A blog about everything, by Jack Baty

The current blog situation

Hooboy, it’s happened again. I made the mistake of falling in love with too many tools. Combine that with my short attention span, and I’ve spread myself too thin, blog-wise.

The problem is that one day I want to burn it all down and find One True Blog. Other days, most days, I want to use them all. Why force a decision when I can waffle between a half-dozen playgrounds?

I guess the need to upgrade Kirby this morning has me thinking about how many sites I actually want to maintain. It’s not all just fun and games, you know. There’s work to be done 😄.

So how do I feel about things right now? The combination I’m enjoying is this blog (using Blot) for longer (serious?) posts and daily.baty.net for the little daily notes. I like Blot because it’s so simple and I like Tinderbox because the rendered blog works how I want my daily notes blog to work.

Where does this leave the Kirby and Scribbles? I don’t know, honestly. I like scribbles for quick images posts, since it makes them easy and they look good on the home page. I have a lifetime subscription, so I can use it (or not) any time I like. Kirby, though, is a question. If I don’t live in Kirby, I forget how things are made. This means I need to re-learn stuff whenever something needs fixing or changing. It can be fun, but not always.

Let’s be honest, I’ll probably change this again tomorrow.

Thursday, April 04, 2024

Well this is backwards. Shouldn’t the new Scribbles blog be where I put these little journal entries? Maybe, but today I think I’d rather just have this Markdown file open in an Emacs buffer all day.

Hate reads | ~/.unplanned:

In the tech blogging world, a vanishingly small minority seems to just have an iPad. It must be explained.

I’m guilty of this, but I’ve been over it for years. I have an iPad. I’ve had one since day one. I barely use it because it’s like working with one hand tied behind my back. It’s a video display on my treadmill at this point. Oh shit, did I just explain it, again?

Is this thing on?

I’ve been preoccupied with testing Scribbles over at scribbles.baty.net so things have been quiet around here.

After completely rejiggering my Emacs config, I thought I’d make sure my Blot functions still, er, function. If you’re reading this, they do. And also Maestral is still working.


Vincent Ritter is working on a new blogging tool for humans”. It’s called Scribbles and he was kind enough to let me try it out.

Vincent has good instincts, and I already love and use his simple, privacy-respecting Tinylytics analytics tool on all my sites.

Scribbles is fun. It’s a nice way to start a clean, simple blog. I’ll write more about it once I’ve had a chance to spend some time there.

My Scribbles blog is here: scribbles.baty.net.

I’ve paid for a lifetime” subscription partly because I don’t want to think about payments, but mostly as a way to support the project.

Emacs howm package for notes

howm is an Emacs package for taking notes. It was recommended to me recently, so I thought I’d take a look. The project page says howm: Write fragmentarily and read collectively.” Worth a shot, right?

I haven’t seen too many people talking about howm. The best introductions I’ve found are from Leah Neukirchen and Andrei Sukhovskii.

I installed it via use-package with the following

;; howm package config

(use-package howm :ensure t
  (setq howm-directory "~/Documents/howm/")
  (setq howm-home-directory "~/Documents/howm/")
  (setq howm-keyword-file (expand-file-name ".howm-keys" howm-home-directory))
  (setq howm-history-file (expand-file-name ".howm-history" howm-home-directory))
  (setq howm-view-use-grep t))
;;  (setq howm-view-grep-command "/opt/homebrew/bin/rg"))

;; Fix for help bindings
(define-key howm-menu-mode-map "\C-h" nil)
(define-key riffle-summary-mode-map "\C-h" nil)
(define-key howm-view-contents-mode-map "\C-h" nil)

;; Sensible buffer names
(add-hook 'howm-mode-hook 'howm-mode-set-buffer-name)
(add-hook 'after-save-hook 'howm-mode-set-buffer-name)

I couldn’t get the rg settings to work, so I’m still using grep. It’s fast enough for this test.

If you’re interested in getting started with howm, you should read the articles linked above. Here’s what I found interesting.

  • Major mode doesn’t matter. Howm works with everything from plain text files to Org-mode.
  • It’s date-centric. Most actions prioritize temporal nearness and files are named with just a date string.
  • There are some clever built-in todo/scheduling features. Just put in dates like [2024-03-25]+ and howm figures out how and when to show it.
  • Linking and backlinking are simple. Put >>> some phrase anywhere and it turns into a link which searches for that phrase when clicked. Put <<< term in a note and every other occurrance of that term will be underlined and linked to that note.
  • howm hates evil-mode. If I were to try getting anywhere with howm, I’d need to figure out my own collection of custom bindings in evil-mode because by default they don’t get along at all.

I created a handful of test files, and here’s how howm looks so far.

The howm menu. Functional, but not prettyThe howm menu. Functional, but not pretty

And here it is browsing some notes.

The howm search and preview/edit windowsThe howm search and preview/edit windows

Howm is neat, but I don’t expect to move my notes into it just yet. I find Denote to be nearly perfect for note taking, so I’m all set. I do think a combination of howm in plain text files and Hyperbole to add some juice would be a nice combination.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

The answer is usually not more software.

