All the Bits and Pieces

In my previous post, I outlined what needed to be done to get the blog started. I’m sure you’re waiting to read what I ended up using for the various bits and pieces.

2018-08-30 - 4 minute read -
Blog

You can find said previous post here.

Now then, let’s dive right in.

Domain

Initially somewhat independently from the blog, I recently registered the domain lehnerpat.com. I had previously considered registering one or more domains related to my name, but had never settled on a version that was still available. In particular, all basic variations were already taken, such as just my last name, my first and last name in either order, or my initials.

However, I have already been using @lehnerpat as my Twitter handle for a while, so this made for a natural candidate. And what luck: lehnerpat.com was still available!

After I had made so-so experiences with one other domain registrar in the past, I decided to go with Hover this time. They are regularly advertised and endorsed on various tech blogs and podcasts, so I am sufficiently confident in their quality of service and reliability.

Hosting Platform

In my quest for blog, I seriously considered going with an integrated blog and hosting provider. These range from generic CMS and website builder systems all the way to blog-focused solutions. In particular, I thought about using Squarespace or WordPress.

I had recently used Squarespace for a blog-like project. While it is a very versatile platform and provides some great themes, there were also a few things I disliked about its blogging capabilities. Editing page content is generally limited to its web editor, which is flexible and low-maintenance, but can be somewhat slow. There is an iOS app for writing blog entries, but it’s rather clunky, so I probably would have gotten fed up with it before long. Furthermore, while Squarespace does support input in markdown, such blocks of text don’t mix well with the rest of its editor. So I would have gotten all the technicalities of writing markdown, with all the fun of using a WYSIWYG editor.

WordPress seemed like a logical alternative, since it is a powerful CMS that is slightly biased toward blog(-like) content. WordPress.com offers integrated hosting of WordPress sites, taking away the hassle of running your own web server, just like Squarespace does. Unfortunately, there is no trial for the paid plans at WordPress.com, and I didn’t want to spend the money to evaluate if I would get along with it.

Therefore, I chose to go with a regular web host and a static blogging engine. More on the blogging engine below.

For basic static website hosting, I knew that GitHub Pages are a free and popular choice. I had even dabbled with them a few times in the past, so I knew the technical basics well enough to get started quickly. However, GitHub does not include private repositories in its free tier. And though it shouldn’t be a big deal to leave my blog sources in a public repo, I do prefer having them private. So I looked around for alternatives.

Indeed, Bitbucket offers a similar service to Github Pages, albeit without the snappy name. Paired with their free private repos (which I’m already using for other things), this seemed like the way to go at first. Unfortunately, they don’t currently seem to support using custom domains for static websites hosted on their service. So that ruled out Bitbucket as well.

But hang on a minute, there is a third popular Git hosting service: GitLab. And what do you know? They also offer free static website hosting, including the name: GitLab Pages. And they offer free private repos. And they support custom domains.

GitLab seemed to be the winner here, so I created an account to try it out, and started experimenting with their Pages feature1.

Blogging Engine

In terms of static blogging engines, or static site generators (SSGs), I was previously aware of Jekyll, since GitHub Pages uses that by default.

However, I don’t like the default theme that Jekyll comes with. And my web design skills are not at a level where creating my own design from scratch would have been a viable option. And Jekyll doesn’t have a theme gallery on its website.

So I started looking around at what else is out there.

GitLab Pages provides starter packs for several other SSGs, both blog-focused and not. Here I came across Hugo and Hexo. Notably, they both have theme galleries on their main websites.

For Hugo, though, I didn’t find a theme that I liked (even as a base for customization). For Hexo, I did find one, but in further trying it out, it kind of just didn’t feel right.

So I looked around for Jekyll themes again, and did actually find some. Eventually I came across Chalk, which tickled my fancy. I pulled a Jekyll starter together with the Chalk theme, and tinkered a bit to get to know the basics. Since the default Jekyll build process that GitLab Pages uses doesn’t work out of the box with Chalk, I also made some adjustments to get them to play nicely with each other.

Et Voilà: One Blog

And “just like that” I have a blog now.

My current plans are to write about coding stuff and related subjects, maybe every now and then throwing in something else that I’m interested in.

Fair warning: I can’t make any promises about the frequency or regularity of my posts.

I hope you find my posts interesting and useful! Feel free to send me your feedback on Twitter: @lehnerpat.


Footnotes

  1. Spoiler alert: GitLab Pages are working pretty great so far.