happs posts

The Happs

New Cogneato people

For a small company like Cogneato, it’s always exciting to bring in new people. New personality, new ideas, new experience, new opportunities. We hadn’t brought on any new people for probably two years, and had even lost a few from our maximum. And most importantly for me, we have only brought in two new developers in my entire tenure, only one of whom remains.

With increasing business and one of our “contenters” (who do client communication, work on content, light development, etc) leaving near the end of the year, we decided to bring on not one but two more people. One of them is a contenter (who has already started) to replace the one leaving, but one is a developer. We just signed her on last week and she will be starting by the beginning of December. She doesn’t have a lot of web experience, at least on paper, but has a masters degree with a focus on programming. It will be nice to have some help and to have another person to discuss development things with. I’m excited.

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The Happs

It’s been a few weeks since I’ve posted a Happs or any blog post. I think a lot of the things I want to post about, I want to post a dedicated post, but that doesn’t always end up happening.

Conferences

The weekend before last, I went to two conferences. I took notes, which I plan to post once I get them digitized and cleaned up. I enjoyed the conferences even though having both in one weekend, with one in Pittsburgh, was a bit tiring. I went to Rustbelt Refresh and Pittsburgh Tech Fest.

Rustbelt Refresh

I had gone to this last year (the initial year) as well. I was pleased with the talks again. It’s a single track, single day event on general front end development and design. It brings in some of the “celebrities” of the industry. This year included Karen McGrane and Jeremy Keith, for instance, and last year had Eric Meyer (our local web “celebrity”) and Jonathon Snook. It is definitely nice to be able to hear talks by some of the people driving the thoughts in the industry. I had a good time, the talks were good, and I learned some things or shored up some ideas I already had.

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The Happs

These happs blogs don’t always allow me to go into as much depth as I would like, but they are definitely a lot easier to write. I have been writing much more frequently now that I’ve started them. “Remember, a writer writes, always.”

WordPress Starter Theme

After much time and effort, I’ve finally released my WordPress base theme, TJMBase. It is the very bare parent theme for what my website has been running on for several months now. These days, I don’t use WordPress for very much, but I have done several projects with it, especially earlier in my web development life, and to some extent still like it.

Years ago, I had made a theme starter that was basically bare of any styles and extra fluff, the kind of thing you might want to start with if you wanted a good starting point for doing a theme basically from scratch. I never released it (didn’t release anything open source at that point), though I did use it for some projects and let at least one interested party use it. I had stopped doing much with WordPress once I got my current job, but I did want my theme starter to be useful to the community. WordPress 3 came out and brought some important changes that made my old theme behind the times, missing some important features.

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The Happs

Shell Games

I have been toying with some shell alternatives to bash; fish and zsh. Auto-suggestions were the main draw, though there are other features as well that are nice to have. I especially like the auto-suggestions functionality that fish provides. I have tried to get similar behavior in zsh, but haven’t been able to get something going that doesn’t have problems of some sort. Another feature I like is implicit cd, where you can change to a directory simply by typing its path.

zsh is really configurable and also mostly bash compatible, so I can use the same config files for both. fish requires its own syntax, so I must use separate config files. zsh is also more commonly installed than fish. For these reasons, I would like to move to zsh, but the auto-suggestion problems have led me to go with fish for now.

Dotfiles

My shell experiments have led me to release my dotfiles as open source. I had previously had a much simpler dotfiles setup that I never released openly. My new dotfiles project was mostly written from scratch, with a much more advanced setup script and file organization. I’m maintaining as close to the same configuration as possible between bash, zsh, and fish, and attempt to deal with differences between Linux and Mac OS X.

I have a dotfiles script for setting things up. It symlinks all the relevant files into the home folder. I wrote it in PHP since I know it well and can do OO stuff in it. I have the actual dotfiles plus files they include/reference separated into folders by application / shell. Each folder has a ‘dotfiles.json’ file that defines which files are to be symlinked into the home folder (or other path, if necessary), so that I can have other files mixed in with the dotfiles without the install script paying them any attention.

Looking at some other peoples’ dotfiles, I have improved and added some new functions, aliases, and other features. For instance, I found some neat git log functions that gave some really nice output and modified them to my liking (see my vcs.sh). There were a bunch of other neat things I’ve found but haven’t added.

I put a lot more time into this than I wanted, but am happy with the results. It has brought some improvements to my shell experience and made it easier to share this experience across devices. I still have places I have to log into that I can’t install my dotfiles (namely the servers at work), but for my computers and my server, it has been really nice.

I would like to do something similar with other configuration that isn’t “dotfiles”, such as for Sublime Text and other desktop application. I just have to figure out a good way to do it in an organized fashion. I’m not sure if I’d want that mixed in with my dotfiles or if I’d want a separate repo. Not sure if I’d want a repo per OS either, maybe with a shared repo for things on multiple OS’s.

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The Happs

For a while now I’ve been trying to write posts that draw people, such as solutions to specific problems or things that might be called articles. I think I’ve focused on these types of writings because parts of me want to be bring myself more prominently into the larger web community, help others, get some praise or critique for my work, and perhaps get offered a high paying job from some bigger web firm. I think I got a bit heady when I started getting above 50 visitors a day, peaking at 98. But that flow has dried up and I’m back down to less than 20.

I do like writing those types of posts sometimes, and I’m not going to stop, but I think I’m going to write a lot more smaller and less focused posts that are more generally about anything on my mind. I think I shall call the posts “The Happs” so I don’t have to think of a title and to emphasize their lack of a specific topic. The article type posts really take a long time and some research to compose, and I don’t have a lot of free time for them. It is often so long between when I do whatever is the impetus for them and when I write them that I’ve forgotten a lot of the details. I think “The Happs” will get me writing more often and allow me to put out snippets of what might later go into more thorough articles.

So, what has been happening with me lately?

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