The Chronicle

of a ColdFusion Expatriate

Something Seems Different

December 6, 2019

Does something seem a little “off?” I mean, something other than me posting here after a conspicuously silent gap of over two years…

That’s right, I’m generating the site with Hugo now! No, I didn’t expect you to notice, because everything looks exactly the same. This blog was built by Octopress/Jekyll for years, but after migrating desktops and having to get it all set up each time, I tired of the whole Ruby house of cards that it felt like it was perched upon, so, I switched.

Read on for some of my thoughts, if you care.

But why?

A few core reasons drove my decision to painstakingly migrate to Hugo (and more about the painstakingness of it later on):

  1. Octopress is a Ruby gem, which layers functionality onto Jekyll

  2. Jekyll… Is a Ruby gem

  3. My site used a sophisticated Sass system called Compass, which is… Yes, it’s a Ruby gem

But I really have nothing against Ruby, or gems for that matter; the real reason I couldn’t deal with all of this anymore is that the Ruby and gem ecosystem was built to support application development, and I don’t do Ruby application development.

That means that every time I want to get my blog working on a new machine so I can just write a simple post, I have to remember how to install rbenv and get the right version of Ruby bootstrapped and remember how to get bundler to work, and then make sure I get the right version of Octopress, and so on.

But even all of that aside, which I could solve by actually writing and maintaining a Makefile that would do most of it for me, is the disconcerting fact that the Octopress homepage has been saying “Octopress 3.0 Is Coming” for about five years.

So yeah, I really loved Octopress. I even wrote a really nice Emacs package to provide an interactive interface into it. But it is apparently abandonware at this point.

OK so why Hugo?

I mean, there are probably 15-20 alternatives at this point. I’ve even used a couple, like Metalsmith, in my past jobs. Why choose Hugo?

Well, first, I like Go, I have written some Go, and the general Go philosophy of convention over configuration and portability appeal to me. Go is also (generally speaking) fast, which dare I say Ruby is not. Also I have one friend who ported his blog to Hugo and enjoyed it.

And then there’s the unavoidable fact that I switched from a Mac laptop to a PC desktop in search of better Photoshop and Lightroom performance for my dollar, and getting virtually any UNIX-oriented development stuff set up in Windows always feels like a chore.

I was partway down the path of building a Docker container for my Octopress environment so that I could run it easily from within Windows Subsystem for Linux when I realized that Hugo will run anywhere, and probably run faster, and I could use the migration as an excuse to dump all the extraneous dependencies from this toolchain.

So, how’d it go?

I’m glad you asked. It took about two days, almost two solid days, to get the site’s layout ported over so it looks the same. This was a tedious process of learning about where Hugo’s templates and layouts should live and then copying and pasting as much markup as I could from the Jekyll versions and translating the variables and such.

As for the content itself, I used a tool called “octohug” to convert my Jekyll markdown documents to Hugo ones, though it didn’t do the most amazing job. It was a decent starting point, but more had to be done.

In particular, octohug wrote “slug” keys into most of the articles’ front matter, and that’s not necessary if you use a slug derived from the date and all articles have a date (well, they should, though five of mine were missing one for some reason and I had to type them in myself, but not a big deal).

And then, as is always the case, I had a couple of custom tags implemented in Liquid that I had to translate into Hugo “shortcodes.” I may have further musings on the pros and cons between those systems, but it wasn’t terribly hard to do.

Along with migrating those tags to shortcodes, of course I also had to go transform all of the article content that used them to the new shortcode syntax. sed to the rescue there, as always, which turned out to be less arduous than I anticipated.

At the very least, I can now confidently pop open Emacs and create a new blog post. In Windows, no less. Yes, I know, I’m an insane person; you aren’t the first one to tell me this. I’m not promising that I’m going to post more often, or even post at all, but I will surely be more likely to now that things are working smoothly.

I may write up some thoughts on my experience running GUI Emacs in Windows, which has also been an interesting journey. It’s really not bad, but there are quirks, and I’m sure you’re all dying to hear about them.