Playing with Hugo

I’ve been using wordpress as my blogging platform since I first started, about 10 years ago. (In fact the first post I can find is dated March 30, 2008.) I chose back then because it was (a) free, and (b) supported mathematics through a version (or subset) of LaTeX. As I have used LaTeX extensively for all my writing since the early 1990’s, it’s a standard requirement for me.

Some time later I decided to start hosting my own server (well, a VPS), on which I could use, which is the self-hosted version of wordpress. The advantages of a self hosted blog are many, but I particularly like the greater freedom, the ability to include a far greater variety of plugins, and the larger choice of themes. And one of the plugins I liked particularly was WP QuickLaTeX which provided a LaTeX engine far superior to the in-built one of Math bloggin heaven!

However, hosting my own wordpress site was not without difficulty. First I had to install it and get it up and running (even this was non-trivial), and then I had to manage all the users and passwords: myself as a standard user, wp-admin for accessing the Wordpress site itself, a few others. I have quite a long list containing all the commands I used, and all the users and passwords I created.

This served me well, but it was also slow to use. My VPS is perfectly satisfactory, but it is not fast (I’m too cheap to pay for much more than a low-powered one), and the edit-save-preview cycle of online blogging with my wordpress installation was getting tiresome.

Plus the issue of security. I’ve been hacked once, and I’ve since managed to secure my site with a free certificate from Let’s Encrypt. In fact, in many ways Let’s Encrypt is one of the best things to have happened for security. An open Certificate Authority is manna from heaven, as far as I’m concerned.

Wordpress is of course more than just blogging software. It now grandly styles itself as Site Building software and Content Management System, and the site claims that “30% of the web uses Wordpress”. It is in fact hugely powerful and deservedly popular, and can be used for pretty much whatever sort of site you want to build. Add to that a seemingly infinite set of plugins, and you have an entire ecosystem of web-building.

However, all of that popularity and power comes at a cost: it is big, confusing, takes work to maintain, keep secure, and keep up-to-date, and is a target for hackers. Also for me, it has become colossal overkill. I don’t need all those bells and whistles; all I want to do is host my blog and share my posts with the world (the \(1.5\times 10^{-7}\%\) of the world who reads it).

The kicker for me was checking out a mathematics education blog by an author I admire greatly, to discover it was built with the static blog engine jekyll. So being the inventive bloke I am, I thought I’d do the same.

But a bit of hunting led me to Hugo, which apparently is very similar to jekyll, but much faster, and written in Go instead of Ruby. Since I know nothing about either Go or Ruby I don’t know if it’s the language which makes the difference, or something else. But it sure looks nice, and supports mathjax for LaTeX.

So my current plan is to migrate from wordpress to Hugo, and see how it goes!

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