Dot Files

Posted on 2023-07-11 20:50 +0100 in Meta • Tagged with Blogging • 2 min read

While I'm still in blog-tinkering mode (long may it last!), I thought it might be handy to keep a page kicking around that has links to the small collection of "dot file" repositories I have.

Like many people, I keep these in a central location (in my case up on GitHub) so that I can very quickly spin up a familiar work environment on a new machine (new machines are something that doesn't happen too often, but it's always good to be able to get going quickly when it does).

So, depending on browser type/size, either above here or off to the side, there should now be a permanent link to a page of links to those repositories.

As I look at it now it's actually surprising to me how much of my "comfortable" environment is encapsulated in so few tools, and configured with so few collections of files. There are other tools I use a lot too, but most of them either have their own sync systems, or they have so few configuration options (and are likely in a format that isn't easy to grab/store) that it's not worth the bother.

This feels like a good thing, really.

One thing that's not amongst all of this, partly because it's not that interesting, but also partly because the repository is private, is a single bash script called myenv. On a new machine, once I've got enough of a setup that I can clone from GitHub, I drag this down and run the script and most of the rest of the environment follows.

It's quite satisfying when I need to use it.

The switch has been made

Posted on 2023-07-05 17:56 +0100 in Meta • Tagged with Python, Blogging • 2 min read

Well, it didn't take as long as I expected it to. Just yesterday morning I was giving Pelican a look over as a possible engine for generating my blog, having wanted to move away from Jekyll for a while now. Having tried it and liked what I saw to start with, I wrote about how I liked it and wondered how long it would take me to make the switch.

By the evening I was making a proper effort to get the switchover started, and just a wee while earlier, before writing this post, the switch was made!

The process of making the switch was roughly this (and keep in mind I'm coming from using Jekyll):

  1. Made a branch in the repo to work in.
  2. Removed all of the Jekyll-oriented files.
  3. Decided to set up Pelican and related tools in a virtual environment, managed using pipenv.
  4. Ran pelican-quickstart to kick things off and give me a framework to start with.
  5. Renamed the old _posts directory to content.
  6. Kept tweaking the hell out of the Pelican config file until it started to look "just so" (this is a process that has been ongoing, and doubtless will keep happening for some time to come).
  7. Tried out a few themes and settled on Flex; while not exactly what I wanted, it was close enough to help keep me motivated (while rolling my own theme from scratch would seem fun, I just know it would mean the work would never get done, or at least finished).
  8. Did a mass tidy up of all the tags in all the posts; something I'd never really paid too much attention to as the Jekyll-based blog never actually allowed for following tags.
  9. Went though all the posts and removed double quotes from a lot of the titles in the frontmatter (something Jekyll seems to have stripped, but which Pelican doesn't).
  10. Tweaked the FILE_METADATA to ensure that the slugs for the URLs came from the filenames -- by default Pelican seems to slugify the title of a post and this meant that some of the URLs were changing.

All in all I probably spent 6 or 7 hours on making the move; a lot of that involving reading up on how to configure Pelican and researching themes. The rest of it was a lot of repetitive work to fix or tidy things.

The most important aspect of this was keeping the post URLs the same all the way back to the first post; as best as I can tell I've managed that.

So far I'm pleased with the result. I'm going to live with the look/theme for a wee while and see how it sits for me. I'm sure I'll tweak it a bit as time goes on, but at the moment I'm comfortable with how it looks.

Considering Pelican

Posted on 2023-07-04 08:32 +0100 in Meta • Tagged with Python, Blogging • 3 min read

Since getting my blog editing environment set up on the "new" machine a couple of days back I've been thinking some more about moving away from Jekyll. Jekyll itself has served me well since I started this blog back in 2015, but I was reminded again when installing it on the Mac Mini that it's Ruby-based and I have very little understanding of how to get a good Ruby experience on macOS1.

Having mentioned on Mastodon that I was thinking about finally looking at moving my blog management/generation to something new, and specifically something Python-based and ideally some sort of site generator, I got a few suggestions.

