Highly Suspect Agency

Obligatory Haha New Website Post

quat, Mar 16, 2021
rust design
- DRAFT POST -

So uh, hi, this is my new website! Fancy that, huh.

It doesn't look too much different than my old one, apart from the inverted color scheme (light mode, heyo), but behind the scenes it's no longer a static site, and is using a backend hastily thrown together in Rust. This post intends to collect some of my thoughts on what the process of making it was like, lessons learned, etc.

Design

"Readability" is a nebulous concept that's tricky to nail down, small changes can drastically impact the readability. I find it hard to read lots and lots of text off a computer screen, which is why I went for a bigger font, and I found the white-on-black text of my old site easy to read in short bursts but reading an entire article like that was difficult. Luckily I had kept all (okay, most) of the CSS color information in variables, so switching to "light mode" was a painless process.

The background color is an off-white that's tinted slightly red, which is a bit easier on the eyes than full-blown white.

I actually didn't intend to create the "redacted document" look, with the black links looking a bit like crossed-out text from a distance, but it works and I guess it fits this ridiculous domain name.

And I had a lot of fun designing the 404 page. It uses a bunch of text-shadow and clip-path shenanigans.

Meta

Motivation was a struggle. I have trouble staying motivated on things long-term unless I get a burst of energy to work on them, and this project was no exception; a lot of the work happened in the first day or two then I burned out a little.

Part of why staying motivated is hard is like, I haven't blogged in over a year, so why bother making a new website to show off all my old Minecraft modding posts with now-outdated info, right? There was kind of a chicken-and-egg problem there - I've wanted to scrape together things like a modding tutorial, but I didn't want to blog because I didn't have a blog to put the posts on. We'll see what happens.

Tech

(why you're probably here)

Stack

Well, first of all, here's the source code to my server.

The server itself is running on a tiny VPS loaned to me from a friend. Thanks, una!

una your "very tiny container" with half as many vcpus as my computer's actual cpus, can compile rust twice as fast as my computer

On the software side,

I'm actually quite surprised at how many transitive dependencies this thing has - over 200.

It's kind of a "static site", but also kind of not. A lot of things are cached, like the rendered-markdown of posts, and it basically just puzzles templates together for every pageload. There's a way to force it to reload those caches through stdin. I could make this into a static site but I'm stubborn (and I have some ideas for later.)

Soooo what was it like to develop the thing

I dunno, I have some thoughts on this, lol. I also want to stress that this section is from a newcomer's perspective and there are probably solutions to many of these problems.

So my primary experience with Rust is that, when the fancy things work, they work beautifully, but when they don't, it's ugly.

async

The async situation is Rust is very rough around the edges. The standard library provides very little and most of the Fun work is pushed off to libraries like tokio, which (for example) offers you nice fancy async Channels! ...that are not compatible with ones from the standard library, or any projects that use the ones from the standard library. "Colored functions" (weird name, don't like it, it's what stuck) strike again. That's why I couldn't try notify version 4; it uses a standard library mpsc::channel and I really wanted to await on its output but I could not figure out how the hell to do that.

Like I guess spinning up another OS thread isn't the end of the world but it feels like I shouldn't have to do that.

My other complaint with Futures is the only "easy" thing to do with them is .awaiting their output. Futures are ostensibly an abstraction over "a value that might not be present", so it's surprising there are no isDone() -> bool or get() -> Option<T> functions, right? The method you do get is poll, but calling that is a job for the async runtime, not you. People have written toy executors that spinlock while waiting for the task to complete and it's like a page of code, which isn't that much in the grand scheme of things but it's a surprising amount of code for "thing that makes the code run", right? Compare to something like Java where Runnable::run is a valid implementation of Executor.

I digress. Maybe having a more complex async interface that favors scaling up to real-world executors like tokio, instead of scaling down to easy-to-write but hilariously inefficient toy executors like spin-on, is a good thing actually.

Also, while the idea of having "multiple executor backends to choose from while everything stabilizes" sounds good in theory I suppose, in practice you are tied to one because a dependency is. I tried switching to smol and, well it's kind of pointless because I already use warp which depends on tokio, so unless I want two executors in my binary for whatever reason...?

Conclusion

Idk uhh. Rust is cool and this post would be more positive except I don't remember the parts that go very smoothly and I only remember the sticky bits. You know how it is.

This is like a half-formed thought turned blogpost, sorry about that lmao


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