April 14, 2013

My new web site is now live on the Amazon cloud. Welcome!

After using my ISP's hosting, hitching a ride on a friend's domain, and for over 10 years paying for web hosting by the month or year, I've made the transition to use Amazon Web Services (AWS), specifically Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) and Amazon Route 53, to host this web site. Instead of paying a flat fee per unit time, I'll now be paying for the storage and bandwidth I use as I use it. (Although I work for Amazon, I don't get any discounts for AWS and I made the decision to move based on my own initiative. The views in this post are my own and don't necessarily reflect those of my employer.)

With this shift in hosting has come a few more visible changes as I've migrated most of my recent content from WordPress to Jekyll. With Jekyll, I generate content on my local PC and upload it to S3. It's very similar to Aspects, a system that I wrote from scratch in Perl in 2001 and that I put to daily use during my trip to Japan in 2002. Jekyll now enjoys popularity among engineers including Jordan Ryan Moore, a colleague who kindly answered my questions about his own Jekyll migration earlier this year. I started by downloading Jekyll Bootstrap and simplifying the theme that came with it. I then started migrating my WordPress data to Jekyll using a Ruby Gem that came with Jekyll. Many of my entries required a few markup changes, but in total that only took a few hours. I had difficulty getting the jekyll-s3 gem to work in Windows, so I worked around it by following this fantastic getting-started guide by Ryo Chiba to use s3.exe to synchronize my local copy with an S3 bucket. Although Jekyll Bootstrap encourages Git as a source code management system, I've handled backup by working out of the local directory that Amazon Cloud Drive synchronizes from my PC. All of my files fit well within the 5 GB offered free of charge to Cloud Drive users.

Far from a grand opening, I've deliberately slimmed down my web presence. Even the name of this site is just "Jason Weill," dropping the unnecessary "Web Productions" I tacked on some 15 years ago. The files I serve are also much simpler since Amazon S3 doesn't support any web technologies, even the server-side includes I used from around 2003–06. Everything I've uploaded is written in ordinary HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. Jekyll sites can include dynamic content like photo badges and comments sections using JavaScript, although I'll only add those when I see a need for them. One of the biggest drivers for my move was WordPress's Swiss-cheese security. For such a widely-used open source product, I'm amazed how many security holes WordPress has had. My site was compromised so often that I set up a cron job just to check whether it was emitting prescription-drug ads to Googlebot, a situation that threatened my Google ranking and my professional reputation. (Imagine a prospective employer googling you and finding "This site may be compromised" written below your home page's title!) With Jekyll, my web site doesn't have any more outdated PHP modules for scammers to exploit.

Although I'm on over a dozen social networking services, weill.org is still my home. I plan to continue using this site to publish medium- to long-form articles about things I find important, interesting, and irreverent. If you'd like to follow along, please subscribe to my article feed and you'll get the newest postings as soon as S3 makes them consistent.