Goodbye #Instagram. Your collection of heavily-filtered, uncomposed photos was tiresome & uninspiring.
Time to pare-down the list of unnecessary social networks in my life.
Goodbye #Instagram. Your collection of heavily-filtered, uncomposed photos was tiresome & uninspiring.
Time to pare-down the list of unnecessary social networks in my life.
This is a confession of a new Mac user, seeking absolution.
I have a Mac. It’s for work. Unfortunately, I finally came to realise that I cannot reasonably develop web apps to work on iOS and macOS without having access to those platforms for testing. I feel I’ve done exceptionally well to avoid this reality for many years and plough on with the Linux desktop, but building a VM Hackintosh without a proper software license is against my morals and, indeed, the law.
Would I have bought a Mac for personal use? Of course not. There’s no need; I have been a (more-or-less) happy GNU/Linux user for 15+ years. The Linux desktop has provided me with everything I need from a computer, and I’ve enjoyed the reliability of open source software. And I will continue to be a GNU/Linux user.
But … one thing about Linux that is, occasionally, frustrating is the complexity of software. I don’t mean that its typical user software is difficult or overwhelming in Linux. Instead, it’s that there is never the ‘best’ way to do things in Linux; there are multiple, ‘reasonable’ ways. It’s this lack of ‘purity’ about the desktop experience which sometimes confounds newbies, and turns some people off.
From my admittedly limited experience, it seems that people prefer to learn one way to do things and to stick to that way. With all the desktop environment options in Linux, there is no ‘one way’. This is why each platform has its advocates and evangelists, whether it’s Windows, macOS or GNU/Linux.
I feel like I have been spoilt with GNU/Linux, and especially with GNOME 3. To me, there is no better desktop environment than GNOME 3, despite having moments of hair-pulling frustration at it, from time to time. But GNOME 3 is a beautiful desktop: it’s clean and minimalist, its default file system application, Nautilus is more functional than the Mac’s Finder, its handling of multiple workspaces (where Linux is constantly superior) and navigation across those workspaces is much more fluid and natural, and so on.
There are political, social and technical issues with GNOME development and the whole GNU/Linux system at large (let’s not mention systemd here), but if you were to ignore those factors and introduce somebody to ‘the Linux desktop’, I would argue that GNOME 3 (and Cinnamon too, for that matter) present a beautiful interface to enjoy and work in. It’s not perfect, and can be problematic too at times, but it’s flexible and open.
That was a very long-winded introduction, but I felt it necessary to establish my position, before I talk about the Mac.
The problem I have is this: I want to love the Mac, but I don’t. Sometimes, especially in business, you feel you need a commercial product simply because it helps you fit into the world around you. And, when a computer costs you a significant amount of hard-earned cash, it’s got to be something you want. Sadly, I didn’t want this. It was simply a necessity for me to continue doing what I do to earn a living. Therefore, it felt ‘forced’ rather than chosen, or desired.
When you identify with a philosophy, such as I have with the guiding principles of free/libre open source software, you develop a mindset. You become attached to the tools and methodology deriving from that philosophy. It becomes incredibly frustrating when things that were easy on Linux become hard on anything else. You wonder why people put up with all these obstructions to productivity…
Let’s look at a few of these. As a software developer, sysadmin, business person and general user (who is used to the layout of a standard UK PC keyboard), I ran into several problems switching over to a Mac:
So, the question remains, is there enough goodness left in macOS to entice me to migrate over for good?
Are you kidding?!
Less productivity, less freedom, some bizarre defaults, some frustrating impediments to productivity and all backed by a ‘can do no wrong’ philosophy mean that Apple’s products will stay strictly off my shopping list commercially and personally for the foreseeable future.
I won’t be selling my ThinkPad T420. No way, José! But at least I can now do iOS and macOS testing for web apps and site layouts. In that vein, Apple makes great test machines!
And I think I have absolved myself 🙂
Here is the solution to Emacs mastery (from someone who watches other people’s YouTube videos…):
Yet… More challenges:
Keys to overcoming challenges
Discovering the IndieWeb movement was a 2015 highlight for me. It addressed many of my concerns about the direction of the modern internet, especially regarding ownership and control over that data. But to truly own your own data, self-hosting is a must!
