EAS Site History
Since I launched the site in January 1998, Ex Astris Scientia has not only grown to ten thousand times its original size, but has also undergone a number of technical and stylistic changes. Here is a brief history of the site's design and other important milestones. For a much more detailed story, please refer to the inversely chronological update list.
EAS goes online on the university server on January 21st. Unlike it was with many other renowned websites, I didn't prepare EAS for many months prior to taking it online - I never had much patience and I need to see results soon whenever I'm working something out. So instead of trying to develop the perfect look, I more or less spontaneously take what I already have and upload it. And what I have isn't really much. The first version of EAS consists of pictures of six of my starship designs, a review of the Enterprise-E model (which I have just finished building), an outline of my later time travel analysis, a short list of inconsistencies (not yet including the Klingon foreheads) and a few jokes.
At that time I don't even bother finding a unique title for the site, but I just grab some illustration graphics from the web (actually from the official Star Trek site). Thus the initial heading simply reads "Star Trek" with a sub-heading "by Bernd Schneider". See the reconstruction of the ancient site.
In July 1998 I christen my site "Ex Astris Scientia" (EAS), a purposely intricate and "intellectual" name in contrast to the many "starbases" and "starships" in the internet. There are also some slight changes to the color scheme, since I find that the previous style with mainly black, gray and white looks boring.
In the same month I take the first step to creating one of the site's main features, the Starship Database, beginning with a list of all Starfleet ship classes. The layout is essentially the same that the database still has today. Later that month, I post a first version of my time travel theories.
Knowing better how to work with tables and graphics, I make some improvements to the layout, especially of the homepage, in October 1998. Still, the graphics look rather pale and little professional.
I compile the Treknology Encyclopedia, a fairly complete database of the most important technologies seen in Star Trek.
We visit the Star Trek World Tour in Düsseldorf and post a humorous report on this exhibition.
When I compile the first site map, EAS consists of 70 HTML pages (2012: about 1100).
With help from the people at the later Flare Forums, I reconstruct the look of the Cheyenne class, the start of a big series of similar starship-related articles. I also begin to scan and post pictures of starships from the Official Star Trek Fact Files, a publication available only outside North America that depicts many canon designs for the first time. This lays the foundation for the Starship Gallery (and it explains why the file and directory is still named "scans" today).
The color scheme is modified once again in June 1999, when I replace the obtrusive plain yellow (RGB 255,255,0) with dark yellow (RGB 255,208,0) and switch the tables to two shades of pale turquoise, the same colors they still have today. The most obvious modification is the introduction of the EAS arrowhead/star logo.
The TOS episode guide goes online. Also in this very busy month, I open the first EAS spin-off site, the Advanced Starship Design Bureau (ASDB), a group project committed to creating designs for the unseen canon vessels of Starfleet.
The Starfleet Museum is launched as another sister site for the pre-TOS starship designs of Masao Okazaki.
Since the copyright owner doesn't approve of web use of their images, I remove the little character icons on my homepage in November 1999 although I like them a lot. I replace them with the section graphics, similar to those which are on the site today. I include these graphics to the headers of the sub-sections too.
After working on it literally day and night for a couple of weeks, my extensive Voyager episode guide and review is completed up to season 5.
After several weeks of trying and testing, a new homepage layout is uploaded in February 2000, again with the links broken down in eight sections. Whilst the graphics will be frequently improved in the following, the layout remains exactly the same for no less than six years, and is similar still today.
Also in February 2000, EAS presents the first results of our famous Wolf 359 Project, identifying and reconstructing the destroyed ships that were visible in TNG: "The Best of Both Worlds".
I post the first draft of The Physics and Technology of Warp Propulsion, the article series that is still not finished today.
April Fool's Day! Although my prank is rather crude, I receive several mails from fans who believe that the Defiant was present at Wolf 359. Also in April 2000: launch of the predecessor of the Subspace Comms Network, then still hosted with a free provider.
A big day for my websites: On July 11th they move from the university server to my own domains ex-astris-scientia.org, trekships.org and starfleet-museum.org. I already reserve a fourth international domain, treknology.org that I will later use for the JoAT (in May 2002).
First posting of my Timeline of the Star Trek Universe, a fairly complete list of all events from the Big Bang to the 31st century.
The Enterprise is the Akira! In the wake of this so far biggest shock in my Trek life, I compile a malicious comment (that I tone down later) in which I coin the derogatory word "Akiraprise" for the design.
