Tiernan's Comms Closet

Geek, Programmer, Photographer, network egineer…

Currently Viewing Posts in Blogging

A Month with an iPad Pro

About a month ago, I bought a 2022 iPad Pro 11 inch (4th gen) used for about 800 EUR (Which, given they are still for sale on Apple’s site for nearly double that (mine is a 256Gb model with Cellular) I think I got a good deal. I also got my hands on the Keyboard Folio, which is both a good thing, especially for writing stuff like this, but also a bit of a pain (the weight of it adds to the iPad and the fact that you need to remove it from the iPad to use it as a tablet is a pain). I also got my hands on a 2nd Gen Pencil, along with a USB C hub.

iPad Pro writing this post

The main reason I got this was for photo and video work. I shoot on both my iPhone 15 Pro Max and my Canon R5. When out shooting on the R5, I like to be able to plug in an SD or CF Express reader, download the images into Lightroom and be able to view them on the larger screen. Given the iPad is connected over 5G, it can always sync to the internet all the time. And, if I am near my car, which I usually am, I can use the WiFi in the car to upload stuff to the cloud too using the Mikrotik Router in the boot of the car… The one thing I have not fully tried out yet is video editing… I am still doing video editing on my Mac Book Pro at home. Maybe I will try it on the iPad soon. Speaking of videos, check out some of the videos I have on my YouTube channel. And, by the way, this was fully edited and written on the iPad Pro…

Back running WordPress

I have moved my blog back over to WordPress. It is running in house, on one of my workstations, using Cloudflare’s Argo tunnel to protect it on the internet. You might be asking “why?!” Well, its a couple of things.

  • Easier to blog and post from anywhere in the world.
  • I can blog on pretty much anything
  • No having to worry about upgrading my copy of Hugo breaking my site…

That last one is the reason I haven’t blogged in a while. Seems there was a major change in the versioning of Hugo, somewhere between the release I was on (0.55.6) and the latest one I tried (0.73.0 or something… 0.76.3 is out now) and my index.html pages just would not create, and I got many warnings when building… I spent a few hours trying to figure it out, but in the end, I gave up.

I ended up using Chris Salzman’s blob post explaining how he moved from Hugo to WordPress, spent a hour or so tweaking the imported files, built a Docker-Compose file (I will post this somewhere soon, if anyone wants it) and was off to the races. Few tweaks later, a copy of CloudflareD and some DNS tweaks, and everything was back online.

There are some disadvantages to WordPress:

  • Comment Spam
  • Performance
  • Maintenance
  • Security

But even so, I am willing to worry about these and be able to blog easier.

Moving the site to Hugo

After a LOT of messing with Jekyll, i have finally moved to Hugo! There are a few things that don’t fully work yet, and there will be updates to the site soon enough, but for the moment, I am happy… Its also a LOT faster to build than Jekyll, and less dependencies… Happy days!

[update] I though i should probably update this post with a bit more information around hows its built, why i moved to Hugo, and some more links, etc.

First, it is currently being built using Forestry.io. I use it for both editing the documents (mind you i also use VScode for this too) and ii also builds the site now too. I have 2 Github repos. The main code and the Static HTML. When i check into Github, it it sends a webhook to Forestry, which then pulls the latest code and builds the site, and then checks the resulting files into the static HTML repo. Currently its a manual process to get it on to my server. This site is currently hosted on a server in London with my own AS204994 serving the pages. I plan on adding other servers to the list so its proper any-cast, but currently only 1 is running as a web server currently (there are 4 others, if you include the one in the house: 3 in total hosted on Vultr (LON, FRA, NYC) 1 in DevCapsule and then the house) but that is my next challenge…

Next question is why? Well, over the last few months, its taking longer and longer to build the site using Jekyll… Its also getting more painful to maintain, since you have to mess with dependency hell when updates come out…

then when it finally builds, it takes more than 4 min in most cases…

Now, in all fairness, this is building on a clean machine with no bundle caching, and i did have bundle caching at some stage, but its still takes a long enough (30-40 seconds in some cases) to build compared to Hugo:

the other big advantage is that Hugo arrives in a single EXE (or other binary format for other platforms) and runs on Windows without any extra stuff to install… drop the EXE in your path, cd into the folder, and hugo serve and you have a web server running with your files… if you want to deploy them, run hugo and it builds the project and sticks it in your public folder. Do what you want with it from there! Happy day!