I’m an ideas person. I have a number of projects – or, rather, project ideas – lined up, which I need to record and review. My blog provides me with the ideal space for that, as some ideas may attract the attention of others who are also interested. But why does this matter?
As someone who naturally likes to share experiences and knowledge, I see no benefit in not sharing my ideas too. After all, the web is all about sharing ideas. This matters to me, because the web is widely regarded as the most valuable asset civilised society has today (aside from the usual – like natural resources, power, warmth and sustenance)!
As a small business owner, I sometimes benefit from various common business practices. For example, the standard accounting principle of straight-line depreciation means that after several years, capital assets once purchased by the business have little-to-no use for the business, meaning they become potential liabilities (both in the financial and risk-management sense). This means I am able to get hold of used, good-condition computing hardware of 4-5 years old at very little cost.
This is useful for me, as a blogger and an IndieWeb advocate, as I can not only publish and manage all my own data, but also physically host my own data too. As I have fibre broadband running to my house, it’s now feasible to serve my blog as reasonable speeds with 10-20 Mib/sec upstream (“download speed” to you), which is sufficient for my likely traffic and audience.
This ties in nicely with one of my core beliefs, that people should be able to manage all their own data if they choose. I am technically competent enough, and have the meants at my disposal to do it. So why not!
Another driver towards this is that I wish to permanently separate “work” and “pleasure”. My business web hosting and cloud service is for my customers. Yes, we host our own web content as a business, but personal content? Well, in the interests of security and vested interests, I am pushing towards making personal content something that is only hosted for a paying customer.
Of course, I would encourage anyone to start their own adventure self-hosting too!
Naturally, taking on this type of arrangement has various challenges attached. Here is a selection of the tasks still to be achieved:
Whilst I am progressing these endeavours, it would be remiss if I didn’t document them. There is a lot to be said for the benefits (to a devop, anyway) of hosting one’s own sites and data, but naturally my blog must carry on while I am in the process of building its new home.
A quick jiggle around of my site’s menu structure will hopefully clarify where you can see this work, going forwards (hint, check the projects menu).
If you are interested in hosting your own servers and being in direct control over your content/data, why not subscribe to this blog’s RSS feed or subscribe by email (form towards footer). Or if you have comments, just “Leave a Reply” beneath! 🙂
Nice blog Ashton, thanks for sharing & making the plugin! Now that Blogrolls aren’t part of core WordPress, what do you use to manage your Blogroll links? I’m looking at Link Library, but not sure if compatible…
Let’s be clear from the outset: there’s no word that adequately defines MozFest. The Mozilla Festival is, simply, crazy. Perhaps it’s more kindly described as chaotic? Possibly. A loosely-coupled set of talks, discussion groups, workshops and hackathons, roughly organised into allocated floors, feed the strangely-complimenting hemispheres of work and relaxation.
Starting from the seeming calm of Ravensbourne’s smart entrance, you stroll in, unaware of the soon-experienced confusion. A bewildering and befuddling set of expectations and realisations come and go in rapid succession. From the very first thought – “ok, I’m signed in – what now?”, to the second – “perhaps I need to go upstairs?”, third – “or do I? there’s no obvious signage, just a load of small notices”…. and so on, descending quickly but briefly into self-doubt before emerging victorious from the uneasy, childlike dependency you have on others’ goodwill.
Volunteers in #MozHelp t-shirts, I’m looking at you. Thanks.
The opening evening started this year with the Science Fair, which featured – in my experience – a set of exciting hardware and software projects which were all in some way web-enabled, or web-connected, or web-controlled. Think Internet of Things, but built by enthusiasts, tinkerers and hackers – the way it should be.
“Open Hardware” projects, interactive story-telling, video games and robots being controlled by the orientation of the smartphone (by virtue of its gyroscopic capability).. the demonstration of genius and creativity is not even limited by the hardware available. If it didn’t already exist, it got designed and built.
