WordPress is a Typewriter

A “Type-In” is an event during which people get together with their typewriters at a library or coffee shop. They talk typing, show interested people how typewriters work and let them try typing for themselves. I read a story about a Type-In at which there was a young boy watching over his mother’s shoulder. As soon as his mother began typing, the boy exclaimed, “The letters go right onto the paper!”

Today, this site (baty.net) is a static website managed via Hugo and deployed to a Digital Ocean VPS. I prefer statically-rendered sites. They’re simple to host, fast, secure, and portable. I like having all of my content safely stored on my computer as Markdown files. Everything is version-controlled in a git repository so I can review any change ever made to the content or layout. It’s the way I think sites should be managed.

The problem I have with publishing a static site is that creating and editing content is too far removed from the actual rendered page. This may not be an issue for people who carefully consider their writing before rendering and deploying. If content is slowly cooked and properly served, then using a static rendering option is great.

I fly pretty fast and loose with my writing. I publish things I’m interested in and am eager to share. I’m impatient. If I had to write three drafts of every post before putting it out there I’d never publish anything. This is why I like using WordPress.

Using WordPress makes me feel like that boy at the Type-In. I feel like the words are going right onto the paper. Sure, the metaphor is a little thin, but the point is that when writing with WordPress (or any CMS, really), the distance between what I’m typing and what I’m publishing is very short. The only thing closer is editing HTML directly on a live page, but that’s something only crazy people do.

On the other hand, publishing a static site is like sending a document to a printer. I have to make sure everything is connected, that there’s paper in the machine, and then wait for the job to finish before seeing the output. If something needs editing, and something always needs editing, the whole process starts over.

So I struggle with choosing publishing tools. I much prefer the idea of statically rendered websites, but in practice I’d rather use WordPress.

I’ll be right back. Gotta check the printer.

On Having Too Many Blogs

Here are the places I post at least semi-regularly:

How did this happen?

On any given Sunday morning I’ll think, “Dammit, today is the day I put everything at baty.net back into WordPress!” Then a month or so later I’ll say, “Wordpress is the devil and my site should be statically-rendered!” and the next week I’ll discover the “New Shiny Publishing Tool” and ‘round and ‘round it goes.

Lately, instead of converting my site to use whatever new platform I discovered that morning, I’ve created new blogs using said platform. I like this approach because I don’t lose content or break links in the transition. I also like it because it appeases my desire try different things without also forcing me to go all-in with every whim.

The down side of course is that my stuff is scattered all over the place. I don’t get many visitors but spreading things so thin can’t be good for those few who might be interested in what I write. I’ve been using micro.blog as sort of an aggregator but that seems wrong somehow.

Another thing I’m thinking about is my online identity. I’ve been off twitter since November 1st and don’t know when or if I’ll return, so I’d like to detach my online persona from Twitter. If someone wants to link to me they should use baty.net. The trouble is that baty.net is only part of me (see above).

I’m now considering changing the main page of baty.net into an aggregate of all of my online stuff. More of a “Here’s a little about me and here’s some of the things I’ve been sharing lately.” This way I can keep my various publishing experiments while still maintaining a canonical “home”.

Looks like I have something to do over the long holiday weekend.

Publishing a static blog with Zeit Now

I decided to use my Tinderbox-generated static blog as a real world test of https://zeit.co.

It was pretty simple. I started out with a folder full of HTML files generated by Tinderbox. Then…

  1. Install Zeit Desktop
  2. Run now from within the html folder
  3. Done. The site is now available via an auto-generated URL like notes-xxxyyyzzz.zeit.sh

I’d of course rather use a nicer, more permanent URL so I did this…

  1. Create a CNAME DNS record for notes.baty.net pointing at alias.zeit.co
  2. Run now alias notes-xxxyyyzzz.zeit.sh notes.baty.net
  3. Add the verification TXT DNS record

This made notes-xxxyyyzzz.zeit.sh available at notes.baty.net. Each time I deploy, the instance is available at a new, auto-generated URL. The nice thing about that is each deployment creates a new, permanent version of the site. It also means that the alias must be updated each time. To do that, I created a now.json file that looks like this…

  "name": "notes",
  "alias": "notes.baty.net"

So to deploy any new changes, I export the Tinderbox document and type…

now && now alias

I’ve made this into a Tinderbox “Stamp” so that all I have to do is select “Publish” from the Stamps menu and it runs the commands for me.

This means the site is available, with automatically-configured SSL, at https://notes.baty.net/. Pretty cool.

Photo Management Without Lightroom

Adobe recently released the new Lightroom CC and threw my entire process so thoroughly into question that I’ve stopped using Lightroom to edit and manage my photos.

