There are no web pages on the internet ! (Just instructions on how to build one.)

That subject statement is true, and if you want to understand how websites work, here’s the most fundamental thing you can learn: Web pages exist like ghosts, only in your web-broswer. When you visit a website, it is not like seeing a painting  thru a window. The webpage itself does not exists in finished form on the server.

What the server does is send build instructions to your browser, just like your Ikea shelving comes with an instruction sheet o how to assemble the parts. It is your own personal copy of your web-browser that actually assembles the page for you to see.

You can see this in action on most sites by simply resizing your browser window, and watching the layout change. If you access a site on the small screen of your iPhone, it  looks entirely different than if you are using a big monitor.

 

———-  the longer version:

As you learn about websites, there’s one fundamental thing that may lift some (if any) fog.

Servers and their websites do NOT serve up finished web pages; they send -instructions- on how to build the page in each user’s web browser. ALL the assembly work to create a page for the user to view is done on each individual user’s computer, not on the server.

Web browsers are not passive; they are actual machines, which follow the HTML/PHP/CCS/JS instructions given to them, and build each page independently, according to those instructions. As you can imagine, it’s much faster to serve up instructions than it is to serve up a finished page. That speed advantage is why websites all work this way.

Each browser (Netscape, Safari, Firefox and so on) has its own engine (that’s actually what it’s called) for building pages, and each engine is slightly different from the other. The publishers think those differences are “features” but what it really means is that to use some unique “feature” you’d have to write instructions specifically for that one browser. The down side is that also results in pages that will not render correctly on other (competitor) browsers.

That’s why when you hear geeks ask “what browser are you using?” – it’s not because one is prettier than another, but because the rendering engine is different.

In fact, in the old days, before there was any standardization of the languages, we would have to do literally that: write HTML code that checked what browser was running and jumped to special code just for that browser:
if [browser == “netscape”] then set color $FF0000;
else
if [browser == “safari”] then set color ‘red’;
else
if…..

It was numbingly tedious and completely ridiculous, and yes: it was a nightmare. Eventually however a standards body was formed, and while it took over a decade, things finally homogenized (for the most part.)

Today, for maximum compatibility, WordPress uses only standards-compliant code, and when you hit “Preview” in WordPress to see your latest changes, WordPress is really just running a built-in generic browser and sending your instructions to it.

(Yes, that means it’s quite possible that what you see in Preview Mode will not exactly match what you see once the page is published (although the differences will likely be difficult to notice, fortunately.)

So: a browser isn’t looking thru a window at a page on our site; nor is the site sending a finished page back, all neatly laid out like a PDF. Instead, websites send out Ikea-like assembly sheets, and leave it to each user’s current browser to assemble the final page for viewing.

Just thought you’d like to know.

Mac spontaneously reboots

Subject says it: about a month or so ago, my Mac started randomly rebooting. Not when I did “this”… or “that”, or even when I was in the room. Everything is rosy, and BANG! it reboots.

Needless to say, I was not a happy camper. The most common reason for that would be something hardware related. A faulty USB cable; some lose cable; perhaps a hub or switch going bad. Nope.  Bad RAM?  Nope. 

So I started looking for “BOOT_TIME” in the system console log, to find the magic reboots. Finding that I copied out all the random ones, and 20 or so lines of system events before them to see if I could find something causing it. Several times the previous lines were similar or identical… but not -all- the time, so there was no -one- trigger.

 

Frustrated to the extreme because I hate not solving this kind of thing, I dug in. After all this was a contest between a complex computer and a guy with over 4 decades of computer experience. I wasn’t about to give up…

…which lead me to the Font Of All Wisdom: the internet. After search for an hour, and following a zillion dead ends, I read a post from several years ago that rang a bell.

Yes: I found the solution (or at least there have been no spontaneous reboots in 48 hours.)

About the time this started, I cancelled my full Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, and reverted to the $10 Photographer one. (I wasn’t using the other stuff, and it saves a bucket of $$$.)  On doing that I just removed the old apps, and was (I thought) good to go.

Wrong.

The solution was to go get the Adobe uninstall tool for Creative Cloud. It wipes  out all the detritus, Roto-Roots everything, and I reinstalled Photoshop and LightRoom.

Bingo.

Now, the last reboot-free period could easily be due to the phase of the moon, but I’m pretty sure that the post on the Font Of All Wisdom, was the key: he cleared a mystery issue the same way.

 

FWIW and YMMV

Email simplified

My website clients also get email addresses tossed in for free. So if the client’s company is “Acme” and their site address is “acme.com” then I can sign them up with emaill address like “ceo@acme.com” or “director@acme.com” or “jane@acme.com”.

Unlike the websites which I create and maintain and control for them, I have absolutely no control over their email. The host I use for those sites provides the email servers, and all I can do is assign addresses. In fact, other than the name, the email has no relationship at all to the site. The email is handled entirely by the host, and is not even on the same server as the website. In fact, I happen to know that their email server is literally 2000 miles away from my website server.

They run it; I do not.

How email works is rocket science, and there are  folks who make careers out of running it. It’s complex; subject to privacy laws; and spammers are attacking email system continuously. (In fact, 281.1 billion e-mails were sent and received on a daily basis, and 65% of them are spam.) This is a huge and complex enterprise.

In view of that, you can understand exactly why the people that run such systems not only forbid, but make it darned near  impossible, for anyone but themselves to mess with almost all of the parameters. 

When an email server has problems, 99.9% of the time it affects thousands if not millions of people – not just one iPhone.

Here’s an analogy that is very close to what happens with email.

You get email sent from around the world, and any time, day or night. Because it arrives 24/7, it has to be stored somewhere –  It all goes into a large “bucket” which just sits there collecting emails. Think of a bucket of water: you pour some in, and then some more, but the bucket of water just sits there. Likewise, the email bucket just sits there passively collecting emails.

Nothing happens to the water while it’s in the bucket. Nothing. BUT, if YOU grab a cup and dip into the bucket, you get back some water. Well, that “cup” is your email client on your iPhone, computer, laptop or whatever. 

When you check your email (dip in with your cup), the server/bucket sends you a list of what is IN the bucket. The bucket itself does NOT send you anything but the list; you go grab it. You click on something on that list, and a copy of it is displayed for you by your client. Unless you specifically delete the email, it is still sitting there in the bucket, ready  to send you another copy, or be read by another of your devices, like your laptop; iPhone; desktop and so on.

So, your email client is the cup. It is what grabs a copy of the mail in your bucket.

The client does the work. You can save a copy of the email to your local hard drive; you can delete an email from the bucket; you can forward the email to someone, or you can reply.

So, if you have problems getting email on one device, but not on another, then the problem is with the one device. It is not, and cannot be, a problem with the bucket, because if there were some problem on the bucket,  then ALL your devices would fail, not just one.

If you are in the circumstance that you get email on your iPhone, but not on your laptop, the something has changed on your laptop. The bucket  is still just sitting there.

Here’s what happens: the email remains in your INbox, which is the IMAP server, the bucket , until you delete it. So, that way, you can read the email on your laptop, your desktop and your iPhone. However, if your delete it on any of those devices, you have deleted it from the server. Obviously, since it’s now gone, you cannot read it on any other device.

To keep a backup (and you should!) simply make a new mailbox in your client, and drag the message into it. Now you can delete it from your INbox because you have a copy in a different mailbox.