A Site Update

So, yet again, I'm trying something new. Isn't that what life's all about?

First off, you may notice the site looks a bit different. Not radically, but enough that you might get a little weirded out if you come here a lot. Is this still The Adventures of Systems Boy? What's with this weird header nonsense? Who the Hell is Mike Barron?


Then, upon further investigation, you might notice that the URL has redirected to malcontentcomics.com. Huh... That can't be right. I'm sure it used to be systemsboy.com.

Rest assured, you've not gone mad. Here's what's going on.

If you come here a lot you probably also know that I haven't been posting much lately. This is due in large part to the fact that writing about systems has begun to increasingly take a backseat to my artistic endeavors, most particularly the making of comics. I've had a comic site for a while now, and after lots of thinking and hand wringing I decided that it was time to unify all my online projects into a single site. Since comics are my primary focus these days I've decided to go with my comic identity for the top level domain: Malcontent Comics.

I must admit, though, that this entire changeover was, in fact, prompted by a distinctly systems-oriented problem, as well as an interest in trying a new approach to hosting this site. First, the problem.


I've posted before about my trials and tribulations with web hosting. I've used Blogger, Web Hosting Buzz, Media Temple and most recently 1&1 to host this site, and each has had its good and bad points. But after spending the past few years self-hosting, during which I've added numerous Wordpress sites to my stable of online homes, I'm getting sick of it.

About a year ago, I switched to 1&1 for hosting these sites. I'm using a VPS plan, paying $30 bucks a month, and I'm still having problems. Everything was fine for a while, but gradually I started having problems with SQL. Suddenly all my categories will disappear on the site, and when that happens I have to SSH in and reboot the VPS because SQL is so locked up I can't even run Plesk.


Honestly, I haven't really tried very hard to solve this problem. I did Google it, and mostly what I read seemed to suggest that 1&1 Support would have one of two responses: either they would tell me, "You have root, it's your problem, you're on your own;" or, "you need to upgrade your plan." Now I have not contacted 1&1, nor do I intend to, so I don't know what they'd actually tell me, though I do get the impression, from my years of experience as a webhost client, that you just won't get anything decent under $50 a month (which is what we pay for Mediatemple's VPS at work, which works pretty well). But I've just been doing this too long, I have to do it at work, and it's not really fun anymore. I'm done. This is no longer how I want to spend my free time, nor my money.

Yes, there was certainly a time when this would have been an intriguing challenge for me to tackle. But not anymore. I'm paying someone decent money to host and run my server, I do nothing that should place undue strain on that server, and yet it doesn't work reliably. Frankly, if someone were paying me to run some computers for them (oh, wait, someone does, every day) and they didn't work, I'd be fired.


At the same time all this has been stewing, I've been increasingly aware of and interested in a site hosting company called Squarespace. Squarespace hosts everything for you and you build your site with their online tools. It's a lot like Blogger.com or Wordpress.com, but much more sophisticated — with features like custom CSS and Code Injection — and with a terrific graphical authoring environment. Squarespace recently updated their platform to version 6 with much fanfare, and after reading about it for the bajillionth time I finally decided to take the free two week trial and kick the tires. While testing out Squarespace I tried two other similar services: Mediatemple's Virb and the well-known Weebly.


All these services are actually quite nice and their performance is surprisingly brisk and consistent. But Squarespace's ability to import — and export, should the need arise — all my Wordpress site data really carried the day. I also like the design tools best in Squarespace. They just do more of what I want, from the amazing and gargantuan selection of fonts to very flexible templates that let me brand my site and all its sections in ways the others don't. And last but by no means least, Squarespace's gallery functionality was my favorite, and this is a key component of my comic sites.

The more I played, the more I liked what I saw, and the more I started to think that Squarespace could probably do the job for me and my many sites. But more than that, Squarespace allows me to never have to worry about managing the server side of things again. This means that not only will I never have to SSH into my VPN and reboot because of a SQL lockup, but I'l never have to update — and possibly break — another Wordpress install (I have three I maintain regularly); I'll never have to update — and possibly break — all the plugins for each of these Wordpress installs.

And the icing on the cake? What will eliminating this huge time sink cost me in terms of dollars? Sixteen bucks a month. Not thirty. Sixteen. Or, to put it into perspective, slightly more than half what I've been paying. Less work, as good or better performance, ostensibly better reliability and terrific design tools, all for less money? That, my friends, is what I like to call a no-brainer. 


The downside to all of this, of course, is that I lose a certain amount of flexibility. To be sure, Squarespace and its ilk have far more limitations that the wide open spaces of a 1&1 VPS plan. But the limitations just happen to be in areas that don't really concern me all that much these days. And what I lose in flexibility I believe will easily be made up in productivity. That is to say, all the time I spent maintaining that damn VPS and those Wordpress installs will now go towards writing and drawing more. And after all, that's what I'm really here to do.

Especially now that the flow of Systemsboy posts has pretty permanently slowed to a trickle, it seems even sillier and more pointless to self-host to the extent I've been doing, and the systemsboy.com domain no longer seems particularly relavent or necessary. There's just no reason to suffer for it anymore.



Commensurate with the change of hosts, and the general unification of my online presence is another kinda big change to the way TASB works: I am no longer anonymous. Maintaining my secret identity, now that I no longer blog about specific work issues, is no longer particularly important to me. And I really like the idea of having everything under one, big umbrella site that represents me as a person, rather than a set of fragmented brand identities.

So, hi. I'm Mike Barron nice to meet you.


Despite all these changes, though, The Adventures of Systemsboy! should be much the same as ever. You can continue to expect very occasional and oft-cheeky posts that contain my personal observations on a variety of my favorite technology-oriented topics with a focus on the Mac and iOS platforms. But no punditry. I'm terrible at punditry.

And, oh yeah: Enjoy the comics.