So, finally, some links i have found useful while building this site.

  • The Hugo Documentation site should be your first point of call… Lots of handy stuff in there…
  • Adding Search with Algoia Since the site is static, search doesn’t currently work… but with the help of a hosted service named Algoia you can get around that easily enough…
  • Turn your static site into a JSON API: I am thinking of tweaking the Computers pages (they stopped working as planned when i moved over) and using a JSON API for it… Same with the tools list…
  • Short Codes: Hugo doesn’t really have a plugin model like Jekyll did… but there is still a lot of interesting things you can do… Short codes lets you write custom HTML that gets generated when you put in a particular block of code… Have a look at the link on the bottom of the page to see the code used to generate this page.
  • Cloudinary: Since moving so static sites, i have found images to be a pain in the ass… Found these guys the other day, and they integrate well with Forestry. and their free version works grand for smaller sites…

so, any comments, questions, etc, just leave a message below. and dont forget to subscrbe to the RSS for updates as they come out!

[UPDATE 2]. So, with the help of Github Webhooks and the webhook project, this site auto deploys to 5 different servers and is currently being served on 4… Dub is not fully live yet… happy days!

[UPDATE 3] as mentioned above, I have the Github Webhooks working.

Blogging on an iPad Pro

So, a few months back I bought myself an iPad Pro. I got a 10.5" with 64GB Storage and the Smart Keyboard. Since then, i have been mostly using it for playing around: watching YouTube, Netflix, surfing on the couch, etc. but i started to wonder how “Pro” this was…so i went and did some testing, and in the end nearly all of this post is being written on it…

first, the good stuff:

  • Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Connection works perfect on the iPad Pro. I have RDPed into machines (with the help of ZeroTier)
  • Panic’s Prompt works well too… again, with ZeroTier, i can SSH into boxes and remote manage them. Handy for checking on docker instances…
  • Panic also have Coda for iOS. its a very nice (if somewhat expensive at $25) editor for the iPad. This post is being written on there now.
  • for Git stuff, i am using an app called Working Copy. Its free, to an extend, but if you need to do stuff like push changes, which is kind of important, then you need to pay a fee.
  • Coda and Working Copy work together with some magic built into Working Copy. It can act as a WebDav server, which Coda can the connect to. you open, edit, change and create docs, and Working Copy keeps note. then you swap to them and checkin. You need to have both apps on the screen at the same time (the docking feature works well for that) since iOS seems to kill some background tasks.
  • Unrelated to blogging, but i have also tried editing photos using Lightroom, and so far so good. I have used the Apple SD Card adapter to download 50MP photos (upwards of 60MB) from my Canon 5Ds quick enough, add them to Lightroom, make some changes and send them to Twitter, Facebook (not Instagram just yet…) and it works well. I have managed to hook it to my Gnarbox too.

Bad Stuff?

  • keyboard takes a bit of getting used to. the Stupid “Global” button to swap keyboards (from
    English to Emoji) is in the place you would expect to find CTRL. and CTRL, Option and Cmd (remember, this is a “Mac” style keyboard) and all shifted one place… I would have preferred if they moved that somewhere else, or removed it altogether…
  • a mouse would be very handy! I have tried pairing a bluetooth mouse to it, and no luck… it would be handy especially for editing documents and code, since touchscreen is “handy” some of the time, but not all the time…

So, there you have it. Blogging on an iPad. Would i give up my daily driver of my Surface Book and GodBoxV2 and just uses an iPad? Hell No… for basic stuff, it works well. Basic photo editing, blogging, surfing, etc, yes. But there is a reason my workstation has 16 processor cores and 160GB RAM: I need it. I have multiple copies of Visual Studio running, SQL Server, multiple VMs running different tasks, multiple web browsers, multiple monitors, etc. the iPad can do a good chunk of stuff, but not the major stuff… not yet. Don’t get me wrong: Word, Excel, Power Point, Outlook. all the major office tools work grand. But Visual Studio? SQL Management Studio? just not there yet…

So, what did i not do on the iPad, and ended up doing on the PC? Well, so far, nothing… using Coda and Working Copy, i wrote the text, previewed it and checked it into GitHub. Then, Prompt is being used to build it on my docker box, check into the static site and push, which will then publish. unless you see an update below, all went as planned and all was done on an iPad…

Testing Forestry

So, as you probably know, this site is built with Jekyll. Jekyll is a Static Site Generator, basically taking an input of a load of text files (see the source repo for this site on Github here) and generating a load more HTML (the static HTML is hosted on Github here, which auto publishes to Azure App Service).

