When I began this blog, I decided to host it on a small Digital Ocean droplet. At the time, it made sense - I was learning about managing Ubuntu servers, firewalls and dns routing. I’ve learned a bunch since then, and lately my focus has centered around building reliable data systems. I haven’t had time to properly manage my blog hosting and maintain the toolchain around it.

It’s built with Jekyll, and over time as I’ve switched computers, tried installing new gems and more, my local Ruby installation is completely out of sync. I was also previously using a Jenkins server for continuous integration and deployment, but since then I’ve stopped it to cut costs.

As a result, writing new posts has become a chore that requires me to wrestle with Jekyll, test and then remember how to deploy manually. One of my 2018 goals is to simplify the projects that I work on and make sure that they are easily maintainable moving forward. With that in mind, today I’ll be walking through the process of modernizing all the operations around my blog.

development and writing

My first goal was to make writing new posts and testing local with Jekyll as easy as possible. In the past, It was hard to manage my local Ruby installation and keep everything up-to-date. To deal with this, I decided to use a Docker image with Jekyll and ruby already installed.

Thankfully envygeeks maintains a popular Docker image that I was able to out of the box, without building my Dockerfile from scratch. From there, it was just a matter of modifying my Makefile to run a simple bash script inside of the image.

# Makefile

	docker run --rm -p 4000:4000 --volume="${PWD}:/srv/jekyll" \
        -it jekyll/jekyll ./scripts/development.sh

	docker run --rm --volume="${PWD}:/srv/jekyll"  \
        -it jekyll/jekyll ./scripts/build.sh

There are just a few important things to note here about how I use docker to build:

  • I begin by connecting my current directory with /srv/jekyll in the container. The Dockerfile in the image uses the following line: WORKDIR /srv/jekyll so this is where our commands will get run from.
  • I use --rm to delete the container after it shuts down, I don’t need a bunch of old containers filling up my hard drive.
  • port 4000 from the container is connected to 4000 on the host (my computer) so I can easily test http://localhost:4000/ in the browser.

The scripts used are even simpler, as shown below. Since jekyll is already installed, these are just a simple wrapper around in-case I want to add more tasks in the future. One last note, since the volumes are shared between my current dir and the container, jekyll serve detects changes as I write and immediately regenerates so I can proof-read and test quickly.

# scripts/development.sh

#!/usr/bin/env bash
jekyll build
jekyll serve

# scripts/build.sh

#!/usr/bin/env bash
jekyll build

serverless hosting with s3 and cloudfront

Next, I wanted to remove all operational overhead of hosting my own static website. Amazon’s S3 service is a perfect fit and allows for static websites to be hosted without any personal maintenance. On top of that, Cloudfront can be used to offer a CDN service in front of S3 to improve latency. For many static sites, these tools are a great fit and allow for you to pay only for what you use and nothing more.

Deploying on this setup is as simple as syncing jekyll’s static output to your S3 bucket. After that you only need to invalidate the Cloudfront cache in front of your bucket to ensure that your changes propagate.

continuous integration and deployment

The final step was to set up Travis-CI to automate testing and deployment. Travis-CI supports a new jobs feature that allows for serial job pipelines that are great for setting up build and deploy pipelines. Here is the barebones configuration I use to only deploy on merges to master.

# .travis.yml configuration
sudo: required
  - docker

  - build
  - name: deploy
    if: branch = master

    - stage: build
      script: make build
    - stage: deploy
      script: make deploy

Since I already have a Makefile setup for things like building and testing, I added another make deploy command so that it’s easy for me to deploy from my machine and from a CI server. I just have to pass in my AWS creds to my Docker image as environment variables and let it go.

deploy: build
	docker run --rm --volume="${PWD}:/build" -it \
	-e AWS_ACCESS_KEY_ID=<access_key> \
	-e AWS_SECRET_ACCESS_KEY=<secret_key> \
	-e AWS_DEFAULT_REGION=<region_name> \
	library/python:3.6 ./build/scripts/deploy.sh

My deploy script is very simple, it is based on a Python image, so Python and pip are already installed. From there, installing awscli is a breeze, and we only need to sync our local directory with S3 and invalidate the Cloudfront cache.

echo "Running deploy"

echo "Install aws-cli"
pip install awscli --upgrade --user

echo "Beginning deploy"
~/.local/bin/aws s3 sync ./build/_site s3://<bucket_name>
~/.local/bin/aws cloudfront create-invalidation --distribution-id <distribution_id> --paths /\*

future ideas

These changes go a long way in helping me post often and without much effort, but there are a few more nice-to-haves that I’ll save for another weekend.

I would like to have a command-line spelling/grammar check built into my testing workflows. The only way I do it now is to copy and paste each blog post into an online editor once before posting.

Cloudfront logs all of its requests to file before compressing and storing them in a S3 bucket. While I already use tools like Google Analytics and Gaug.es, it would be great practice for my sed, awk and grep skills to build some basic analyzing scripts for my Makefile.