As you may have noticed (or not), the website had a very modest makeover recently.

Originally, the site was a smattering of HTML files, along with some XML files that I was rendering as HTML using some simple XSL stylesheets. However, I was tired of having one set of files for the website to explain things and a different set of files on GitHub that explained other things – many of those things being the SAME things.

So this month, I decided to eliminate all the HTML files. As you browse the site, you’re simply navigating folders from the GitHub project and reading the project’s README.md files.

There’s a single PHP script responsible for transforming a folder’s default document (either README.md or machine.xml) to HTML, as well as displaying the current directory across the top and a directory listing down the left-hand side.

The same script provides support for a subset of the Markdown syntax, which is more than sufficient to handle all the site’s README.md files. I probably should have used a third-party Markdown library, but this was more educational, and it was easy to add extra features, like the ability to embed JavaScript machines with a single Markdown-style link; eg:

[IBM PC](/devices/pcx86/machine/5150/mda/64kb/ "PCjs:ibm5150")

The script takes care of the rest, adding the appropriate stylesheets and PCjs scripts automatically.

I had more grandiose plans, including a command-line prompt written in JavaScript that would allow you to navigate the site exactly as you would an IBM PC hard drive from a “DOS prompt”, and I may try something like that later, but don’t hold your breath.

I’ve tried to improve the organization of all the Machine Configuration Files as well. The variety of configurations was getting out of hand. It’s a bit tidier now, but there’s still room for improvement.

My workflow is improving, too. I’m more comfortable with GitHub now, and I recently switched from Eclipse to JetBrains’ WebStorm (well, actually PhpStorm, since it’s a superset of WebStorm, although I did start with WebStorm), and the new development environment is feeling pretty good now. I’ve had zero problems with JetBrains products and I’m seriously impressed with their quality and completeness, so I have no qualms about moving from the “free” Eclipse platform to the $99 PhpStorm IDE.

The nice thing about the new GitHub-centric approach is that it’s easy to “push” changes to both the repository and the website. I update one or more README.md files, “Commit and Push” from the IDE, then “pull” from GitHub on the web server.

This so-called blog is more of the same: README.md files in a series of folders. The only question now: will this actually evolve into a series…?

@jeffpar
November 20, 2013