NSWGR C32 class loco, flat truck and guard's van

Welcome to the Locofonic Steam Lovers Festival.

Let me share with you my love of trains; trains hauled by steam locomotives that is.

  Before we get into it, let's just talk about HTML momentarily. (HTML is the programming language that the web page is written in and tells your browser what to do and when to do it.) You may have noticed, when viewing various websites, you quite often are presented with a blank screen while you wait for some graphic or other to down load. Then, after the image is completed, the text is printed on the screen. This delay in seeing the text, if not due to a slow internet connection, is usually due to the webpage designer not using the "height & width" tags when setting up the image call. Your browser doesn't know how much space to leave for the graphic and so has to wait until the image is loaded before moving on. Using these tags will not load the images any faster but at least you can read the text while they are loading.

  Incidently, one trick I used to view my website at home, as though it was coming from the web, even though I wasn't connected to the web, was to load the appropiate website files on to a floppy and view them from there. The files load from the floppy at a rate of approx 1.3kb/s. Much more realistic than the whiz-bang speed from the harddrive.

  I'm not particularly happy with any delay in seeing the pictures. There are a few things that could be done to minimise this.

Firstly, by designing the webpage to be viewed in 640 x 480 resolution the images can be smaller and thus load faster.

Secondly, you, the viewer, could run a program like "Web Smart" or one of its cousins which will solve the problem but it does so by looking at every "link" on the current page and downloading every webpage pointed to. This clutters up your browser cache and uses up your download Megabyte limit very rapidly. It causes much more traffic on the web, worsening traffic jams and slowing web response times, a vicious circle, and is out of control of the webpage designer.

Thirdly, an interesting bit of information in the Que book on Netscape 4 could help solve the picture delay problems without running "Web Smart" and put control of the browser back into the webpage designer's hands.

  When your browser downloads an image it is displayed on the screen and simultaneously stored in the browser cache on your hard-drive. If the image is required for subsequent pages it is retrieved from the harddrive cache not the Internet. Thus it will appear on your screen much faster on second and further calls. So to solve the delay problem you just need to download the second page's images while you are reading the first page. You may have gathered by now that is exactly what's been happening while you have been reading this page. But where are the images?

  There is another quirk that the browser allows you to do. The "height & width" tags, beside reserving space on the screen for the image, allow the browser to rescale the image to whatever size you like. This means you don't have to store the image at exactly the correct size you need and you can resize it anytime to suit the page layout. Well, what about resizing the image to a height of one pixel and a width of one pixel? You could effectively hide a picture anywhere. As you may have already guessed, a number of the images for the rest of this website are, hopefully by now, downloaded, displayed on this page and stored in your hard-drive ready to go. After a sufficient number have loaded, the entry to the rest of the website will appear. The rest will preload when you move onto further pages.

  One more thing. As there are a lot of pictures on this site we should make sure your monitor is set right. To this end I have provided a test picture. See directly below.

  As you probably know, your video card converts the digitally stored picture into video drive signals for your monitor. The three electron beams in the monitor each excite one of the three coloured phosphors thus we say one beam is red, one beam is green and one is blue. Each beam is controlled by a voltage produced by the video card. This voltage is produced by a digital to analog convertor, one per colour. Usually we store one byte per dot per colour. Thus if a byte is at 255 (all ones) the beam will be full on and the screen can get no brighter. If a byte is a 0 (all zeros) the beam will be off and the screen will be black. The video signals representing the picture will float between these two limits. To correctly show the picture, the monitor must be set up so that it just gets to black, or a little beyond, when the digital signal reaches 0 and gets to a comfortable brightness when the digital signal reaches 255. This brings us to the test picture.

  It's background is at digital count 14. There is a white rectangle at digital count 255. A second smaller rectangle at digital count 225. A thin vertical stripe at digital count 28 and another at digital count 0.

A test picture to set up your monitor.

To set up your monitor, adjust the brightness so that you can see the brighter of the two narrow vertical stripes but not the darker one. Set the contrast to get the white rectangle at a comfortable brightness. You still should be able to see the greyer rectangle. If you cant, your monitor is crushing the whites and probably has an emission problem. You should still only see one narrow vertical stripe. Jockey the brightness and contrast controls in turn until you get the monitor screen correctly set up.

One final point. Due to poor backward compatability, Netscape 6 wont work as well on this website as Netscape 4. Why?

OK that's enough of that, let's get on with it.

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  This website consists of the following :-

  Please use the X in the top right corner of your browser to return to your place if you momentarily transfer to the NSWGR Steam-engine page while reading "Why I love Steam-trains".

  ©  Gary Yates   Locofonic Recordings Australia  
This page first written February 20, 2000 last updated February 2, 2009.