Technical, webmaster philosophy, development decisions and copyright information.
This page is a bit of a odd collection of topics which are probably only going to be of limited interest to a handful of visitors. So for those who like to know how things are done or why they were done in creating this site read on. I will also try to explain a little more about me, and my opinions on animal welfare, which leads on to why I will not link to all organizations with chipmunk related pages. Lastly I outline my views on copyrighted material.
This is a non commercial site, the only funding for it comes from my time, and indirectly from my hosting company (Soho Consulting), who kindly provide the server space and domain name administration free of charge. So apart from that link which is fair enough for the free server space, this site doesn't carry paid advertising. That's important to me for you to know this is a free resource, and what I publish is not influenced by monitory gain. Just so you know that this is not a site that starts off free then later sneaks in paid for content, it will always be free and open.
Technical site information for the geek's out there.
The site is hosted on a Linux server rather than Windows, because of the increased uptime, speed and vast choice of open source software available for Linux. I've worked with Linux servers for well over a decade, so it's what I'm used to. I have never found a Linux server limiting me in whatever I dream up, or needing to reach for my wallet for each little extra plug in or module I have wanted to add. I know it's easy and almost fashionable to knock Microsoft and Windows servers, but when I started mucking around with web servers, Windows servers just did not have the reliability they seem to have now. I made my bed and am happy to lye in it :)
There are three main parts to this site, this main web site, the forum and the blog. The main site is where I publish pages which try to give sensible and useful information about keeping pet chipmunks. The provision for visitors comments was included to give balance to my writings, and give the pages dynamic content. I want to give potential chipmunk owners an idea of what it's like to keep pet chipmunks, and help decide if chipmunks are right for them. Those who are already owners might find out some new tips or pick up ideas for keeping happy chipmunks. I write in a light hearted way, but do my best to get across the important facts I think you want to know.
Any spelling police tempted to pick through the spelling and grammar errors, hold on, I am dyslexic, and I have to re-read every page I write at least 30 times before I get it to a near enough state to publish. Every time I go back to a page I spot another spelling or grammar mistake. I understand the importance of presenting information in a clear easy to read document. Believe me after several read through's the page will get there over time. I feel it's better to publish information which can be understood by the majority, that not publish anything at all. I don't see dyslexia as something I suffer from or even a hardship, it just means it takes me a bit longer to get near to the standard of people who find reading and writing smoother than water running off a ducks back. Most people with dyslexia have other talents which more than make up for any challenge presented by reading and writing, so I consider myself lucky.
The forum is an off the shelf forum from Simple Machines, chosen for its ease of use, resistance to spam injections and it's low resource usage. In other words, it's a well written bit of code which can cope easily with large numbers of messages. I would think most chipmunk owners are proud of their pets, so the forum has a board for members to upload photos of their own pets, and photos to the solutions they have for housing and other chipmunk pet keeping stuff.
The blog is a place for me to ramble on about my month to month life with chipmunks. I had my doubts if I could keep it going, thinking I would run out of things to say. But so far it's been easy to write posts, as the chipmunks provide most of the material.
The design of the site was stumbled upon from the back of my mind (no focus groups were harmed in the making of this site). I wanted it to look clean, be easy to navigate, driven in part by a custom database to manage links and visitors comments. Although the design is not particularly leading edge, it does make use of those new fangeld style sheets as much as possible to help future proof it a bit. I try to ensure it is presentable for the two most common web browsers, Firefox and Internet Explorer, and even Safari.
Most of the site is written using quite a bit of PHP, driven by a few mySQL databases. The main part of the site has pages based on the same basic structure, this helps visitors with navigation, and makes adding new pages very quick. There are a few little design bugs I will correct, but wanted to get information published as soon as possible.
I gave several minutes of thought to which technology to use for delivering the media (videos and photo galleries). As you may have seen I went for Flash. In the early days of web browsers not many people had Flash enabled browsers, and so were forced to download an install a plug in. Nowadays most browsers can play Flash videos, so Flash it was. I think Flash videos are much crisper that those on YouTube for example. The photo galleries look posh, but I do think they take a little too long to download, so the number of photos in each gallery has to be limited.
