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Can someone explain to me what the difference is? I use Dreamweaver as my html editor and it automatically creates relative image links for documents. Should I change the path on these as well to be root relative?
It is more likely that your host added or adjusted directives in your server configuration having to do with Cache-control response headers sent with your image files, so that browsers and caching proxies in the network can now cache your images -- or cache them for longer periods of time.
You should look into what Cache-control headers are returned when requesting images from your server; The "Live HTTP Headers" add-on for Firefox and Mozilla-based browsers is quite useful for this, or you can use any one of many on-line server headers checker.
In general, images can be cached for very long periods of time, since it's unlikely that they will change -- I allow my images to be cached for weeks, and some even for months.
I downloaded the plugin for Firefox and called a page from my site and get a blank screen for the httpliveheaders.
I went to the site where I downloaded the extension, and can see a whole list of header information for them with the httpliveheaders tool.
When I view the source code for their page, I don't see any header information there, so I assume that this header information is somehow configured in apache?
Where do you add a cache control header for images? Can you also give some examples? The images that are clobbering my server are icons that are included in the navigation on my children's site. The icons help preschoolers (who don't know how to read yet) find what they want. They also add color and interest for kids.