I begin posting Enterprise reviews, each typically one or two weeks after the episode has aired.
EAS is going down because my webspace provider Strato terminates the contract with fabricated assertions against me. The website traffic at this time (the actual reason for Strato to get rid of me) is 50 megabytes per month. I find a temporary new home for the site thanks to generous help from Jak Crow of Werewolves.org who allows me to use his server.
The Journal of Applied Treknology (JoAT), a new EAS spin-off, presents innovative ship design by fans.
The Journal of Applied Treknology gains widespread recognition when it is featured as Pick of the Day at Yahoo and as Hot Site at USA Today.
In September 2002 EAS moves to the server maintained by Tony Taylor who hosts the site -meanwhile with significant technical enhancements- still today. The first script I install on the server is the Add-Your-Link feature, followed by the search engine.
I install a Poll and a feedback script on the EAS server.
My announcement to suspend site updates because of the Iraq War entails a fierce debate in the EAS Guestbook.
As my off-site guestbook has become a chatroom, I create a new one on the EAS server solely for site feedback.
The article about Kazon Ship Sizes is the first one in a long line that can be enhanced thanks to Jörg Hillebrand's screen caps and observations. The Starship Articles and the Investigations section benefit greatly from his work.
I post a Con report of this year's Galileo 7 convention with Patrick Stewart.
The text color at EAS is switched from white to light gray, and the episode reviews are in normal text now, to improve legibility.
As several gigabytes of the EAS transfer volume are wasted due to illicit hotlinks (image posts that are not recognizable as coming from the EAS server), I enforce a global hotlink protection through Apache .htaccess. Only the SCN and Flare Forums are entitled to hotlink to images at EAS.
Later this month, the new submission form for the JoAT is operative. It was a colossal programming effort (especially since I had no idea of PHP before taking on the task), but it will save a lot of dull archiving and editing work in the future.
When I notice that the spam rate is in excess of 90%, with drug and sex crap posted several times a day despite all my efforts of censoring, I protect the hopelessly spam-infested EAS Guestbook with a password.
EAS features a Con report of this year's Galileo 7 convention with Jonathan Frakes.
Canon Fodder is a new site in the EAS family, a place for theories that fix continuity issues or tie up loose ends in canon Star Trek.
All good things must come to an end. The old site design has become a bit boring, the navigation from sub-pages has been reported to me as being too complicated, and the concept of navigation headers and footers in each HTML page's code obstructs future updates and enhancements. This is why I create version 2.0, taking advantage of SSI (server side includes) to have standardized headers that can be easily changed and of CSS (cascaded style sheets) for a limited but probably growing range of functions. The main objective is to create a modern layout with more navigation aids, but without inflating the code and without changing the traditional site structure too much. Also, the code for the actual content of each page (everything between the new header and footer) is to remain the same for the time being.
The site redesign may not look like a lot of work, but it required several time-consuming steps, beginning with many files that were moved to gather them in directories with the same theme (preferably belonging to the same of the eight sections). The next step was creating a parametrizable header and a footer for all pages, for which nearly 500 HTML documents and six scripts were hand-edited to insert the SSI code. The whole site was then re-uploaded step by step, in an order that would cause the fewest dead links at a time. Finally, it took me weeks of tweaking because not everywhere the layout looked quite as expected (it is possible for me to see the SSI headers as late as the page is already online). And there were annoying problems with the new CSS formats, because previously consistently bold links were sometimes bold and sometimes not (depending on where the classic HTML <b> tag was located relative to the <a> link). This is a consequence of the not yet complete transition to CSS which will have to wait until I have a software with thorough CSS support.
Considering the trends in web design as of 2006 (tiny font sizes, fixed screen size layout, narrow columns), the redesign of EAS still seems to be somewhat old-fashioned. And concerning the legibility of the text at still larger screen resolutions to come, it may not be kept as it is for a long time (although many other, more "modern" sites will hit the wall sooner). However, I have no intention to revise the basic layout again any time soon. Well, unless I find a method to automate the conversion to a more flexible page format, maybe even with two columns.
The Fan Fiction gets a complete overhaul and most importantly a distinctive look (using CSS and SSI).
The EAS site statistics register the visitor No. 10,000,000.
I have been unnecessarily reluctant so far, but due to popular request I set up an RSS-based feed.
The previously somewhat cluttered Treknology Encyclopedia receives a major overhaul and is extended to over 600 entries.
