In a few days bit-player will celebrate its seventh birthday. (The first published post was dated January 9, 2006.) The original design for the web site was thrown together in haste, and I’ve long been meaning to give it a makeover. I’ve also had a hankering to get away from a managed hosting service and set up my own server. Over the past six weeks I’ve finally done both of those things. Here’s a brief account of the blog’s rebirth. (If you’re reading this via the RSS feed, you might want to take a glance at the web site.)
Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate
After a few weeks of playing sysadmin, I’ve concluded that the modern world of internet computing is organized just like Dante’s Inferno, with concentric circles of torment that get progressively deeper and darker as you travel toward the center.
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As you descend into the inner circles of the computational underworld, however, the light fades; you find yourself in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike; in the darkness around you confused voices cry out in strange tongues; dæmons roam the woods.
The Infernet has still deeper levels, although my Dantean tour didn’t spend much time at the bottom of the pit. I had to make a brief visit to the land of DNS—the domain name system—where the denizens speak knowingly of A records and CNAMEs and such. I never had a need to skate on the frozen lake of TCP/IP.
Now that (most of) the work is done, I’m happy enough with the outcome. I’m having fun designing new ways to waste cpu cycles (yours as well as mine—the program animating the front-page banner runs in your browser, not on my server). As for the deeper levels—well, I can’t really say I’m getting a lot of personal fulfillment out of tweaking settings in /etc/apache2/hpptd.conf and running sudo chmod -r 755 on directories, but I suppose these are things that every educated person in the 21st century is supposed to know about.
Next time, though, I may do it differently. Rather than move WordPress to a new server (a body transplant), I’ll keep the same server and replace WordPress with something else (a head transplant).
I hasten to add that I don’t blame WordPress for my troubles. It’s a marvel of our age: Fill in a few blanks, push a few buttons, and Presto! you’re a publisher. But there’s a price to be paid for the push-button interface. Simplicity on the surface leads to gnarly complexity inside. In the course of my redesign, I wanted to do a number of things for which WordPress has no built-in push button. I was soon hacking my way through dense thickets of other peoples’ code.
I’m well aware that such slash-and-burn programming is frowned upon in the WordPress community. (“Every time you hack core, God kills a kitten.”) I could make excuses. I could claim that none of the 1,656 themes offered on the WordPress web site matched my exact needs, and neither did any of the 22,956 plugins. I could argue that my way of doing things is intrinsically better than anything the hundreds (thousands?) of WordPress developers have come up with over the past 10 years.
No, I don’t believe those things either.
The simple truth is, I’m an incorrigible do-it-yourselfer. Call it a character flaw, or a way of life. But I suppose that if I really want to go it alone, I should go all the way, and build the next bit-player from scratch.