FAQ/FHC (frequently heard complaints)

Help! Anything but the title image looks scrambled.

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Most likely this is because of your browser's settings. Only the title picture is a .GIF, the strips are made of text characters in a fixed width font - or at least that's what I was trying to convince your browser to display. If the two images to the left and right don't look much different then we are in real trouble...

Please refer to the howto section for information on possible causes of your problem.

Why unicorns?

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Good question. Traumatic experiences in early childhood - who knows? No, seriously, I've always been fascinated of unicorns. I can't tell exactly why and I definitely can't say it better than with the words of Peter S. Beagle:

"Strangers still ask me whether I believe in unicorns, really. I don't, not at all, not in the way they usually mean. But I do believe - still, knowing so much better - in everything the unicorn has always represented to human beings: the vision of deep strength allied to deep wisdom, of pride dwelling side by side with patience and humility, of unspeakable beauty inseparable from the "pity beyond all telling" that Yeats said was hidden at the heart of love. Even in my worst moments, when I am most sickened by the truly limitless bone-bred cruelty and stupidity of the species I belong to, I know these things exist. I have seen them, and once or twice they have laid their heads in my lap. In their very different manners, the stories in this book - altogether different indeed from what we fancied - express this old, foolish, lovely dream of the unicorn."

[Peter S. Beagle - Foreword to Immortal Unicorn]

I have a vast inventory of unicornish items including 4 plush, 1 plastic, 2 crystal, 1 gold which I am usually wearing, as well as a few made of less valuable metals, 1 stone and 1 porcellain unicorn; In my rooms there are unicorns on plates, cushions and coins, I sleep under a large unicorn tapestry next to a color lithography of a unicorn, I have had them burnt into wood, etched into glass, cross- stitched, I got several paintings, color copies, folded some origami unicorns, completed unicorn puzzles, collected books and posters, made my own unicorn T-shirt, I even keep a bottle and a can of beer for the only reason that they have a unicorn on them and despite the fact that I don't drink any alcohol (and never did) - do you need to know more?

An ASCII-art comic strip - what for?

Don't question
 my existence!
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Just for fun! I've always wanted to do a comic strip, but I have a slight problem: I can't draw! I mean, I cannot even write, or to be more precise I can write but nobody is able to read it... I think you get the point. It's a matter of fact that I seem to fail holding a pen correctly - fortunately I am able to type quite fast!

It seems that ASCII-art puts enough restrictions to my efforts so that I can try most of the existing alternatives and get satisfactory results. To me every single character I draw either looks completely wrong or perfectly right, this way one can advance slowly but steadily.

The idea to make an ASCII-art comic strip came to me in March 2000 when I was kind of bored and tried to do a unicorn with Notepad. I liked the result and so I experimented a lot with different facial expressions, sizes, closeups until it was clear that ASCII-art can be used to do a comic strip. The next step was to find a good layout for the strip: the first versions were somewhat smaller and text was way too dominant, there also was no visible floor and no features like flowers, clouds or whatever.

This was the time I showed the stuff to some friends and had a lot of discussions about the idea of publishing the strip on a regular basis. I got valuable feedback and continued to draw new strips until I had enough material for more than a month. Finally I started to design my website by the mid of April - now I know what I don't want to do: webdesign.

I did some research and initially found no other ASCII-art comic strip on the web that made it past the fifth episode (later I discovered one with 45 episodes although updated irregularly). I hope that mine will be the first to come on a regular basis. At the moment it seems that I could continue the strip for quite a while although ASCII-art of that size doesn't allow much variation. Let's see how far things can get, I take it as a personal challenge to do at least 100 strips - a year from now we'll know...

This isn't ASCII-art because...

 Why so fussy?
I'm ASCII-pure.
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Okay, you got me on that. In fact the stuff I type/draw isn't ASCII-pure in the sense of 7bit or - even stronger - 32-127 character range. Therefore it exceeds the original ASCII-standard which also prevents me from posting to the various ASCII-art newsgroups - though I am planning to announce my page there.

Nonetheless I am doing ASCII-art of some sort, "extended ASCII-art" would be the exact term, since I am using a subset of the "IBM character set". In fact I draw with all printable characters of the "Fixedsys"-font that comes with Windows. This excludes the IBM character sets special characters for line-drawing and some others.

I have three good reasons to use additional characters:

  1. I cannot write my own name without the umlaut which isn't part of the 7bit ASCII-set.
  2. I need non standard ASCII-characters to do the German version of the strip.
  3. The 7bit ASCII-set just has too much limitations which make the creation of a comic strip almost impossible - at least for me.

In addition to all characters which can be typed regularly on a German keyboard (this includes several umlauts and a bunch of accented characters) I also might use the following:

Ѧ

Some of them occur very rarely if ever. I try my best to avoid characters which vary considarably among different fonts, but I do make exceptions if a scene really requires certain characters.

I cannot relate to your grammar/spelling/style!

Error is human.
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I am grateful for all your comments/suggestions/corrections. Please keep in mind that I am not a native speaker - any help is deeply appreciated.

Your HTML sucks!

 You don't need to be
pretty if you're lucky.
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Yeah, I bet it does, but it used to suck a whole lot more than this. I am no web designer and this is my first web page, so I certainly have a lot to learn about HTML. If you know better then share your experiences, point out how to do it right - in other words: mail me.

