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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Comcast PWP is Dead, Long Live VinsWorld.com

With Comcast discontinuing the Personal Web Page (PWP) service as of this October, I needed an alternative to host VinsWorld.com.

From https://publish.comcast.net/splash/, which soon may no longer return a page or even resolve:

Please Note:

Effective October 8, 2015, the Personal Web Page service (feature of XFINITY Internet) will no longer be available. Please retrieve all content currently saved on your site before October 8, 2015 to avoid permanently losing your files and information.

Customers who have activated this feature, please check your email for a special offer.

I really only used Comcast PWP to host a frame-based menu page for VinsWorld.com with real content filling the main frame from my Blogger and Tumblr weblogs. I did have a ton of pages in the "Travel" section, which I haven't updated in years, so no worries on losing that. I was concerned about some image collateral, my Software and Web 3D pages. I knew Blogger and Tumblr offered custom pages, but never really investigated - "if it's not broke, don't fix it" - but this was the right time to move away from Comcast and try something new.

The first issue was where to host the few required graphics that display on my site - buttons, icons and a few images. Google Sites to the rescue. I used this service once to create a resource site for a job fair I presented at. For this go around, I just created a new site, set the main page template as a "File Cabinet" and uploaded the collateral. Some quick re-HTML-coding on my weblogs pointed to the new images and everything was running fine.

Next, I needed a replacement for the frame-based site menu that used to display on the left of the page. I dropped the graphics and Javascript-expanding-menus and made a simple text based ribbon across the top of the site under the main graphic. I put the simple HTML code into my Blogger and Tumblr site templates and adjusted the links as necessary.

My Software page contained links and direct downloads to some Perl and Windows software I wrote. Realizing that some of this should be hosted on GitHub, I took the opportunity to create some repositories, move the source code and update my Software page links from direct download to the GitHub repositories. For the Windows software which just comes as .EXE in a ZIP file (no source code), I put the ZIP files on the Google Sites file cabinet I created and adjusted those links. Finally, I published the main content of the original Software page in a Blogger custom page. My new Software (new page) page was up and running.

The bigger issue was my Web 3D page. I put a ton of time into learning VRML and wasn't about to scrap all that work. Of course, hosting .WRL files from Blogger and / or Tumblr wasn't possible so I needed a new solution.

I experimented with the HTML <embed> tag and the results were promising. Unfortunately, I'd need a page for each VRML world I had and I wasn't sure of the custom page count limitation on Blogger / Tumblr. I settled on Tumblr since creating custom pages was more liberal than the Blogger approach. With Tumblr, I could literally craft the entire page's HTML. And with some crafty Javascript, I could use one page - "VRML Launcher" - and pass the .WRL file as an argument. In the main body of the HTML, I 'onload' the script and create the <embed> object with a dummy URL that will get overwritten with the passed argument. Lastly, I re-created the Web 3D (new page) page

All done? Just about, just re-point my DNS away from Comcast PWP to the new "main" site page and I was up and running again.

Finally, what about the old "quick" links? Things like "/resume", "/software" and "/vrml"? Again, some creative Javascript in my main Tumblr template provided some redirects to keep those working.

Hope you enjoy the new look!

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