About

Hi I’m Matt. Some people call me Matty. I do software professionally but it doesn’t run my life.

About this website

If this website were a published work of some sort, this page would be its colophon. A colophon typically refers to the “finishing touch” in a published work. Concretely that would be an inscription at the end of a book or some kind of written work describing its publishing, maybe a publishers mark or a note about where it was printed and when. With modern printing this practice has mostly become defunct and replaced instead with a little bit of information about the publisher and the copyright information at the beginning of a book.

Further back in time, when books were transcribed by hand, the scribes themselves would sometimes pen an “expressive” colophon at the end of the work they were transcribing describing their experience with the transcription. Early printers would also sometimes print their own as well. These are sometimes quite colorful. Many examples from the European sphere can be found in this essay on colophons.

I really enjoy the spirit of these, so I’ve provided my own colophon below where I outline the technical foundation of the site, and end with an evocation of my own.

Hosting

This website is hosted in a droplet on Digital Ocean that I am happy to manage myself. DNS for the radicalmatt.com domain is also done through Digital Ocean.

Technical Stack

Inside the virtual private server, this website is running on an instance of the Apache HTTP server that sits atop an Ubuntu Linux install. I chose Ubuntu for no other reason than it is what I am most familiar with, and documentation is easy to come by.

The environment within the VPS is automatically provisioned using a set of Ansible scripts that I have written that do all of the initial setup I require. Things such as setting up a user, locking down ssh, setting various firewall rules etc are handled by an initial “lock down” script, and a second script manages the installation of Apache and its associated setup. Ansible was chosen because I wanted to run these scripts in a “push” fashion, and Ansible allows for that out of the box. Effectively I am using it in the same way that I would if I was running a setup script on the server over ssh.

The content served by Apache is a static website created with the Hugo open-source static site generator. It good old fashioned plain HTML and CSS. Hugo was chosen for no other reason than it is decently documented and well supported. The site is deployed with a simple rysnc command to the web root directory on the remote host.

The stack is kept simple on purpose. This is for fun, after all!

Every letter, and every character of markup was typed into an Emacs buffer in between sips of tea form an Emacs branded mug courtesy of the Free Software Foundation.

I enjoy managing my own virtual private server, but it is not for everyone. Keeping the stack simple lets me focus more on enjoying the fun aspects of being a sysadmin.

Design

The design of the website was done mobile-first, and uses a combination of media queries as well as flexbox and CSS grid elements to create a nice desktop experience.

The layout is intended to be content focused, and accessible. I have astigmatism, and readability sometimes can be an issue for me, so I wanted a homepage that worked for me. That means no dark theme, decent contrast, a reasonable line height, large text, and most importantly: the ability to “zoom” or scale the viewport is supported and encouraged.

Special Acknowledgments

Shout out to the movie Hackers, libraries, smiling friends, free software, optimism, and coffee. Hack the planet.

Parting words

While sharing the technical information about how this site is published is a worthwhile thing to document, I’d be remiss in my assertion of this page as a colophon without taking a moment to “pen” a little note on the final bit of paper. Running your own website can be a real slog at times. It can be difficult to find the time or energy to put in the work to pull a site together. Writing, styling, managing deployments, fighting with a static site generator, administering a server – it can be frustrating. However, you get to become part of the vast constellation of sites that exist out there on the net. When I was young, I used to ride my bike down to the library with a floppy disk containing my Zelda fan site. No one needed my opinion on Zelda (it was the best), or my cheat codes, and I knew that. Critical acclaim wasn’t the point. I was excited to create a space for myself and share it with the universe. Hypermedia was a new and magical thing to me then. I had to have my own site. I learned a lot of things struggling to put that goofy site online, and I continue the tradition here on this equally goofy site. I’ll leave you, my dear intrepid reader, with the final words of The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus:

“I leave Sisyphus at the foot of the mountain. One always finds one’s burden again. But Sisyphus teaches the higher fidelity that negates the gods and raises rocks. He too concludes that all is well. This universe henceforth without a master seems to him neither sterile nor futile. Each atom of that stone, each mineral flake of that night-filled mountain, in itself, forms a world. The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy.”

My work as pretend-scribe is now complete. 💖 Hypermedia forever.