EAS celebrates its 10th anniversary. Also, I finally begin to review DS9 episodes.
The first image of the redesigned Enterprise and the theatrical trailer are released, followed by a series of comments and other necessary updates at EAS.
My article Star Trek (2009): Reboot or Multiverse? stirs up a controversy in the fan community about how to assess the events in the upcoming movie.
Shatner to Play Captain April in Upcoming Movie! I hardly ever had so much fun with my work than while preparing this April Fool's prank.
The new movie "Star Trek (2009)" hits the theaters, and this leads to an all-time high in the visitor numbers of EAS, the top day being May 11th with 14067 visits! This is almost three times as many as on normal days over the past four years with generally decreasing figures.
In the wake of the new movie, I post a critical review, a list of inconsistencies and a comment on the alleged 725m long Enterprise behemoth among the first updates. But I underestimate the fervor of certain fans who promptly accuse me of picking a great movie apart and of ignoring their allegedly perfect conjectural explanations. These people do not (want to) acknowledge that my treatment of "Star Trek (2009)" facts is in no way different than of previous Trek installments.
After ten years of uninterrupted succession, the EAE Award is not given out on a monthly basis any longer. The reason is that too few Trek sites are left that would truly deserve this award with its long list of distinguished winners.
March 15, 2010 is the second worst day in the history of EAS as the site is attacked and infected with malware. The attacker is located at IP 18.104.22.168 and has obviously cracked my FTP account. I find and eliminate the evil code very fast and change all passwords, but EAS remains blacklisted as an "attack site" for some time. Most likely it is just a random attack with automated tools from a hijacked server, rather than a deliberate attempt to harm EAS. Still I need to work hard to restore the reputation of my site. Unfortunately the scumbag who hacked my site will remain unscathed, just as 99.99% of all internet criminals. There is something fundamentally wrong with a system in which big companies call the public prosecutor to hunt down teens who share a few songs, while next to nothing happens against real criminals who cause damage and grief on a large scale.
The TOS episode reviews have been greatly extended and supplemented with new information about TOS-R.
EAS has to move to a new server. The transfer of the files and the domain transfer to the new IP works flawlessly, and there is no downtime. However, this is just the beginning of endless problems with scripts. It seems that for each resolved bug there are two new ones.
EAS is on Google+ Pages now.
Together with Jörg Hillebrand I compile an article about Observations in TNG: "Encounter at Farpoint", including a comparison of the old TV version and the new HD version on Blu-ray. This is just the beginning of a huge article series on all TNG episodes, with HD screen caps provided by our friends at TrekCore.
Opening of the Observations section for our visual comparison series (TNG vs. TNG-R), and for information on the TNG Blu-ray release.
EAS celebrates its 15th birthday on January 21st.
EAS has to move to a new server again. While I can quickly make sure that everything on the server itself works again, I don't notice that any forms that are sent out from the server get rejected by my e-mail provider GMX, without any notice, although the server is not blacklisted, and even with all spam filters disabled! So I have to apologize to all the people who used the contact form and whose messages I never received due to the inexcusable overzealous conduct of my e-mail provider.
Since it would take many hundred hours of slave labor to convert the whole site to HTML 5 and CSS (for which there is no automated tool), I can only take very small steps to make the site design ready for the future and create version 3.0. One of the more urgent issues is that monitor resolutions keep growing, and lead to extremely long lines of text. I could do the same as many other websites and limit the width to some 800 or 1000 pixels. But I don't want to waste so much of the screen, and so I come up with a solution to make the body width change with the screen resolution. This doesn't work with Internet Explorer 8 though, just like some other things that I didn't even try to implement. Unfortunately I am forced to render my site in "quirks mode" (because it relies on alleged "display errors", meaning standards that existed in the late 1990s), and there is currently no way for me to flip the switch to HTML 5 that would allow more layout changes, and changes that work with IE too.
Anyway, while I am at it, I also redesign the main index page. I include a PHP script that generates a link to a random article, and illustrates it with a thumbnail from that article. Also, the main index now has an adaptable width as all other layouts on EAS too, defying the trend of putting everything in boxes with fixed sizes as pure-style CSS requires them. Even though it may not look equally pretty with all screen resolutions and in all browsers, the new main index layout remains true to the concept of EAS to put content and usability above design and effects.
EAS presents the most accurate and most comprehensive compilation of Classical Music in Star Trek, with public domain or Creative Commons licensed recordings of most of the pieces.
