Bootstrapping a Jekyll Blog using Gitlab

This is one of those odd posts that came about because I starting playing with one idea and something else came about all-together. It started with me considering blogging options besides WordPress. There’s lots of platforms out there, and some of them are quite good. I’m also looking for something that I can run for free. Right now my WordPress.com premium account is paid for until almost the end of the year. So I have plenty of time to consider other options.

One of those is Jekyll. It’s basically a set of templates and a script to build them into a website. It’s not like WordPress as it doesn’t have a database holding the pages. Jekyll’s files are just plain HTML. So there’s no need for the webserver to interpret a scripting language (PHP, etc.) or interface with a database. This makes the Jekyll-generated site portable to any webhost.

Of course this comes with a downside. There’s no fancy management interface or app to do the heavy lifting of getting a post out the door. The usual workflow is to create/edit the pages on your local machine then run Jekyll. This will create the finished HTML that can be uploaded to the server. In most examples I’ve seen either Git or rsync is used to do the actual moving. Jekyll also has an option to act as a local webserver so the pages can be previewed before the upload. Jekyll really came into its own when used with Github. There, Github Pages takes most of the work out of the running of Jekyll. The only thing the user needed to do was to write new pages and posts and then git push them. Github takes over and runs Jekyll and serves up the generated HTML.

Overall, this is a simple and fast way to get a site online. I have a GitHub account, but I don’t use it much as I do most of my personal work on GitLab now. I chose GitLab because it doesn’t charge for private repositories. But I found it can automatically keep a repository in sync with another. This is one place GitHub falls down. If you were to fork a project on GitHub (the upstream), there’s no way to synchronize that fork without pulling it down to the local machine and then pushing the changes to the fork in your GitHub account. Granted it’s the traditional way to do things, but when working away from my laptop using an iPad app it’s an impossible task. It’s much easier to mirror the GitHub repository to Gitlab and have it do a pull every hour. Then my Gitlab repository is always synchronized without any effort on my part.

Plus Gitlab has built-in continuous integration (CI) runners that are easy to configure. These features make it a platform that suits my needs better than GitHub.

So Jekyll then…

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Easy FTP Export from Lightroom 6/CC

This is one of those sticking points I have with Lightroom: there’s no native FTP export. The functionality is built-in, because it’s possible to export a web gallery via FTP. But not from the regular export. I starting thinking about developing such a plugin as a side project and downloaded the Lightroom SDK to see what I’d be in for. Well it turns out that Adobe already wrote an FTP plugin, they just don’t include it in the default install.

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How I Work: Cork Board Organizer

I’m no stranger to organizing systems. I’ve attempted to GTD and various other flavors of other people telling me how to sort my stuff. I think at the root of it I don’t think in terms of categories (or contexts in GTD-speak). I like to have all my stuff spread out in front of so I can scan over everything at once. This is how a cork board saved me from being losing control of my life.

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Making an eBook with Ulysses: a complete guide

I’ve been working on this article for a while. Ever since I started experimenting with ePubs exported from Ulysses, I’ve been blogging my results. Now I’m ready to share a full eBook production process using Ulysses and my KBasic style.

After introducing my KBasic style, I found that I still wanted to make some adjustments to it. Actually it was more than just a few adjustments. I tried the style on several eReaders and found that I needed to change the text markup too.

I’m not going to bury the lede on this one. The sample eBook I made for this article looks damn good.

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A Drag and Drop File Uploader for WordPress Blogs

This is a simple app that I built with Apple Automator that I’ve been using to upload files to this blog. Overall, WordPress’s web page uploader works well, but it requires a browser window be open. Sometimes I just want to send a file quickly and not bother with that. One of the reasons people like my Post to WordPress plugin for Ulysses is that it avoids having to open up WordPress to save a draft post.

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Screenshot Workflow Using Hazel and Lightroom

Previously I wrote about using Hazel to manage my screenshots. I’ve updated that somewhat and now I’ve brought Lightroom into the mix. By doing this I’ve cut down on some of the automation but increased my output options have have better looking screenshots to post.

But why worry so much about screen shots? Well, they’re an important way to show what’s happening on a computer screen. Making sure they’re legible makes for more informative articles here.

Lightroom is designed for photos, but it handles the PNG files created by a screenshot just fine. It doesn’t export PNG or support transparency. Neither is a deal breaker, but be warned going in. PNG also doesn’t have any compression options. So to make it small would mean resizing the image or converting it to JPG anyway. As for transparency, if I need it I can export from Lightroom as an original and edit in Preview or Photoshop.

So this is how I have things setup.

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Using Ulysses and Vellum for High-quality eBooks

The Ulysses app can do a lot besides writing. I’ve written a lot about how I abuse the poor thing. Its export options offer a variety of formats. One that was convenient was the RTF option. It meant I had one click export to a standard rich text format that’s usually requested by publishers.

The v2.1 Ulysses update replaced RTF with DOCX, the new Word 2007 format. These files aren’t usually accepted via email because of the chance that they carry a macro virus. (Have you noticed all the email spam that includes an “invoice”? Yep, those invoice.zip files come contain a DOCX file pre-loaded with a macro virus!) Even so, I was a bit miffed when the Ulysses developers made me resort to another app to deal with the Ulysses export.

But I also found that there’s a couple of ways this also helped me out.

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Post to WordPress from Ulysses update 5/20

I’ve made a significant update to my app Post to WordPress for Ulysses today.

I’ve improved it so that there’s no need to edit the Automator app or need two parts (app & code file) for everything to work. The blog information (user name, password, URL, and SSL preference) is now stored in a separate file. Also, all the posting code is now inside the app, and the user doesn’t need to create a ~/bin folder to keep the Ruby code file in.

The ReadMe file has all the updated information and the install will be much simpler.

Even though Ulysses is beta testing a WordPress posting feature, my solution will work with the current version. I’ve also tested it against the beta, and it works the same. The one thing I like most about my app is that it converts any links into ones that open in a new window. There’s no way for this to be done in Ulysses, and having to do it manually in WordPress is tedious at best.

I’ve also decided to quit fighting with WordPress about how it interprets timezones. Posts uploaded with the app will now be plain drafts instead of scheduled posts.

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Selective Lightroom Import Using Camera Folders

Here’s a neat trick that works when you’ve shot multiple events on one card.

Let’s suppose it’s been a busy day with your camera and you’ve been shooting to same card all day. If all the photos are in the same folder, then you’ll have to sort them on the computer. But if you planned ahead, then each event would be in a separate folder. It usually takes no more than a couple of button presses to tell your camera to use a new folder. The hard part is getting into a habit of changing folders during the day.

Here’s a quick slideshow on how to create a new folder on a Canon camera.

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New Ulysses ePub Style

I just uploaded a style sheet for the Ulysses writing app that I’ve been working on to the Ulysses Style Exchange. It’s called KBasic and it’s meant to make creating ePub files easy.

I’ve been fighting with ePub formatting for a while now. It turns out I was trying to do too much. The eReaders (hardware & software) do a great job of displaying even unformatted text. I even experimented with using a blank stylesheet to see what would happen. The result was actually better than some styles available for download.

So I started from that blank page and built up the elements that I wanted, and let the defaults handle the rest.

Here’s the list of what I changed:

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