has a new look! has a new look!
Photo by Hal Gatewood / Unsplash has had a complete overhaul and has returned to its spiritual home: Ghost.

(and don't get me started on the backend).

For the TL;DR: Jump down to find out: Ghost is better than it used to be, and all credit to the designer.

The content

I first launched this site in 2014, and although there were a couple of periods where there wasn't an active site, there has mostly been something.

The idea has always been tech tips and tricks (and at the beginning veered into gaming and photography too, if I remember correctly).

My ideas and drafts notebook now consists of a broader selection of topics, but if this were to be a sales pitch to make you check back to see what else I write, I'd predict that the broad themes will be:

  • Home Automation (Home Assistant)
  • Cloud computing
  • Networking (& security)
  • CMS/Web Server build guides
  • 3D Printing
  • Windows Server & Debian/Ubuntu Server
  • Raspberry Pi projects

I don't know how accurate that list will turn out to be. I'll leave it as-is so future me can leave a comment explaining how wrong I was. 2014 me would be wondering what went so wrong that someone could find cyber security fun.

Aside from the above, there will always be the general Windows/Linux/MacOS tips as these are generally the product of fixing a problem myself on the way to writing another post.

The old platform(s)

The site was originally launched on Ghost(Pro) and bounced around between various hosts for a few years, might've briefly crossed back to WordPress (a platform I was much more familiar with) and onto another forgettable CMS before I started completely rebuilding it in mid-2020. This whole middle period, there wasn't much content, and I had no desire to continue with what had started as a hobby but became a chore.

However, the pandemic-project that I started on completely rekindled the desire to learn about all sorts of technology and build something in the process.

What I ended up with, I was (and am) supremely proud of, but it's practically unusable.

The nearly platform

What I set out to build (and actually, what I ended up with) was a lightweight Python markdown->HTML site generator, where all of the content sat in a Github repository, and whenever there was a change, it triggered a webhook on the server to rebuild the site. Despite this not being an entirely original concept, building this myself not only broadened my Python knowledge, but forced me to dive deeper into web server configurations, optimisations and various APIs. It also enabled me generate an entirely HTML site with build-time optimised CSS, which used no cookies, but had full commenting functionality.

The website was blazingly quick, but my biggest mistake was not building for the end user. I hadn't considered that once I became the end user, the system would need to fit my workflow, and it just didn't, so although my post ideas notebook was fit to burst, the site was painful enough to use that I was back to square 1. This isn't to say I won't ever come back to it, right now, it's onto the next thing:

Back to where it started

The website has gone full circle and returned to Ghost, although not Ghost(Pro).

I'd be lying if I could give you a list of what put me off Ghost before. It has always felt like a limited platform (by design), and some of this I appreciate. Having tried Ghost again recently, I felt it had finally reached the point where not only did it meet all of my requirements, but that it had more flexibility than before, and you know what? It's actually fun to use. It feels as though the web editor is (and always was) clean and clutter free, but default integrations and embeds with a whole host of third party sites, plus the ability to create your own, while simultanously letting you use HTML, Markdown or default Ghost (WYSIWYG?) or a mixture of all 3 means it's easier to write, and not get hung up on the details.

Cloud hosted

I've used various cloud platforms, both to host projects, and to test the capabilities, but I seem to keep coming back to Digital Ocean. This isn't to say it'll stay there forever, but I like the fairly recent additions of the faster memory AMD and Intel optimised droplets, with nvme storage. Is it any faster? I can't say, but it doesn't cost much more, either.

The design

This section should be shorter because I didn't design this myself  (spoiler, I checked. it's not).

I would normally be stubborn and learn how to design Ghost themes (and hey, I'm not ruling anything out), but after looking at the options Norbert from Biron Themes had created, it seemed like a fool's errand to try and do something similar myself.

What I settled on was the Joben theme, then set about customising it!

The support on the theme has been great, and the cost of a premium theme has already been fully justified. Most answers are in the documentation and questions I've had have been responded to really quickly.

The main example of the quick response: a couple of days after I purchased, Ghost announced native comment support. A couple of days later, every single theme from Biron Themes had been updated to support this option. If you have multiple sites/projects, there's also a bundle to access all themes.

For those that have used Ghost, you'll be aware that it's not quite as forgiving as Wordpress, but also the more locked-down nature of Ghost means that you naturally end up having to modify theme code anyway, and then diff it before uploading a new version.

The fact that Ghost allows a maximum of 15 theme/site settings in the dashboard is one of the reasons for this. Wordpress on the other hand has extensive theme customisation hooks meaning some themes seem to come with thousands of options.

This abundance of options perversly leadas to a choice-paralysis, while still only letting you choose from pre-defined options.  The fact that Ghost pushes you back to modifying the HTML, CSS, JS and building using the handlebars is much more freeing and ultimately leaves you with a site that feels like your own more than a Wordpress theme would.

The future

What I enjoy writing about is likely to change over time, but I'm looking forward to learning about and tinkering with every new technology that I find along the way.

As I'm finishing this post, I'm on the verge of taking down the old site and putting up the new. I've squashed most of the bugs, and while there are more things to do, I've finally come to the realisation that I'm not as fixated on every tiny thing as I would've been before. Things'll get fixed along the way, and I can enjoy doing what I set out to do in the first place, and that's a very freeing feeling!

If you made it this far, thank you for reading! (Or at least sympathetically scrolling). Comments and suggestions would be greatly appreciated, as well as any issues with the site - I'm sure there will be a few things I've not noticed! Or send me a tweet @techbitsio.

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