I think I’ve finally finished porting my old site over. There were several motivations behind this, but I was primarily attempting to clean up the layout and visual appearance a bit, and improve usability a lot. The previous site, which I built in iWeb, had extremely long and complicated URLs with hidden frames strewn everywhere. That resulted in problems with crawler indexing and slow load times. And, while the old site was visually flashy, I tried to make the content here much easier to actually read and use. I’ll flashy this up with Spry later, like I did with my research group’s site.
A bit about the architecture of this new site: it all started with discovering the Amazon Web Services free tier. I thought, “cool! I can get free hosting for a year!” Yeah sure, I’ve already prepaid for three years with HostGator, and they’re pretty cool people. But there’s something way cooler about having a virtual server in the cloud; and it’s a lot more practical, since you get root access, incredible I/O performance exceeding most RAIDs, and online snapshots of the entire filesystem. Computational performance has also far exceeded that on HostGator, which sometimes struggled just to load cPanel (at the time, I didn’t really care because I was just serving static pages).
Technical details: I built my own Ubuntu image to fit within the AWS 10GB storage limit using instructions from Scott Moser, an employee of Ubuntu tasked to make Ubuntu work on Amazon’s cloud (read his blog sometime, it’s fun!). The image is loaded on a “micro” virtual server somewhere in N. Virginia. On top of that, we’ve got our standard LAMP stack, with WordPress and a slew of plugins on the very top (check out this site on your mobile phone; one of the plugins makes it super pretty!). It’s amazing to see how far we’ve come with these publication systems… I still have private WordPress archives going back to 2002, and I should really dig out my MoveableType installation from my original Bondi Blue iMac and import those entries. Oh, and nearly every page on this site validates HTML5 (well, it used to until I installed a whole slew of plugins…).