Today was the "Build a Website in an Hour" IndieWeb event (more info here). I went in not quite knowing what I wanted to do. Then, right as we began, I remembered learning about Gemini and Astrobotany from Jo. I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to explore Gemini, and build a Gemini website!
Gemini is a simple protocol somewhere between HTTP and Gopher. It runs on top of TLS and is deliberately quite minimal. You normally need a Gemini client/browser in order to view
gemini:// pages, but there's an HTTP proxy here.
I spent the first chunk of the hour trying to compile Gemini clients on my weird setup. Unfortunately, this proved to be quite tricky on arm64 (I also can't use snap or flatpak because of reasons that aren't important now). I eventually managed to install a terminal client called Amfora and could browse the Geminispace!
Then, I tried to get a server running. I started in Python because I thought this was going to be hard as-is, and I didn't want to take more risks than needed, but then I found that it's actually kind of easy (you only need
ssl). Once I had a server working in Python, I thought that I actually would prefer if I could run this off of the same server that this website (yousefamar.com) uses. Most of this website is static, but there's a small Node server that helps with rebuilding, wiki pages, and testimonial submission.
So for the next chunk of time, I implemented the server in Node. You can find the code for that here. I used the
tls library to start a server and read/write text directly from/to a socket.
Everything worked fine on localhost with self-signed certificates that I generated with openssl, but for yousefamar.com I needed to piggyback off of the certificates I already have for that domain (LetsEncrypt over Caddy). I struggled with this for most of the rest of the time. I also had an issue where I forgot to end the socket after writing, causing requests to time out.
I thought I might have to throw in the towel, but I fixed it just as the call was about to end, after everyone had shown their websites. My Gemini page now lives at gemini://yousefamar.com/ and you can visit it through the HTTP proxy here!
I found some Markdown to Gemini converters, and I considered having all my public pages as a capsule in Geminispace, but I think many of them wouldn't quite work under those constraints. So instead, in the future I might simply have a
gemini/ directory in the root of my notes or similar, and have a little capsule there separate from my normal web stuff.
I'm quite pleased with this. It's not a big deal, but feels a bit like playing with the internet when it was really new (not that I'm old enough to have done that, but I imagine this is what it must have felt like).