Everybody is always talking about their tools. It makes sense, they’re how we get work done. We become intimately acquainted with our tools. Everybody has them. Caitlin, my wife, is a nanny; her tools are car seats, bottles, and baby monitors. My Dad is well versed in SQL and a lot of other technologies I can hardly understand. I’m under contractual obligation not to discuss many of the tools I use at work making videogames.

I just realized how many bloggers have a section in their about page describing their tools. They describe how they create and maintain their blog. I’ve never really talked about what I’ve used to build this site, because honestly it isn’t spectacular. In fact, if anything, it’s remarkable how primitive the tools are that I use to write here, maybe even a little embarrassing. Here goes.

  • Hosting – Since around 2000 this site has been hosted by Ryan, a friend of mine from high school on a server at his house, sitting in the closet. Last I knew, it was a dual-Pentium II running Debian Linux. I don’t know how much space I’m using, he’s never complained that I’m using too much and has always been extremely generous. Ryan has promptly helped me on a number of occasions with support for adding my domain, helping me setup a database for my CMS software, and any problems I seemed to be having. He’s an IT genius, and I literally can’t begin to comprehend how his brain works so well. Surprisingly enough, I have had less down-time in the entire period since 2000 than Tumblr had last week. Granted, I don’t really generate loads of traffic, but Ryan’s server has met my needs remarkably well.
  • Expression Engine – For my CMS, I’ve been using Expression Engine v 1.6.7 since about February of 2009. I’ve never updated it. I’ve never really cared to. Mr. Sperte convinced me to start using it after blogger went through a period of nearly a month where I couldn’t post anything from my account (it was an issue that affected only a few users). Before blogger, I had used an app that I wrote myself which let me inject posts directly into the html of my homepage from a console window. As you can see, my needs haven’t been very complex.
  • HTML Editor – This will make some of you cry. This very moment, I’m creating this post in a standard text field in Google Chrome using the Expression Engine web interface. Not only is there no syntax highlighting, but there is no fixed width font and the lines wrap. Sometimes, for the longer posts, I will draft them in Simplenote (also the web interface), TextEdit, or even [gasp] Notepad, but that’s generally for the purpose of saving my work rather than enhanced functionality.
  • File Hosting – Every once in a while I want to embed an image in a post. Generally, I would just upload it to my /images directory using my favorite free FTP client — Firefox with the FireFTP extension installed. But lately I reserve that for images that are part of the site itself. For images in posts, I just upload them with Droplr or into my public folder in Dropbox, and just hotlink the image itself, which is very likely against their terms of use.
  • Design – Nothing. This site has never had a mockup that I can remember. I change the design incrementally when something gets on my nerves. And I do it live to the HTML, CSS, and Expression Engine templates. When I first switched to EE the site was quite a mess. It was basically the default EE setup with all the formatting ripped out. It’s gone through a cascade of minor changes in a constant pursuit of simplicity. Recently, with the removal of comments, I’ve become pretty happy with the form and function of the blog.

I’ve come across a lot of great tools, but I never feel like I get the same value out of them as other people do. My computing needs change all the time, and I like to be as flexible as possible. For instance, I keep all the major web browsers installed on my computer. It’s not so that I can test on them, but because they constantly leap-frog eachother. I don’t like to get locked into one, because I know another one will become more attractive to use at some point.

I can’t really think of a good closing paragraph, so I’ll conjure my junior high self to round out this post — and those are all the tools I use to write this blog. The End.

December 20, 2010 at 5:26 pm

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