As made clear from the opening keynotes on Saturday morning, MozFest is not a place for debate. Don’t think this as a bad thing. The intention is simply to help communicate ideas, as opposed to getting bogged down in the mire of detail. “Free” vs “Open”? Not here. The advice given was to use one’s ears much more than one’s mouth, and it’s sound advice – no pun intended. I have generally been considered a good listener, so I felt at home not having to “prove” anything by making a point. There was no point. 😉
Several themes were introduced in the keynote speeches which really resonated with the attendees – sorry, the participants of MozFest. That of online security and surveillance, more than two years after Edward Snowden’s revelations, was as prominent as ever. Participation was another key theme, and to me one of the most poignant ideas of the whole weekend. Participation was not encouraged or expected; it was simply threaded into the very fabric of one’s presence. You participated, to a lesser of greater degree. This was one of the most socially inclusive experiences I have ever known.
I cannot overstate how social inclusion at all levels permeated MozFest. From the smallest of teams – 2 individuals, to the largest groups I saw, people were constantly engaged in conversation, development – personal, social and technical, and – perhaps surprisingly – quiet reflection, too.
Quiet zones were available for those needing a little downtime. The cerebral intensity of the weekend is clearly felt.
The concept of the fire-side story appeared several times, reminding us that the web isn’t just a resource in and of itself, but rather a medium to convey information. Storytelling, one of the oldest methods of such conveyance, was a prescient theme. Represented through journalism, community and leadership, the scale of recognition (and a reminder) that the web is, primarily, a means to convey stories, took me somewhat aback. It’s inescpable logic, almost lost amidst the omnipresent noise of today’s social media.
Not only was MozFest a means to appreciate, understand and build upon the means to share information, it was also firmly invested in its future. Science and education were extremely well represented by group talks, workshops and forums.
In fact, the sheer number of topics on offer, and guaranteed clashing of events sure to interest you, simply went to prove one thing: the web is not just big, it’s bigger than you can imagine. How the event planners and coordinators of MozFest actually found a way to combine the multitude of themes and interests into “Spaces” and “Pathways” is a huge credit to the thought-leadership behind this event. By encouraging leadership, the Mozilla Foundaiton has shown itself to be a more-than-capable leader in as diverse a field as there can be.
On arrival, I didn’t know what to expect. First-timers don’t. I had a vague incling that I would face a learning curve, adapting to the culture and activities of the event. Like a wandering spirit, I probably stared starry-eyed at the overwhelming number of quickly-scribbled “adverts”, pinned, taped and hung up everywhere, telling me about “this event” or “that workshop”. Even now, in reflection, I feel that the above post barely scratches the surface of the experience.
It’s sensory-overload, pure and simple. 🙂
MozFest is a journey. Physically, many people made long journeys to attend and participate. To those people, I am grateful – you have made my life richer by your efforts. But psychologically, emotionally and intellectually MozFest is so much more than the sum of its multitudinous parts: It’s an idea, a belief that together we can build something better for much time to come; build something to last that has intrinsic “goodness”. And we are not actually talking about the web. The conversation has evolved. The web might be the medium, but the story is now about us.
The question is, how do we nurture our most sublime nature, and be all we can?
If you use Firefox and have recently come across this error, fear not. This intention of this page is to resolve these errors once and for all!
There are a few key steps to resolving it:
The instructions provide clues, but don’t spell out, how to set up org2blog for multiple blogs. https://github.com/punchagan/org2blog
(setq org2blog/wp-blog-alist '(("wordpress" :url "http://username.wordpress.com/xmlrpc.php" :username "username" :default-title "Hello World" :default-categories ("org2blog" "emacs") :tags-as-categories nil) ("my-blog" :url "http://username.server.com/xmlrpc.php" :username "admin")))
But what if you don’t want to specify your username and password in this multi-site set-up?
The answer lies in expanding on the elisp provided.
(let (creds-stevedowe creds-warpuni creds-status) (add-to-list 'auth-sources "~/.netrc") (setq creds-stevedowe (auth-source-user-and-password "stevedowe.me")) (setq creds-warpuni (auth-source-user-and-password "warpuni.com")) (setq creds-status (auth-source-user-and-password "status.warphost.net")) (setq org2blog/wp-blog-alist `( ("stevedowe.me" :url "https://dowe.io/xmlrpc.php" :default-categories ("me" "process" "things" "world") :tags-as-categories nil :username ,(car creds-stevedowe) :password ,(cadr creds-stevedowe)) ("warpuni.com" :url "https://warpuni.com/xmlrpc.php" :default-categories ("Analytics","BioData","FreeSoftware","Internet","Mobile","News","Productivity","Security","Social" "Support") :tags-as-categories nil :username ,(car creds-warpuni) :password ,(cadr creds-warpuni)) ("status.warphost.net" :url "https://status.warphost.net/xmlrpc.php" :tags-as-categories nil :username ,(car creds-status) :password ,(cadr creds-status)))))
[ This is a legacy post. Some details may no longer be relevant to modern software implementations. ]
I had been cultivating a fascination with Jekyll for blogging for a short while. It looked oh so clean, and minimalist, and sleek. It has its fans, for sure, and I am one of them.
