Moving to GitHub Pages

With the increased commercialisation of universities in the UK, one of the things that the Computer Science (CS) department unfortunately lost access to, by command from “up on high”, was the providing of publicly accessible web hosting.

It used to be that there was a $HOME/nginx_default directory which one could copy files to however they wished, and that content would then be hosted. As a CS department, this was extremely useful for numerous reasons, for example: web-dev coursework, showcasing projects, and personal and research groups' websites which were highly customisable (like the one you’re currently reading this on).

With the move to a more corporate IT infrastructure, central IT Services (ITS) told our sys-admins that although the hosting service itself could stay (ITS wanted nothing to do with it), everything would be placed behind the campus firewall, limiting access to on-site only. Even people living locally but outwith university properties, would be unable to view the sites. Some of us tried protesting this, notably the Human-Computer Interaction (HCI) group, who pointed out that their research somewhat relied on being able to host customisable websites that they could share with a wide range of people. I tried defending the personal case by reaching out to our Postgraduate Research (PGR) representative at the time, arguing that the hosting service provided great value for PGRs and undergraduates alike, both in terms of personal and professional growth.

Unfortunately, it seemed there was nothing to be done, and as of the start of this year (2024), the hosting URLs were frozen in time and unable to be updated.

I had been planning to figure out an alternative hosting solution soon-ish anyway, since I am meant to be finishing up, but this change suddenly accelerated the need for one. My Great Big PlanTM was to play around with self-hosting, either via a virtual private server from Hetzner or similar, or via an Odroid N2 which I’ve got and is currently just sitting in a cupboard. Except ENOFREETIME.

So the next-best thing, which hopefully should Just Work, is to move to GitHub Pages. And if you’re reading this from somewhere on the interwebs, then I guess I succeeded!

Thomas Ekström Hansen
Thomas Ekström Hansen
PhD student in Computer Science

My interests include information visualisation, formal methods, and low-level programming.