Rethinking my dotfiles setup

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I’ve recently had another go at organising my settings files (‘dotfiles’) and the way that I install command line applications and tools. It started out highly sophisticated (Nixpkgs and Home Manager), and then reverted to much simpler but more maintainable system (Homebrew and Stow). It has been an interesting and intermittently frustrating process, but I’ve ended up with a system that I like and understand.

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Back to Doom Emacs

The inevitable wheel of Emacs life has circled back again, and — as the title suggests — I have moved back to Doom Emacs. When I last wrote about my Emacs configuration, I was trying to move away from frameworks (including Doom), and to set up my own configuration from scratch. It was a really fun process, and I think a necessary one for me to really understand how to configure and use Emacs, and the way that all the moving parts fitted together. However, I have recently overhauled my whole command line setup (again… more on this later), so I got curious to try out Doom again. It was always a great project, but in the time since I last used it Henrik Lissner has polished and improved it even more to the point where it is a really fast, slick and easy to use framework.

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Persephone Sailor trousers

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I might not have written much about sewing recently, but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been sewing. I’ve made a few things that I haven’t got around to blogging about, but a few weeks ago, I finished a pair of Persephone Sailor Pants (a pattern by Anna Allen) which I’m really pleased with. However, the making was not without incident. Part of my reason for writing this is so that I might remember not to be such a blithering idiot in future.

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Juggling projects with org-mode

It has taken me an embarrassingly long time to realise that I am bad at juggling multiple projects. And when I say ‘bad’, I mean, really bad. My natural mode of working is to focus intensely on a single project at a time. This is unfortunate, because academic life mostly consists of juggling a large number of different projects simultaneously. I love (almost) everything else about academia, and I’m generally good at my job (I think), but I struggle constantly when having to switch between projects. Last year, I read about Shawn Blanc’s 8-week work cycles and was jealous. His ‘monk mode’ sounds like heaven to me. I do what I can with the wiggle room I have to carve out blocks of focused time on particular projects, but I still needed some way to — if you’ll forgive me for extending the juggling metaphor — avoid dropping any balls in the process. Since I’ve been using Emac’s org-mode a lot recently, I decided to see if I could help me.

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Trying out Commento

As I mentioned in my previous post, I’ve been looking around for a replacement to Disqus for handling the comments on my blog. It’s a tricky thing to manage because I’ve got a bit archive of comments that I want to preserve. The system obviously needs to handle this static site, but also enable commenters to comment easily, without needing an account if they don’t want to create one. I ended up coming across Commento, which seemed to fulfil all of those conditions.

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Keeping track with Fathom

For much of the time that I’ve had a blog, I’ve kept a vague eye on its visitor numbers in one way or another. I’ve used a variety of different tracking methods from the no-longer-supported Mint, to Matomo (formerly Piwik), and the usual Google Analytics that everyone uses. I’ve always favoured simpler web analytics, as my needs are very simple, but those have been increasingly difficult to find. Since it opened to beta testers, I have been using Fathom Analytics, and I have been really happy with how it works.

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Getting comfy with Emacs

I’ve been having a lot of fun with Emacs since I last wrote about it. I’m gradually starting to get comfortable with it, by doing as much as possible of my text editing (as well as other kinds of tasks) in Emacs. For example, I had to write some new lectures this Semester, and used Org mode to write them, using the built-in converter to make a Beamer PDF. I used the ability to include another file in the header to set up all the stuff needed to use the Metropolis Beamer theme, which I could then easily include in each lecture file. It was a delightful way to work. I split my frame into the org file for the lecture, a dired buffer showing the image files I wanted to include so that I could easily copy the filename into my lecture file (just move the cursor to the line in dired and hit w to copy the filename so you can yank it in your file), and a docview window showing the generated PDF file.

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Finding serenity

The past few weeks have been somewhat busy and disruptive, with a lot of different projects on the go at work, and renovation work on our bathroom at home. As often happens at times like these, I’ve been daydreaming about calmer, more serene times whenever I’ve had a moment or two to myself. I kept finding my thoughts going back to a particular experience on holiday in Pembrokeshire.

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Emacs from a clean slate

I feel like this post could be subtitled “For real this time”. Let’s just say that it’s certainly not my first time down an Emacs rabbit hole. I’ve used Spacemacs, then given up because I found it hard to maintain and fix small issues that arose. Then I moved to Doom Emacs, and liked it a lot. It was more compact and less monolithic than Spacemacs, but it still required more Emacs knowledge than I had at the time to understand how all the working parts fitted together. Then I went back to Neovim, and so the bouncing between Vim and Emacs cycle began again. This time, something struck me: what if I was approaching Emacs in the wrong way, trying to make it into something it isn’t, namely Vim? What if I actually took the time to learn how to do things the Emacs Way, and built up my configuration from scratch, adding only what I needed and understood? It was a crazy idea, but it might just work…

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ErgoDox EZ keyboard

I’ve got a new keyboard, and it’s a fabulous beast. Regular readers may remember that I have been using a Happy Hacking Keyboard Pro 2 (HHKB) for some time (about 6 years, as it turns out). That was my first mechanical keyboard since the days when mechanical keyboards were the only ones you could get. I’ve loved it to bits, but for the past few months I’ve been having pain and discomfort in my hands and wrists, and decided it might be time to look around for a more ergonomic replacement. After a lot of research and deliberation, I ended up getting an ErgoDox EZ. I’m still tweaking the configuration a bit, but I love it. It has already done wonders for both the comfort of my hands and my writing efficiency.

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