In previous posts, i have talked about using the likes of Visual Studio Code and Mark Down Monster to build the site. Well, a few days back, i found Forestry.io. Its a web application which, in my case, is linked with my GitHub repo (the Jekyll source one) and allows me to make changes to the code easily. Because the way i build my site is a little different, i manually build the site and push to the destination GitHub project, but they have features allowing you to push directly to SFTP or FTP servers, GitHub, or some other options.

The interface is nice and easy to use, and you can use drafts, etc. Mind you, even with drafts, because files are written into a public repo, they are not fully private… I suppose I could just make the source repo private… Anyway, they are free for single user sites (like this) or they have paid plans for teams (say, your business blog with more than 1 user updating it, for example).

VSCode and Markdown Monster with Powershell

A few years back, i created a post showing you how to add an Alias to PowerShell to easily start Sublime Text from a PowerShell command line . This worked well, but this is 2017 (that post is from 2012!) and my daily text editor has changed. I have moved to Visual Studio Code for most of my daily work. It works well 95% of the time. I still use Visual Studio Pro for C# Development, but for quick fixes and work on, say Go or smaller edits, Code is great. For blogging, on the other hand, I am trying out MarkDown Monster but code still has some nice features. We will see how tests go.

Anyway, to upgrade the post, and to be able to use VS Code and MarkDown Monster from your PowerShell command line, I added the following:

Set-Alias code "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft VS Code\Code.exe"
Set-Alias mm "C:\Program Files (x86)\Markdown Monster\MarkdownMonster.exe"

You can either run this each time you open PowerShell (a bit of pain) or you can add it to your Microsoft.PowerShell_profile.ps1 which lives in your Document\WindowsPowerShell folder. If you dont have one, just create the file, add that piece of text, and next time you open PowerShell, you are good to go.

In my case, i am actually in the Visual Studio Code Insiders group, so my alias is:

Set-Alias code "C:\Program Files (x86)\Microsoft VS Code Insiders\Code - Insiders.exe"

When these are set (and you have restarted your PowerShell windows), you can now run the following commands:

code filename.txt
code folder
mm filename.txt

VSCode will open either files or folders, but it seems Markdown Monster only opens files.

Docker Jekyll and Mr ngrok

See what i did with the title?! Anyway, in my last post, i explained how i was building this site with Docker running on Windows 10 with the Anniversary update. Today, i am going to show you how to host it using Nginx and ngrok.

So, first, you should know what Nginx is at this stage… If not, check out their site. Next ngrok is basically a way of tunneling your localhost to the web. So, how do we build the whole lot together and serve your site to the internet? Well, this is what i have so far:

First, build your site in jekyll. for me, the command is

docker run --rm -v "$(pwd):/src" -w /src ruby sh -c 'bundle install --path vendor/bundle && exec jekyll build -s www.tiernanotoole.ie/ -d www.tiernanotoole.ie/_site/'

next, run an nginx server with that output folder:

docker run --name tiernanotoolenginx -v "$(pwd)/www.tiernanotoole.ie/_site/:/usr/share/nginx/html:ro" -d -p 8881:80 nginx

the docker container is called tiernanotoolenginx, since i could have multiple ones, and port 8881 is being redirected to port 80 on that container, but technically, it might not be needed due to the next command:

docker run --rm -it --link tiernanotoolenginx wernight/ngrok ngrok http tiernanotoolenginx:80

essentially, what we are doing here is running ngrok and pointing it at post 80 on the nginx container… you see i did not point at 8881, since we are using the continer directly… it might be different if you were not…

when that command runs, you get a screen telling you the URL of your site with some basic stats. your site is now hosted publically, via an ngrok tunnel! you could run that container as a daemon, and leave it running, but for me, i wanted to do some minor testing, so i can kill it when i want…

So, all is good with the world!

