AFA on the Web

By Malcolm Gibb

Well not quite yet, but very soon I hope. (The fact that you are reading this on the Internet means that AFA is now on the Web)I've been working on the site, of and on, for a couple of months now and it's at the refining stage before we register and buy our name then open up on the World Wide Web. A little piece of useless information about the www, it's easier and quicker to say the full phrase 'world wide web' than it is to say the acronym, www, try it! Almost since the clubs inception, the committee had decided we should have a presence on the Internet and I decided to take on the task of constructing a web site for AFA after completing the Open University course 'T171: You, Your Computer and the Net' last year. Unfortunately, it is not a course I could recommend if you simply want to learn how to construct web sites, about 75% of the course is devoted to the history of the Internet. Everything is done via the Internet, downloading the course material, sending in the assignments, and contacting your tutor and other students. Web sites are built, some in cooperation with the other students, each assignment is sent in as a website and your marks are returned via the Internet. I passed the course, but I would much rather it had been more like previous courses where there were face to face tutorials and the group would retire to the pub afterwards. Even better are the courses with summer schools, but that's another story!

I've used Microsoft FrontPage 2000 as the authoring software for this. There are two ways in which you can construct a web site; one is to use HTML code (HyperText Mark-up Language) to set out the pages, the other is to use web authoring software which inserts the codes for you. As an example, the following are the codes for the background, the two saltires and the words 'Association of Falkirk Astronomers'

<body background="../../WINDOWS/Desktop/AFA%20Files/AFA_WEB/marble3.gif">
<p align="center"><span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-ansi-language:EN-GB;mso-fareast-language:
EN-US;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA"><img border="0" src="../My%20Pictures/saltire.gif" width="80" height="60"></span ><font color="#800080"> ;<font face="Algerian" size="7"><a name="A">A</a></font><font face="Algerian" size="6">ssociation
of </font><font face="Algerian" size="7">F</font><font face="Algerian" size="6">alkirk
</font><font face="Algerian" size="7">A</font><font face="Algerian" size="6">stronomers</font> </font><span style="font-size:12.0pt;font-family:"Times New Roman";
mso-fareast-font-family:"Times New Roman";mso-ansi-language:EN-GB;mso-fareast-language:
EN-US;mso-bidi-language:AR-SA"><img border="0" src="../My%20Pictures/saltire.gif" width="80" height="60"></span></p>

It's much easier to copy and paste the saltires, type the heading and insert the background with FrontPage 2000, believe me!

But enough of the mechanics, how about the content? I decided that rather than have just one page where you scrolled down or clicked on links to take you to a particular part of that page I would have different pages for most of the headings. That way I could design each page differently, grey marble background for the home page, a twinkling star background for the Links page, a library shelf background for the Newsletter page and so on, but of course it may not finish up that way. (It didn't)

The Home page as it suggests, is the opening screen, from here you access all other pages through hyperlinks, which simply means that when the cursor is moved over, say, the Newsletter icon it turns to a pointing hand and a left click on the mouse and you are taken to the Newsletter page. On each page there are links to the other pages and always a link to take you back to the home page and of course the browser Back and Forward buttons are also available. Also on the home page are the AFA symbol, the 1999 eclipse of the Sun photographed by Russell Cockman and an animated, send us an e-mail icon. I managed to get an e-mail address which incorporates our name,

'About AFA' speaks for itself, it is more or less the same as the entry in the Society Spotlight of Astronomy Now, but brought up to date and has a link to a map and guide to getting to our meeting place. 'Observing' is a page with sub-headings which has articles on various types of observing, types of telescopes and astrophotography.

The 'Newsletter' page contains articles, which have appeared in Ad Astra and are indexed with the volume and issue in which they appeared. The editorial and information, which is only relevant for that particular issue, have not been included. I have included the e-mail address and telephone contact numbers so that anyone who wishes to find out more information about AFA can do so. There is also a link to the map site. The icons used for links to the other pages are cartoon telescopes, the index link is a twisting arrow and the back to top icons at the end of each article are cartoon shuttles. What I have had to change were some of the gimmicks, including the music 'Aquarius' which played every time you opened a page, it became really irritating after the first couple of times.

'This Month' is going to be a The Sky this Month, type of page with sub headings of Events, Planets, Moon, Stargazing, and Topic of the Month. At present it is almost empty, as by it's very nature it is a dynamic page that will change every month. The 'Links' page is one that every astronomy site seems to have; it is a collection of links to other sites. As an example I have included Russell's Astronomy Site, the Scottish Astronomers Group (SAG), Heavens Above, Renfrewshire Astronomical Society and the BBC On Line, The Sky at Night, to name a few.

Other pages will be added as and when they are suggested and meet with the approval of the committee, so come on all you budding authors, get the creative minds into gear, give me words, pictures, ideas. Ad Astra is looking for material also, remember the web site is not taking the place of the newsletter and all contributions to it are welcome.