Digital Reboot

September 24, 2015

If you have ever visited my personal site before, you might be already aware that quite a bit has changed on the visual side recently. Not only its appearance and domain1 are new, though, also the technology under the hood has been swapped out completely.

After approximately an one year long intermezzo with the open source blogging platform Ghost, I am back at using a self-made site. Don’t get me wrong, Ghost is a nice product and I think that its team is doing a great job. Using Ghost is really simple and straightforward. In particular, for someone who just cares about writing blog posts and who is not interested in tinkering with HTML/CSS/whatever, it’s a great place to start. For my needs, however, Ghost was always a bit too “inflexible” and had functionality that I never used. I do not need support for multiple users. I did not like the fact that I had to be online and login through my browser to modify or write content, especially since I do most of my day-to-day work on the terminal via Vim. Writing offline and then copy-and-pasting to Ghost did not make any sense to me either. I just wanted to use the tools that I am already accustomed to. Beyond that, last time I checked, using static pages in Ghost was a bit inflexible (yeah I know, it’s first and foremost a blogging platform) but I wanted to have a way to display my contact information, research stuff, etc. The following perfectly expresses my thoughts:

The typical CMS driven website works by building each page on-demand, fetching content from a database and running it through a template engine. This means each page is assembled from templates and content on each request to the server. For most sites this is completely unnecessary overhead and only adds complexity, performance problems and security issues. After all, by far the most websites only change when the content authors or their design team makes changes.

The above remark is from StaticGen, a page collecting information on many of the most popular static site generators out there. Moreover, going the extra-mile by coding and setting up the page myself would be a great opportunity to learn about all kinds of technologies. So here I am back2 at using my own custom static site generator written in Python based on Flask, Frozen-Flask, and the Jinja2 template engine. Writing blog posts is done in Markdown (via Vim ☺). LaTeX support is enabled through MathJax. For updating the site, I first generate the static pages locally and then use a simple shell script that logs into my server via ssh and deploys the content through rsync. Needless to say, everything is under version control via Git and additionally covered by my backups. That’s it.

The source code of my site generator is currently not available online since I do not consider it ready for publication. The code is tailored too strongly towards my needs. If someone has a real interest in it, though, feel free to ping me. Maybe I’ll put a cleaned-up version on GitHub at some point. In the meantime, you can check out some of the tutorials that I used for realising this site, such as this, this, or that.

What to expect from all of this? Well, I don’t know exactly myself yet. You’ll probably see stuff on crypto, IT-sec, research, coding, or anything else that is on my mind at the time. Maybe I’ll write about cooking recipes.

In any case, stay tuned!3

Update (2015-09-26, 23:52): Added a quote from StaticGen.

  1. The old domain redirects here until it expires. [return]
  2. In fact, I’ve also used a similar but not that elaborated setup before my Ghost phase. [return]
  3. Maybe through some RSS. [return]