|A selection of old avatar images|
Welcome to the site museum. Bob's Tech Site started in 2007 (ancient history in technology industry timescales), so it seemed appropriate!
This blog was originally started by a 16 year-old Bobby Moss to fulfil a module assignment for his BTEC National Diploma. He didn't expect it to last beyond the end of that module, so the fact he's still doing this nearly a decade later is a surprise.
Hopefully you enjoy reading this as much Bobby did reminiscing about old technology & reflecting on his career while he was writing it. :)
This site first went live on Friday 21st September 2007 (the deadline day for the assignment it was based on). Yes, this still used framesets. However, Bobby had been incrementally adding improvements to the site as he learned more during his college course.
Unfortunately we don't have a screenshot of the original site when it was first published, but this one created for "ApolloOS" (the pre-alpha version of ScorchOS) was coded around the same time.
The only real difference between the two at the time was the content & another blue frameset across the top of the page to match the one at the bottom. The "Home" text is in an odd place because it was enclosed in
<marquee> tags and therefore scrolled across the screen.
While the ApolloOS site ran on SourceForge, Bob's Tech Site was run on a free web host that liked to insert its own ads. Nice!
However, as the number of articles started to grow it became increasingly difficult to manage. Also, as Bobby discovered writing all your articles in XML format is a "less than fun" experience. So, in the summer of 2008 he developed a new version of the site from scratch.
This was a complete code rewrite that used PHP to grab articles in text format and render them to the page. The layout and floating navigation was all handled using CSS.
Teenaged Bobby thought putting the year you started the website was the right one to put next to the copyright symbol. Mid-20s Bobby finds this notion amusing.
This was the last version of the site that was written from scratch. The reasons for that were partly down to lack of time (an ongoing problem!), but mostly because Bobby felt he was spending more time developing the site than writing content for it!
The screenshot above was pulled from an internet archive so is missing some images, but this was the first iteration to use a free website in addition to free webspace.
You'll notice Bobby tried to keep the same colour scheme and was a big fan of RSS feeds (which were great, until Google Reader & Twitter microblogging killed them!).
For a brief time between 2009-2010 Bobby also experimented with Tumblr, but in the end he concluded it didn't really lend itself well to the comparatively long articles he has a tendency to write.
This incarnation had a ridiculous number of redesigns, and what you can see in the screenshot is one of the early versions. Again, externally-linked images are missing because the page was fetched from an internet archive site.
While there were articles written during this period (as seen in the screenshot), there were issues migrating them across. One of them was the automated importer for Wordpress not working, but the main problem was that the posts were related to "current news" items and so didn't age very well. Bobby learned his lesson and kept that kind of thing on Twitter where it belongs... :)
Date: 2013 (6 months)
Technologies: Self-hosted Wordpress
This was the site that made the big switch from free blogging services to our own self-hosted Wordpress. He preserved the URL scheme from the previous blogger site to avoid broken links.
Initially Bobby chose a mainstream web host but found that while it was very reliable it was incredibly restrictive. The web host we moved to afterwards offered some of the flexibility we wanted but struggled with uptime, which meant that ultimately this was a pretty short-lived re-branding.
When the web hosting wasn't causing trouble however it did the job of getting Bobby to write content on a more regular basis. By far and away the most popular article was about installing and customising Minecraft on Fedora, which had multiple sequels and updates.
Technologies: Self-hosted Wordpress
After having a fairly bad experience with premium web hosts Bobby decided to go for a dedicated VPS appliance he had complete control over.
Unfortunately due to other commitments Bobby wasn't able to post many tutorials or reviews. Most of the posts were about the things he was busy with instead ...which probably had limited interest.
A problem that dogged it from the start though was MySQL memory leaks. The initial fix was to jump from having 512MB RAM to 1GB RAM on the web server, which at least increased the interval from the site crashing once a week to once every few months.
But towards the end of 2016 the only way to keep the site up for more than a few hours was to run a cron job that regularly restarted the database server. Creating a fresh droplet, installing from scratch and putting the site behind a CDN annoyingly didn't resolve the issue. So Bobby decided it was time to make a clean break from Wordpress and try something new.
Technologies: Self-hosted Ghost, various cloud providers
Bobby ended up spending the best part of a year kicking around different ideas ranging from building something bespoke with Laravel, Django or Ruby on Rails to pre-existing CMS systems like Ello & Octopress. In the end he settled on Ghost because it enabled him to quickly & easily write/translate old posts into Markdown, learn a bit of Node.js and avoid having to deal with flaky web databases.
He took the opportunity to go through all the previous content that had successfully been curated from all six iterations of the site that came before. Useful content that had aged well was rewritten in markdown. Articles that didn't age so well were either dropped or slated for new rewrites later on in 2017.
The first 'alpha' version was made publicly testable in November 2016. While the original plan was for it to go live in February 2017 Bobby brought it forward a month because new updates to Wordpress were making the existing site so flaky it was going down every few hours. Uptime in December was below 60% and response times were awful.
There were some consequences of launching early though. The URL scheme this site used for posts over the previous 7 years (i.e.
https://bobstechsite.com/dd/mm/yy/article-name.html) had to be dropped because there wasn't time to set up the necessary redirects. Bobby also avoided promoting the new site on social media for a couple of weeks because there was still work on the back-end to do and there were still old articles languishing as unfinished drafts that needed to be completed so they could be published as new content. But despite these initial drawbacks, it turned out to be a good replacement.