Introduction

9 Oct 2011colophonia

I’ve been meaning to start a blog for some time, but couldn’t settle on a platform. I’d used Wordpress before for a little blog we set up to let our friends and family know what we were up to when we moved to Montpellier, and I liked it (easy to install, easy to use). For a personal blog though, I wanted something a bit more hackable (yeah, I know, you can hack on Wordpress too, but if it’s going to be for fun, I want to be using something other than PHP!).

I spent a bit of time writing the beginnings of a blog platform of my own in Haskell, using the Happstack framework. I got some way with that, but it was never really ready for primetime. Recently though, I heard about Hakyll, thought “What a great idea!” and jumped back in to getting something in shape.

Hakyll is a static website generator, which makes it great for situations where server resources are limited. I’m serving my site from a Linode VPS using the Cherokee web server, and I just don’t need the full flexibility of a general webapp for what I want to do. Hakyll seemed like an ideal solution, and it’s Haskell, so it would be fun!

I’ll write later about how I set Hakyll up for what I wanted, because there were a number of things I wanted to do differently to the way most Hakyll-based sites are set up, but you can see what I did here. The basic requirements were:

• Markdown syntax for posts;

• Wordpress-style YYYY/MM/DD/TITLE post addresses;

• Easy to organise posts with ancillary material (images, code, etc.);

• Good LaTeX math support.

In addition, I wanted a feature I’d implemented in my not-quite-ever-finished blog framework. This allows me to embed TikZ code representing an image in a blog post and have it rendered as an inline SVG image in the resulting HTML. Useful? Sometimes. Cute? Well, I think so. I’ll show how I did that in a later article.

As for what else I’m going to write about here, it’ll be pretty eclectic. Basically, anything I find interesting. Which might range from Haskell and Common Lisp stuff, to ecology, remote sensing and vegetation modelling (my day job), book reviews, plus whatever else takes my fancy.