If I’m being honest, I must admit that my blogs are here for my entertainment, not yours. I sometimes feel badly about that.

I never get mad at paper.

Yesterday all I wanted to do was play with my blogs. Today I don’t want to think about blogging tools at all.

Everything feels good for 10 minutes.

How should I define Simplify”?

My goal for 2024 has been Reduce & Simplify”, but I’m learning that the definition of Simplify” can be ellusive. I do things in the name of simplification that actually end up making things worse.

A recent example is my computer setup. I was struggling with the fact that my MacBook Pro is not always docked, so all the files I keep on an external drive become unavailable. My NAS (Synology) transfer times were so slow that I decided to simplify” things by buying a Mac Mini that would be always on. But of course now I have two computers. This neither reduces nor simplifies things.

What’s worse is that in order to clean up and simplify my storage, I bought yet another device and now I have even more places to keep stuff, along with the accompanying decision-making requirements. It’s definitely cleaner and nicer, but it’s not simpler.

And what about blogging? I have baty.net and that should be it, right? It’s running Kirby, which is flexible and pleasant to work with. But I have to work” with it. I simplified the publishing steps by doing everything right on the server. But that introduces workflow problems when I want to edit templates or CSS or whatever. And also I need to deal with backups and plugins and versions and so on.

Running a blog with Kirby is a lot to think about, which doesn’t feel simple, so I decide to use simple Markdown files for use on this Blot blog. Except I hadn’t installed Dropbox on the new Mini, so there’s no sync, so no blog. I install Maestral (a Dropbox client) and there, my posts just show up on baty.blog. What could be simpler? Except I don’t like needing Dropbox (and the Git sync doesn’t suit my workflow) and I don’t love the idea of depending on someone else for hosting with an app I have no control over. See? It’s pretty simple but there are strings attached that I don’t want to become tangled in.

Then I dip into the Tinderbox blog at daily.baty.net for a few days because it’s a nice, static site that’s fun to use because I love Tinderbox. Except that maintaining things in Tinderbox can get wonky real quick. And I’m totally on my own with dealing with export templates and deployments and here we go again.

The blogging option that requires the least actual thought, and is (for me) simplest is Blot, which is why I’m writing this (using Emacs) here. But the fact is that I’m still running three blogs and that’s the least simple thing I can think of.

Is it weird that I consider Emacs to be the simple option? Its actually the least simple option, but I’ve been using it for so long that it feels simple. That is, until some package update breaks something.

So after the first quarter of 2024 I haven’t lived up to the Reduce & Simplify” goals nearly as much as I’d like, even though it feels like I’ve tried pretty hard.

Still working on it. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, March 23, 2024

I love nerds, but this thread is why I also hate nerds.

I still have 3 blogs and a wiki. I can’t seem to stop.

Friday, March 22, 2024

I’ve seen the folks at Arc refer to building a browser that browses for you” and I don’t approve. I love Arc and have no complaints. I know some people are concerned that they’ve raised funding, but I don’t care about that until it’s actually a problem. Currently, though, the company would need to literally start stomping bunnies for me to switch. I don’t worry about the time I have invested” in using Arc. If Arc starts becoming a browser I don’t want (one that browses for me”, for example), then I’ll switch. It would take me 20 minutes to switch to Safari.

Dropbox API must’ve been down for a bit because my changes weren’t syncing to the blog for about an hour yesterday. It’s this kind of dependency that puts me off things like Blot, but Blot happens to be so good at everything else that I can look past it.


He points out, correctly, that if you don’t like the Emacs defaults, you’re free to change them—indeed, that’s the whole point of Emacs configurability—just don’t insist that everybody else should change them too to suit your preferences.

I am firmly in Camp Emacs’ Defaults Are Horrible, and believe we should waste no time defending them. And saying, Well, you’re free to change them!” is the least helpful answer I can imagine. If you’re such an expert, you’re free to change them back.

Thursday, March 21, 2024

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My dog gets up early. Today, that meant 3:10am. I don’t mind getting up early, but this is getting out of hand. It’s now 5:20am. I’ve been up for 2 hours and have taken a walk, farted around on the computer, processed some photos, and wrote in my journal. Now what?

I forgot to mention that had a bit featured in a recent weekend edition of Humdrum’s playful and informative newsletter, foofaraw. It was called Where in the World is Jack?.

Something that has been putting me off Tinderbox is that Spotlight hasn’t been indexing the .tbx documents on either my MBP or the brand new Mini. I’ve done everything I know of to fix this, but nothing works. This is kind of a deal breaker for something I want to use for long-term notes.

I like the baty.blog domain partly because of the nice visual symmetry: xxxx.xxxx

After playing with Hyperbole for a bit, I am not convinced it’s something I need. On the other hand, it’s made me think about how Prot uses plain .txt files by default in Denote. I thought that was weird, but with Hyperbole running in the background, it makes more sense. Noodlin’ on that.