Why Did Blot Have to Be So Good?

My blog is a bunch of Markdown files in folders. I like it that way. I have thousands of posts going back to 2000, all rendered quickly and nicely with Hugo and served securely with Netlify.

Then along comes Blot and messes things up for me. Blot is great because it easily creates a blog out of a folder full of Markdown files. Even better, it does it via Dropbox so there are no build/commit/push/deploy steps. Just create a file and save it to a local Dropbox folder and poof! I’ve got a blog.

It’s so easy to publish using Blot on an iPad that I’ve been using it to post at baty.blog and it’s pretty great.

But, now I have yet another blog. I don’t want another blog. I’m also not ready to go all-in on a service that I don’t know I can trust, long-term. It’s a paid service, which boosts my confidence, but paid services fail all the time. It looks like I could self-host the app and keep going, but I’d like to avoid having to learn to do that. I’d just like static HTML files up on a server, please.

On the other hand, the Blot files are still just Markdown files and I could easily convert them for use with Hugo if it came to that.

I have a couple of options. First, make blogging with Hugo on the iPad so easy that I’m never tempted to just fire off a post quickly with Blot. Second, let baty.net sit and continue blogging with Blot and hope for the best.

There’s actually a third option, and that is to use both Hugo and Blot and keep both blogs. That’s my current head-in-the-sand option and I hope I don’t end up there. I’m typing this in Blink Shell using Vim on a remote server and it works pretty well, but there’s a lot of setup and “stuff” involved and sometimes I just want to type and click “publish”. Working on it.

Static Blogging from the iPad

baty.net is currently a static site, built using Hugo and served by Netlify. In order to publish, I have to create a text (markdown) file in a certain folder, with a bit of specific YAML front matter. Then, I have to commit the changes and push to its Gitlab repo. Netlify takes it from there.

Since the entire site also lives in Dropbox, creating the file is pretty simple on the iPad. It’s the commit/push part that’s a little trickier.

Using Blink Shell, I can shell into one of my servers and create and edit files using Vim, which I love. Once complete, I just commit and push right from the terminal session and Boom!, published.

To make that last part easier I have a make file that looks like this…

PUBLIC_DIR=public/
SERVER_HOST=do.baty.net
SERVER_DIR=./apps/batydotnet/public/
TARGET=netlify

build:
		hugo

server:
		hugo server

deploy:  commit push
		@echo "\033[0;32mDeploying updates to $(TARGET)...\033[0m"
ifeq "$(TARGET)" "netlify"
# Tell Netlify we're coming
	curl -X POST -d '{}' https://api.netlify.com/build_hooks/[SNIP]
	@echo "You're all set, just hang tight"
else
	rsync -v -rz -e "ssh -l serverpilot" --checksum --delete --no-perms $(PUBLIC_DIR) $(SERVER_HOST):$(SERVER_DIR)
endif

commit:
		git add -A
		git commit -m "Build site `date`"

push:
		git push origin master

clean:
		rm -rf $(PUBLIC_DIR)

.FORCE:

I don’t get a handy preview in the browser via hugo server this way, but it’s not bad.

Echo Hide

I’ve had a new Echo Show since the day it was released. I wish I could trade it in for an Echo Hide.

This, believe it or not, is how I use my Echo Show in the kitchen.

img

Every time I walk into the kitchen the device lights up with a screen full of wonders such as “World Class Restaurant Servers Moldy Apples” or “It’s National Hot Dog Day!” or some other annoying buzzfeed-ian nonsense. It’s awful. Then at the bottom of the screen it’ll add a little note like, “Try, ‘Alexa, tell me about hot dog day.‘” I’m never doing that, but I can’t ignore it either.

To be honest, I mostly bought the Show for setting cooking timers. I loved setting timers on my original Echo and thought it would be great if I could see them all at the same time. Except I can’t. Sure, I can say, “Alexa, set a timer for 10 minutes” and then say, “Alexa, set a timer for 8 minutes.” She’ll do what I ask, but if I want to /see/ the timers I have to say, “Alexa, show me my timers,” which she’ll do, but only for a few seconds before going back to showing me another stupid headline like “Sia to release christmas album!” Who?

I like Alexa better when I can’t see her.

UPDATE, 10 minutes later: Sure enough it is possible to turn off much of the nonsense. That’s a little better.

Posting to Hugo from Org Mode using ox-hugo

ox-hugo is an Org exporter backend that exports Org to Hugo-compatible Markdown (Blackfriday). That also includes the generation of front matter (in TOML or YAML format) required for Hugo posts.

What that means is that I can have an org file and each headline will become a
hugo-compatible markdown file with all the appropriate front matter? Awesome!

I’ll have to think about whether to use it regularly for baty.net since it adds
a level of abstraction between the original “master” post in Org Mode
and the final Markdown post used to render the site. Basically, I need
to “render” each post twice. I’ll try it with a few posts to see how
it feels. (You’re soaking in it!)

My New iPod Nano

I’d been using an old click-wheel iPod for listening to music in the car. It’s nice having music ready to go without futzing with hooking up my iPhone and cables every time I get in the car. Unfortunately, it stopped working a few months ago.

