Sunday, June 15, 2008

So what changed?

For those of you night owls out there, you probably saw my "there's an update in progress" message plastered on Atlas Quest for the last 1 1/2 hours or so and are itching to find out what all has changed.

You can look long and hard for changes, but you won't come up with much. A handful of minor bug fixes. I tweaked some CSS stuff (if you had set the emotion buttons to be hidden from your own CSS page, you'll need to update that. Just set display to none for anything with the class name "emotions".)

This particular update wasn't about implementing new features, though--it was about creating a base to work off of for other bigger and better things. I've decided to start using a technology referred to as Ajax for some stuff, and in particular use a JavaScript code base known as Prototype. Basically, it's a little library of helpful stuff that I can use to build really cool stuff in the future.

First thing's first, however, and I needed to update the existing JavaScript on Atlas Quest to start depending on Prototype, and that's the big change. It's almost all under the hood, however. It's a big change, but not a visible one.

The one tweak where you can see Prototype in action and the slick stuff it can do--those emotion buttons on the message boards. If you click on one of them, instead of doing a complete page refresh like AQ used to do, it now submits your vote "behind the scenes" and updates the page without a full-page reload. It's very slick, and very cool. (And the reason I tweaked some of the CSS code that was used to hide such buttons.)

I worked on that feature most of the day yesterday. Not much to look at, eh? =) I've spent the last several days working on getting Prototype integrated throughout AQ, and nearly a full day working on those silly little buttons so it didn't cause a full-page refresh.

I'm still learning Prototype and all of its amazing powers, so you'll likely notice other minor changes like those buttons in the near future. I have a number of ideas about how I can use Prototype to make existing features a little bit slicker, a little bit more convenient. It shouldn't require my taking down Atlas Quest for hours to upload such changes anymore now that the base has been laid down.

Prototype, I might add, does not support all browsers, so I'll try to be careful to make sure no essential features depend on it. The oldest browsers it'll worth with are: Firefox 2.0, IE 6, Safari 2.0, Opera 9.25--so if you're using something older than those, you'll probably want to upgrade for the full effect. I figure that's less than 1% of the people on AQ, however, perhaps significantly less.

I tested the changes on Firefox, IE 6 and 7, Safari, and Netscape and all worked well. I wasn't able to test with Opera since I was running version 9.0 on one machine and version 7.x on this machine. I'll need to download a more recent version to test with, but in theory, it should still work fine as long as you have at least version 9.25.

There weren't any notes about what versions of Netscape are supported, but it did work correctly in my fairly old version. *shrug* No promises with that browser, but newer versions definitely do seem to work. =)

Dial-up folks will likely notice that the first page they access on Atlas Quest may take a few seconds longer to download than before. That Prototype file is about 120K in size, but your browser should cache it and subsequent pages should continue loading as quickly as before. That first page, though, you'll definitely notice a slight decrease in download times. Most broadband folks probably will be hard pressed to notice an extra lag.

So that's what's going on. =) Sorry the site was down for as long as it was tonight--I ran into unexpected difficulties with my FTP client and had some trouble getting the changes uploaded. I'm not expecting this update to cause lots of stuff to break like the last update, but it is possible a few things broke along the way. Just let me know if you discover any and I'll fix it up as quickly as possible.

*yawn* Time for me to get some shut eye now. Happy trails!

-- Ryan

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

With so many long hours, late nights and changes, I'm beginning to wonder when you actually have time to go letterboxing...