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Something Old, Something New

Welcome, one and all, to the new new site. During the past week, I've been playing with various combinations of static-site generators and CSS/HTML layouts, and I've settled now on what you see here - the Hakyll engine and some custom layouts. Given my previous track record with weblogs, which can only be described as terrible, this week of dedication is a good beginning1.

This latest round of blog-o-mania started, as many of my projects do, with the folks in what is now the Aardvark IRC. What started as an experimental IRC server took no time at all to blossom into a collection of services: web sites, game servers, and even a forthcoming BBS. Excited as I am about playing with new (to me) tech-related things, I immediately wanted to get involved. At this point, I had been revisiting some old games (Monkey Island, in particular), and had a hankering to write an old-style adventure game of my own. While discussing the concept on Aardvark, I was pointed to the website of a certain Mr. Ron Gilbert, and to the development blog for his upcoming title Thimbleweed Park.

Needless to say, I was inspired to start a blog of my own. What would I write? Well certainly I would talk about the development of my own adventure game. Beyond that... who knows. I still don't have any concrete designs on what I'm going to be writing about here. I was also inspired (and I must thank Mr. Gilbert for this) to start using GraphViz to map out what he refers to as "puzzle dependency charts" - a clear and concise way of delineating the flow of a puzzle-based game.

In terms of the blog, I had no trouble settling on using my own CSS/HTML with a little tool called Baker. At first, it was everything I wanted in a static blog system: easy to use, easy to configure, and fairly minimal. There were a few bits that I wasn't keen on as defaults (using that ever- present Bootstrap and JQuery combination, specifically), but these were easily stripped out. However, as I started trying to add template-based static pages (non-posts, such as a list of files or the like) I was quickly lost. Despite having been a Linux user for years now, I still have a very hard time understanding dense bash scripts. After an hour or so of trying (without any luck) of hacking in the functionality I wanted, I gave it up as a loss. I'm all for learning and continuing to try until you get it right, but at some point it's good to weigh the cost against the potential reward - and in this case, the reward just didn't measure up.

I left the blog alone, more or less, for a few days while I turned my attention to Ansible. I figured that if I intended on playing with new services on my servers, I had better have a pretty bulletproof way of setting everything back to a stable square-one if I goofed (or if the software I was playing with turned out to be a failure, which has happened more time than I care to count). At the same time, I stumbled on some instructions for using the git version control system to deploy websites. Very nice.

By Friday, I had managed to commit my home directory to a git repo, and had completed my baseline Ansible playbook. With that out of the way, I returned to the task of finding a new generator for the blog. After trying out a few suggestions which didn't fit the bill, I settled on Hakyll this morning. Within half an hour, I had converted everything, and was back in business. Which brings us to the present.

I don't quite know where I want to go from here. I mentioned the game development blog earlier, and I think that's a keeper, but that will make for a pretty sparse blog. I don't get overwhelming amounts of time to work on writing video games these days. I suppose only time will tell.

  1. Astute readers will notice that this is essentially an amalgamation of three previously existing posts.