Building Jekyll sites with Docker on Windows

As some of you probably know (or based on the footer of the site) this site is built with Jekyll. Jekyll is a static web site builder, written in Ruby, and is a bit of a pain to build on Windows. Earlier on this year, I wrote up a post explaining how to use Jekyll on Windows using Bash on Ubuntu on Windows… It was a bit complicated, and, well, worked a few times, but was not too successfull… So, were do we go next? Well, Docker to the rescue!

I am running the Windows 10 Anniversary edtion witch has container and docker support. using the repo for this site and the scripts (specifically build-tiernanotooleie and geekphotographer.com) i can build the docker site on my local Windows machine and upload the sites as required (I host on NFSN and upload via RSync). The docker image i build from is a Linux docker image, do i need a Linux container running (and the docker tooling). I also use Bash on Ubuntu on Windows to upload using RSync. All is going well so far…

Installing Jekyll on Bash On Ubuntu on Windows

At the 2016 Build conference, Microsoft announced that Bash on Ubuntu on Windows was coming. Well, it came out last week, and I installed it as soon as I could! My next challenge was to get Jekyll to run and install on it, so I can build and preview this site on my Surface Book.

So, first, I needed to install version 2.0 of Ruby. There is a bit of messing involved for this, but first

apt-get update
apt-get install ruby2.0

Now, when you run

ruby -v

you will still see ruby 1.9.x installed… and the github-pages gem, which includes Jekyll 3, requires ruby 2.0… ugh. after reading this very long bug report I got this:

# Rename original out of the way, so updates / reinstalls don't squash our hack fix
dpkg-divert --add --rename --divert /usr/bin/ruby.divert /usr/bin/ruby
dpkg-divert --add --rename --divert /usr/bin/gem.divert /usr/bin/gem
# Create an alternatives entry pointing ruby -> ruby2.0
update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/ruby ruby /usr/bin/ruby2.0 1
update-alternatives --install /usr/bin/gem gem /usr/bin/gem2.0 1

Now, when I run ruby -v, I am told I am on version 2.0! Happy days! Next, i installed bundler using

gem install bundler

which uses a Gemfile to install the required gems, so running

bundle install

should install all required gems but no luck… I tried adding ruby2.0 dev to the mix

apt-get install ruby2.0-dev

but running jekyll from bash said it did not exist, and running

bundle exec jekyll build

failed with a memory issue… ugh…

Anyway, next, I tried

gem install github-pages -V

-v makes it verbose, so you can see what’s going on… after a bit of time, and lots of output to the screen…

jekyll build
bash: /usr/bin/jekyll: No such file or directory

FECK! So, after a bit more digging, i find that jekyll is actually in /usr/local/bin/jekyll

ln /usr/local/bin/jekyll /usr/bin/jekyll

solves that problem!

now running

jekyll build

works perfectly, as does

jekyll serve

HAPPY DAYS! Mind you, I am only using this as a testing and writing system. I have not tried s3_website just yet, but that is being sorted elsewhere anyway. Maybe my next post will explain that…

Continuous Integration and Blogging

Back in August of 2012, I started this site using Git and Jekyll. I hosted most of it at home, pushing to a server in house. Then, a few years back, I moved to pushing the files to Amazon S3 and had Cloud Front doing distribution. The last moved had me hosting the files in NearlyFreeSpeech.NET and Cloud Flare doing the content distribution… Well, that changed over the last few days… again…

Currently, you are still hitting Cloud Flare when you hit this site, but the backend is back to being hosted on Amazon S3. But the files getting to S3 is more interesting now. All the “code” for this site is up on a GitHub repo and any time something is checked in, Travis CI kicks off, builds the files using Jekyll and pushes to S3 using s3_website. All my “private” keys are hidden in Travis-CI, so no one can access them but me. This makes updating the site a lot easier. I can create a file in GitHub directly, preview it, make changes, etc., and then check in. Once checked in, Travis kicks off, builds and deploys. All Good!

It also means that if “bugs” are found on the site (by you, my dear reader), or if you have queries for some things, a “bug report” can be opened on the issues log. I already have a bug for making the site faster… Anything else you want me to change?