www.cosmos-monitor.com - Site Information

About the Site

The Missouri Highways site was originally developed in 1998. I did have some earlier sites focused on Missouri radio. Then I moved away from the state, and it seemed kind of pointless. How I turned to Missouri highways is another story. Those of us who were frequent participants in the Usenet newsgroup misc.transport.road began creating sites for the various states in which we lived. I was living in Chicago at the time. Illinois highways were covered excellently by Rich Carlson at his Illinois Highways site. So, instead, I created one for Missouri.

If you are interested, more historical information about this site is at the Site History page.

Site Tools

I have an overwhelming preference for open-source tools. Once in a great while, there are times when I've had an easier time getting the job done on Microsoft platforms. But as the Linux platform has matured, especially where fonts are involved, I have been able to migrate all work to Linux.

The first development platform for this site was a system running Red Hat Linux version 7.2. In March 2005, I moved most development to a system running a successor version of Linux, Fedora Core 3. In June 2005 after a hardware crash, the operating system was upgraded to Fedora Core 4. There have been several other upgrades. The most recent upgrade to the original development system was Fedora 25 in 2017. Since then, the Fedora project has quit supporting 32-bit platforms. In August 2020, I migrated the development platform to a new server that can support a 64-bit operating system. This development system ran Fedora 32, using the Cinnamon desktop. It was updated to Fedora 33 in February 2021.

Some photo editing work was done on an Apple Macintosh, with the edited photos being moved to the Linux development platform for inclusion in the pages that are written on that platform.

Image Editors

Image editing is mostly done with the GIMP editor, a very flexible editor. On occasion, I had done some basic image editing using the Preview image viewer on the Apple Macintosh (in OS X 10.6, "Snow Leopard"). Preview had some basic editing capabilities and an excellent automatic color-correction feature. However, subsequent versions of Preview, as a consequence of newer OS X releases, have an automatic versioning feature that I find undesirable. So I went back to using the GIMP editor.

I used Paint Shop Pro (in Windows) to create the first version of the sign images ("pseudo-markers") seen on the interactive Route Log. In Version 7.1, the markers were replaced, using more realistic-appearing fonts, using the GIMP editor as described on the Route Markers page.

Page Creation

Most pages are handcrafted, using GVIM as the editor. Syntax highlighting in GVIM is essential for preserving one's sanity when handcrafting pages. For conversion to XHTML and CSS, the best tool I found was HTML Tidy, which still requires some manual conversion.

Route Log Databases

The route logs are generated from Perl scripts. The "databases" are really just flat text files with tab-delimited fields. They are generated from a spreadsheet kept in OpenOffice 3.0, an excellent open-source office suite. It can also generate PDF files compatible with Adobe Acrobat, XPDF, Evince, and anything else that can read PDFs.


I have set up an automated job that periodically indexes all the pages with photos. Those indexes in turn are used to feed the scripts that generate the index pages, which are also created with automated jobs. The search pages use the indexes to return a list of links meeting the user's search criteria. All these scripts are written in Perl.

Site Design

When this site began using Cascading Style Sheets (CSS), it necessitated some logical categorization of the pages into five groups:

An introductory page whose primary purpose is to provide links to other pages. Replete with links for the sake of having links. Also has introductory and explanatory text with thumbnail images. Central focus of a portal page is linkage to other pages or sites.
Query Form
Allows user to enter parameters for querying data. May have portal elements, but its main purpose is to set the stage for dynamically generating content. The dynamically generated page resulting from the submitted query functions similarly to a leaf page.
An explanatory page. Central focus is the content of the text, with images used to illustrate certain items of the text. May link to other sidebar pages or other portal pages.
Intended to be a terminal page, but may have links to other leaves or even other portal pages based upon the content of the page. These links always are within the copy and there are no links just for the sake of having links. Central focus of a leaf page is its visual elements, e.g. one or more images, with the text of the page directly related to the images on it.
Similar to a leaf page, but specifically intended for use with map excerpts. Map excerpts are usually much bigger in size than the photos on leaf pages. The framing border used for most other pages doesn't look very good on a map page, because the map overruns the border. As a result, this type of page reverts back to the older leaf-page style with a single border below the text, though it can also have the same heading style as all other leaf pages.

Each type of page has its own type of stylesheet in addition to a main stylesheet that's applied to all pages at the site (including results from submitted queries). This type of modularity should, in theory, have greatly simplified future changes in design. It has succeeded somewhat, but placement of page elements often require tweaks to individual pages.


Version 7.01 added separate stylesheets for printing. My original motivation for having separate screen and printing stylesheets was to work around yet another bug in Internet Explorer 6. As it turns out, having separate stylesheets is a very good thing. It allows long lists of links to be hidden from printing, where they're not very useful. It also allowed the portal pages to use an entirely separate format for printing, with the "what's new" and disclaimer text being moved to the end of the printed document. I felt this was a better way of having "printer-friendly" pages than requiring a user to call up a separate "printer-friendly" page. I felt the user shouldn't have to worry about the presentation medium because that's the browser's job.

Subsequently, I discovered that earlier versions of some Mozilla-based browsers on Linux, and possibly other Unix-like operating systems, had difficulty with a few of the pages at this site. Windows and Macintosh systems were not affected by the printing problems; nor was any version of the Opera browser. I believe this should not be an issue any more, since modern browsers behave much more consistently than they once did.

Future Directions

Link: "To do" list (text)

Version 7.0 of this site did not make radical changes, although there were several welcome enhancements and the final removal of the dreaded base href tags in the query results.

More "plumbing" changes subsequently occurred at the sign galleries. In version 7.2 (March 2005), the "leaf" pages in the sign galleries were finally converted to XHTML and CSS. At the same time, I made all the pages compliant with the stricter XHTML 1.1 specification.

In version 7.3 (January 2006), I included sign-gallery links within the Route Log.

It took me a couple of years to work on a better way to handle the publication of photos that will require less manual effort. The vision finally became reality with Version 7.5 in May 2006, which replaced the manually edited sign-gallery index pages with search pages. Earlier progress was made in August 2005, when I added automatically generated indexes to the photos at the sign galleries.

In version 8 (August 2008), I merged to the Missouri Highways site with the Missouri Road Signs & Sights Gallery, and also changed every URL that contained /road or /road/sign. I eliminated those parts of the file tree, making for shorter URLs. A few other files changed locations.

Version 9 (March 2014), was another redesign, using Google Fonts for a more modern, clean look. See the colophon for more details on the fonts. I also added pages about various radios that I have, including AM stereo radios, high-performance DSP radios, and vintage radios from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s.

With a much slower pace of updates since 2015, I've given up on incrementing version numbers. Moreover, the site design has been stable and has worked well. So Version 9 will always be Version 9. There will still be changes from time to time.

Greater consistency in modern browsers means that browser-specific tweaks are much less needed than they once were. Even so, the site does look best in Google Chrome. Most testing has been done with Chrome on Mac OS X or Linux and with Opera on those same platforms. I have not tested the site with Internet Explorer on Windows platforms. Limited testing with Microsoft Edge indicates consistent results with Chrome, Opera, etc.

Questions, suggestions, or comments are always welcome at the e-mail address listed on the site's Contact Information page.

Mark Roberts
Oakland, California
E-mail: Please see the Contact Information page.
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