My switch to Vim for journalling can be described as nothing less than a rousing success!

As of this writing I’ve written over 25,000 words using my Vim-based setup and it has been, to put it mildly, an absolute joy.

The switch to using my instrument of choice--the computer--as my preferred method of journalling has freed my inner dialog from the restrictions of my sluggish, illegible printing. And the sheer portability of my laptop means that I never feel as though the choice to go digital has been an albatross. Quite the contrary, in fact, since I’m rarely without my laptop, but frequently don’t have my notebook with me.

For anyone with a bit of a technical bent, I strongly recommend Vim + Goyo + Limelight as a writing stack. The tooling gives me everything I’d want from a distraction-free writing experience, without costing me a penny, with all the power of my favourite editor.

Ironically, the biggest downside is that I’m back into the habit of pressing Escape every time I’m done writing something… even if I’m writing in a web form. And that means I frequently accidentally back out changes to JIRA tickets at work… damn it…

And speaking of work, I’ve also moved to this same stack for taking my own work notes and tracking my work-related tasks. Turning a bulleted list into a set of checkboxes in Vimwiki is a Ctrl+Space awaym, so I can quickly and easily write out the day’s plan, accomplishments, and misses. Synchronizing with OneDrive means I can get the same set of notes on any of my work environments. I highly recommend it!

Posted on 2017-11-22

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I’ve toyed on and off with journalling for some time now. Not blogging, which is a much more public activity focused on sharing, but true journalling: the writing of thoughts for personal reasons and not for public consumption.

But it’s never really taken.

I’ve tried to be consistent about writing travel logs for major trips, as I do find that activity extremely powerful for both cementing memories at the time and allowing me to refresh my memories after the event. But beyond that, it’s not something I’ve been able to turn into a habit.

Now, my past attempts always focused on putting pen to paper, but recently I realized that, as fascinated as I am with notebooks and so forth… well, I bloody well hate physical writing! Because I’m horribly out-of-practice, it’s slow, tiring, and messy, while affording me no real benefits. It simply gets in the way, and in doing so, makes the act of journalling more unpleasant.

And, the reality is I’m a technologist. My tools are the screen and the keyboard. Why fight that?

So I decided to turn to those tools to build an alternative stack built on Vim, plus a few plugins, based on this blog post.

For basic journalling functionality, vimwiki and calendar-vim are a perfect combination:

Automatic timestamped files with basic markup and linking. Simple. Easy. Portable.

After that, it’s all about ergonomics. My preferred writing environment is spartan and attractive, with a large, easy-to-read font. That brings us to a few additions:

Finally, we have a bit of vimrc configuration that I’ve found handy:

001 | " Automatically switch to writing mode when a wiki page is opened.
002 |  au FileType vimwiki set guifont=Office_Code_Pro_Light:h14|call pencil#init({'wrap': 'soft'})|set sbr=
003 | 
004 | 
005 |  " Turn on Limelight when Goyo is enabled
006 |  autocmd! User GoyoEnter Limelight
007 |  autocmd! User GoyoLeave Limelight!
008 | 
009 |  " Hotkey mapping to open the calendar pane
010 |  map <leader>C :Calendar<cr>
011 |  map <leader>G :Goyo<cr>

And voila!

Now, I’m still getting used to this setup, so I could see it requiring additional tweaks. And it is Vim, so it’s not the ideal word processing environment (though I finally figured out the right formatoption tweaks to get paragraph reflow to mostly work the way you’d expect). But it’s simple and it works!

The only remaining question is whether I’ll actually start building up the habit…

Posted on 2017-10-28

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So in my previous post I mentioned some challenges I encountered using macOS on my Hackintosh as a NAS, and my ultimate success in getting it working with Windows as a backup server… after moving the actual NAS’ing to a Linux VM.

What I didn’t realize then, but I know now, is that at least on my NUC, for some reason, the IntelMausiEthernet is not actually stable! I don’t know if it’s tied to high/sustained load, but for whatever reason, over time the NIC would lose connectivity with the network. Re-plugging the network cable resolved the issue, but it would quickly recur.

This rapidly became a dealbreaker, as not only did it render the machine useless for backups, it also made it useless as a Transmission server.

Now, before you ask, no, I haven’t spent any time debugging the issues and don’t plan to. So I haven’t a clue what was actually wrong.

My solution was a lot simpler: I just bought a USB Ethernet dongle and moved on with my life. That, fortunately, has worked like an absolute charm and solved all of my network stability issues!

Posted on 2017-10-25

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So, as I mentioned previously, one of my ideas for my hackintosh server was to turn it into a backup server/NAS for my home. As a server, the NUC is an excellent option, being low power, quiet, and incredibly compact. And while I can do some amount of backing up to cloud storage (i.e. Drive), for regular day-to-day backups a proper local solution is preferable.

Now, Lenore and I both have Windows 10 equipped laptops, which means we can take advantage of the File History feature to actually perform backups to a designated network drive. So, it would seem that simply setting up a drive share on the Mac, and pointing our laptops at it, would do the job nicely!

Au contraire.

A few releases back macOS moved away from Samba to their own implementation of SMB (the Windows file sharing protocol). Well, apparently that implementation of SMB does not work with File History. And I have no idea why. The errors you get make no sense, and there’s basically no solutions out there on the internets.

You’d be amazed how long I spent pulling my hair out over this one.

Ironically, the solution I arrived at was as silly as it was obvious: I deployed an Ubuntu Server VM running headless on the Mac via VirtualBox. The VM mounts the macOS filesystem and shares it using Samba.

But it works! We now have backups!

And while I was at it, I also finally set up Transmission and Flexget so I could move my bittorrent activity to the Mac as well. The downloaded content is shared using the built-in macOS drive sharing features… for basic reads it seems to work just fine. For now, anyway.

Posted on 2017-08-09

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The Intel NUC really is a remarkable little device. The NUC I have (NUC6i5SYK) contains a Core i5-6260U containing 2 physical cores supporting hyperthreading clocked at 1.8Ghz base frequency up to 2.8Ghz turbo. Into that little box I’ve recently packed 32GB of RAM and a 1TB NVMe SATA drive (I’d use PCIe, but macOS compatibility isn’t great for PCIe NVMe drives), turning my NUC into an excellent, power-sipping little home server and workstation.

To that I’ve also added a Behringer UMC202HD U-Phoria USB audio interface and a DI box, which turns thing into a very nice little audio recording workstation. Of course, it looks a little funny because the NUC is actually smaller than the audio interface!

USB Audio Interface

Some things I’m planning to do with this:

  • Recording workstation. Nuff said.
  • Home backup server. I’ll expose the storage as a network drive that our Windows laptops can use as a backup storage location.
  • Torrent server. Transmission is an excellent, OSX native torrent client, and with 1TB of storage, my NUC is a perfect place to run it.

And more generally, this could be a useful place to host VMs as needed, and… well, really anything else I could imagine using a home server for (custom DVR for my IP camera system? Hmm…).

Is this all overkill? Maybe. But hey, that’s just how I roll…

Posted on 2017-08-03

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