Category feature for Ulysses-Post-to-WP

After a recent feature request I decided to look into adding category support for my Ulysses-Post-to-WP script. In the end it was actually easy. It involved changing one variable from post-tag to category. The hard part was finding out that was the needed change. The documentation isn’t very clear, and I had to pull a post out via XML-RPC to see the format. The testing and writing up the changes took more time than the actual change.

But now for people that prefer to use categories, it’s possible.

Using Git and Dropbox with a Bitcasa Upstream

After using GitHub to contribute to a project the other day, I got to thinking about other uses for Git. One was to keep a backup of my ~/bin folder. I write a lot of one-off scripts to make my life easier. Most of the time they’re under 20 lines and previous versions aren’t really needed. But sometimes1 I break things. Other times I’ll go back and wonder what the hell was I thinking.

I already use Dropbox, so why not put a repository there? I just prefer to have the files separate. There’s some talk about how the Dropbox backup version will conflict with the Git files. I’ll only be using it for a bare repository not a working directory. So Dropbox can do it’s thing and it won’t cause me problems.

Since I also use Bitcasa Drive, it seems natural to make that into my upstream repository. Bitcasa is different from Dropbox in that the files stored there are not on your local hard drive. They’re on the Bitcasa drive which is mounted as a network share. So it is true off-site backup. Access to it also depends on having an Internet connection. It’s a place for backups not daily work.


Once set up, I’ll be able to commit changes to either or both remote repositories. If I’m working offline I can push commits to Dropbox and have them synced up later. The reason to add Bitcasa is to have another backup and Git makes this easy.

Continue reading “Using Git and Dropbox with a Bitcasa Upstream”

Google to close Google Code open source project hosting

Google Code is to join the long list of Google projects that have been consigned to the dustbin of history. The open source project hosting service will no longer be accepting new project submissions as of today, will no longer be accepting updates to existing projects from August 24, and will be closed entirely on January 25, 2016. §

Killed by spam. But not just closing, everything will be deleted.

The Scalzi Generator

In an wonderful post, the author John Scalzi produced twelve standard responses to online stupidity. The list seems complete and covers most cases.

The list:

  1. I don’t care what you think.
  2. I didn’t ask you.
  3. No doubt you thought that was terribly clever.
  4. You’ve attempted logic. Not all attempts succeed.
  5. One should not have that many errors in that few characters.
  6. Either your educators have failed you, or you have failed them.
  7. I see you’ve invited me to an argument. I decline.
  8. It appears an asshole has hacked your account and is posting in your name.
  9. Funny, most people go out of their way not to be a public bigot.
  10. Cosplaying as a tantrum-throwing child is no way to go through life.
  11. I’m sorry that you are so obviously scared of the world.
  12. My attention is a privilege, not a right. This is all you get.

I saw on Twitter than someone had made a random response generating page. I decided that a local version was also in order.

The Scalzi Generator

The project is a ruby script that can be run from the command line. It also contains a MacOS X workflow file that can be installed as a system service.

Visit my GitHub project page to see examples and download the files.

PogoPlug, OpenVPN and ArchLinux

In my continuing adventures with the PogoPlug V4, I decided to get OpenVPN working. The install was easy enough, but getting the configuration correct turned into a literal project—it has it’s own GitHub repository.

My VPN provider of choice is TunnelBear1. I started with them about a year ago because of their free service. The free accounts get 500 MB of data transfer per month. That’s not a lot, but it’s enough to get me out of a data emergency. Like the time I had to log into my bank from a supermarket’s free WiFi. They also have a promotion where sending a tweet from the app will add 1 GB of data to your account. That’s enough to get me through a usual month.

As I’ve been building out the PogoPlug these last few days, I started looking at VPN providers in general. The service plans among the varied providers are quite similar. I checked back with TunnelBear to see about their Linux support. I’ve been impressed with their Mac and iOS apps which are easy to use and are updated regularly. They provide a bare-metal2 OpenVPN service for Linux users. A paid “Giant” or “Grizzly” account is also needed for OpenVPN access. Since I already had their apps installed, it was a simple choice to try out their unlimited service for a month.

The configuration files are provided, but there is no support other than a short list of steps on their blog. The steps are correct and succinct—for a Linux desktop environment. Getting them working on a headless server is another story altogether.

The first pet peeve was that the provided configuration files have excessively long file names. For instance:

TunnelBear United Kingdom.ovpn

Also notice that there are spaces in the file name. These files were packaged by someone that didn’t have to type them on the command line. But wait, there’s more! The OpenVPN systemd unit file that launches the openvpn service expects the files to end in .conf.