One that looks promising so far is Pelican. At first glance it seems to tick a few boxes for me:

  • Python-based (so easy for me to grok in terms of installing, and also more chance of being hackable).
  • Uses Markdown (curiously as an alternative, to reStructuredText, which looks to be the default).
  • Does article-based stuff as well as page-based stuff.
  • Lots of themes, and themes are Jinja2-based (I'm pretty familiar with Jinja thanks to my Django days and also using the library when kicking off ng2web).
  • RSS feed generation.
  • Syntax-highlighted code blocks.

While I'm not quite ready to dive in and make the move just yet (I am on a "muck about at home" holiday this week, but I've got enough planned without losing a day to rebooting my blog), I did do a quick experiment to see if Pelican would work for me.

Key to this is can I keep the URLs for all the posts the same? If I can't that's a non-starter.

Things got off to a good start with an easy install:

$ pipx install "pelican[markdown]"

I then used the pelican-quickstart to kick off a test site, copied in my existing Markdown files, dived into the docs and found how to configure the generated URLs and... yeah, within like 10 minutes I had a very rough version of my blog up and going.

It looked like garbage, the theme really wasn't to my taste at all, but the core of the blog was working.

I've nuked it all for now but a more considered evaluation is now on my TODO list. Things I'll need to drive into properly are:

  • Find a base theme that's to my taste.
  • Get Disqus working it so that any old comments remain in place.
  • Get my image/attachment layout back in place.
  • Go through and tidy up all the tagging (which has been a mess with this blog because I never did get round to getting Jekyll to actually use tags).
  • Figure out the best way to do the publishing to GitHub pages.
  • Likely a bunch of other stuff I've not thought about yet.

But, yeah, for a brief "over first coffee of the day" tinker to see if I like it... I like!

Let's see how long it takes me to actually get around to making the switch. ;-)

  1. When setting this up a couple of days back, I had to pin some packages for the blog to older versions because of Ruby version issues; I'm sure that Ruby has virtual environment solutions akin to Python, but diving into that just for one tool... nah. 

Catching up

Posted on 2023-07-02 08:00 +0100 in Meta • Tagged with Mac, Apple • 2 min read

So... erm... yeah... I did it again. I looked away for a moment and somehow almost 7 months passed without a post! It's so easily done too isn't it? While, when I revived this blog last year, I didn't make a point of intending to write lots and often, I had hope that I'd manage something at least once a week; perhaps at least once a month.

Ahh well.

There's been two main reasons why it's been quiet around here. The first is that my (now not so) new job keeps me busy (in a good way). It involves a reasonable amount of trekking into town and back (which I don't mind on the whole), and once I'm home in the evening I'm generally (but not always) done with the keyboard and desk.

The second reason, which is probably the dafter one, is that a bit earlier this year I finally upgraded my desktop setup from the 2019 Intel MacBook Pro I was using to a recently-released M2Pro Mac Mini (and what an upgrade!). How this plays into blogging being even more quiet is... I needed to set up jekyll again, and I'd forgotten how I got it running in the first place, so I kept putting off getting it going, and...

Well, this morning, I sat down with coffee, grepped the history on my previous machine, and got it running in like 5 minutes (of course).

So, here I am, back adding another blog post. I'm writing this as much to test that the setup works as anything else.

But also, this time, I'm going to try and make a promise to myself: I'm going to try and write more. I can and should write about anything. I can and should write short things as well as long things. I can and should remember that it's not about writing things that are going to be super important or anything like that, it's about just getting stuff down and creating and recording.

Note of course I said "try" and make a promise.

We'll see. ;-)

I'm back!

Posted on 2022-05-20 12:44 +0100 in Meta • Tagged with news, blogging • 2 min read

I'm back! Almost. More or less. In more ways than one. First off, as often happens with blogs (we've all been there right?), I've been away from blogging for a while. I've still been online, still been waffling away on twitter, and have also stumbled into fosstodon as well. Doubtless plenty of other things.

A big distraction for me, and one that is ongoing, is mucking about on YouTube. Since the last time I wrote anything on the blog I got myself a VR setup, and then a PCVR setup, and then finally fibre came to the village and I could stream, and... well, you can see how that would go.

So, in short, that's where I've been and that's what's been keeping me busy. Now that I'm paying some attention to blogging again (hopefully!) I imagine some of that will end up on here -- I'd quite like to write about VR and gaming amongst other things.

Now, I said I'd been away in more ways than one. Another way is explained by this post from back in 2019, where I said I was going to head over to Hashnode and carry on blogging there, obviously with an emphasis on development and just development.

