Welcome to the new network!

So, I graduated and that means I'm not writing essays for school anymore and those classes aren't chewing up all my time. That doesn't mean I've been doing nothing, though. In fact, I've been using that time to greatly expand my intranet website and even build a brand new website system where this blog is now running!

A website for building... websites?

Previously, my blog was constructed using Jekyll and uploaded to Firebase all via console. It was fairly low-tech and, more importantly, free hosting. I wasn't willing to invest much into the project because I never did much with it. That was due in part to several factors: my education didn't leave me much time for writing on top of all the other things I wanted to do, I generally didn't have a lot of things I wanted to talk about, and the Jekyll system just wasn't all that fun to deal with when I did want to publish something new. By the time I made the switch, I actually couldn't get it to work at all. All the tools were outdated and I couldn't upgrade them without doing a lot of other work probably equal to the amount of work in just starting over.

Don't get started... I know there are a ton of existing templating systems out there already and I didn't need to build one. But I did. Instead of restarting with Jekyll and Firebase, I decided to build my own system into my intranet site that lets me edit site templates, blogs, and other details about the site in-house. I can then preview everything I've done on an internal-only preview server, and then simply click a button to publish changes to the live site. Don't worry, I plan to write another blog with more specifics on that process at a later time.

The editor and the preview site are still hosted internally, only accessible on my home network, in the same environment that all my other stuff has been hosted for so long. For the live server, I tried finding a simple PHP hosting provider that would let me run a simple Laravel site. That turned out to be much harder than I thought it'd be. I tried IONOS for a day only to find out that they don't support setting up SSL certificates for your domains unless you transfer the nameservers for the domains to their own. That wasn't something I was willing to do, because I like having Google manage my domains through Workspace. Plus, if the hosting didn't work out well, it was a ton of extra effort to transfer it all back rather than being able to just hit a delete button and be done.

In the end, I ended up purchasing a VPS from Hostinger and getting it set up as a web server. The Laravel system on the live server does relatively little for security reasons, with all the heavy lifting done on the internal server. But once I decided on a VPS, the setup process was quick and easy because I was already quite familiar with running servers through my experience with Raspberry Pi.

Writing about development

You'll notice there's a new folder on the site that didn't exist before the switch: Development. I realized that I personally spend a lot of time showing off my intranet to close friends because I'm proud of my accomplishments. But why not share that with the rest of the world? After all, the things I've been building are pretty cool and do wonders in making my life easier. They're certainly not enterprise level tools ready for release - I primarily build for the fun of it and to learn new things. Releasing it to the public also makes little sense because everything I've built is highly customized to serve my specific needs and I don't really build in customizations that would make it useful to a broader audience.

But anyways, moving forward you can expect new blogs that show off some of the features and improvements I've built with explanations of why I built them. I may even do some live streams to show off me writing code in the moment and let viewers participate in the decision making process. More on that thought in a few months!

March 22, 2023