About this site

This site is an example of the technologies that I use to build virtual things. It is built and depends almost entirely on free and open source software (starting from the top and working down):

  • This website is built on the Drupal 7 CMS platform, using a theme/look and feel I constructed using Twitter's Bootstrap framework.
  • Drupal, in turn, depends on the PHP script interpreter to do all the work, coordinated by the Nginx webserver.
  • Data is stored in a MariaDB (an improved drop-in replacement for MySQL) database.
  • Behind the scenes there's also a Postfix mail server (which sends emails from the site).
  • The whole domain (and quite a few others) run on a virtual server (based, I'm afraid, in the US) running Ubuntu Linux.
  • The domain uses secure certificates (providing the "https" end-to-end encryption between your browser and this site, protecting your security) from StartSSL which, in turn, depends on the ubiquitous OpenSSL on both the server and in your browser.

Actually, this site depends on many supporting actors: libraries like CKEditor rich text area widget (for the Drupal CMS' content editor) and web services like Piwik and Disqus (the latter is not open source). I'm sure I'm forgetting plenty of others.

The development process I employ allows me to work primarily on my laptop (running Linux Mint) and push updates to the website server. My workflow depends the following crucial tools:

  • All the files making up the site are stored in the miraculous git version control system which allows me to transfer the files with bulletproof (but not necessarily idiot proof) reliability across the interwebs.
  • I use Vagrant to create a fully virtualised Ubuntu Linux environment on my laptop which runs the full stack necessary to develop the Drupal site, which is stored in a git-managed directory tree on my laptop which is also visible to the Vagrant instance.
  • I use the composer PHP package manager to install and manage drush, which, in turn, I use constantly to do all kinds of useful Drupaly command line things.
  • I use compass Ruby package manager to install various Ruby gems which let me compile Sass - essentially souped-up Cascading Style Sheets with much more useful syntax that behaves like a programming language.
  • I use mosh and ssh to connect to my remote server and to my local Vagrant virtual machine.
  • I use the Atom integrated development environment and Vim text editor to change files locally and on remote machines respectively.
  • For manipulating images I use The GIMP and for creating vector graphics I use Inkscape.
  • And perhaps my most important tools (which I forever take for granted, but never should!) are my web browsers: I mostly use Firefox for development, but I almost always also have a Chromium instance running to do various sorts of testing. I use the indispensable Firebug to do live JavaScript debugging and CSS configuration.

For sanity while I work, I use tools like RhythmBox to listen to music or VLC to stream online radio, or I often listen to RadioNZ programmes, always selecting the open source Ogg Vorbis formatted version. I use lots and lots of other open source software, but not for this site...

Future plans...

As any web developer knows, no website is ever "finished"... This site is no exception. Next steps include incorporating some images :) - it'd be fair to say the site's currently quite text-heavy. Luckily, I have a large collection of (I hope!) evocative images which I will work in over the coming days/weeks.