Back from the dead

Back from the dead

Photo: Flickr

The last post on this blog was from the summer of ‘10. Since then, things got a little hectic and I was not able to dedicate much time to this blog. Things are little better now and after a lot of nagging from a lot of people, I’ve decided to revive this blog.

The previous version of this blog was powered by a little blog engine that I had built called Chronicles (partially so that I could learn ASP.NET MVC). The code is available on github. It’s a typical MVC application with SQL server as the datastore, with a disk based caching mechanism which made it low on memory usage so that I could host it on a cheap shared hosting account. Once a page is generated from the database, it gets cached to disk and subsequent requests are served from the disk cache. As soon as a new comment or blog post is added, it wipes out the entire cache and regenerates it on subsequent requests. This worked pretty well, staying afloat as much as my hosting provider allowed it to.

Now think about this - in the past 2.5 years, there have been no updates to the blog. In effect every single one of those requests were being served from the disk cache. Which means that for the most part of those 2.5 years, SQL Server was sitting there gathering dust. Not even a single query was sent to the server. What a waste!

So when I decided to revive this blog, I wanted something more efficient. That’s when I read about Jekyll and github pages. It’s an elegant and efficient solution to the whole problem of hosting a simple blog like this.

Jekyll is blog-aware static site generator. You create your site in a specific directory structure with templates and content. Once you have made the necessary changes to the site, run Jekyll on this directory and it outputs static HTML files which can be served using any web server like IIS or Apache.

Github pages makes this even simpler. You can push your Jekyll site to a github repo (the repo should be named github_username.github.com) and github will automatically run Jekyll on it and the resulting html will be available at github_username.github.com. Now if you want to host this website under your own domain, just create a file named CNAME with the name of your domain and put it into the root of your repo.

My current workflow for posting a blog post looks like this: 1. Write up the whole post in markdown format and save it into the special _posts directory in Jekyll 2. Push the changes to my github repo. 3. Github has a post commit hook that kicks off Jekyll which regenerates the changed/new html pages. 4. The blog post is live!

Commenting is handled by Disqus. Which means, I don’t need the silly code that I had put in place for spam detection. Also, I can avoid building all the moderation tools.

Now on to the coolest part of this setup - Jekyll is opensource and free, Github pages is free and Disqus is also free (atleast for my traffic volumes). So other than the $10/year for the domain, hosting this blog is completely free!

You can check out the source code for this blog here. Feel free to fork it and use it for your own blog if you like what you see.

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