After a year and a half of telling myself that I was going to start a blog, I finally did it!
Who I Am
I am a second year software engineering student at the University of Waterloo, and in this post, I will be discussing why I started this blog, why I chose Jekyll, and a bit about my design decisions and blog setup.
Why I Am Blogging
In my several years of programming, I have repeatedly experienced the same dilemma: I would encounter a particularly difficult programming challenge, tackle it, and finally solve it after a lot of hacking and hard work. However, despite all the effort that I put into solving the problem, I would realize in perhaps a week’s time, that I had completely forgotten how to solve it, and be sitting perplexed in face of the same problem. After a while of facing this dilemma, I realized that if I started a blog, then it would serve as a multi-purpose solution to both myself and others:
- a refresher for myself about problems that I have previously encountered and how to solve them
- a refresher on how to do cool things
- a resource for others to learn from based on my experiences
- an outlet for my perspective on things
For my blogging platform, I decided to go with raw Jekyll with GitHub pages, rather than using a blogging framework such as WordPress or Octopress.
This was partially due to the fact that a lot of programmers that I admire, including Phil Haack, whose blog can be found at haacked.com, but my reason also has to do with the function and speed of Jekyll.
Jekyll is a blog aware, static site generator, which basically means that rather than using server-side software to load content from a database, Jekyll generates static HTML pages for my blog, thereby skipping the overhead of a server-sided CMS. This results in faster loading of pages.
When choosing Jekyll, there were two routes I could have taken: raw Jekyll or using a blogging framework such as Octopress. An advantage of Octopress is that there are a lot of plug-ins developed for it, and it is user-friendly to set up. However, I would need to manually generate the site with Jekyll, then push my changes to the server every time that I wanted to add a new post to my blog. This is where raw Jekyll shines; GitHub Pages works with raw Jekyll in that whenever I push my changes to GitHub, it will automatically run the content through Jekyll (more information can be found here. This allows me to use GitHub itself as a content management system, editing and publish posts through the browser only, which is pretty neat, and the route I decided to take.
When building my blog, my workflow consisted of a Ubuntu virtual machine where I tested my builds locally, before pushing my changes onto GitHub, where it would be run through Jekyll and published to the web.
My Development Environment
My Ubuntu virtual machine is where I did all my development and experimentation. In order to set it up as the development machine, I installed rbenv, libssl-dev, ruby-build plug-in, ruby, jekyll, nodejs, and git. I set it up with the following script:
#This script prepares a Debian-based Linux box (particularly Ubuntu) for setting up a simple Jekyll demo
RUBYVERSION=2.1.2 #Ruby Version to install (a list can be displayed with 'rbenv install -l')
# sudo apt-get install libcurl4-gnutls-dev libexpat1-dev gettext libz-dev libssl-dev #install git dependencies (usually pre-installed)
sudo apt-get install git
git clone https://github.com/sstephenson/rbenv.git ~/.rbenv #Check out rbenv into ~/.rbenv
echo 'export PATH="$HOME/.rbenv/bin:$PATH"' >> ~/.bashrc #Add ~/.rbenv/bin to $PATH for access to the rbenv command-line utility. (For non-Ubuntu distros, replace .bashrc with .bash_profile)
echo 'eval "$(rbenv init -)"' >> ~/.bashrc #Add rbenv init to shell to enable shims and autocompletion
#Note that the shell has to be restarted for the changes to be effective.
git clone https://github.com/sstephenson/ruby-build.git ~/.rbenv/plugins/ruby-build #install ruby-build as plug-in
sudo apt-get install libssl-dev #install dependency required to install Ruby
rbenv install $RUBYVERSION #install ruby
rbenv rehash #install shims for all ruby versions
rbenv global $RUBYVERSION #set $RUBYVERSION as version to use in all shells
gem install jekyll #rubygems is included with most of the later ruby distributions
jekyll new myblog
#a boilerplate jekyll blog should now be up on localhost:4000
#To set up a template:
#gem install bundler
My Production Environment
The production environment is basically GitHub Pages, and the repository that is hosted on GitHub. In order to add content or remove content, I simply need to go to github.com/clemmy/clemmy.github.io and make changes through GitHub’s in-browser editor.
Whew, this was a very long post. I will be wrapping this up now, but I am quite pleased that I finally got this load off my shoulders. Until next time!