Daily Archives: May 3, 2013

The Blog ‘Banner Art’ Post

One of the reasons I chose the current template for the blog way back in 2006 was that it had a nice little area at the top where you could put your own graphic as a banner.

And so I took to this idea and have, over the last 6+ years, created any number of graphics to fit into that banner space.  Some I have been quite happy with.  If you have visited here very often, you have probably seen the EverQuest chessboard banner which I put up when I am feeling nostalgic.  Others have been less pleasing.

But one of the challenges of creating a banner is the size.  To fit in that space at the top of the blog, the graphic has to be 730 pixels by 140 pixels in size.

Size Sample

Size Sample

When I picked the template, I did not give the size much thought.  Later, when I was trying to make banners, I began to realize what such mail slot-like dimensions really meant.  Basically, any banner graphic is very heavy on horizontal relative to vertical, with the ratio being more than 5 to 1 in favor of the left-right bias.  That is a wider ratio than Cinerama.

So I have to find pictures or screen shots where what I want to capture is in a very narrow vertical zone, but spread out on the horizontal plane.  So I have, over time, developed a sense of what pictures might work and which will not.  There are a lot of screen shots where I have to shake my head and move on because the vertical element required to get across the message or feeling I want is too much.

And if the aspect ratio were not enough, the template itself works against me.  I have to take into account that there are two tabs that stick up into the banner at the bottom left.  So I cannot let anything key to the image get covered by that.

And then there is the name of the blog itself, which the template superimposes over the image.  I don’t want anything key being covered by that.  Plus, I need to make sure that the banner contrasts enough with the blog name so that it can be read.  I do have the option of turning the blog name off, in which case I can lay it out myself on the banner image.  I have done that a few times, but I do not make a habit of it.

I also have to maintain the banner images manually.

Today, with many of the new templates, you can upload banners, crop and edit them, and even setup a list of banners from which the template will draw at random.  However, way back when I started, WordPress.com templates required you to provide a URL to the banner.  No storage, no editing, and no randomizing.  And while they have updated some of the templates, the one I use (Regulus) is still pretty much stuck in 2006.

All of which has left me with a collection 730 by 140 images saved away in various directories of my hard drive.  I have tried to collect them all together in one post.  If you are interested to see what I have created over the last few years (or what a few other people created as part of a contest at one point), all the ones I could find are after the cut.

There are about 90 in the gallery at this point, but I keep finding more.  And I know there are still more store away somewhere.  I used to put them up on Image Shack, but I cannot find many.  I did not adopt the convention of putting “banner” in the image name until I was well into making them.   So I suspect the list will grow over time.

Banner mania after the cut.

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The First Computer Game I Ever Played

Not an arcade video game.  I think I played Pong first.

But an actual, sit down at the terminal, computer game.

It was Star Trek.

A friend’s dad had to go into the office one weekend and brought us along to show us the game that somebody had put on the accounting computer.  He left us to poke at it while he went off and did his work.  A clear waste of government resources back in an age when most people didn’t really know what a video game was, outside of Pong and Tank, and where the idea of a computer game probably would not have occurred to them.

It was a very simple game.  You were tasked to clear out the galaxy of hostile elements with a limited set of resources.

Star Trek in vt52

Star Trek in vt52

It was a pivotal moment in my life.  We were entranced.

I am sure the fact that it was called Star Trek, and represented the Enterprise fighting Klingons helped.  Star Trek was a big deal at the time, which was at least a year before Star Wars.  Maybe two.  It also pre-dated my Atari 2600.

We had such a good time with the game that my friend and I ended up creating a board game version of it so we could play at home.  We were engrossed.  It was the first in a series of games we created by piecing together the mechanics we discovered from other games.  Our home version got more complex over time.

It also got us to go out with horded allowance money to buy games like Star Fleet Battles as time went on, both to play them and to see how they dealt with spaceship combat.  There was even a foray in to naval miniatures rules and the like.  It was a heady time.

Anyway, I bring this up because over at The Register, the have a short piece up about the history of the original Star Trek game as part of the Antique Code Show series.