The G-Loaded Experiment – 5 years of tech blogging

Okay. It’s been five years since I started this website and I feel I want to share with you one or two things about it. In this post I’ll try to go back in time and write about why I started it and what this web journal has accomplished so far. I also post some thoughts about the future plans.

The Past

First, let’s go back to September 2005. At that time, it had been about 5-6 months since I had begun to experiment with the Linux Desktop, more specifically with Fedora Core and later Fedora. Before that, I was a Microsoft Windows power-user. I also spent a lot of time on a spare computer powered by Red Hat Linux and later Fedora Core 1, which was used as an experimental server in my home LAN. The main reason for trying the Linux Desktop was the exploration of its features and to check how they compared to those of Windows. Although I had already noticed some shortcomings from the very first months of use, I guess it was the excitement about the new platform that kept me going and made me eventually switch to Linux for my everyday computing.

There is one thing I am 100% certain I did right. Keeping detailed notes about almost everything: my modifications in the configuration files, how to accomplish certain tasks quickly from the command line, notes about features that were not so obvious, etc. This had helped me a lot to adapt to the new environment quickly. At that time, the first tech blogs had already made their appearance in the blogosphere and several people published tips and tricks about open source software, so, being inspired by the openness of the Free Software world, I had decided to publish my own notes, hoping that others would find them useful. It happened that, at that time, my first complete server configuration, which was safe enough and moderately tested, was almost finished, so I could use it to power a website in the real world instead of using a service like Blogspot, WordPress or Livejournal.

I set up an old computer as a production server. The hardware may sound ridiculous, but that thing was powered by an Intel Pentium II 350MHz CPU overclocked at 392MHz, 128MB of RAM and a very old (even in 2005) Quantum Fireball 18GB hard disk (which I still have around for historical reasons). And the website went live. Later I upgraded RAM to 256MB and finally to 512MB. Needless to say that the server was connected to the internet through a consumer broadband line. Also, the website was powered by the WordPress personal publishing platform, which is the dynamic content engine G-Loaded uses until today. Of course, I later moved to a VPS, but I admit that the home server was pure fun…

So, that was it. I started publishing detailed guides about how to accomplish several tasks in a server or desktop environment, workarounds about various issues I had encountered, news I considered important and also some source code snippets. One of my goals from the beginning was to reach a broader audience and not just computer geeks. I rarely used geeky language in my posts and often provided detailed explanation about what was happening behind the scenes when a specific command was invoked in the shell. I never wrote about anything that I hadn’t previously tested extensively. Whenever an article was published, that meant it was complete, had accurate instructions and worked 100%. I think this made the guides even more helpful and educational, which eventually made the website more popular as more Linux newcomers visited it while looking for information about how to accomplish certain tasks.

G-Loaded evolved to something bigger than just a spot on the web where I published my notes. First of all, it made it possible for me to test my server configuration in the real world and eventually greatly improve it. To be more specific, the server configuration has been re-written 3 or 4 times since the first deployment and I have also developed some deployment scripts, which can set up the server from scratch. Moreover, G-Loaded has been a window, through which I had the opportunity to see how things work in the webmaster world, including website administration, advertising etc. Most of these things cannot be learned in a class or by reading a book. You have to check them out on the go to have a better understanding about them. This is why I call the whole thing the “G-Loaded Experiment” and not just a web journal. It might seem like a journal, but practically it’s more than just that.

Nowadays, the website has small to moderate web traffic, producing around 150k to 180k page views per month, as measured by AWStats, which is quite good for a website covering topics on open source software. The traffic could have been bigger, but I never really cared about web traffic. It was something that came naturally. I never used any “recipies” to drive traffic to the website. Had I cared about traffic, I bet you would have noticed…

And next comes another thing, which I consider quite important. This is about whether a website, which generally spoon feeds new users of open source software or carries advertisements together with the content, is accepted or not by specific audiences related to open-source software. My conclusions regarding acceptance are the following:

  • Acceptance by new Linux users: strong — The website is accepted as is with or without adverts as the visitors are generally interested about the detailed information they can find inside the guides and they never care why the guide was written or why the web site carries advertising.
  • Acceptance by hardcore FOSS users (non IT professionals): small — Adverts and spoon feeding is something geeks do not generally like. (That’s OK. Still love you guys, but this website was not made to teach you anything you do not already know.)
  • Acceptance by IT professionals: varies:
    • The website is moderately accepted by those who can handle the popularity of their profession well. They usually do not mind seeing non IT professionals blogging about things related to IT and they often correct their mistakes and generally enjoy being gurus.
    • On the other side, IT professionals who cannot handle the popularity of their profession very well or have a strict elitist approach to FOSS, generally do not accept the existence of such websites. Please allow me to believe that this is how the majority of IT professionals feel about tech blogs run by non IT professionals.

Finally, let me talk about today and the future plans regarding G-Loaded.

The Present and Future Plans

Several things have changed since the initial launch on September 9th 2005. First of all, the 5-year anniversary finds me using a Windows 7 desktop, after testing it for a full year. I’ve already spent around 400 EUR on Windows software, so I guess going back to a desktop powered by a Linux distribution won’t happen any time soon. It seems that the Linux Desktop experiment did not work out very well for me. I needed an operating system that would let me focus on things that matter to me and the Linux Desktop often distracted me from my goals, requiring a significant amount of time for maintenance every now and then. There will be a separate post about this, so I won’t go into the details here.

Apart from using a computer as a tool for work and research, I am still very interested in administering a Linux Server. During the first 3 years G-Loaded was powered by a Fedora Server, but for various reasons I had explained in an older post I have now switched to CentOS. I intend to continue to work on and improve the server configuration I’ve been developing all these years. Maybe I try to use a configuration manager this time instead of my custom shell scripts. I’ll need to check these tools out and also collect some information and experiences of others first.

So, time permitting, I intend to post some guides/tutorials about how I setup the various services in a Linux Server. Generally, my posts will mostly cover things related to servers. But, you know, since I use Windows on my desktop now, one or two posts about this OS might sneak into my blog every now and then. But, this won’t happen often for sure. I really do not care about desktops regardless of them being open-source or closed-source, embedded, customizable or not, as long as they do not get into my way. Also, during the last month I’ve been thinking about releasing my server configuration and some other software as open-source projects. Many people could possibly benefit from them by using them on their VPSes. But, this is just a thought… Before opening anything up, I’ll need some serious guarantees that some people will also work with me on the project or take it over for further development and fine-tuning. I’ll think about it during the following months and keep you updated.

Final Thoughts

I’ve always been interested in open source software. The main goal of the G-Loaded Journal is to bring you information about how to utilize FOSS more effectively. This goal has not changed and never will be.

The G-Loaded Experiment – 5 years of tech blogging by George Notaras is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.
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About George Notaras

George Notaras is the editor of the G-Loaded Journal, a technical blog about Free and Open-Source Software. George, among other things, is an enthusiast self-taught GNU/Linux system administrator. He has created this web site to share the IT knowledge and experience he has gained over the years with other people. George primarily uses CentOS and Fedora. He has also developed some open-source software projects in his spare time.