- About the author
- About the website
- How it all started: HTML and Frontpage
- A look behind the scenes in WordPress
- the server
About the author:
My name is Marco van Wijk, 34 years old and living in the Rotterdam area. All my life I've been crazy about everything that has to do with cars. At the age of 16 I was already working in the garage as an apprentice mechanic. In the ten years that I worked as a mechanic in the VAG and BMW garages, I completed the mechanic training up to level 4 technical specialist. I have been working as a motor vehicle technology teacher since 2015. In 2018 I obtained the title Bachelor of Science at the HTS Autotechniek in Arnhem after completing the HBO automotive (part-time) training.
In addition to my work as a teacher and author of this website, I like to write articles in the AMT and you will find me as a presenter of knowledge sessions on the AMT live.
About the website:
In 2005 I started experimenting with creating websites. The current website dates from 2009. Since then there have been many changes in both design and content. This website is becoming more and more popular and will continue to grow in terms of topics and information! At this moment there are already more than 350 pages full of information to be found. Today, there are an average of 100.000 unique page views per month. I made the website myself and completely under my own management. I developed the theme, wrote all the pages, photographed or drawn many images myself and it runs on my own server in my office at home. On this page I show how the website has grown in the past year to what it is today, and what goes on in the background.
The purpose of this website is to give people interested in automotive technology insight into how certain parts and systems work. Many things are hard to find on Google, often without images and often not yet in Dutch. With this website I want to put as much information as possible about automotive technology online. The site is based on levels 2 to 4 of the MBO mechanic training.
I have deliberately chosen not to show advertisements, because I annoy myself with websites where there is more advertising than text and you have to click away from everything. I therefore find the display of advertisements polluting my website. For that reason, no trackers or cookies are necessary and I am therefore one of the few websites that does not have to show a cookie notice where every unique visitor must agree to the conditions.
I also keep the website freely accessible to everyone. I do not use payment and login systems to gain access to the website alone. This site is just nice and free to access and it will remain so in the future! An additional advantage is that it is also easier for me to get permission from car manufacturers to use their images. After all, I have no financial interest in it and many manufacturers support education.
If you have found spelling or grammatical errors in the text, please fill in the contact form. This allows me to correct this easily and quickly. Of course, this also applies if you have additions to a specific topic.
How it all started: HTML and Frontpage:
From the first concepts to the website that was replaced by the current one in March 2019, the Microsoft Frontpage 2003 program was used.
HTML pages were created using Frontpage. The result of the HTML codes could be viewed in the design window. The website consisted of frames:
- above (header)
- left (menu)
- right (dictionary)
- middle (the content of the site)
So to open the site, four HTML pages were opened in the frames. When the visitor did not arrive at the index.htm via a search engine, but directly at the page that was being searched for, only that frame appeared. The menus around were not shown.
The search function also went through a complex method via Google, and there was no mobile support, so that a second index page was created that was automatically switched to when people visited the site with a telephone or tablet. This often went well, but not always. “In the past” an HTML site with frames was popular, but nowadays you hardly see this anymore. The knowledge I have gained with the self-compiled HTML codes helps me to this day when updating the current website.
A look behind the scenes in WordPress:
The HTML-based website was completely converted to the popular WordPress CMS in March 2019. Some visitors had to get used to the new navigation structure in the beginning, but in general I received positive reactions.
Over time I have also made more and more changes that make navigation easier and clearer.
With the site in the modern WordPress CMS, the site has improved in many ways:
- Interface looks modern;
- Easier to update articles;
- Tablet and mobile friendly (automatically adapts to the screen size) so no separate mobile website;
- A change is automatically applied to all pages;
- SEO (search engine) friendly;
- Plugins enable many useful functions: buttons, search function, backup and security, autoscroll, etc.
The following image shows the page overview in WordPress. From this screen all pages can be searched and changed without opening the web interface.
All pages on the website are created in Elementor. The following image shows the Elementor editor screen. The text editor can be seen on the left and the live view on the right. After clicking on “Update” at the bottom, the changes will immediately appear online. You can also choose to save the page as a draft or private before publishing it online.
In addition to the text editor, Elementor also offers various interactive options. One of these is the so-called “Call to Action”. This function creates an interactive button that we know from the homepage and in the categories that can be opened from the menus.
