I am shifting my site onto GitHub Pages using Jekyll, as opposed to a PHP-based site which I’d done for almost twenty years. At the same time, I am taking advantage of this to shift the content and tone a bit, basically bringing my 2010 site into 2021.

The site in its old form had the same structure and tone as it did when I was a grad student, because I performed the transition in 2010 hastily to meet an unexpected and impending deadline to “move it or lose it,” so so speak. I made only minimal edits at the time, and while I did somewhat update my biographical information, the major body of content was not touched.

Migration from Old to New

My first goal was to get a version of my existing site building in GitHub Pages, and stored in Git. This would not be the finished site, but it would allow me to track all changes I did going forward.

First I migrated my software artifacts to Git. While in grad school I had kept code artifacts in downloadable .tgz and .tar.bz2. files. I’d begun some years ago to move some of them to Git repos and GitHub, but completed this on the remainder by moving them into my archive organization. The idea of using personal organizations in this fashion I owe to the advice of one Andrei Cioara.

Since my goal was to use GitHub pages, remaining web content itself I also kept in a Git repository, first on my local machine and NAS, and then later adding my GitHub personal pages, where I had the opportunity to learn about all the nasty little ways Jekyll bundled and served locally differs from the more restrictive page build steps performed by GitHub Pages.

On the subject of that content, I “Markdown-ified” content remaining on the site, even the stuff I didn’t intend to keep, so I could through Git commits observe how, going forward, my site changes.

Edits and Pruning Content

The next step once this “modern recreation” of my grad school site was created, was to do the necessary pruning and editing to make it more modern. Basically, since nowadays most of what I do isn’t public anyway, and what little is can be viewed on GitHub, this involves a lot of cutting or at least de-emphasizing.

That said, a fair amount could stay. My publication list just needed a few additions. The most popular page on my site, by far, is an article I wrote when I was a teenager on two’s complement. (By metrics from my old webhost, that and another article on floating point saw more traffic than the reset of my site combined.) My little auto-biographical blurb could be cut down a lot, and moved to the main page.

Another thing I’ll keep is this little blog. I have from time to time wanted to talk about some technical subject I discovered that I think few people know about or appreciate, and with this new setup that becomes a lot easier to do. (To be honest, I don’t even remember how to log into my old little blogging site.) I do write a fair amount; I just have nowhere to put my little random thoughts.

Obviously, I doubt anyone really cares. Do people care about my perspective on the differences between Factorio, Satisfactory, and Dyson Sphere Program? No. Do I still enjoy writing about it? Yes.

Going forward, who knows. I probably won’t deal much with my little site here. Since changing the site is literally quite as simple as writing a Markdown document and pushing to GitHub, which I do all the time, there will certainly be far less of a barrier.


While I used the Minima theme, as time went on there were many customizations (though usually based off that root scheme).

  • The top navigation bar I changed so that instead of just always taking the title property, it could also take the nav_title property if present, since sometimes a full title is a bit too verbose for such a tiny space.

  • Speaking of which, I added space between those navigation elements, since Minima just ran them altogether, resulting in a poor experience for text-only rendering of the site, and for screen readers.

  • While you can have skins that are dark or classic (light) alongside some others, I added a skin that changes according to a user’s system preferences, per this guide on dark mode. The Minima theme made this quite difficult, so I basically had to reproduce their entire SCSS scheme to use CSS4 variables for the colors. The default mode is classic, but my hope is that it renders equally well in dark. (Indeed, since that is what I use myself, it should if anything be better.)

  • My site is, understandably, not very popular or visited, with two exceptions: my notes pages on two’s complement and the IEEE 754 floating-point standard. In fact there are some direct links to the old locations, so I used this advice to set up client-side redirects.

  • Post-list pages now have the ability to have “pinned” posts via a priority tag which, if set, can “override” the standard date ordering of posts. I also made it add a little 📌 icon in the case where that is used.

  • Made the footer content a lot less voluminous.

The Old Hosting Company

Speaking of which, let’s talk about my old hosting company, because I think it’s kind of funny. They’ve been around since 1997, and it’s pretty clear their heart’s no longer in it, exactly. I’m not dissatisfied with them, per se. Given that I have no real needs I have no cause for complaints. However, given that I’m doing a major shift anyway and no longer need anything with PHP or databases, I decided to drop them. That said, I will describe them, because, again, it’s kind of funny.

Their technology is just a touch outdated. Let’s put it like this. First, let’s suppose you try to open the Plesk hosting control panel, version 9.2 from 2009, just to set the stage. You must first bypass a browser warning that the SSL certificate has expired years ago. From there, operations on files involve using a web interface that would not feel out of place in the year 2000. Each operation is one file at a time, obviously. There is an in-browser SSH option if you want something more sophisticated, but this is present in a frameset, which itself contains an applet tag for the SSH option, which I could not get to work even with full compatibility settings on an ancient version of Internet Explorer. (To be clear, Java applets are one of those technologies so old its Wikipedia page uses the word “was” instead of “is”) Access through FTP (not SCP, to be clear) is possible, if you pay for a static IP address. There are, obviously, no secure options – not even the ability to pay for one, so far as I see.

This very advanced hosting, applets and all, cost $100 a year, and the domain registration $35 per year. This cost had steadily increased over time. That said, the cost was of secondary concern. I certainly didn’t do this work to save $130 a year. Still, I would not say the high cost helped.