I add several navigations aids, such as dynamically generated lists of recently changed pages and lists of related pages, which appear in a sidebar in every article at EAS.
Furthermore, BobyE begins to reconstruct several starship interiors that were missing in the Fact Files.
New at EAS: Star Trek video game reviews.
I complete the conversion of all episode reviews to a new CSS-based layout with HTML 4 compliance. My fingers were aching after the first few pages, for which I used the normal search&replace function of the text editor, and which allowed to convert just some of the innumerable tags with their various permutations (such as <b><p> and <p><b>). So I came up with increasingly complex regular expressions for a partial automation of the work. The debugging of the expressions took hundreds of passes to account for all eventualities in the messy Frontpage HTML source code, but eventually saved a lot of typing. Instead of several months, I could complete the work in a couple of weeks and perhaps 50 hours altogether. Unfortunately most of the rest of the site doesn't have such a systematic layout, and even with excessive regex automation I reckon that it will take more than 200 hours just to convert it to CSS, plus the time to further develop the CSS in the first place.
Version 3.0 finished. All EAS pages sport a new header (and footer). While the header doesn't include new functions for now (I'm thinking of adding extendable menus), it should look more attractive and should work better on small displays. I still need to address some browser compatibility issues. I will decide about a viewport size later, so the pages (except those with table-based layouts, which are a hopeless case) will be rendered bigger on mobile devices.
The EAS index page is redesigned, getting rid of the nested tables in favor of mobile-friendly divs. Also, after some complaints that the design was too busy, I move the direct links to sub-index pages to sub-menus that appear when hovering above the section symbols to the right. I am aware that this is a step away from my concept to show as much as possible at a glance, but it really helps to keep the design clean.
CBS announces the production of a new Star Trek TV series. EAS follows the production news in a blog.
The conversion of all pages to basic CSS/HTML4 is finished, although a lot of work is still necessary to optimize the CSS for all devices and browsers. The last converted batch consists of the Observations articles, for which I find a solution to render them on a 640 pixels wide screen without horizontal scrolling (and hopefully without squinting as well).
50 years ago, on September 8, 1966, the very first episode of Star Trek, "The Man Trap", aired on NBC. On the occasion of the anniversary I look back at the Political Messages in Star Trek over the years, and ahead at what I expect from it in the future.
EAS begins with the timely reviews of Star Trek Discovery. For practical reasons, the inclusion of facts from the series is postponed to the time after the end of the first season.
I don't make it a secret that I disapprove of the look and feel of the new series, and that I downright hate the decision to redesign everything Klingon from scratch, in defiance of canon. Yet, I think that the article on Discovery Klingons that I publish on this occasion is comparably level-headed.
Ex Astris Scientia celebrates 20 years online. The site was first uploaded on January 21, 1998. See the reconstruction of the site as it looked 20 years ago. Since then, EAS has been continually updated and further developed.
Jörg and I begin to extend our investigation of logos and signage in Star Trek. Starting with an article on the Klingon emblem, this becomes another major series at EAS. Brad Wilder of the Star Trek Design Project reconstructs dozens of logos for our articles.
The Picard trailer is arguably the best announcement of new Star Trek in more than 20 years. I hope that the producers will get this show right. They just have to, in order to save what is left of the good old Star Trek.
Tadeo D'Oria comes up with the idea for the article about Commercially Available Chairs in Star Trek. The list will steadily grow to more than 100 entries, also thanks to the contributions of Eno Farley.
Following the launch of Star Trek Picard on January 27, EAS brings reviews of each PIC episode immediately after the release, as well as detailed articles with Observations, which are, as usual, prepared by Jörg. Also in the following, almost all sections of the site are updated with new facts from the series.
After more than 20 years, dozens of old articles and all episode reviews get updated with larger screen caps (HD where available).
The site moves to a new and more reliable server.
With considerable delay, Star Trek: Lower Decks is available for worldwide streaming, and I post the reviews of the first season. Who would have anticipated that an animated comedy series becomes the most popular new Trek show?
I have to cut back my work on the site following a serious accident.
After 23 years, I finally switch the background color of EAS from black to dark gray. The lower contrast reduces the strain on the eyes, and the new shaded page border (visible on desktop devices) serves as an additional guide. Thanks to a CSS filter trick I can avert the creation of half a thousand new thumbnails for the starship database (which keep the black background but are displayed at the exact percentage brighter to blend in with the new background color of dark gray.