Alhumdulillah, now runs as a static site - using Jekyll SSG.

I started this project last year, with two of my apprentices. Unfortunately, I was stuck in too many problems at once and could not focus enough on this important project. But thanks to the people who helped me with this, this site is finally live as a static site.

So what was the problem with the old site?

Well, the old website was running on top of a very old version of Joomla, and an equally old version of PHP, running on top of CENTOS 6. Actually I never found enough time to upgrade the software stack since about 2012. I even lost the admin password some years ago :(

To prevent it from dying, or getting cracked I:

  • converted it to a Docker image with CENTOS 6, the version of PHP it needed and the version of Joomla it needed,
  • made the OS file-system (the document root part) completely read-only,
  • and, deployed this on one of the Kubernetes clusters I manage.

The solution:

I have been wishing to get rid of the dependency on PHP, Web-server and MySQL altogether for past many years. I had a realization that this site is just an information sharing website. It does not really need any dynamically generated content. So I initially thought of creating all the pages as static HTML pages. Later, I came across Static Site Generators (SSG), such as Jekyll and Hugo. I started testing Jekyll whenever I got enough free time; and eventually decided to convert wbitt to a SSG site.

Meanwhile two of my apprentices expressed their interest in doing this, so I handed it over to them. One of them extracted all the documents from the MySQL database, and the other worked on site organization using Jekyll. Interestingly they were sort-of done within a couple of weeks, however I still did not have enough time to make the site live. Also there were lots of articles which needed to be cleansed and converted from HTML to Markdown, so Jekyll could process them properly. This conversion took some time.

Benefits of SSG:

  • Ability to store all files in a git repository, which gives us ability to version control
  • Can be hosted on a simplest web server
  • Even gitlab (and github) provide free service hosting service for static websites.

The final step:

We tested the static version using a git repository hosted on gitlab, used gitlab pages to serve it using a separate URL, and had the CI/CD pipeline in place which took any change in the repository and deployed it immediately on gitlab pages service.

Once this testing was done, we started moving it to Gitlab on 13 August 2022, and finalized the migration on 14 August 2022. The migration was supposed to take only an hour or less, but we were hit by a SSL certificate problem with Letsencrypt. Alhumdulillah we solved it today, and this site is finally live today.

I want to thank my apprentices, Zainab Feysal and Mudassar Muneer, who helped me get this done, and did all the heavy lifting in terms of site development, etc.

InshaAllah, in the coming days, this site will the newer material which I have been writing over past few years, but was never able to publish them.

Of-course my team and I would also be continuously improving it’s layout and design!