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Jekyll, Github and Emacs

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27 Nov 2011

tl;dr: I moved from Wordpress to Jekyll, you can now find the sources for this blog on Github

It has been a great adventure to host my blog on a private machine for more than two years. Setting up everything, in a pure DIY fashion, has been instructive and a funny journey. Unfortunately, there were a number of reasons why a privately hosted Wordpress instance was not optimal anymore.

I also gave the whole blog a new look, shamelessly copying much of Zach Holman design, I think it greatly improves readibility. Feedback welcome!

Going down

It first happened at the beginning of this year that one of my posts attracted a good deal of attention. While it wasn’t really that big thing, 2k requests/hour were enough to drain every bit of available memory my VPS had to offer, thus repeatedly killing my whole LAMP system down. It has to be noted that I’m no PHP nor Wordpress expert, and I was also so sloppy to let every single apache process (-> request) suck up to a round 20MB. No wander my machine went down, and while I was able to finally handle 1k request/hour order of magnitude several times later on, it was everytime on the edge of the catastrophe. It was clear to me that my Wordpress blog was to be replaced.

Note: I’m not saying LAMP + Wordpress is not a good option for a personal blog, it just wasn’t an attractive option for me to get into the details of how to make it robust enough in my case.

Static content

PHP allows for highly dynamic content via server side rendering. Cool, but does a blog really need such power? The reality is that most of the pages served by a blog are the same almost all the time.Apart from when you create a new post, there’s hardly any difference in a page in its whole lifetime. All the features you might get out of a blog engine such as Wordpress are in my case of no real use.

Static content was appealing from a number of reasons: lightweight, plain HTML and resources (JS, CSS). The whole site fits in my mental picture quite easily. I needed only a thin layer that would allow me to use a more convenient interface to the presentation layer than HTML.

Github Pages and Jekyll

I did some initial experiments with a fully custom Clojure blog engine, where I explored various combinations of Compojure, Noir, Hiccup, Enlive, etc. While it was a nice exercise, it was really more of a technical exercise which wasn’t getting me nowhere, as I kept running in circles while picking up new technologies every other day. Github Pages was there, tempting me all along the way: I already loved Git and Markdown, and delegating the whole infrastructure to Github was eventually tackling the very core of my original issues with hosting my own blog. It was when I found a great migration guide that I couldn’t deny anymore Github hosted Jekyll was the best option I had.

Emacs, of course

Migrating to Jekyll took just a couple of days, I even wrote my first Ruby code ever. Everything looked pretty promising, but I needed an extra step: there was no point in having a plain text interface if I couldn’t use the Almighty Emacs™ editor as the main interface to my blog. Sure thing, I wasn’t the first to think so, and I promptly found an initial implementation I could use to start walking the Emacs way.

Needless to say, I’m writing this very post from Emacs. And it feels good.


With this first post I just started feeling the good parts of my new setup. There are huge areas of improvements here and there, but hey, for just a 4 days job I can’t be more happy!

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