I know that my page is somewhat contrary to the original intention of HTML, but then of course the HTML designers probably didn't have ASCII-art in mind when they were discussing their ideas of web publishing.

I tried my best to ensure these pages can be viewed on fairly recent versions of MSIE and Opera under Windows and Netscape under Windows and Linux. I even tested whith kfm and lynx, but these don't understand style sheets - at least not in the versions I have. However the orignial intention was to use style sheets and comply to HTML4.01 - it turned out to be a disaster... As HTML 4.01 is quite new only the most recent versions of many browsers are able to interpret everything correctly. Therefore I tried some trickery to ensure that this site can be viewed with older browsers too. It will look somewhat different if style sheets aren't supported but as I tried to hide CSS info the text should still be readable. I also still have no idea how my pages look like on a Macintosh - I will have to check this later, feedback is always welcome of course.

As I had to give up my idea of writing strict HTML 4.01 my code is also not checked for conformance to any standard. Ideally every keyword I wrote in capital letters should be HTML4.01 (as this is the version which I got documentation of) but I don't really care as long as my pages are displayed right. If they look weird on your system then you might want to read the howto section and check whether the problem is caused by your browser's settings. If you still dont succeed then mail me and make sure to include information on your computer, operating system, browser, settings etc. With all that info there is a small chance that I might be able to fix the problem.

Why don't you provide a GIF for every strip?

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This seems to be the most frequently asked question, so I finally want to say a few words about why I am so hesitant to provide GIFs for my strips:

Unicorn & Butterfly is an ASCII art strip (yeah, I'm sure you all noticed by now, but anyway) and therefore it has no real "graphical" representation! Unlike all other comics - and in fact unlike virtually any other art form I can think of - it's actual look depends on the system with which it is displayed. IMHO one of the nice effects of Unicorn & Butterfly is that its look is consistent with whatever system the reader has and even though the strip is definitely not "easy reading" it at least makes every new visitor feel right "at home".

What I am definitely not going to do is replacing the ascii representation of my strips by GIFs - not only because I don't want to force a particular look onto readers of other systems but also because in the way the strip is currently done people can copy&paste them into an editor and do whatever they want with it.

But what I might do in the future is to build an alternative GIF-archive for emergencies - I just finally have to find only *one* browser which actually displays the stuff right (Netscape 4.7x under Windows used to - AFAIK it was the only one that ever did although only with nasty workarounds which almost took 1K for every strip...) ;o)

What's all that fuss about the new design?

 FIONA? THERE'S     NO NEED TO POINT THAT   
SOMETHING STRANGE  OUT TO ME! I STILL CAN'T  
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Rudy Dewclaw & Fiona Fennec    Bill Holbrook

Simple: I wanted to intoduce improved text linkbuttons and during that process I was reminded how buggy most browsers really are (and how little of the ages old recommendations of the W3C they actually implement) I finally decided to throw out a bunch of workarounds for older browsers which made the HTML source almost unreadable (and caused all sorts of problems on about every new browser I tried). My design goal always was to move all style information into style sheets and from now on I am not going to make fixes that affect the HTML (unless to correct the usual couple of glitches which definitely must still be there) in a way that I have to use style attributes which have a corresponding CSS property. (E.g. I am not going to put 'ALIGN="center"' OR 'WIDTH="640"' into the PRE tag of every strip so that IE 4.0 maybe decides to display it right)

The recent changes have the positive effect that the strips are now almost 1/3 smaller than before. To anyone who has problems I recommend to try out Opera - a very good, very small, very fast browser which is available on many platforms. If you can live with a banner ad in the toolbar it is even free (but IMHO it's worth the $39 or so they are asking for it).

Can I take that image/strip/character for my homepage/signature/whatever?

But I want to
 stay here...
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I am glad you asked, and in general the answer is "yes" as long as you don't do it for profit and preserve the original copyright information. Note that all the stuff remains my intellectual property - even if I decide to give it away for free. I would really like to be notified if you want to use anything from my page. Please have a look at the copyright section for further comments.

If you want to diddle (take my ASCII-art and modify it) then feel free to do so, but please do follow common practice and include the original author's name. I'd also like to see the results of your effort - if I get enough feedback I am planning to put up some kind of "fanart" section (I know, I'm dreaming again...).

Thank you!

Who is this Jrgen Wallner guy anyway?

That would be interesting
- I don't know either...
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It's just me...
Me and one of my unicorns.
(I am the guy at the bottom ;o])

Age 30, single, in love, left alone :( . I like skiing, hiking, books, music and - imagine! - unicorns. I was born in Krems, Austria, and I'm living with my parents and a black cat named Stanislaus in the nearby village of Stratzing.

I've finished my studies of technical physics in 1998 and I am currently working as a software engineer for a company in the speech recogniton business.

In my spare time - what's that? - I am involved in the development (sound, MIDI music, German translation, graphics design a.s.o.) of a shareware game called Sapphire Yours which is similar to (i.e. better than ;o]) Boulder Dash or Emerald Mine. Besides that, if I'm not doing a new strip then I'm probably struggling to learn how to draw *real* images.

You're nuts, get a life!

Who cares?
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No doubt, I am crazy like a squirrel in spring, but be informed that I have a life. I'm doing this for fun - among many other things - and I hope not getting tired of it soon...

I am the antithesis to king Haggard:
I'm not doing anything that doesn't make me happy ;o]