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Revitalization Project

It’s been over three years since I’ve posted anything new to my blog. This saddens me. I miss writing.

This is my own fault, of course, and there are reasons for my absence…

Part of it is shifting interests and altered career focus. I’m still working with Fictive Kin, but these days I’m doing almost no PHP, and I spend my days (and sometimes nights) with operations/systems administration. We’re doing really interesting stuff, and that occasionally leads down fun roads. For example, I’ve found time to write this while on my way to Korea to help lead a performance workshop. (I wrote this in May, but am only posting in August. So it goes.)

Another part of this site’s decay has now hopefully been resolved: a rusty and dusty server that I just couldn’t find the time and motivation to update. I (finally) recently moved this site to a cloud instance in EC2 (Amazon Web Services), off of a five-plus year old dedicated Ubuntu box hosted in downtown Montreal. I no longer need the server to be close, ping-wise, to me, and the lack of flexibility with dedicated hardware was becoming unbearable (as far as finding time to maintain it goes).

The new hosting setup much more closely matches what we do at work: Vagrant (for development), EC2, Route53, Salt, Python… and I’ve grown an appreciation for reducing cognitive load, so making things over here on the personal side work as closely as possible to things on the professional side is highly beneficial to my ability to remember things and fix problems.

Python, you say? Yep.

At work, we’ve moved most of our efforts to Python (Flask-based, but with a built-up library of custom code that helps us build new apps quickly). Despite my membership in its Cabal (developers/leadership), I hadn’t maintained the Habari install on this site for years (and hey… it still wasn’t exploited-in-minutes, Wordpress style, so good for us). I have also fostered an increasing appreciation for simplicity and reliability over the years, and wanted to move to a static (generated) platform. I found Nikola. It met my needs, and was familiar (Jinja, relatively clear Python), so I moved this site off of Habari and Lithium.

Some stuff isn’t yet ported (namely: my brewing recipes), and some things were simply removed (comments are gone, removed some irrelevant posts, and I didn’t feel the need port over some of my pages), but I did manage to update my shares page… finally.

There are a few things that we’ve built that I’m partcularly proud of. One of those is our development setup. It’s been an iterative process, and one that was not without failure, but I’m happy to say that after over six years, we’re finally at a place where I consider our development setup to be both reliable and stable. Well, as reliable and stable as software is expected to be, at least.

The short version is that we use Vagrant, VirtualBox, Salt, and a whole bunch of other pieces to mimic as-close-to-production-as-possible development environments for our users that — when things are working properly — can be set up in a few minutes, can be added to a new project or new app without much technical knowledge on the user side, and can — for the most part — be maintained, debugged, and repaired remotely, without having much control over the host machine (by design). (We’re a fully distributed team, so this last part is critical.)

I’ll be writing about a few of the tricks/tips/ideas we’ve learned on this journey, here, as well as some other infrastructure that helps with operations. Hopefully I haven’t ignored this site so long that I’ve lost my entire readership. (-:

I know I said it earlier, but I really do miss writing, and I miss the community of bloggers we once had in web development. We’ve let it become diluted with micro-posts, giving away our content to proprietary services, being perpetually insulted/insulting, slacktivism, word policing, and petty bickering. Is there ever hope of returning to something less pedestrian, less… juvenile? I sure hope so.