conveys the intended message. Would it surprise you that the original image was 3000x2000 pixels in size and weighed in at 4.6Mb?! Many sites would just load that as is, and again, load time and cost would increase. In comparison, the image here is 12Kb and I hope still clear enough to enjoy.
- Multiple CSS files. If you look at some pages and understand a bit of HTML, you'll undoubtedly see a plethora of CSS (style sheet) links. Some may be on the same server but frequently they're not. More opportunities to waste time loading files from other places. More cost. You know the story.
- Databases. There's rarely a page goes by nowadays that doesn't have a link to a database. If that database is not running optimally, it's another opportunity to increase page load times, and ... cost.
- Advertising. You'll never, ever see an ad on this site, nor on petergarner.net. Yes, they may make some money for the site operator, but visitors are getting increasingly p*ssed off with ads, especially on mobile platforms, and the number of ad-avoidance systems grows every week. As a consequence, advertisers still serve ads via web pages but ad blockers and hardware like Pi-Hole simply drop them into a black hole. More wasted bandwidth, and cost.
- Trackers. I'm not interested in tracking you: I'd like to think you'll come back again if you enjoy the content. Other sites see this as a vital feature. So nope.
- Web Fonts. Suprisingly, many or most site operators would have you believe that you won't appreciate their pages fully unless you download their esoteric, hipster font that happens to be, oh, maybe 4Mb in size. More flab, more cost, and many visitors will block other peoples' fonts as well.
Write Once, Run (Almost) Anywhere
Hopefully this has given you an insight into the hidden cost of surfing the web - a cost that affects us all and ultimately a cost that we can't sustain. I'm doing my but here to redress the balance, and maybe, if you're thinking of setting up a web site or even just a home page, give some consideration to the things I've discussed. Ultimately, the Web is a largely read-only medium, and personally I'd rather you come back for the quality of the writing rather than it simply looking nice. That was fun! See you later, and happy surfing!
Addendum: battery test
I'm pleased to say that following my purchase of a 3000mAh LiPo battery, the Onion has managed to run an impressive 12 hours on a single (full) charge. Initially, the system was just running idle but I then set up a script on another system that would download the home page every 3 minutes. Not bad at all, and it bodes well for a solar-powered future. The start and end values and timings are: Mon Jun 8 07:24:43 UTC 2020 Battery Voltage Level: 4.06V falling to Mon Jun 8 20:50:55 UTC 2020 Battery Voltage Level: 2.61 V (62% capacity remaining).
Battery Performance Over Time
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Last Modified Tue, 30 Nov 2021 15:35:05 GMT