If I were starting my blog from this day, I would almost certainly consider using Jekyll for it, rather than WordPress.
But, I am not. Back in 2007 (can it really be so long ago?!), when I started blogging, I didn’t give much thought to my requirements eight years down the line. And the funny thing is, they have hardly changed.
When saving the post in Emacs, I can save a local copy using the same date-title-based file name schema that Jekyll would expect (e.g.: 2015-10-28-Assessing_Jekyll_as_an_alternative_blogging_platform.org).
As indicated by the previous filename example, blogs can be saved locally on my hard disk in Org-mode format, allowing me the option later on to convert everything for a Jekyll-based future. In other words, making the decision to hard-switch from one system or another need not be rushed and can, in fact, be assessed based on technical need.
Another “turn-off” from Jekyll is that, despite various attempts to make it easy to migrate WordPress posts, I found the process awkward and the documentation confusing. There is more than one way to skin this cat.
For me, Emacs provides such a comfortable environment using Org2Blog that it’s really hard to justify the alternative approaches of org-jekyll or Org+Jekyll.
Well, it’s not elitest 😉
But aside from that, there are a few serious disadvantages. And these are ones you already know about: there’s lots of (potentially-vulnerable) PHP running, which is a security risk and also makes WordPress … slow.
Also, WordPress makes microblogging, or “notes” in IndieWeb parlance, not very easy. I want to publish my own microblog on my site and publish it elsewhere, but this will take futher investigation.
WordPress, also, has a reputation. It’s a bit like Walmart (or Asda in the UK). It’s a great, hulking CMS that everyone knows. It’s everywhere. Everyone uses it. Which means there’s less that’s “special” about it. And that’s a shame, because for all of that it’s really quite brilliant.
Like others, I’m a firm believer in the IndieWeb movement, but I don’t have enough time to write software for personal use right now. Luckily, many talented and dedicated individuals have stepped up and kindly donated their time and code to enable the IndieWeb on WordPress sites. This suits me down to the ground. At least I can support the movement by advocating and using their code.
WordPress also gives me flexibility. If I wish to write a short post about some coffee I’ve tried, I can. Picture too. If I wish to incorporate a video or music in a page fo rsome reason, the built-in editor makes that effortless. As it does, embedding a tweet too. WordPress is doing favours for the web at large, by keeping our writing options open and encouraging open sharing, rather than feeding us silo-centric drivel-data that we see so often from certain social networks!
One last thing WordPress gives is the ability for people who are not computer-confident to use a device like a Chromebook, or even their phone, and still provide a compelling and easy-to-use platform for sharing content.
There is a growing movement.
The movement is towards a free web, unimpeded by the silos that threaten to own us, and liberated from social-networking norms that diminish our individuality.
And yet, there isn’t actually one movement; there’s two. In fact, there are many more than two, but I’ll focus on just these for now.
Friendica is a social networking platform which is decentralised, distributed and fully privacy-respecting. It is, of course, open source too. Friendica’s purpose is to be an ‘alternative to those “creepy” social networks that don’t really care about your privacy’. It is primarily a web site with components that interact with other social networks (Facebook, Twitter, etc) as well as other instances of Friendica.
Friendica requires self-hosting.
Conversely, the “Indieweb” is more of a concept than a specific implementation. Its guiding principle is that “When you post something on the web, it should belong to you, not a corporation.” Although similar ideologically to Friendica, the implementation is less defined. Some people have implemented it via WordPress plugins, others through Jekyll and other static blogging systems.
Indieweb’s principles can even be implemented in “closed” systems, provided the data can always be accessed by its owner.
A 200 word post.