Fresh Boot to My Blog

It has been a while I have stopped blogging. In the early days I used to blog in Blogger. But after the acquisition of Blogger by Google it was actually time for me to shut it down.

Since then I had been saving my documents in a local webserver running MoinMoin (incidentally my nickname is Moin too). However that was alright for a local environment and at that time finding a dedicated or shared hosting running Python WSGI was not easily available. Plus getting a dedicated hosting for hosting my platform wasn’t easy either. There were other options at that time specially Drupal, then came Wordpress, then there was Joomla!. Have gone through all of those but it seemed like all were overly complicated for a simple blogging platform. Asking about a personal blogging site my first preference is easy to write; afterall contents are the main attraction of a blog. So rather than maintaining the site it has to be the contents on which I am spending more of my time. I have worked on large scale deployments of Wordpress where the site was a daily national newspaper site with millions of view every day. Although didn’t have to go through the development side but had to take care of the deployment part.

Unfortunately none of them cattered that need. Drupal is actually considered the mother of all CMS, it’s huge. it’s robust, it’s complicated. Wordpress on the other hand incepted as a blogging platform but completely moved towards a full fledget CMS platform. But in today’s world it is completely undeniable that without the contribution of Wordpress we wouldn’t have got millions of blogs and contents running and the market share is increasing day by day. However due to this popular usage it has also been the victim of prying eyes and there are lots of bugs and exploits too. But most vulnerable seemed like Joomla!; and least vulnerable was Drupal.

However coming back to my requirements I needed something more easier to write with; not concentrating on HTML tags or missing an angle brace but something more easier to write through; where I could concentrate on contents rather than technicals. There seemed couple of options which supported an easier Markup language to concentrate on writing : Wikitext, Markdown and TEX/Latex. Generating HTML from Latex/TEX wasn’t easy at that time. Markdown was a better choice but none of those supported Markdown; which lead me to use MoinMoin which had a Markdown alike Wiki syntax. So my first requirement is markdown.

Then comes processing power. Whenever I am using another scripting language to render the HTML pages it needs to use a CGI process which was pretty slow and have been updated with FastCGI/WSGI/SGI which are much more faster than CGI. Even though what happens is for every request the CGI process parses and prepares the content in HTML format that needs to be rendered to the browser. Even though you have a .php or .pl extension in the browser addressbar the actual rendering engine is plain old HTML. So I was looking for something which actually supported simple HTML without any fuss; because I had no dynamic contents and alll I need to show are some HTML files. But when you go HTML you limit your contents to be static only. What on earth would I do with dynamic contents? I don’t have thousands of users and their dynamic contents which needs to be rendered. Unfortunately there were no CMS that actually supported plain HTML without any Server Side technologies. On top of that all the above mentioned CMS required a Database Engine where my contents are actually saved in SQL format and whenever someone is trying to access a page or a post that content is called by the CGI process and the HTML file is rendered. Lots of system calls, lots of system process, lots of CPU cycle, lots of memory requirements. Overall low performance for the viewers. So to maintain a blog like the ones from above you have to actually maintain security of the scripting language, a database system and the CMS itself. Actually these take places behind the scene for so many users and noone bothers those because a Website control panel like cPanel/DirectAdmin/Webmin manages those automagically behind the scene. Additionally we will have to use or build up customized plugins/thems/modules which are not easy to do unless you have a good grasp on the language. Plus comes the security of those modules. So my next requirement is a STATIC site with flat file support.

If someone has actually plan to build an easy to use blog and which has the possibility of getting BIG I would advice on Ghost.

Coming back to my requirements I started looking for automatically generating my site from couple of Markdown files. Jekyll seemd a very good and interesting project which does the same. Jekyll along with OCTOPRESS seemed like a good combination for me. Unfortunately it seems like OCTOPRESS development has been stalled; last update looks like in 2016. Then about Jekyll is not fit to generate thousands of pages; it’s just not that scalable and robust. On top of that I don’t know but Ruby didn’t look like something of my cup of tea. So if I required to hack something I might get stuck. In the meantime there was another project called HUGO which has been in the market for long. It was written in go so literally you will need one single binary file as most of the other modules and everything is built withing that binary. HUGO utilizes JAMSTACK technology. This application really intrigued me making my blog public again. Specially when I saw the following video.

So HUGO is going to be my next Blogging Platform. If you are keen to try out other JAMSTACK platforms you can head to StaticGen a site maintained by netlify; a Company supporting Jamstack hosting with CDN.

There are so many dead or development stalled projects listed in StaticGen. So please chose wisely.

As a techie from my point of view the deployment and maintenance didn’t look complex to me. I can maintain my contents in flat files and more over I can do Version Control by keeping them in a git repository. From there I can create a Continuous Integration/Continuous Delivery pipeline and deploy my site in seconds to the web server. Now I need a good theme. So I have chosen Academic. It really matches my requirements in point of content management and display. As I am a Conference Hopper and have papers published; it allows me to easily maintain and showcase those. Additionally I am planning to write tutorials and Courses which is supported really well. Keep an eye on this site for my upcoming tutorials on Networking/DevOPS/FreeBSD/System Administration.