February 25th, 2015


Welcome to my new blog!

It’s like my old blog, but with a much lighter appearance and hopefully provides a nicer reading environment. It should also be faster, and much better on mobile. As well as nearly all of my old posts, I’ve added a spiffy new More About Me page with a succinct version of my life story, if you’re interested. I’ve also spruced up the My Apps and Archive pages.

I’ve tried my very best to make sure all the links from my old blog work with this new one, but if you spot anything amiss I’d appreciate you getting in touch with me on Twitter or emailing blog at this domain and letting me know.

I actually ended up going through an interesting journey while putting this together. To make sure that every post was formatted properly in the new engine, I read through every single one of my posts all the way back to 2004 — and let me tell you, ten years ago I was an idiot. I seriously considered removing all the posts I found embarassing, but in the end I decided that the journey is just as important as the destination, so they stayed. The only posts I removed where ones that were nothing but links to now-defunct websites.

Technical Details

My previous blog was generated by Octopress, which is a blogging product built on top of Jekyll. However, Octopress’ main selling point for newbies to this whole thing (i.e., me a few years ago) is also its biggest drawback — it’s a complete blogging platform out-of-the-box. This makes diving in and customising it extremely daunting, rather like being presented with a car, a spanner and being told to replace the clutch plate. I did manage to customise a couple of little things on my old site, but not much.

So, a couple of weeks ago I sat here, new theme in hand, ready to try to put it into Octopress. It was soon apparent that I’d basically have to rip the entire thing apart to fully understand what was going on, and if I was going to do that, why not look at alternatives?

I’d recently tried out another static site compiler called nanoc for another project of mine, and really liked it. Where Octopress provides a fully featured blog out-of-the-box, nanoc provides nothing. The default site is literally a white “Hello World” page with no CSS at all. While this is daunting at first, it’s actually quite liberating — it took me about a week to put this whole thing together from scratch, and I now know every intimate detail about it which makes me really comfortable customising it in any way I need.

How The Site Is Put Together

  • There are three “things” in this entire site:

    1. Posts. These are markdown files.

    2. Pages. These are HTML fragments.

    3. Special items like the RSS feed.

  • Posts are put through a markdown parser (kramdown) then wrapped with the site’s template.

  • Pages are rendered pretty much as-is with nothing special going on other than being wrapped in the template. These include the About, Apps, and Archive pages, as well as the site’s home page.

  • When the template is rendered, pages containing the in_menu tag are placed in the site menu. This allows me to have “hidden” pages (like the 404 page) without any extra work.

  • Binary files (images and the like) live in a submodule to the blog’s source repo. Yes, git isn’t great at binaries (and there’s over 300Mb of them for this site), but it works alright for my needs. These files get copied to the output directory with no processing at all.

I’m really pleased with the results of my work, and it gives me greater control over my presence on the web. Over time, I hope to add more features to the site as I work on my web skills.