In 2021, more and more compatibility problems arose between my WordPress theme and modern plugins and web browsers. The theme was not very popular, so it was not properly supported or further developed after a few years after release. Since a theme determines the appearance of the website, switching to another theme is not easy and is also undesirable. In January 2022 I experimented with Elementor's page builder and a bare theme: "Hello Elementor". With this theme in combination with the page builder, I am assured of updates, in both the appearance and security, and I have even more options to set up the interface as desired. In standard WordPress themes, certain settings cannot or can hardly be changed. After a day of experimenting I was convinced: I replaced the old theme with my own made theme. Within a few hours I had it online and in the following days I made small improvements after feedback from people around me.
With Elementor's theme builder you can create your own theme and set it completely to your liking. Every corner, button, box shadow, color, animations can be adjusted in countless ways to your own wishes. The possibilities are endless. The image below shows the setting options for the color of the main menu. With this theme builder, the display of the desktop (and laptop), tablet and mobile phones can be set as desired. In this way, the most optimal settings can be achieved for all devices.
What bothers me the most about other sites are pop-ups, notifications about newsletters and the request to turn on notifications, which always have to be clicked away. Not to mention the flashy ads. This has made me decide to browse with an ad blocker myself and not to participate. I will keep my website as "clean" as possible by building in as few distracting elements as possible. Although there are possibilities to make the site very attractive with little effort with animations and colorful pages, I opt for many shades of gray and as few decorations as possible, which people usually do not want. The white pages with a dark to light gray background on both sides provide a nice contrast and, together with the chosen font, make texts pleasant to read. The site is suitable for screens from 17 inches, because in 2023 this screen format is still often found in garages and schools. This interface was created through a lot of experimentation and feedback from visitors. The informative character with a well-tuned navigation is more important than a slick appearance, which most visitors appreciate.
Cheap hosting parties are not interested in websites that demand a lot of computing power from the server, because you share the same SSD / CPU and RAM with hundreds of other customers. Such a party can choose to reduce the performance of websites that use a lot of resources, or to oblige you to purchase an expensive VPS.
I was hesitant for a long time to place this website on a VPS, so that optimal performance could be achieved and I would be in control of certain settings. A good VPS is too pricey to accommodate a non-profit site. So I started researching whether it was worth hosting the site myself (at home).
In the spring of 2020 I bought a competitively priced young used server. I provided this with the necessary hardware upgrades, I learned how to deal with the settings in the bios; these are very different from those of a consumer PC. In addition, I have set up a network in my own home to connect the server to. The speed of the fiber optic connection is 1 gigabit down- and upload, which is even more than enough for hosting multiple busy websites.
In October 2020 I installed the server with CentOS as operating system (now replaced, more about that later) and Cpanel as control panel.
After several hours of preparation, the site was moved from the server in the data center to the home server at the touch of a button. This process went very smoothly. At the time of writing (more than two years after installation), no problems have occurred.
The server you are currently on is shown in the two images below.
Images above: the server is an HP ProLiant ML350p Generation 8. Behind the cover is the DVD player with the switch to turn on the server and four USB ports underneath. At the bottom are four drives, namely: 2x SSD (left) and 2x HDD (right). The website is loaded from the SSDs. Backups are stored on the HDDs every night. The SSDs and HDDs are in Raid mirror (RAID 1). In the event of a hard disk failure, I can replace it with a spare one without having to shut down the server. After changing a disk, the data is transferred automatically.
Image below: after removing the side cover and the plastic plate of the air duct, we see four large fans with the motherboard next to it.
The server is equipped with a Xeon E5-2690 CPU (2,9 GHz). This is an 8-core processor with 16 threads. It runs at a clock speed of just over 1 Ghz in power saving mode, which in terms of website and server management performance is on par with the setting in maximum performance mode, where the clock speed rises to 2,9 GHz in this performance mode. The only difference was noticeable in the heat development and energy consumption. The good low clock performance is possible due to the large number of processor cores. In addition, the memory banks are now filled with a total of 12x 4 GB ECC memory modules, which gives a total of 48 GB of memory in quad-channel.
In the summer of 2022, I replaced the CentOS operating system with AlmaLinux due to the announcement that CentOS will soon be discontinued. The popular Cpanel is installed on AlmaLinux: this is the program that makes hosting the website possible. The control panel can be seen in the screenshot below. Weekly I check available updates (Cpanel, utilities or kernel) and check the load.