Hello World!

Dexter Chua, 30 May, 2020

There have been many exciting SRCF projects recently, the most prominent of which is Timeout, a video conferencing platform that Matias will tell you all about later. In the meantime, we decided to start a blog to share our sysadmin experiences.

The goal is to give our users some insight into what we do, and hopefully attract some of them to join us in the future. Moreover, we hope that documenting our experiences can be helpful for other people intending to deploy similar systems.

Choosing the stack

We have always been a fan of static sites. For most of our users, our primary role is to host websites for societies and the users themselves. Since our inception, we’ve had lots and lots of Wordpress and Drupal sites compromised due to outdated plugins, or outright outdated installations (just to be clear, the fact that these two CMS are singled out is not a comment on their software quality, but their popularity). While it is possible to maintain secure sites using Wordpress or Drupal, doing so requires constant maintenance and attention. On the other hand, static sites just are secure. Any compromises are necessarily due to the web server itself, which would affect any site whatsoever.

Of course, there is also the simplicity aspect — deployment is nothing but a cp. If anything goes wrong, we can directly inspect the HTML files produced on the server.

At the time of writing, the two main competitors for static blog generators are Hugo and Jekyll. We ended up with Hugo, for no good reason other than the fact that many of our sysadmins have used Hugo in the past and have had good experiences.

Setting up

Unfortunately, many of our servers still run on Ubuntu 16.04 (work in progress, I promise), which comes with a rather outdated version of Hugo. Since Hugo is built with Go and is distributed as a single binary, we decided to download the binary from GitHub and vendor it.

To streamline the build process, we wrote a simple Makefile to automate the invocation of hugo with the right arguments. We decided make Hugo directly write the files into the relevant public_html/ directory, so we spared even the cp!


Theming Hugo turned out to be much simpler than I expected. The minimum amount of theming (which was sufficient for us) requires templates for two different views. The first is the single page view, which you are looking at right now. It displays a single blog post. The other is a list view, which presents a list of posts. This is what you see in the homepage or when you click on tags. It was easy to adapt the css used for the main srcf webpage for the blog, which took less than an hour or so.


Turns out that’s all there is to setting up a blog using Hugo! Hope you enjoy our blog.