New Year, New Blog, Same Git Bewilderment

January 9, 2017

Big things have been happening in the past three weeks!

First, let's talk about this site. I started getting annoyed a while ago because my Jekyll site would build somewhat slowly — it'd take about two seconds each time. Now, two seconds isn't a huge amount. But, in the larger scheme of things, I only have about 30 posts so far, and it would take two seconds every time I made any kind of change and wanted to see it. Jekyll's speed (or lack thereof) once posts start accumulating is something that's pretty well-documented, and I wanted to give this space a little bit of a facelift anyway, so I decided to explore a few alternatives and see what I could find. Plus, playing with new technology is always fun!

I first considered Gatsby, a React-based static site generator. It's no secret that I'm a huge fan of React, but I was a little put off by this:

Gatsby is not yet stable. APIs will break. Functionality is missing. It's usable but if you plan on building with it, expect a rocky road for some time.

I'll definitely be following Gatsby along its journey, but I figured I might as well try to not make my life too much harder right now.

I meandered around the static site generator world for a short period of time, but nothing really stuck out to me. Until a few days ago, when I stumbled upon a post about migrating from Jekyll to Hugo. I remembered, in some distant part of my brain, what I thought Hugo was ("just another static site generator"). But hey, this site actually looked kinda nifty. And it could be fun to learn Go (templates, not the real thing, but still). And it's supposed to be WILDLY BLAZING FAST?!

After perusing themes and others' sites, I was convinced. I coded a super basic "theme" (I'm not sure I can even call it that) from scratch to get a sense of the overall structure, the templating engine, and how the pieces worked together. Then, I found a theme I liked and set about customizing it and incorporating my own elements, like the navigation bar, the post summaries, the back to top button, the tag cloud/archives page, etc.

The Git Rabbit Hole

Everything was going rather swimmingly — I struggled a little bit with figuring out the nested-loop structure of the archives page, and it took me way too long to remember that VSCode has a handy "replace all" feature, but overall, it wasn't terribly painful.

Until I attempted to deploy this to my GitHub User Page. That went a little something like this: order for GitHub pages to do anything, it needs an index.html in the root directory. But when Hugo builds my site, my index.html is sent to the public directory.

The documentation, and most of the (admittedly limited) tutorials out there say that I should create two different repositories — one for the source code, and one that would just serve the compiled public directory. Worst comes to worst, I can deal with that, but there has to be a better way...

[Insert furious Googling here.]

Oh look, this guy created separate branches, and is just serving the public folder on the master branch! I can do that.

I made sure to make at least four copies of everything I had, just in case something went terribly wrong. Then, I started taking trips down various git rabbit holes — first, not having the correct access rights, then subtrees and submodules, and then updates being rejected for various reasons. I learned the hard way what git push origin 'git subtree split --prefix public master':master --force does. (Spoiler alert: it deletes your master branch.)

Luckily, my hugo branch still has my entire commit history, so if in the future, I want a master branch with the history, I think I could just rename that branch. One more git subtree push --prefix public origin master command later, my master branch was populated with my public directory, and everything seemed to be working as it should!

I want to eventually create a script to automate these pushes, but given that Fullstack is starting again after a long and relaxing break, I suppose those will have to wait until I manage to get some free time again. At the very least, the site is up and running, it looks a little snazzier, and I learned some Go and Git!