Samanet is actually a collective noun for three different websites (at the moment), brought together by one intro screen. These three websites are the site you are viewing now (the Samanet part, or, in short, Samanet), the Sargon/MSX part (or, in short, Sargon home) and the Virtual Arsenaal. In no other part of Samanet is really given any background information on the site as a whole. You can read anything about the Samanet background in this part of the site.
The objective of Samanet is, to have a space for myself on internet to stimulate my own creativity and study of webdesign and webprogramming and at the same time to present my (MSX, Japan-related and other) backgrounds to the public as well as to stimulate the use of the MSX computer. Another objective is to create a nice, interesting site for anonymous visitors, a place where I can put anything I consider interesting online.
As for my studies, I studied Japanese Language and Culture and creativity and programming are no parts of this study. I sometimes regretted not being able to do anything creative as a part of this study and maybe in future occupations as well (although I hope finding something in which creativity is needed to some extent). That's another reason why I wanted to make a website.
I had thought much about creating my own place on the web. There were three main problems, though. The first one was: where and how to put a website online? The second one was: what do I want my website to have to offer? The third one was: how do I create a nice looking website that is comfortable in use?
Let's go back to the anniversary of my father, December 25th, 2002. I spoke to my brother in law, who actually is a computer programmer, about these subjects. He could answer two of my three questions (the first and the third). He told me he had a webserver running at which he could give me access and webspace and he could naturally explain to me how to put my creation online there. This solved the first problem. For the design of the site, he recommended the program Macromedia Dreamweaver. I already knew the basics of HTML and I had tried to make a site before, but for that one I used Notepad - manual HTML coding without the ability to immediately see the result.
Why Samanet? What does it mean?
A website of course needed a name. Since I already knew the website wouldn't be about one singular topic, a more general name had to be chosen. The first thing I came up with was Samanet and I thought it sounded well enough. Although it's a Japanese name, it actually doesn't really mean anything. 'Net' or 'netto' is of course the 'net' from the internet. And sama, the character you see in the logo, officially means 'face', 'looks', 'exterior' and is put behind personal names as a very polite form of 'mister'. Sama is a nickname I have been using for a couple of years now, just because it sounds nice, has an implication of honourable mister but actually means nothing.
The Sargon/MSX part: the first part
With two of the three major problems solved, I decided it was time to start creating a foundation for my website. I already had some experience using Photoshop 7 and with that, I designed the intro screen. I decided it would be logical if at least part of my website contained MSX and Sargon related information. After all, I had been actively using the MSX computer system for over ten years in my youth and the team Sargon, which I had founded myself, was a major part of my history. Although at that time I hardly used the MSX anymore and Sargon was close to non-existant, the development of the Sargon/MSX part of my website caused a new impetus to start using the MSX again, this time to translate games. I want the Sargon/MSX part to become a basis platform for MSX game translations, if possible.
The first version of the Sargon/MSX part didn't make use of a frameset. Not that I didn't know how to create one, but someone had told me a frameset could be very inconvenient since many visitors might find the site using a search engine and end up in the document that was found, without the frameset being displayed. To counter this, I could of course place a link back to the main site in each and every HTML-file, but apart from the fact that this was quite laborious, it looked silly.
In the mean time I experimented with all those tips in the Virtual Arsenaal part (more about this later) and when that part was finished, I began improving the Sargon/MSX part. First of all, I went through all HTML-files to clean them up and making better use of CSS styles. Then, I converted the site to a frame based site. Due to this, the speed of the site improved greatly and everything just looked much better. Just like I did in the Virtual Arsenaal, I created the possibility of reacting on frontpage messages for some more interactivity.
Soon afterwards, I started developing the Defender Online section, which hadn't been available since the launch of the Sargon/MSX part. Defender Online was to become an extended Sargon/MSX archive, news section and much more. Actually Defender Online became a website on itself. Especially making the HTML-version of our MSX diskmagazine Defender took very much time. Up until now, only one edition is HTML-ized. The other editions follow as soon as I find the time.
The development of Defender 2 was a very valuable experience as well. I learned very much, for example the use of inline frames, adding commentary to parts of text, pictures, etc.
After Defender Online went online, I started the improvement of the product info section of the Sargon/MSX part, which was the only part that hadn't changed from the beginning. Here, a frameset was used again, but now making use of inline frames. It looked much better and was much more convenient than the previous version.