I’m not a fan of subscription models, but if the value is there then I’ll pay. Ten dollars a month for Lightroom and Photoshop is totally fair. That’s not what pushed me away from Lightroom. What pushed me away was Adobe’s inexorable march toward forcing me to keep my photos in their cloud service. I’m not interested in doing that.

Adobe has said that they will continue to update and support the original Lightroom Classic but I don’t think they called it “Classic” for nothing. I believe Classic is going to be killed once CC gains a reasonable amount of feature parity.

I don’t want my photos to live in anyone’s cloud service. I want to name, organize, and manage my photos as files in folders on my hard drive. I don’t want the software to do it. I’m old and a dutifully organized filesystem is a wonderful thing. Lightroom Classic did a decent job of letting me organize based on the filesystem, but Lightroom Classic feels like a dead end. Plus, the fewer subscriptions the better.

So, I’m now using a combination of Photo Mechanic and Capture One Pro.

I import, cull, keyword, caption, rename, and organize using Photo Mechanic. Then, I convert (if RAW), edit, and export finished JPEGs using Capture One.

Capture One is expensive but I’ve owned a license for years. Just upgraded to version 10 for $99. I bought a Photo Mechanic license several years ago and it’s still working just fine as-is. I’ve been using both of them on and off for a long time, so this isn’t all new to me.

I’m still tweaking, but right now it goes like this:

  1. Ingest from card, drive, or iPhone using Photo Mechanic
  2. Cull, label, keyword, caption, rename, and file in Photo Mechanic
  3. Open the keepers and process/edit them in Capture One
  4. Export finished JPEGs both back to the original folder and to Apple Photos using Capture One. This happens in one step using Process Recipes.
  5. Share and upload using Photo Mechanic

There’s nothing better or faster at ingesting and managing digital photos than Photo Mechanic, and Capture One is deep and capable and does the best job on Fuji RAW files. I’m using the best tools for the job, even if it’s a bit more hassle.

Best of all, I end up with my beloved folders and files for the originals and edits, and I also get the on-every-device benefit of Apple Photos for the keepers.

Why My Photos Remain on My Hard Drive

I like files. I like knowing where my “stuff” is, without depending upon additional software.

For as long as I remember I have kept my digital photos in a nicely-organized set of files and folders on my Mac. In recent years, these files have been managed using Lightroom but they are still just files on the filesystem. I know where they are, because I put them there. Lightroom’s library mimics the underlying files and folders. If something bad happens to Lightroom I know my photos will be fine.

My photo library

What about the adjustments and edits made to photos? Those are “non-destructive” so they don’t touch the original photo and are known only to the Lighroom library. This is important, and is why I export JPG copies of any photo labeled with one or more “star”.

I also caption all of my photos and rename the files using the photo’s date and caption. This way I (or my descendants) will have access to both the files and the “what and when” of them even if the IPTC or Exif metadata has been somehow lost.

I like this system. The files-in-folders approach, along with solid backups, has proven itself to be resilient and easy to understand and manage for my entire digital history. Lightroom has been nothing more than a layer over top of those files.

Recent Adobe announcements and the introduction of Lighroom CC have me reconsidering the process by which I manage my photos. I haven’t come to any real conclusion yet, so this is just me taking notes about the process.

The iPhone, cloud storage, and social media have thrown a wrench in the works. Shooting photos with an iPhone and having them, along with any edits, instantly available and easily sharable on all my devices is like magic. Perhaps a little too magic. I worry that this is another case of short-term convenience getting in the way of long-term value.

I know the photos in my Apple Photos library can be found in the “Photos Library.photoslibrary” package, but I didn’t put them there and I can’t organize them how I want them. That bothers me. Perhaps I should just get over it. Cloud management of digital photos is the future, right?

The new Lightroom CC feels like part of this future, but suffers from the same problem as Apple Photos. The only way to organize photos is virtually within Lightroom CC. I can create collections and albums and such, but they are virtual and not reflected in the filesystem. This makes me uncomfortable.

My current system is a cumbersome combination of managing files via Lightroom “Classic” and letting Apple Photos do its thing. I’m trying to find something better. Apple Photos is pretty good, and can now use external editors like the terrific Liminar. Lightroom CC is geared more toward “serious” photographers, and I prefer that to Apple’s simple have-fun-and-share approach. On the other hand, wedding myself to Lightroom’s cloud is both uncomfortable and expensive.

I’m not an artist or a pro. I’m just an avid photo enthusiast who likes to tinker. As such, something like Lightroom CC should fit the bill, but I don’t think I’m ready to give up control my precious files quite yet.