To get things working I manually renamed the files and put them in the /etc/openvpn directory. This worked, and I could connect. Having the files loose in the openvpn root could lead to confusion if I wanted to add other VPN certificates/configuration files in the future. To prevent naming conflicts I decided to keep them all together in /etc/openvpn/tunnelbear.d/. This promptly broke the systemd unit file that launched OpenVPN.

I rewrote the unit file just for TunnelBear, and everything worked again. But it was missing an easy way to choose an exit point. Since ruby was installed3 on the PogoPlug, I decided to write a menu-based country chooser. The scope of this project had crept from “get OpenVPN working” to “I need to package all this up.” What had started as an idea for a blog post turned into TunnelBear-Helper and a blog post. I don’t think keeping the files for something like this on the blog is the best way to share it. Making a repository for it felt right.

I’ve also got the Pogo imitating an Apple server and hosting my Time Machine backups. More on that later, as verifying the instructions is taking longer than I thought.

Future Pogo hack posts I have planned:

  • Apple file server, with Time Machine backups.
  • Adding WiFi to the Pogo to make a hotspot.
  • Making the hotspot also block ads.

  1. I like that they’re up-front about their policies. They don’t allow P2P/bittorrent traffic over the VPN. They had to choose between logging traffic or blocking bittorrent. By blocking bittorrent, they don’t have to log traffic. It also keeps the data hogs away.
  2. Yes I did totally misuse this phrase. But I also find it oddly appropriate.
  3. It was required by VIM for some reason. Otherwise it was only a pacman -S ruby away.

Word Count — Week 9

It’s time for my weekly word count check-in. At the end of every week, I post a screen shot from my writing results spreadsheet. This shows the current week and the three before. My week starts on Monday. The numbers are current through Sunday night. I also only average over six days. This allows me one day of no writing that doesn’t impact the weekly totals.

The goal for this week was to push out 1000 words per day. Only blog posts, fiction, project writing counts. Keeping track of emails and fourm posting would make me crazy.

I was a bit behind the goal for most of this week. But a impropmtu GitHub project threw me over the top on Sunday night.

Week 8, February 23rd – March 1st:

Week 9 results.
Week 9 results.

My other posts tagged word count.

Writing Styles

Writing a sample chapter for a possible programming book was quite eye-opening. I’ve never done any serious non-fiction writing other than a magazine article. Writing a programming book is considered non-fiction just as a humor book is.

I find the classification funny. “Fiction” is defined as everything not-made-up. It can be anything from a story about a crime in your town to space battles. Non-fiction is everything else.

In the sample chapter I realized there was as much fiction as truth. I was making up a story about the code I was writing. I could take the story in direction and provide the code to go along with it. I’m not trying to solve an “out in the world” problem. I’m just telling a story, illustrated with code. If someone learns from it, even better.

Sample Chapter of My Ruby Book

(This is a sample chapter I put together to see how I felt about writing a programming book.)

The Simple Script

Before starting to build a more complicated program, let’s start with something simple. We’re going to hack together a short script that works. It will upload a single cat picture to a S3 bucket. We’ll learn the basics of both a ruby script and how cloud storage works.

Lesson setup

In your working directory create a new branch for this chapter. The -b switch tells git to create a new branch and switch to it.

$ git checkout -b chapter-01

Create a new file with the ruby header and set the permissions so that we can run it directly.

$ echo '#!/usr/bin/env ruby' > uploader.rb
$ chmod +x uploader.rb

This is the file that we’ll be using for this chapter. Go ahead and make a commit. This way you can start over at anytime.

$ git add uploader.rb
$ git commit -a -m "Starting ch. 1"

The -a -m switches tell git to commit all added files and use the message provided. It’s a shorthand you’ll see often.

Your working directory should look like this.

$ ls -l
total 16
-rw-r--r--  1 jenn  staff   360B Feb 14 11:46
-rwxr-xr-x  1 jenn  staff    20B Feb 14 13:10 uploader.rb*

You can see our new file has the right permissions (the x in the permission listing) and is ready for editing.

Any time we add code and the script runs with no errors, feel free to make commit. I won’t bug you about it. But it’s good to save a version when the code works. Your workflow would look something like this:

  1. Edit & save file
  2. Run script
  3. Woohoo!
  4. git commit -a

If the next edit breaks something and you need to go back to a working version, just check out that file again.