Soon enough, creating a static website wasn't really a problem anymore. However, I really wanted to add some interactivity to my site. From the beginning, I had planned to equip the Sargon/MSX part with a forum and a guestbook. I had no idea, however, how to make such things.
For some time, the site was online without the interactive parts being available. I was so busy creating the other parts of the site and improving the parts I had already created that I didn't find the time to find out how to make a guestbook or forum. Friends of mine drew my attention to websites where such 'tools' were freely available. So, I started using Bravenet tools for the forums, minipolls, chat and mailinglist and Tboek for the guestbooks. As the Bravenet forum is somewhat limited in possibilities, I used MijnForum for the more sophisticated 'Koffiehoek' (coffee corner) forum in the Virtual Arsenaal part. The hidden smoking corner in the Virtual Arsenaal was yet another free forum, a German one called Gratis Forum.
The original idea was to make a Sargon/MSX part, a Japan part and a personal, more general part. As I described above, the Sargon/MSX part was the first part to be finished. I was still thinking about how to fill the Japan part, which would be the next part to develop. My first thought was to create a research website, containing various articles, short courses, reports from Japan etc. Visitors would be given the possibility to ask anything about Japan and the question would be answered on the site itself. When necessary, reseach would be done to make the answer as detailed as possible.
The idea might be nice, but it's way too much work for me alone. Besides, I'm not really a researcher. Language related questions would be no problem, neither would superficial questions about Japan, but that's not enough.
At a certain time, I was standing in front of the Arsenaal, the building of Leiden University where Japanese, Korean and Chinese are based, and I was talking with some friends (fellow students) about the idea of creating a website about this building, for students, tutors and staff members. The same evening I started the development and the next day the lay-out was already there. The contents soon followed. The idea was to create a space on the internet for people interested in the studies and students of Chinese, Korean and Japanese. Discussions could take place here, related documents could be stored, found and reacted on, announcements could be made, curriculum vitae as well as vacancies could be placed here, etc.
Although the Virtual Arsenaal attracted a couple of regular visitors, there are still not as much people actively participating in the site as I had hoped. Therefore, the contents remain somewhat limited. Few people submitted an article and reacted on newsposts, a handful of people regularly uses the forums and nobody has submitted something for the cv/vacancies database. I plan to reorganize the site in due time and maybe something will change. If you visit the Virtual Arsenaal, you will notice that the character of the site is mainly Japanese, although the site is meant to be used by people interested in China and Korea as well. The site needs, therefore, some adaptations in order to be taken more seriously by Sinologists and Koreanists.
As I said before, the Samanet website is hosted by my brother in law. The official URL consists therefore of a number of digits, separated by some points. In other words: very difficult to remember. I was afraid this would result in less visitors, so I was relieved to find out Bravenet also offered a shortcut URL service. A short URL could be reserved which would refer to the real place of the site automatically. The Bravenet shortcuts deviated somewhat from regular 'www' URL's. But it was already much better than that large string of digits, so I reserved to; one for the Virtual Arsenaal and one for the Samanet main site. These URL's were (and are) http://embark.to/arsenaal and http://embark.to/samanet. Later, a friend of mine told me about the freely available .tk shortcut URL's, which were even easier to remember. I reserved three URL's here: http://www.samanet.tk, http://www.arsenaal.tk and http://www.sargonmsx.tk.
These are not real domain names, but they only refer to the real place of the website. I plan to register my own domain name soon, since this has much benefits. Apart from the fact that it's even more easy to remember, search engines will probably rate my site higher and it's just cool to own a real domain name, although it costs a little money.
Since I had been quite busy building the other parts of the website, the Samanet part remained unavailable. Now, this part is finally online too (September 2003). This Samanet part makes use of everything I learned during the development of the other parts and functions as my personal part. Everything that doesn't fit in the other two parts but I do want to publish on the internet, is to appear here. Apart from that, it's my personal training ground. I'm now learning a couple of internet languages with which I will of course need to experiment. Those experiments and results will firstly be introduced in this part. If something like a messageboard or guestbook works as I want it to, I will probably port it to the other parts as well.
I guess I will need to update this text so now and then when there has been a change. Details about changes on the other parts of Samanet can easily be read since each and every newspost containing changes is eventually stored in the archives of those websites. For the Virtual Arsenaal, see the 'bibliotheek' (library) and for the Sargon/MSX part, see Defender Online.
Rieks Warendorp Torringa,