Creating a Side Project Budget

I plan on setting a $100/month on personal tech projects and testing out small startup ideas. For some, this may seem tiny, but for me it’s a huge upgrade.

In the past few months I’ve finished Law School, started at a real job, and have been putting more time in at Chartacourse, I have found myself in a bit of a predicament: I have more money than time. This is a pretty great problem, but it makes fitting in recreational programming difficult. I love making things outside of work, and when I became worried about RSI last year, I spent a few months teaching myself to code via voice commands.

So I’m running out of time, and I’ve got a little more money than I’m used to. The question: How can I improve my extracurricular development experience with money?

Multiple Servers

For the past eight years, I’ve kept up one or two web servers for the fifty or so web projects I’ve worked on. None of these projects was every so popular or successful to necessitate moving to its own server. This has involved creating interconnected messes of Ubuntu servers requiring multiple incompatible versions of Python, Ruby, and (recently) Perl. I have cron jobs I can’t remove because I just don’t know what project they were for.

It’s a mess.

Going forward, I plan on keeping different servers for different projects. In the future, my short-lived twitch-based game that relied on an IRC bot, a cron job generating a new image a minute based on a go-lang script, and video streaming, would get its own server. With the low cost of EC2 and VPS services, I won’t have a hard time breaking out small projects into their own server without breaking the bank. Having each application on its own VPS will certainly allow me to decrease my cognitive load.

While decreasing my own load might speed up development and stop me from worrying as much about scaling my monolithic server, it will also allow me to try out new services. I’ve become quite familiar with Digital Ocean and Rackspace recently, but I’d like to spend more time with AWS and some other hosting providers. I don’t always have time to experiment with new options or changing infrastructure at work, but it would be useful to know the ins and outs of a variety of different services.

AWS is the service I’m most excited about trying. Amazon’s services are an alphabet soup of products. Each one seems valuable and worth being aware of, but I’ve found the AWS ‘Console’ and all of its offerings overwhelming. Due to a database issue I briefly looked into to moving ChartaCourse’s back end to an AWS Aurora database last week, and became enamored with the possibilities of using AWS as a cheap hosting solution for personal projects.

For now, I’m sticking to the basics. This Notes blog is being hosted on a Digital Ocean One-Click App install of Ghost, a blogging platform. I’ve tried Ghost out in the past, and it’s easier to maintain than a Jekyll installation without the headaches I’ve associated with Wordpress.

October Costs To Date:

$15 — Hover Domain Name:
$ 5 — Digital Ocean Server:
$ 5 — Digital Ocean Server:
$25 Total Spent in October

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