Life inside a machine

Using Gemini

You're viewing a Gemini article on the web

It's much better to view it on Gemini!

I've been seeing a lot of buzz lately about this whole gemini business. It seems that a lot of people are quite excited about the new protocol. I've been having a quick poke around at it and have to say I was immediately taken with it. It's got a lot of promise as a very simple textual protocol, and the simplistic, well-thought-out spec makes for easy reading. Primarily, the thing I find interesting is the clear separation of server-side responsibility (serving content) and client-side responsibility (interpreting the content). I suppose I'd just never really thought about how much reliance we have on server-side day-to-day.

I thought I'd have a go at setting up my own site just as a way to keep my mind sharp. Working with XSL will dull it significantly.

Setting up the server

This was the simplest thing I've ever done in my life. Forget setting up a static site, forget messing around with nginx and TLS certs. All you need is openssl, a piece of server software that meets your needs, and a real good attitude.

After doing a little bit of reading around of other users' experiences, I plumped for using gemserv [1], a pleasant little server written in Rust. I loaded this onto my tiny little FreeBSD server and gave its instructions a read, the proceeded to make my certificates with the following command:

openssl req -x509 -newkey rsa:4096 -keyout key.rsa -out cert.pem -days 3650 -nodes -subj "/CN=*.rootkey.co.uk"

After that it was a simple matter of writing my changes to the config file, adding some basic files as a test, and opening up Castor [2] to view my site. That's it. No mess, no delay, just a wonderfully simple alternative to a static blog site. Beautiful.

1 - Gemserv

2 - Castor


I'm a big Emacs user, so it's perhaps unsurprising that I immediately reached for Emacs when looking for writing tools. Fortunately, the gemini spec is so monumentally simple that a specific mode is not needed per se, but it was nice to see that somebody has already gone to the trouble of making a fully-fledged Emacs mode for gemini markup [3]. It's been a happy little tool to write with thus far.

I find the syntax pleasing to write if a little restrictive, but I'm really happy how quickly people have brought out clients that can make even this very limited markup look really nice.

3 - Gemini-mode


There are some things that I miss about writing for the web. Well, not miss exactly, more I will need to get used to the idea of writing a different way. The first thing I find a little strange is the lack of inline links. Not a big problem, as it's simple enough to just move these to the bottom or under a paragraph. Ordered lists are a bit of an omission, but one that I'm sure I'll get over.

The point I suppose is just to accept that the limitations are a part of the protocol by design and to use them as an excuse to focus on creating content rather than formatting it. That's just fine by me.