Website Overhaul, Beta Testing

As you may have noticed if you came here from the main site the main site just completely changed. Instead of many sub-pages, most of them relatively unused, the site is now one giant infinite-canvas crawl with links to the various simulators and educational games I make. This will display better on mobile devices, but it also signals the removal of a giant barricade to keeping the site updated: Django.

I don’t want to bash Django here. It’s a great framework. When I started this site I was using database-heavy applications, things that let me pull out my phone and drop data into a database on my own site. Django is great for that. These days I’m using exactly none of these, and the site is just a giant link farm to a bunch of javascript programs. The problem with this is that Django has a (really incredible) extensible template model that uses a {%static %} tag to allow the server to fill in the location of the static files on a server. Note that javascript programs are just piles of static files from Django’s viewpoint. And so every time I move from my development branch of a program to loading it on to the site I need to change every single resource link to include this {% static %} tag. Something like “images/shark.png” has to become “{% static ‘basesite/shark.png’ %}”. The upshot? I don’t keep the site updated very well. It’s just too much of a pain.

However, there’s a simple framework for serving up a giant link farm with images: the plain old HTML file. So that’s what the site is now. (I mean, there’s a CSS stylesheet, too. I’m not a beast.)

More importantly, this has also motivated me to update the site. The most important update is Beta Testing. It’s got a nice logo, because who doesn’t like a fish pun?

Image created by Eric Butler. CC-BY-4.0.

I’m always working on something (or several somethings) and some of these things are usable, if undocumented and slightly kludgy. But if you’ve used open source projects before that will be familiar, anyway1. Now these are available for you to play with under a clearly-labeled section!

Right now two projects inhabit this space (this will change, since projects eventually move on to…um…gamma testing? production?): OPE Survivor and the Circulation Model. I suspect most people can work the circulation model without help, but OPE Survivor may be harder. Essentially (I’m NOT documenting it fully here!) you can edit either the environment or the species (by changing how it allocates energy across growth) to help your species survive. The amount of energy to spend on an offspring and how much to spend on reproduction versus growth at different sizes are the key parameters to change, and ones that should be familiar to anyone who’s taken ecology classes. Figuring out the size-based energy allocation (and the secret rules, where small animals can’t store as much energy) is the most difficult part.

  1. Only sort of kidding, despite my love of open source

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