“A nearly impenetrable thicket of geekitude…”


This site is one of the places where I try out new things, which means it undergoes a more or less continuous process of renewal. Shiny new things are layered on top, older layers are gradually pressed into shale below or refactored into non-existence.

The current New Hotness is a complete rebuild of the site using the Nanoc static-site generator. This is a bit of a return to an earlier pattern, as a very early version of the site was statically generated using Movable Type. In that case, Movable Type itself ran on the site and the static generation of the pages for display was an optimisation, similar to having a page cache in something like Drupal. In the modern pattern, the static site generator runs as far away from the web site as possible, and only exports the static assets to the web server facing the evil Internet.

As well as the speed advantages of static content, this removes the need to update the site management software every time a security issue is found. This seems to me to be a very big advantage in the current environment: by the time I converted to Nanoc, the version of Drupal I had been using had gone through more than fifty minor releases, not counting a similar number of releases to several of the important modules used here.

The site currently simulates the exact look-and-feel of the Drupal version, from the general appearance to the menu and breadcrumbs systems. This was achieved by using the Drupal CSS code and then slavishly copying Drupal’s complex <div> hierarchy in the Nanoc layouts. Getting the navigation blocks right required building an emulation of parts of them in Ruby. Now that everything has been converted, though, I hope to simplify and improve some aspects of the layout and structure.

In terms of content, most of the images on the site are my own work. Selected pictograms (e.g., Warning triangle) from Daniel Bruce’s Entypo+ collection are used under a Creative Commons Attribution-Sharealike 4.0 International (CC BY-SA 4.0) license.


This web site has been kicking around for quite a while, in one form or another. None of the oldest versions, which were built using the HTML output from Microsoft Word and post-processed using Perl, have survived. I think that we can all agree that this is probably for the best.

The earliest version I can locate on the Wayback Machine is its incarnation as rats.demon.co.uk in late 1996. That appears to have been a mix of hand-coded HTML and sections built using Microsoft FrontPage.

Other early versions of the site were maintained using other web authoring tools, such as Abobe GoLive and Adobe Dreamweaver.

Somewhere along the way, the Internal Strength Magazine sub-site was frozen in time and spun off independently.

The There Wiki was created using an instance of the UseModWiki wiki software. It was active from March 2004 to July 2007 and was eventually converted to Markdown and the Nanoc static site generator in November 2017.

The two blogs (the original Technology Stir Fry blog and the now-frozen iay@there) were originally maintained using Movable Type. In 2011–2012, most of the static content and then the blogs were converted to Drupal, an open source CMS (content management system). I used Drupal 7, and the theme used was the default one, Bartik.

From 2012 until late 2017, Technology Stir Fry was a complicated hybrid of UseModWiki, Drupal and some other random tools. During that period I likened it to the mature programming environment described by Vernor Vinge in his novel A Deepness in the Sky:

There were programs here that had been written five thousand years ago, before Humankind ever left Earth. The wonder of it — the horror of it, Sura said — was that unlike the wrecks of Canberra’s past, these programs still worked! And via a million million circuituous threads of inheritance, many of the oldest programs still ran in the bowels of the Qeng Ho system.

Vinge’s background as a computer scientist means that he often hits the nail on the head in these matters, but that’s an essay for another day.

The Drupal age — and that intractable complexity — came to an end for this site in early 2018, when the entire site was rebuilt using the Nanoc static-site generator.

There’s nothing left of the Drupal site in terms of implementation. Some of the content still shows its age (no “smart quotes”, for example), and the current theme is very close to the older version of the site.

The Name

I have used the name “Technology Stir Fry” for my blog since its inception back in 2003. I started using it as the title of the site as a whole when I converted the site to Drupal in late 2011, when I finally decided that calling the site iay.org.uk was a little tautological.

The site slogan “A nearly impenetrable thicket of geekitude…” was a good friend’s reaction to her first visit to my blog. Instead of taking offence, I decided to take ownership of the phrase instead.