$ git checkout -- <broken_file>

You’ll lose your current changes, but you don’t care. It didn’t work anyway.

Chapter files

The finished files for this chapter are in the chapter-01 branch. To see them, change to your cloned directory and do a checkout.

$ git checkout chapter-01

The complete script is also at the end of this chapter.

S3 key safety

The Amazon keys are literally the keys to your jungle kingdom. They’re the same as a user name and password on any other site. It’s very important to keep them safe. Anyone who finds your keys can log onto your account.

If you followed the instructions in Getting Started, you’ll have a key that only works with S3. If you were to lose that key, whoever found it would have upload and download access to your buckets. The best outcome would be the deletion of all your files. The worst outcome would be to have your account filled with multiple gigabytes of illegal content. You would be on the hook for both financial and legal consequences.

Now, if you didn’t follow the directions and have a key that can access all of your Amazon services, stop. Flip back to Getting Started and create a key just for this project. A key thief with a full-access key could bankrupt you by creating a server cluster to farm bitcoins. That’s not a credit card bill I’d want.

The good news is that keys are easy to keep safe.

  • Use keyfiles instead of putting them into the body of scripts.
  • Don’t keep keyfiles in directories using version control.

If you don’t put them into the body of script, they won’t be accidentally uploaded. Code sharing is an important part of learning. At some point you’ll want to post a script to a forum or code hosting site (StackOverflow or GitHub, for example). There’s no worry about forgetting to take the keys out if you keep your them out of your scripts.

The other way a key can leak out into the world is via version control. A keyfile that gets included in a commit will always be recoverable. This is why we use version control. It lets us go back in time and recover deleted files. Once a keyfile is in the project, it will always be in the project. If you were to push the project to a GitHub repository, the key would go with it.

To repeat, don’t ever put keys into the body of a script, or in a directory using version control.

Key file

To keep our keys safe, we need a home for them. A hidden folder inside the home folder is a good place. Change to your home folder and create the new folder.

$ cd && mkdir .cloud-keys

The cd command with no arguments will always take you to the home folder. The && is a quick way to chain commands on one line. We’ll be using the .cloud-keys folder for the rest of the book.

$ nano .cloud-keys/aws-chapter-01.key

Once Nano opens up, add following code block and save. (Ctrl-X, then enter.) This function will be used to return our keys to the script. There are better ways to do this. We’ll explore those in the following chapter. This is simplest way to create a quick script that follows our safety rules.

def my_key( key )
  aws_public_key = "your-aws-public-key-goes-here"
  aws_secret_key = "your-aws-secret-key-goes-here"
  if "secret" == key
    return aws_secret_key
    elsif "public" == key
  return aws_public_key

Make sure to copy your S3 keys exactly. We’ll be using them in next section.

The quick and dirty way

To get everything working we’re going to make a simple script that just runs top to bottom. In ruby, everything is an object. That makes advanced programming very easy. It’s also overkill for what we’re doing. We can use the object-oriented nature of ruby without building an “OO” program. This way we can write clean code with fewer lines.

The goals for the finished script are:

  1. Get the file that’s listed on the command line.
  2. Create a connection to S3.
  3. Upload the cat picture.

When we’re done the file will be in the cloud!

Getting the file

Change back to your working directory.

$ cd ~/dev/ruby-book

Open the uploader.rb file in your text editor. If you’re new to command line editing keep using nano. I personally use vim and think it’s worth the time to learn. If you want a non-command line editor, TextWrangler is a good choice. Now we start editing.

Right underneath the #!/usr/bin/env ruby add this.

load File.expand_path('~/.cloud-keys/aws-chapter-01.key')
if ARGV.length != 1

The first line brings in the keyfile we made. Now we can use it just like we typed it in this file. The second line is checking to see how many “things” are on the command line after the file name. Right now we’re not concerned about what’s there. We only want to know if one thing is there. If there is not exactly one item, quit.

ARGV is a special global array that any part of the script can access. It’s an array, but it’s also an object. As an array object it has built-in mini-programs that we can use. These mini programs are called methods. Here we’re using the length method. The dot (.) tells ruby to look inside of an object. Here we’re telling ruby “look inside of the array ARGV for a method called length, run it and give us back the result.”

Now we know the length of ARGV. The != is the not-equal operator. It’s comparing the length of ARGV to the number one. We move the next step if it’s anything other than one. And the next step is to exit. So if there’s more than one file, the program quits. The (1) after the exit command means to tell whatever program that launched the script (usually the shell) something went wrong.