When I heard Apple was discontinuing the iPod Nano and iPod Shuffle, I hustled to Best Buy and bought a brand new Nano before they were gone.

iPod Nano

I like being able to get in the car and just push the play button to continue listening to an audio book. Having to take out my phone, connect cables, find and launch an app, select something to listen to, and hit “play” adds just enough friction so that I often don’t bother listening to anything.

Having to sync everything using iTunes on my Mac adds a bit of friction, but it’s the good kind. It’s the kind that forces me to consider what I’d like to listen to until next time. That’s fine with me. Audio books take forever to listen to, so it doesn’t come up often.

iPod Nano

It also works great while walking. The Nano is tiny and it’s nice not having my phone with me. The downside is that it doesn’t work with the Airpods, so I have to use chorded headphones like some sort of Neanderthal. On the other hand, there’s no need to worry about charging the plain old EarPods.

It’s a nice setup.

A Privacy Choice - Rands

Rands:

And I’m not even worried about this one meeting. I’m worried about all of the meetings and the collective compounding impact of all the small seemingly inconsequential decisions in a company where the business is selling advertising versus a company where the business is selling product.

I switch to using Chrome once in a while, even though I generally prefer Safari. Chrome has collected all the energy and the ecosystem and is better when doing any sort of web development. This usually lasts about 2 months.

I switched back to Safari again a couple of weeks ago. Privacy concerns are a significant reason, and Rands understands the feeling.

Is This the Life We Really Want? - Roger Waters

Is This The Life We Really Want?

After nearly 25 years I’d sort of given up on seeing a new solo record from Roger Waters. Then, surprisingly, here comes “Is This the Life We Really Want?”

He’s still angry and writing about the same basic things he has for the last 40 years or so. Fine with me, that’s what I’ve always liked about him. For example, this bit from “Broken Bones”:

When World War II was over
Though the slate was never wiped clean
We could have picked over them broken bones
We could have been free

But we chose to adhere to abundance
We chose the American Dream
And ooo, Mistress Liberty -
How we abandoned thee

And then there’s this more current note, from “Picture This”:

Picture a courthouse with no fucking laws
Picture a cathouse with no fucking whores
Picture a shithouse with no fucking drains
Picture a leader with no fucking brains

I really like this record. Some of it is very Floydian, and that’s never a bad thing.

From TextExpander to Alfred

One side effect of an app developer’s decision to move to a subscription model is that the monthly charge is a regular reminder for me to re-evaluate that app’s value. Sometimes I decide the value is no longer worth the monthly overhead in both money and friction.

Such is the case with TextExpander. I’ve relied on it for years and use it many times every day, but darn if that monthly fee hasn’t been nagging at me.

So today I moved1 all of my snippets into Alfred and canceled my TextExpander subscription. Alfred’s snippet implementation is not quite as complete as TextExpander’s, but it’s good enough for how I use it. I’ll miss the occasional benefits on iOS but I don’t write that much on iOS. What I won’t miss is the monthly cost and mental overhead of a software subscription it turns out I didn’t really need.


  1. Thanks to this tool by Daniel Diekmeier [return]

Wonderful Software

I love software. Even though I long to be one of those “I’ve only used X for 10 years and nothing else matters” people, there’s just no way. I use, and love, many things. Here I list a few of my long-time favorites. These are wonderful apps that have held up for years and continue to be useful and valuable.

Tinderbox

Where to begin with Tinderbox? I’ve been keeping notes in Tinderbox for at least a decade. I occasionally stop using it for a few months and then feel a flood of relief when I come to my senses and launch it again. Tinderbox is clever and powerful and a little weird, but in such a good way. Tinderbox can be anything, and everything. It’s an outliner and a visual mapping tool and a smart agent for processing notes. Mostly, it’s wonderful software.

Curio

Zengobi’s Curio is another application that can be anything. Its core is simply an infinite whiteboard onto which you can place files or write or both, but it’s much more than that. And, like Tinderbox, it’s riddled with thoughtful touches. I work well in a visual environment. Spacial memory helps me find and remember things so I love Curio on the big iMac. It’s beautiful and feels wonderful to use. Also, the developer, George Browning, is almost inhumanly responsive.

DEVONthink

DEVONthink is a workhorse. It’s big, complex, and powerful. I keep years of history and thousands of documents in DEVONthink and I can find things in a snap. With the new version of DEVONthink To Go I have access to everything on all of my devices.

The Brain

Whenever I demo The Brain I get a lot of oohs and aahs. It’s one of a kind and it’s wonderful. Everything links to everything. It’s the most powerful mind map you’ve ever seen, only better. Prior to the upcoming Version 9, The Brain was a Java app, which always made me feel a little dirty and made my OS complain. Version 9 is a native rewrite and it looks and feels much better. My main brain file only has about 3,000 thoughts but I can find any of them quickly, and then easily jump to linked topics (thoughts). The Brain pleases the visual connection parts of my actual brain.

Those are a few of the wonderful apps that I’ve used and loved regularly for many years.

QLMarkdown

I thought it odd that Quicklook doesn’t work on Markdown files. I found the quicklook plugin, QLMarkdown, which not only makes Quicklook work with Markdown (.md) files, but it actually renders the markdown.

Installed using Homebrew as directed and it just worked.

$ brew update
$ brew cask install qlmarkdown