That kept me busy for a while and worked out well, mostly. But... well, see above in part; I sort of ran out of steam when it came to purely-development topics. But I still wanted to write, a bit, and wanted to write about more than just development.

Also, something else was bothering me about being over on Hashnode. In the past year, in terms of what they promote themselves, especially blogs and posts they promote on their Twitter feed, they seem to have started to lean really hard into crypto and web3 and NFTs and all that stuff. This left me feeling like that was all a bit icky and it was time to put some distance between that platform and myself.

So over the past couple of weeks, low-level and as a background task, I've been back-porting posts from over there back into this blog. Starting with this post all new blog content, be it about software development or anything else, will be on here. If I'm really sensible and don't get distracted by new shiny... this should be how it remains now.

Expect some changes over the next few weeks. While I'm aiming to stick with the core tech (Github pages, Markdown and Jekyll, Emacs to edit, etc), I'd like to tinker with the look and layout of the blog. The content will remain the same though.

So, yeah, anyway, if you're reading this... hey, it's good to be back. :-)

Time to move on

Posted on 2019-10-18 17:42 +0100 in Meta • Tagged with blogging • 2 min read

It's well over a year since I last wrote something on this blog. As mentioned in the last post (and the one before), it's not for bad reasons or anything like that. Being in a new job, which actually isn't all that new now, has kept me busy in all the best ways possible.

There's been other stuff going on too which has drawn on my attention and the time and motivation to blog, either random stuff, or more development-related stuff, just hasn't been there.

Also... blogging via GitHub, using Jekyll, has lost a lot of its shine. It sort of makes sense, well, sort of made sense, but in the end it felt like more work than it should. Whereas most blogging systems tend to encourage just diving in and banging on the keyboard, there's just a bit more faff with the GitHub pages approach.

So, with that in mind, and with no desire right now to roll my own (which would be fun, it has to be said), I'm going to skip off over to Hashnode's blogging system. It seems to have everything I'd want and I can slap it on a domain of mine.

Most of my random musings about random things really happen on Twitter, so I can't imagine I'll be wanting to blog about normal/mundane things. What I would like to do is write about development-related things from time to time. So that would seem to fit even better.

Anyway, enough of all this waffle. If you land here and it looks kind of quiet, that's because it has been quiet for a while and I'm now going to try and concentrate elsewhere, with a wish to do some coding-related writing now and again.

Hello, World!

Posted on 2015-06-18 14:53 +0100 in Meta • Tagged with blogging, Mac • 2 min read

Hello, world.

So I've decided that it's time I had a blog again. An actual blog. Not a set of posts on Google+ or a torrent of 140-character thoughts on twitter but an actual blog.

Part of the reason for this is that there's a couple of personal coding projects I want to have a go at over the next few months and writing about them as I work on them might be fun. Another reason is that I've being wanting to explore the business of hosting a blog on GitHub pages for quite some time and now's the perfect time to do it.

So how am I doing this? Well, for starters, I recently acquired an iMac. The reasons for how and why I chose to do this are varied and mostly uninteresting but what it does mean is that, for the first time in quite a long time, I have a Unix desktop machine again. This fact alone means it's nice and easy for me to play with the likes of Git (or, at the moment more GitHub for Mac than the command line git), ruby, Jekyll and SublimeText (along with a rather nifty package for quickly kicking off a blog post). So that's how I'm doing it. Writing it all locally and pushing it up to GitHub and hosting it with GitHub Pages.

As this goes on I imagine much will change. I've started out with a basic setup, created by simply using:

davep@Ariel:~/blogging$ jekyll new

From now on I'll be playing with styles and my own layouts to see what I can come up with and what I like (although, I most say, for the most part I'm actually liking the clean look it delivers out of the box).

One thing that's obviously missing right now is a facility for commenting. That's something I'll look into should I feel it's necessary -- from what I've seen elsewhere it's easy enough to make use of something like disqus. Update: This has now happened.

One other thing I might look at doing is putting this behind my own domain. For the moment it's only available via and I guess it might look nicer if it was actually available via a URL that looks like the name I've attached to the blog. Update: This has now happened.

Anyway, that's it for now. Time to push this up and think some more about where it'll go from here.