Go ahead and run the file. The ./ tells the shell to look in this folder, the one we’re working in, and run the named script.

$ ./uploader.rb 

Then check the shell exit status.

$ echo $?

Nothing happened! Which is exactly the point. But notice the lonely 1. That’s our exit status. The $? is a special shell variable that holds the exit status of the last program ran. We knew the script would fail, now the shell does too.

Try the command this way.

$ ./uploader.rb not-a-real-file.png 
$ echo $?

Now the exit status is zero. This means the program ran and exited successfully. Remember we’re not checking to see if not-a-real-file.png is real or not. We’re just checking that something was included on the command line.

With this working, we can move along to connecting to S3 and finally sending that file.

Get ready to connect

If you followed the directions in Getting Started you have the gem fog installed and tested. If not, it’s time to flip back and do that. This next line will give our little script the power to talk to the clouds. Add a blank line after the last end and add this.

require 'fog'

That’s all that’s needed.

To make our connection we need our keys. This next part will pull in the keys and create a connection to S3.

aws =
  :provider                 => 'AWS',
  :aws_access_key_id        => my_key('public'),
  :aws_secret_access_key    => my_key('secret')

We’ve created a Fog object in the variable aws. To make the connection we had to give it our keys along with the name of our storage provider. Save the file and run the program again.

$ ./uploader.rb not-a-real-file.png
$ echo $?

Pretty simple, eh? We also got back a zero, meaning that everything worked like it was supposed to.

Did you notice the slight hesitation? That was Fog loading everything up. It’s getting ready to log into your S3 account. But we haven’t told it to do anything yet.

Before moving on, lets go through the code we just added.

aws =

This is called the constructor. The gem Fog is being told we want it to make a new connection to storage (as opposed to other cloud services like compute, DNS, or CDN). Then it wraps all this up in our aws variable so we can use it in the next part of the script. There’s a lot happening behind the scenes, which is why we like writing scripts in ruby!

The next three lines are related. They provide the who and where that Fog needs to make a connection.

:provider                 => 'AWS',

This is how Fog knows where to connect to. AWS is predefined by Fog and is a shorthand for all the details to connect to Amazon Web Services. The next two lines take care of the who.

:aws_access_key_id        => my_key('public'),
:aws_secret_access_key    => my_key('secret')

These two lines are us being careful with our keys. We don’t have to worry about accidentally uploading or emailing our keys to someone if we share this script. When the my_key function is called your S3 keys are given to Fog.

The who and where are provided to Fog in a hash. Which is a ruby data type that lets us store different kinds of information all in one group. Hashes use curly braces {} to hold keys and values. (“Key” can also be thought of as an index.) The key is on the left, value on the right, always as a pair with the <= between them. The key can be named anything and will point to the value. This is great for getting data out when you know the key. It’s not so good when you need to keep data in a certain order. Arrays work better for that.

Fog expects certain names. That’s why we’re using provider, aws_access_key_id, and aws_secret_access_key.

Now we get to the fun part, sending cat pictures across the Internet!


We need a location for our file. These are our S3 buckets. To keep this quick we’ll put the name of the bucket into the file. We’ll update this later so we can change the bucket on the fly.

You should have created the ruby-book bucket back in Getting Started. Add this to our script.

bucket = aws.directories.get('ruby-book')

We’re telling our aws object to find our bucket and load it into bucket so we can use it.

Save and give it a quick test.

$ ./uploader.rb not-a-real-file.png
$ echo $?

No errors, very nice. With that command we needed to talk to S3. If you have an error, it’s most likely you with your keys. Key errors look like this:

expects.rb:6:in `response_call': Expected(200) <=> Actual(403 Forbidden)

That’s a web server error code (403) meaning that you don’t have the right key for what you’re trying to get access to. Double check your .cloud-keys/aws-chapter-01.key for errors.

Make sure you can run the code so far, we don’t want log in errors while we’re trying to upload. Once your code runs cleanly, take a break.

Congratulations! You’ve come a long ways. So far, you’ve learned:

  • How to create an executable file.
  • How to run a script you’ve written.
  • A few git commands.
  • How to read command line variables.
  • How to check shell exit codes.
  • How to load S3 keys from an external file.
  • How to connect to an S3 bucket.

Not bad for one chapter, eh? But there’s more!


Until now, we’ve been using the nonexistent file not-a-real-file.png as a placeholder. We didn’t have a cat picture in our project folder before. We’ll fix that now. If you don’t have a cat picture to use for the rest of this chapter, you can use this one.

