2011 Blogs Missing - Sorry!(October 12, 2011)
I have been so continuously busy throughout the year 2011 (basically since finishing the Alaska blogs) that I have not had time to write up several very important new topics. Sorry!
• I made a three week trip to the Big Island of Hawaii in March 2011, resulting in a complete new set of 245 panoramas documenting all parts of that fantastic island. I plan to write a full blog about this trip, with illustrations and links.
• In May 2011 I made a major change to the way the Virtual Guidebooks site works. Previously all files were sent from a single main server (DreamHost) in Southern California. But now I have moved the graphics files (thumbnails and panorama movies) to the Rackspace Cloud. They will be sent to end-users "from the cloud", specifically from various Akamai servers around the world, the choice of which ones being based on analysis of distance and traffic.
I can see that pages load much faster, and the speed increase should be more obvious the further from California the viewer is located. Also, increasing traffic will not slow the system down and huge spikes of traffic will not crash it. This is real enterprise technology, and it costs me extra, the amount depending on traffic. This year will be my test period. If the cost gets too high, I may have to go back to the old system.
• In late May 2011 I traveled to Portugal for the International Panoramic Photography Festival. This included staging two exhibits of panoramic prints, one of them, entitled Panorama Borealis, featuring photography from my trip to Alaska in 2010. It was a real thrill seeing an entire gallery devoted exclusively to my pictures, a total of 77 of them, some as large as 9 feet wide. I aso enjoyed giving an introductory talk about my trip and the exhibit.
I was the curator for another significant photography exhibit, The Masters of Contemporary Panoramic Photography, staged in the medieval church at Palmela Castle.
The Palmela conference, and especially the two exhibitions for which I was responsible, deserve a full blog of their own, which I am working on.
• When California passed a new state budget effective July 1, it required Amazon and other on-line retailers with a "presence" in California to pay sales tax. Amazon is based in Washington state, and they pay taxes on sales they make to customers located there. But now sales made to California residents will similarly be subject to California sales tax.
Unfortunately, instead of simply paying the taxes, Amazon chose to cut off all affiliates resident in California, thereby eliminating the "presence" that triggers the change. So although I could continue to run ads for Amazon, and visitors to my site could purchase the books and maps I recommend here, I was not paid any commission on those sales. But fortunately by October Amazon had cut a deal with the State of California, and my account was reinstated. But the issue is only postponed, not resolved, and this will probably come up again next year.
• In mid-September 2011, after much thought, I undertook a top to bottom revision of my website, starting with the name. The original name "Virtual Guidebooks" made sense early on, when I planned to develop detailed travel guides illustrated with VR panoramas. This would have required either a staff of researchers and writers, or a partnership with an existing travel guide publisher. Neither of those worked out, but I kept on shooting and producing the panoramas anyway. So the new name - Don Bain's 360° Panoramas - is a better fit.
• Along with the name change I have revamped the internal structure to make the urls shorter and more logical. These days most people click links to navigate, and almost never type a url, but sometimes, for example in a printed article, the url is necessary.
NOTE: January 2014 - these urls have been changed once again. I have converted the top two levels of the site (states and regions) to all-lower-case and hyphenated filenames, as an aspect of SEO (search engine optimization). The examples above are now: