Time Wasted on Tooling

— 878 words — 5 min

It’s incredible how much time I spent on writing and learning about tooling for this blog. I could have finished the post about installing Arch Linux on the Framework laptop long ago. I could have read, edited and posted all the other half-written posts that lie untouched in the drafts folder for ages. Sometimes I come across personal blogs that are simple, adaptive to the screen size, and look good. Usually, they have technical and very well written content. And then I wonder—how do these people write their blogs?

A good example is the blog by Jan Schaumann. It’s simple indeed. No dark mode. The text area is neither too wide nor too small. Text is justified. Code is in monospace. Images and tables look decent. It’s responsive, works on small phone screens and large monitors. Take a look at the post titled Use of HTTPS Resource Records. First, you should know about HTTPS resource records, of course, and second, everything I listed above you’ll find in there. Jan writes his posts directly in HTML. Actually, you can tell (or guess) by looking at the HTML source code—it looks handwritten.

Another example is Dan Luu’s blog. It’s very minimal. Basically no CSS. Text always spans across the whole width of your monitor which is completely unreadable on large monitors. Though I don’t mind resizing the browser—it’s quickly done on sway by opening two terminals to the left and right of the browser—I think that with a little CSS you could make it more readable by default. Some decent text width, perhaps a line spacing of more than one for paragraphs (long text). That’s it. It doesn’t need to be fancy. I asked Dan a couple years ago what he uses to genereate the website and, at the time, it was Hugo. Though, he said, if he started over he would write his own “generator”.

Another minimal blog that offers some CSS customization by the user is Fefes Blog. By default it’s very minimal with no CSS style. However, you can customize it by specifying the css URL parameter https://blog.fefe.de/?css=fefe.css and setting it to a filename (that must exist on the server). This will set a cookie in your browser so that the same CSS layout is used again next time you visit the page. If you leave the value empty, ?css=, the cookie is removed and no CSS is applied. There are quite a few CSS options (see first paragraph) that you can use nowadays, for instance the infamous BILD layout. If you’re interested in how Fefe uses his blog and what his tech stack looks like, you can watch his recorded talk about Writing Secure Software at 37C3.

There are many other websites that are built in a similar way, often with a static website generators such as Hugo or Zola.

Well, what to make of this now? This blog is generated with Zola. I’m not using any “official” theme. I wrote everything myself and tried to keep it all simple. I’ve got many ideas what I’d like to change and add but if I’ll continue to do that, I’ll get a nice looking blog with no content. And that’s no blog, isn’t it?

So at some point, I’ll add a table-like posts listing that categorizes the posts into “tech” or “world” as you can see on Hugo Landau’s blog. There might be some layout and style changes—as can be expected with blogs 😃. The other ideas will stay ideas for now. I want to focus on finishing all the other half-written posts first.

That’s it for now. As ever, if you have comments, write an email.

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