So after all this, what? For now I’ll stick with managing files in Lightroom Classic and exporting the keepers to Apple Photos until I get this sorted out. I hope to have a better answer soon.

Auto-keywording vs. Captioning Photos

The new version of Lightroom CC will automatically keyword photos so that I can search for things in them like “Car” or “Tree” or “Dog”. Apple Photos and Google Photos do something similar. Here’s how Adobe describes “Sensei”:

…the ability to search through all of your synced photos, leveraging the power of Adobe Sensei to automatically tag and keyword your images for you. Now you can find photos you’re looking for by searching for what is in the photos.

While this is useful, it’s not enough. My grandkids (or anyone else looking at my photos in 50 years) may want to know the rest of the story. They may say, “Yes, I can see that it’s a tree, but why did he take a photograph of it?” To answer those questions, the photos need captions/cutlines.

Photos taken with an iPhone will provide the basics of Where, When, and possibly even Who (via face recognition, but that isn’t useful outside of the photo library). What about the Why? That’s what needs to be recorded, and in my opinion is the most important part.

I keep saying: caption your photographs

Here’s another example I’ve used…


That was taken on the day my dad was baptized, making it more than just another photo of my dad as a child. The caption gives it meaning that it wouldn’t have had otherwise.

You don’t have to caption every single image, but taking the time to add a little note to some of them will be time well spent.

Some text-based things today

A couple times a year I find myself in an all-text-for-all-things mood and today was one of those days. This is different from my similar put-everything-in-emacs mood, as it involves neither Emacs nor Org Mode.

So today I dusted off my configurations for the following:

  • Tmux - Used for keeping an eye on a bunch of terminal apps at once.
  • Taskwarrior - A favorite CLI-based task manager. Powerful yet simple.
  • WeeChat - I want to love IRC but I don’t use it much lately. Still, it’s fun to bring it back once in a while.
  • jrnl - Command line journaling. I used this for a while back in 2015 and thought it was time for another look.

And this one is new to me:

  • twtxt - A “Decentralised, minimalist microblogging service for hackers.” Seemed interesting to try.

The last time a text-based workflow took hold of me was back in 2015. The wheel turns ‘round.

Opening BBEdit's Scratchpad via Keyboard Maestro

I use BBEdit’s Scratchpad window all day. For some reason I’ve never thought about making it easier to get to the window. While perusing BBEdit’s Google Group, I spotted this message by Fletcher, in which he provides a simple AppleScript for doing just that.

tell application "BBEdit" 
        open scratchpad document 
        set the index of the window of scratchpad document to 1 
end tell 

In his post, Fletcher uses an Automator Service but I prefer Keyboard Maestro. I created a simple trigger in Keyboard Maestro that looks like this:

Keyboard Maestro trigger

That’s better.

Using Hazel to Automatically Import Photos

Thomas Fitzgerald’s photo management workflow is reasonably similar to mine. I also process my photos using Lightroom and export them to Photos. I’ve been manually importing the exported Lightroom photos into Apple Photos and hadn’t spent the time to simplify that process. Thomas did it for me!

Thomas uses Hazel to watch his export folder and automatically import anything new into Photos. I’ve been using Hazel for years but did not know it could do that. The rules are simple and look like this:


Since my exported photos are only temporary, I also have Hazel delete them when finished. Super handy.

Tried the Newton Mail client on macOS

In this interesting post about tools by Matt Birchler he wrote that “Newton is the best email app I have ever used.” Intrigued, I installed the 14-day trial.


After 20 minutes I realized Newton isn’t for me. I’m a multi-pane guy. I’ve used Mail.app or Mailmate, or Mutt or Emacs/Mu4e on my Mac for years. Newton behaves differently than all of those (by default). It shows a simple list of messages, and clicking a message opens the message rather than highlighting it and displaying its contents in a separate pane. I’m not sure I’d ever get used to that.

I like my messages displayed with the newest at the top. If I delete a message in the middle of the list, Newton highlights the older message below the deleted message. That’s not how I work. I’m usually working my way up the list, older to newer. Didn’t see a way to change that behavior.

Messages can be selected using Vim bindings, which is cool. I was able to move up and down the list using my keyboard and pressing “d” to delete the highlighted message. Great. However, I couldn’t archive messages messages that way by using the “e” key. For some reason, the Archive menu item was disabled when navigating using the keyboard.

Many of Newton’s coolest features don’t interest me. Snooze, Send Later, etc. would likely never be used, so paying $50/year for a subscription would probably not be worth it.

I barely use email on my iOS devices, so I didn’t try Newton there.

Newton is a nice-looking app with some interesting features, but I’ll be sticking with my boring old Mail.app for now.