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23 February 2024

I’ve moved this Web site (and its sibling, Ted Marcus Music) to a new hosting company, which provides the hardware, software, and Internet connection that puts it online. I wrote a new Commentary article to inform and assist others who might be looking for a new or better host for their Web sites, and to guide them through the jungle of shopping for Web hosting.

As the article discusses, this site had been hosted at HostGator for nearly 17 years. I moved it there in 2006, after Endurance International Group (EIG) bought PowWeb, where I had hosted the site since 2001. The difficulties this buyout caused convinced me to move. I found the process of shopping for hosting rather like hacking my way through a jungle of confusion. I chose HostGator because it was then a respected company, owned and operated by its founder.

EIG bought HostGator in 2012. While I wasn’t happy about that, the site worked well enough that I didn’t feel compelled to re-enter the jungle of shopping for a new hosting company. At the end of 2021, a private equity company bought EIG, merged it with another large hosting company also owned by private equity, and renamed the combined operation Newfold Digital. (The article details the reasons for avoiding any Newfold Digital hosting.) Soon after the merger, HostGator’s reliability deteriorated. I spent too much time with their overworked technical support agents in India and the Philippines, and even more time waiting to reach them via live chat or phone. The situation eventually stabilized.

The hosting I had paid for in 2021 was due to expire in July. I discovered that HostGator had not only significantly raised its renewal pricing, but had not informed anyone in advance. Continuing with HostGator would have cost me at least 50% more than I paid in 2021. Some customers got surprise increases of as much as 70%. I suppose the private equity partners decided their hosting customers needed to contribute more to help pay for the merger.

I started looking for new hosting Last month. Mostly thanks to Web Hosting Talk, a forum site that was also very helpful during my 2006 jungle expedition, I found MDDHosting and moved my Web sites there last week. Their Web site promises “Spectacular support” as one of their “Hosting Features.” That seems to be truthful advertising.

After they migrated my account from HostGator, the company’s owner himself responded almost immediately to my ticket reporting a problem that turned out to be related to the way I had configured this 25-year-old Web site. He then delved into my site’s files and recommended other changes to my server configuration file that fixed the problem. When I mentioned that I would need to change 27 files, he offered to make the changes for me; and soon thereafter another employee sent me a list of the files that needed to change. This is a level of support above and beyond anything I’ve ever seen, certainly light years beyond the overwhelmed offshore support I got from HostGator! It’s too soon to say whether I can recommend MDDHosting, but what I’ve experienced so far augurs well.

1 December 2023

I’ve made new and improved versions of two pictures on the Europe Through the Front Door gallery: Stonehenge Megalith and Highlands Railway Bridge. The latter is such a substantial improvement that I’ve added it to the descriptive collection of images I’ve reworked as my digital tools and techniques improved over the years. I’ve also added a “new” picture of a Loch and Cloud-Crowned Hill in the Scottish Highlands, taken in 1975.

I’ve also updated Some Pocket Instamatic and 126 Resources.

23 October 2023

I’ve added two new pictures to the Halloween Haunts collection: A skeleton enjoying a holiday vacation and a nightmare skeleton clown. I’ve also updated and reorganized Some Pocket Instamatic and 126 Resources.

25 July 2023

I’ve added five “new” pictures, all from my collection of slides I took in France and Germany in 1976. I added a picture of the brickwork of the Pont du Gard to the Travel Photo Essay on Nîmes in Provence, France. I added the other four pictures to the Europe Through the Front Door page: A detail of an elaborately carved portal of Strasbourg Cathedral, a quaint plaza in Wissembourg, a “travel brochure” shot of the scenic Moselle River Valley in Germany, and a view of some vineyards along the Moselle.

These pictures were all Kodachrome 64 slides that I took with a Pocket Instamatic 60 camera. The Pocket Instamatic and its 16mm 110 film were popular in the 1970s, and considered a less-than-adequate snapshot format because the Kodacolor negative film most people used with those cameras was suitable only for small prints. But a high-end camera with a sharp lens like the Pocket Instamatic 60 could record surprising detail on Kodachrome slide film. Kodak discontinued Kodachrome film in 2009.

The other advantage of Kodachrome was its stability. Properly stored, Kodachrome will retain its full color for decades if not centuries. Other color films and especially prints from the 1970s are very likely to have faded significantly (though the stability of newer color films has greatly improved). My slides, stored in boxed Pocket Carousel slide trays that aren’t exposed to light, look just as good as when they were processed 47 years ago.

I can only wonder whether digital images taken today will still be viewable in 47 years. Digital images don’t fade the way film and prints do. But the physical media on which they’re stored may deteriorate (CD and DVD) or fail (hard drives). Or the physical media may become extinct, with the hardware necessary to read it no longer available (floppy disk, Bernoulli Box, Zip drive). Or the file format may become extinct, with no available software that can read it (Photo CD or camera raw files). If you want future generations to view your digital images, you’ll need to periodically recopy them to new, current storage. And if they aren’t JPEG or TIFF files— probably the most “archival” simply because there are so many images in those formats— you’ll need to convert them.

27 May 2023

After nearly 41 years, I finally identified the location where I took the picture of the Hana Highway that opens the Maui Scenic Highways Travel Photo Essay. Besides updating the caption of that picture, I took the opportunity to update Some Pocket Instamatic and 126 Resources (the Hana Highway picture was one of the last pictures I took with my Pocket Instamatic 60 and Kodachrome slide film) and my Bestiary of File Formats.

18 April 2023

Today is Ted Marcus’ Virtual Light Table’s 24th anniversary. If you’re inclined to celebrate this admittedly un-momentous occasion, you might explore the Web site with the site map or the index of pictures, or see how my digital technique has improved over the years.

While transferring files to a new computer, I discovered a picture I took in Grand Teton National Park. I had scanned the negative in 2011 when I overhauled that Travel Photo Essay, but somehow forgot about it. The “raw” TIFF image file from the scanner had been quietly sitting in a folder for 13 years. I don’t know why I abandoned this scan, as a bit of cropping was all it took to make it a rather nice picture. I finished processing it and added Grand Teton Autumn to the Travel Photo Essay page.

I’ve also made improved versions of two pictures I took 40 years ago at the Butchart Gardens in Victoria, British Columbia: “Garden Path #1” and “Garden Path #2.” The first one has long been a particular favorite of mine. I’ve had various optical prints and digital versions of it over the years, but I never was able to get the color and cropping quite right until now.

The large versions of all three of these “new” pictures are in the WebP format. WebP seems most likely to finally supplant the three-decade-old JPEG file format. It’s enough of an improvement over JPEG that I’ve decided to use it for the “large” versions of all new pictures on this Web site from now on. (The smaller thumbnail versions on the Travel Photo Essay, Scenery, and Fine Art pages will remain in JPEG.) Now that every current browser supports it, and it’s estimated that at least 97% of all desktop and mobile computer users can view it, there’s no longer any reason not to use WebP. I have accordingly updated my Bestiary of File Formats to reflect this change, and to update the status of the competitors to WebP.

I have also updated Some Pocket Instamatic and 126 Resources to discuss a new reloadable 126 cartridge. I’ve also updated my review of Take Command, a superior command line interpreter for Windows that I’ve used in various versions since 1990.

Archives of Older Entries

Ted Marcus’ Virtual Light Table made its Web debut on 18 April 1999.