Please share. This poor cat gets no attention at all.
Please share. This poor cat gets no attention at all.

I have it saved as mac-cat.jpg. That will be the name I’ll use in the rest of the examples. It should be saved into your project folder.

Let’s keep working on our script by adding this line.

cat = File.expand_path(ARGV[0])

Here, we’re loaded up the variable cat with the full path to our picture. Which just happens to be the first thing (element 0) in our list of command line files.

We also need to get the name of the picture. When we’re working out of the same folder, ARGV[0] will be the name without path information. So we could just use it again.

But if we wanted another file that’s on the desktop, it would crash.

$ ./uploader.rb ~/Desktop/other-cat.jpg

So to get the filename we just ask ruby to do the work for us.

catname = File.basename(cat)

This just chops of the filename from the path and saves it to catname. We now have a cat picture, a cat picture file path, and a cat picture filename. And that’s all we need to get on with the uploading.

The last bit of our script creates the file in our S3 bucket, and then uploads the file contents. You have to name the cat before you can fill it full of feline goodness.

  :key => catname,
  :body =>,
  :public => true

This creates the file. :key will be the name in the S3 bucket. :body is the contents of the file. We’re telling Fog to read the file from our computer, then send it to S3. The last part, :public makes the file visible to the world. If you leave out the last part (or set it to false), people will see a 403 Forbidden error instead of your cat. Which would defeat the entire purpose of the Internet.

$ ./uploader.rb mac-cat.jpg 
$ echo $?

With no errors and a successful exit code, we know our cat is safe in S3’s loving embrace. But if you want to check, you can see my upload at this link:

Can you believe you just wrote a script that uploads a file to S3 and it only took 30 lines of code?

Kinda cool, eh?

Now that we have a working base, the upcoming chapters will expand on this code. We’ll add error checking, default options, better key storage, and multiple file uploads.

Keep reading, the good stuff awaits!

Final script

#!/usr/bin/env ruby

load File.expand_path('~/.cloud-keys/aws-chapter-01.key')

if ARGV.length != 1

require 'fog'
aws =
  :provider                 => 'AWS',
  :aws_access_key_id        => my_key('public'),
  :aws_secret_access_key    => my_key('secret')

bucket = aws.directories.get('ruby-book')

cat = File.expand_path(ARGV[0])
catname = File.basename(cat)

  :key => catname,
  :body =>,
  :public => true

Thinking about a book…

Lately, I’ve been dabbling in ruby programming. I’ve mentioned it a few times recently. I’ve also been thinking that what I’m doing would make for a decent beginners book. I’ve seen a few of the ones out there. The projects are much more involved and tend to focus on web applications. This would be more of a beginner-to-beginner style project.

I’m thinking there might be a place for a smaller, focused book. One that follows a project from beginning to end. Along the way it could touch the incidentals like git, text editors, the basic ruby gems, and such. The result would be a small app that interacted with a web service.

The ideal reader would be someone that wants to learn programming, but doesn’t want a technical manual.

I haven’t really seen anything like this. I might just have to pursue this.

Learning to Code with Ruby

Last week I got sucked into a small coding project. I wanted a quick way to upload files to AWS S3. S3 acts like a FTP file server. But traditional upload methods like SFTP aren’t allowed. This makes the service tricky to use from the command line.

I wanted a simple tool that I could use in three different ways:

  • Directly from the command line.
  • Inside of an Automator workflow “run shell scrip” action. This will provide a right-click upload action in the Finder
  • From a shell script action in Hazel. Files that match a rule can also be uploaded.

There are several file transfer program that have a graphical interface. Filezilla doesn’t support the S3 protocol. The built-in uploader in Hazel also doesn’t speak S3. Cyberduck is able to connect to S3 and Rackspace Cloud Files. But it’s not scriptable and must be used manually.

After some research I found a library for ruby called “Fog.” It provides access to S3 and Cloud Files with the same code base. This also meant I needed to get more than a passing familiarity with the language.

This is something I’ve playing with off-and-on over the last week. I’ve come up with the start of a project I’m calling AWS-upload. There’s even a GitHub project page for it now. It’s still rough. Really rough. It’s also not working as of this post. The code is split among several files. I plan on integrating them in the future. I’ll need to if I want a working program. This way lets me explore different aspects of the program in small chunks.

I’ll be making more code-related posts as I work on it. I’m also learning ruby as I go. Wish me luck!