Ottawa Valley SAGE

Providing a forum since 1998

Jan 1, 2016 - 5 minute read - Comments

New year, new site

Well, it is 2016 and ovSAGE has been around since the LISA conference of 1998, although the initial announcement was not until December of that year. That makes this group just over 17 years old and while it has never had a lot of members, it has managed to stay alive through a lot of local churn and many meeting places. I was thinking about the various platforms that have been used to manage the group communication over the years. As I remember it, we have used the following:

  1. eGroups
  2. Yahoo Groups (bought egroups)
  3. Rebel Netwinder office server platform with a MS Frontpage designed site
  4. e-Smith server and included templates
  5. March Networks SME server (they bought e-smith and let it go. It is now Koozali)
  6. The Geeklog blogging platform
  7. Drupal after a massive amount of spam was inserted into a geeklog flaw
  8. Wordpress after a failed drupal upgrade made it painful to continue with that playform
  9. Static pages via Pelican

Which brings up the question of why use static pages? To answer that, you need to look at the history. Every time there has been an issue with the platform, I have changed once it became painful. The current change is for the same reason, but not from the same cause. Wordpress has been great as far as the ease of updates and upgrades go, but I have noticed that the resource usage has been climbing and since I am using a third party hosting service that I donate the cost of, I don’t really want to spend more money than I need to to keep this running. Static pages make this a pretty easy sell. The mailing list is no load and the static pages are no load on the webserver.

Currently it is costs roughly $4 per month to have a private virtual server (in Canada) that I actually have control over. The prior hosting providers have been web host accounts on servers in the US or bought out by providers in the US. I’d prefer to have it in Canada, but is not really the case all the time. The current provider has a presence globally and for all I know, backs up to an offshore location transparently to me. While it says that is is Canadian hosting, that may be all that is in Canada.

This does not include the calendar service, which I have decided to outsource to Google. I have a Google account and they offer an embeddable calendar that I discovered works well in a responsive iframe, so I no longer need to update a third party plugin calendar module and this has the bonus of being able to be subscribed to without having to do anything at my end.

In order to handle comments, there is a service called Disqus that can be added to the site just by embedding my site key and now I have an externally managed comments system that I don’t need to manage. Hopefully it hangs around for a while. If not, I’ll have to find an alternative. It looks quite promising at the moment.

The motivation to go through with the change, which required a fair bit of work to get everything adjusted to work with the new platform was simplicity. Everything is written in text, using Markdown or Asciidoc, depending on what kind of mood I am in. You can also use Restructured Text for this as well. I have been on a simplified documentation kick for several years now and sometime during the past year I decided that I should stop using these office suites and get back some ease of writing. Worry about content and let the system handle the layout. No databases, no processing on the server, no PHP (or other dynamic scripting), easy versioning control, ability to rsync changes, source not on the web server, etc. Many fewer security concerns.

This probably would not have gone past the neat idea stage except for the two talks I did in 2015 on static site generators. It kind of stuck and percolated for a while and finally came to implementation when a comment was made at the 2015 LISA conference that the site was down. This has been happening quite a bit and I was tired of it. The webserver and the MySQL engine had to be restarted twice a day to stay up for more than a few hours without exhausting the system resources, so it seemed like I should either pay extra or find an alternative. I decided to find an alternative.

As far as the look of the site, it handles javascript based themes and once I get a better handle on bootstrap, I’ll be adjusting the layout a bit to make it more my own. I’ve already done a little and that worked out well but I have devote some time to it to fully grasp what I can do. Perhaps a talk on bootstrap3 is in the future?

Things that are works in progress and need to be taken care of:

  • Photo albums - fortunately, there are not many. completed
  • Embedded images - the links need to be fixed, they did not translate to the new format at all. It is a work in progress.
  • Fixing entries without titles - most of these are from the eGroup days, so as I check, I will correct. completed
  • Site search - there is a system, I just have not gotten it finished yet. completed
  • Downloads - I’ll have to attach them to a post or just provide a long page with them. I’m not sure yet, although simplicity and just having a directory with the files and some basic html, css and possibly .htaccess would be easy to handle. completed
  • Permitting other authors - Once I get it all in place, I’ll be uploading to github and having it replicated to the site. This may take a while to get completed.
  • Posts with draft status - Checking to see if they are valid and enabling them. completed