I use all sorts of software, Dreamweaver and Notepad for the web page creation. Fireworks and Photoshop for all the images. The images on the main site and on the blog pages are my own. In some cases I could have used catalogue images, but I could not expect others to respect my copyright if I could not respect other peoples. Although it takes longer to have to photograph every product I want show people, in most of the shots I can include an inquisitive chipmunk. The chipmunk in the main site logo is Coby, my first chipmunk BTW. The image was cleaned up a bit, and his tail was aligned to condense the image. The videos are edited in Sony Vegas Pro 8, and shot on Sony HDV broadcast standard cameras, they are big with lots of buttons, so that means the 're good doesn't it?. I do have boxes of DV tapes from years ago which I intend to dig out, they would have been shot on a Cannon XM2. I often use a mixture of natural light combined with colour balanced artificial light. I often video and photograph against a plain white background to help the subject stand out. The still images are taken either on a small Fuji compact camera (mostly used for close up detail shots of still objects). The live chipmunk photos are taken with a Nikon SLR fitted with a 300mm lens and either a single large fast recovering flashgun or three flash heads. Both cameras are digital, which means I don't have to be a very good photographer. Being digital allows me to take loads of photos, with a good chance of getting one acceptable snap. I believe in professional circles that's called the scatter gun approach to photography. Although the Nikon has a fast autofocus, I normally need to use manual focus, as the 300mm focal length limits the amount of depth of field I can play with (told you this was geeky). Also, when trying to take photos through the aviary mesh the autofocus prefers to get the mesh in focus rather than the fluffy chipmunk performing never to be repeated summersaults in the background. I use a 300mm focal length lens to keep a good distance from the chipmunks. I keep a camera near to me most of the time ready to snap anything that looks good. I found if I moved towards them they would want to investigate me, so I lose the shot. The flash lights never seem bother the chipmunks, but they do sometimes try to mate with the fluffy deadcats on the microphones. You can never force a chipmunk to be in shot, so you have to either try to tempt them into frame, or wait for ages for them to stroll on 'set' This would explain why my photos seldom contain a chipmunk in action, but more often sitting down eating or asleep. By now you could be thinking that camera equipment is over the top for publishing on an amateur chipmunk site, yes it is. I have the equipment for video work unconnected with my chipmunks, but it's nice to be able to use it for them too.
As I've said on the home page, I want this site to be a free resource where people can share information and experiences. I've already learnt things from what visitors have said on the site, so I hope it's been both ways. By free site, I mean I don't want to clutter up the site with those banner adverts, they don't help the clean looks and could be misunderstood as an endorsement. There's a links page which does point to commercial suppliers, but these suppliers have been recommended by chipmunk owners, and there will be a choice of suppliers whenever possible for similar products. The links page is not a review of suppliers, if a supplier of goods and services is not very good they just won't be listed. If I had dealings with a company that was consistently slow in delivery for example, I might describe my experiences, but only for others to make a choice for themselves.
I like all animals, and feel we humans do far more harm to them than they do to us. Anything an animal does is in the course of nature, man on the other hand will harm animals just for sport and entertainment. Because of these views I would not put links on this site which condone, encourage or otherwise promote the ill treatment, cruelty and trapping of chipmunks. I'm eager to link to any animal rescue centers, but not those which have the policy of killing any animals they cannot re home. There are plenty of animal welfare organizations with a no kill policy, so it can be done.
I'm aware there are people out there which not only believe pet shops that sell live animals are cruel, but can suggest that even owning a chipmunk is cruel. I can understand peoples opinion of pet shops, and there are still some bad ones out there. I do think things have got better in the live pet trade, and agree that the best place to get a chipmunk is a breeder or animal rehab center. There are some pet shops that do provide proper care for their livestock, and can offer good advice to new owners. Coby came from a pet shop, he was in a hugh clean aviary with a bill of health from a vet. Although the advice I was given at the time was a bit wobbly, I had already spent six months doing my research and making preparations for keeping a chipmunk. I picked Coby because he was two years old, I went for the underdog. Being quite old already I thought he could be stuck there for ages. What a brilliant first chipmunk he turned out to be. He had a wonderful life, he never wanted for anything, and died of old age. As for people who think it's wrong to even keep a chipmunk as a domestic pet, well you're entitled to your opinion, and I might even publish such comments. My position is clearly defined, I do keep pet chipmunks, I hope you are able to respect my fellow chipmunk owners and my decision to keep chipmunks as pets. This site helps explain the space a chipmunk needs, and through shared information will help at least some pet chipmunks to lead a happier life than perhaps they would have if not for sites like this and others. I've spent a lot of time with my chipmunks, and although I'm not an expert I honestly believe that my chipmunks are happy and in good health. Most domestic chipmunks can expect to live years longer than their wild counterparts.
The images, videos and other graphics on the main super chipmunks site and the blog are copyright of the webmaster, unless stated otherwise byway of a caption credit. If requested by a non commercial organization, permission to use images/videos and text is likely to be granted and provided without charge for non profit or fund raising use. If permission for use is given a credit or link back to the source would be appreciated but may not be conditional.
Images and written text created and published by members of the forum remain the copyright of the respective authors. Any entity or organization seeking to use images and/or text published by a forum member, must seek permission directly from them. It is entirely the decision of the owners as to what terms and arrangements they make between the entity or organization seeking permission and themselves for using an original image or text.
Requests to use images/videos or text from the main site or blog can be submitted using the general feedback form.
Requests to use forum members images and/or text need to be made directly to the forum member by private message, after first creating an account on the forum.