Ronni Grapenthin - Notes

twitter: @rngrp
New Mexico Tech
Dept. of Earth &
Environmental Science
801 Leroy Place
Socorro, NM-87801

About the blog

Published: 2012/01/28

When faced with an issue as a programmer, the process to find a solution is different from that of the rest of the population. I finally convinced myself that episodic publishing of articles may turn into a worthwhile, satisfying occupation. Well, here's the issue: I instantly thought of a blog. For most people that may not be an issue; they may turn to blogspot or any of the other hosters, register, pick a title, decide on a theme, and start writing. Not me.

Having this collection of articles hosted elsewhere was out of the question. I didn't even want to think about migration or copyright issues and the likes. Years ago I started experimenting with wordpress. While this is certainly the most popular blogging tool, it's complete overkill for me. The idea of needing a relational database engine (MySQL) to save my articles to is intimidating; not because it's particularily hard to install or administer, but because it's so powerful. Neither do I need all the MySQL features, nor all the things WordPress has to offer. What I want should be flat-file storage of my text.

A tool that supports this which I've used for a while as a lab notebook is FlatPress. It stores data in XML files, is fast enough for me, and generally headache free. However, I use HTML since the mid 90s (back when we used tables instead of CSS) [FOOTNOTE: During an Interview to become a 'webprogrammer' in 1999 I was admired that I did all my HTML 'coding' in notepad and not the HTML layout tool that was available. Well, I guess I needed more of a challenge] I always found the idea of learning a different 'language' (the one for formatting in blogs that is) to get the same formatting mildly irritating. Plus, I thought uploading my images through a webinterface only so that I could link them into my posts seemed awkward. I realized that I could just copy them on the command line, but then I am already on the command line.

This got me to think about nanoblogger, a blog engine written for the command line that creates static HTML content. I first saw this used by Kurt Schwehr Well, isn't that nice? It's certainly a lot faster than parsing XML and comes with command line comforts. I played with it and was satisfied until I thought about layout and all the additional things blog engines bring along. I am pretty satisfied with my website layout, and don't think the way blogs archive articles, show calendars and archives is anything I really need.

That was the moment when I settled on the idea that I'll brew something myself rather than fiddeling with an existing tool. All I really need is a table that records date, title and categories of an article and a bit of code that generates an overview page from this. I later realized that Matt Might has an excellent set up along those lines. Since parts of my pages already use PHP, I didn't just go and copied his JavaScripts, but will now build my own little thing for organizing my writings.

This decision and testing process took me an entire Saturday afternoon. Not that I missed much: Fairbanks temperatures were at -40 to -50 degrees Fahrenheit, my local friend's facebook updates encouraged staying at home, drinking wine and watching movies. While some may consider this a lost afternoon, I decided to write, designed a small project that will distract me from current paper-writing issues, and found a topic to write on different from "I am starting this blog and hope to update Monday, Wednesday, Friday." Cheers to that!

ronni <at> gi <dot> alaska <dot> edu | Created: 2012/01/28 | Last modified: December 17 2014 01:53.