Mitchell Atlas Engineering for fun and profit

Long time no see

Hello all.

As you may or may not have noticed, it’s been over a year since my last update. This isn’t exactly unheard of when it comes to blogging, but suffice it to say that life got considerably more busy (job searching, master’s thesis, moving countries, more job-searching, etc.) and as a result my web site responsibilities fell by the wayside.

However, I have recently decided to reanimate my site, although with a somewhat different style, both visually and contextually. As you can see, I have abandoned my old self-hosted Wordpress design and have switched to a Jekyll-based on hosted (for free!) at Github. While my site functioned well (in the technical sense) on Wordpress, in switching to my Jekyll/Github-based solution I have found several key advantages. One is cost; my previous webhost, while already a terrific bargain compared to most other hosting providers, charged a minimum daily rate of 3 cents per day for hosting a dynamic site ($0.01 / day) with a MySQL database ($0.02 / day), such as Wordpress, plus $0.05 / day in storage for my site and $0.23 / GB for bandwidth. For a small site like mine, this comes out to only about $2 and change per month! Still, it adds up over time and with free hosting solutions like Github around, I saw little reason in continuing to pay for what I could be getting for free. Another advantage is simplicity; while a Jekyll-based is perhaps initially more difficult to set up compared to a Wordpress-based one, the ongoing publishing and administration workload (comment moderation, plugin management, security patches, post formatting and layout hassles, etc.) is greatly reduced with a Jekyll site. Jekyll generates a static site (no databases, no server-side processes) from Markdown-formatted text files and relatively simple Liquid templates which can then be freely hosted on Github Pages. There are no plugins to worry about, no software patches to upgrade, no built-in commenting (though I have implemented commenting functionality through Disqus), and I can write and edit my posts using any text editor of my choosing (I’m currently test-driving Atom) and version-control them using git. Admittedly, learning all of this new software might be intimidating for many people, but for people like me who enjoy diving in to these types of projects, it’s great. The result of this work is what you see now: a new site design that is simpler, lighter, and functional.

The other change that I will be bringing to this site is my writing style. Previously, many of my posts were long, formal, and narrowly-focused on only a few topics. I originally thought that I would use my blog to educate readers about the science of radiation and nuclear energy, technology, and other topics familiar to me. As you can see, I have migrated some of my better articles to the new blog. I even entertained the idea of writing a layperson’s primer to radiation and nuclear power. However, I see now that I had underestimated the amount of time and effort that such a project would have required, and with the vast resources of the internet (especially Wikipedia) available to all interested parties, I find the project hard to justify. As a result, going forward I will likely write shorter, more intermittent posts with (hopefully!) greater frequency.

We’ll see how it goes.