You wait six months for a blog post and then I suddenly update all the things at once. Here we are. Site redesign. New Server. New software release. Lets tackle those in order
I launched this version of my blog originally as 'in-progress' software before it was quite ready, after spending a few years faffing around with experiments intended to replace WordPress. One day I had something I wanted to publish, and WordPress was broken, and the thing was nearly working so I hit go. It wasn't feature complete, and there was completely minimal styling, but I thought it looked OK enough, until a friend pointed out it looked completely insane on a mobile. I felt pretty embarrassed, so I quickly cobbled together a mobile-first grid-oriented thing using zurb foundation 5 as a framework, because that was what we were using at work at the time, and it seemed like an excuse to learn a bit about how it worked. I subsequently reworked it to use foundation 6 with a slightly styled theme based on my old WordPress colours and there we are. Of late, the amount of gubbins needed to support the foundation classes has been a bit of an encumbrance, and so I decided to do away with it. This time I just hand-wrote the styles again, I think CSS has moved on a bit and hope browsers are generally a bit better behaved. Seeing as we were doing this, I did a new theme, it's based on my emacs colours. I don't care that you hate it, no.
I'm sure you all heard, ARM hardware is the new hotness now. As a natural contrarian, I was already hosting my site on an ARM server and so it's clearly time for me to move to AMD64. Not quite. For years I've been having fun hosting this place on one of scaleway's ARM C1 instances, which appealed to my quirky taste in alternative computers, as well as being super-cheap, and in many ways, offering far better raw performance than a VPS or a cheap cloud instance. Seriously. I was running about twelve services per instance, and my own hand-written site software, and performance was more than acceptable. I even hit the front page of the reddits and the orangenews a couple of times with my tech dithering, and soaked up big blog traffic spikes, no sweat. However, scaleway haven't offered any useful updates to their core platform since they experimented with, and withdrew a 64 bit ARM beta, and now seem to be moving more towards a VPS/Intel vision, and it was really becoming a bit limiting to be stuck on Debian 9 and 32 bit. So I moved house, installed some containers on an existing server I had sitting around and now we're live, in Belgium.
New software release
This is a little bit tied in with the last item there. The site engine here is written in common lisp, and for the longest time I just had it running out of an interactive repl attached to an emacs. Yes, including the #1 NackerYews story days. I moved it to a systemd service, for process supervision, and proper logging and things like that, and I wanted to get some kind of release management regime in place. So I had a fun time figuring out good ways to build standalone lisp apps, and how to package them up for Debian, and now I kind of have tagged release builds. I'm also running in my own cowboy cloud, sticker-ed together out of LXC, so the blog now can be deployed as a clean, ephemeral contained service any time I want to do a release. Particularly this part of things was becoming quite the aggravation, cross-building for ARM32 isn't really trivially feasible with common lisp, and although I had a lot of fun for a bit building debs on a raspberry Pi tucked under my desk, I eventually ran out of patience trying to keep ABI back-compatibility with older Debians.
My process probably seems a little bit archaic and convoluted to anyone used to thinking about this kind of thing in a modern context. It is true that there are lots of simpler abstractions and services for doing this kind of thing these days. Perhaps less intuitively, doing things the bale-of-twine and pencil sketch cowboy manner I've pitched for is also crazy easy compared to what I remember hand wrangling sites of old used to be. LXC is fairly straightforward to install on Debian stable OOTB. (unprivileged mode is still a bit of twerking, but if you follow the recipe exactly, straightforward enough). Debhelper vastly simplifies deb building (although I'll concede you do still have to do way too much) and gpb is simpler yet in some ways. Quicklisp, buildapp and quickproject make lisp dependencies and builds almost pleasurable. Cloudflare and certbot wildcards make swapping hosts around with full TLS almost disconcertingly straightforward compared to what I've been accustomed to in the past.
Of course this is still a rolling set of dependencies which may appear complex or unfamiliar, but in a lot of ways there's also a whole lot of faff and bookeeping overhead removed, no accounts or APIs, third-party apps and frameworks to keep up-to-date. Most of this task list was concerned with a full bootstrap from a naked host. For ongoing support I just have to compile debs using standard make, launch empty containers with standard templates, and write posts and maintain code with a straightforward text editor. And there's complete autonomy of hosting and running, I'm not really locked into anything, which is exactly where I prefer to keep things. The modern-day indieweb refuses to die!