Category Archives: geek

On this page:

Setting up virtual machines with Vagrant

I spent a week focusing on system administration, and I feel more comfortable with my setup already. My web server hosts a number of blogs (like this one!) as well as my QuantifiedAwesome.com tracking dashboard. I want to make sure that things are backed up and that I can verify that my backups are running by creating a working website. It’s also useful to have a separate development environment where I can try out server configuration changes before applying them to production. Virtual machines to the rescue!

Vagrant is a tool that makes it easy to create and manage virtual machines with forwarded ports and shared folders. I use it for a couple of Ubuntu-based virtual machines on my laptop, and another backup-focused virtual machine on our Ubuntu desktop.

2013-10-28 Setting up virtual machines with Vagrant

You can make your Vagrant box more secure by changing the default passwords for root and vagrant, and setting up your own SSH key. Use vagrant package and vagrant box add to make this a new base box.

Related tools:

  • Give Veewee kernel and install info, and it will make base boxes for you. Good for testing different versions of distributions.
  • Vagrant works with Chef, Puppet, or shell scripts for provisioning. Need to reverse-engineer config from an existing server? Check out Devstructure Blueprint.
  • If you upgrade kernels or Virtualbox/VMWare, you might find vagrant-vbguest handy.
  • If your host system is pretty much the same as your deployment system architecture, check out Docker for a lighter-weight way to isolate your development environment.


These are some of my notes from when I was setting up my VMs. Different console backgrounds in Putty really help!

2013-10-28 Setting up my development environment VMs

 

2013-10-28 Deployment procedures

Emacs Chat: Magnar Sveen (Emacs Rocks)

UPDATE 2014-01-27: Transcript posted!
UPDATE: Want just the audio? MP3 / OGG

Here are the notes from my chat with Magnar Sveen, the creator of the Emacs Rocks screencast series and a number of other great Emacs resources. Enjoy!

0m48s Magnar has been using Emacs for two years
2m30s Moving from TextMate
3m45s World of Warcraft
4m10s Friend’s influence
5m10s Learning as a game
6m10s Other ways of learning – time outside work
7m44s Screencasting
9m30s Things Magnar wants to learn more about – Org
10m19s What else Magnar does with Emacs
11m17s Norwegian text adventure game
12m08s Outside Emacs: family, board games (120!)
13m41s Managing a large hobby project
14m30s Learning through projects
14m48s Dealing with feeling overwhelmed by Emacs
16m38s Hardware
20m20s Emacs configuration
20m40s Projects with perspective-mode
21m32s Find file in project, ido-vertical-mode, flx-ido
23m45s Switching between projects
25m01s Guide-key
25m56 Rebinding C-h
26m36 paredit and smartparens
29m20s visual-regexp
30m35s annoying-arrows-mode
32m45s project-archetype
35m15s Wishlist: package management
35m55s Satisfied with configuration
35m25s Marks and regions
37m20s Configuration is on github
37m40s evil-mode
40m00s Feedback on Emacs Rocks
42m00s Growing to appreciate Emacs because of extensibility
43m15s The giraffe book
44m57s Getting code into core
49m39 Emacs koans?
51m45s IRC bot
52m50s Learning from other people in the office
54m40s Other questions
56m23s Board game recommendations

Read or download the transcript

Check out Emacs Chat for more interviews like this. Got a story to tell about how you learned about or how you use Emacs? Get in touch!

How to cheat when animating sketches

I’ve been working on some animations for my consulting engagement. My new “green-screen” workflow involves Camtasia Studio’s Replace a Color feature, a large secondary motor, and the Cintiq 12 WX (although any USB tablet will probably do fine). It works really well! I re-rendered my 4-minute video because I wanted to use the WAV export as the audio instead of the MP3 export – better audio quality.

My old workflow (Artrage Studio Pro script recording and then some text manipulation to get it to save frames) ran about 4 hours per audio minute. This one’s at about two hours per audio minute, and it could take even less of my time if I could delegate the editing and synchronization to someone else. (Not for this one because of the contract, but maybe next time!)

Here are some other ways to cheat when animating sketches. Click on the image for a larger version.

2013-11-08 How to cheat when animating sketches

No samples, sorry, but maybe I’ll plan my own animations after this consulting project is finished.

In the meantime, here’s a quick glimpse of how to use Remove a Color in Camtasia Studio:

Current state of my backups

It’s good to have backups. It’s even better to document the backup and recovery procedure, and to test the backups regularly. Here’s where I am in terms of backups and what I’m working on next.

Current state - backups

2013-10-31 What do I want or need to store on my backup drives

 

The biggest weaknesses I need to work on are:

  • Testing my image backups without risking my main computer – maybe a different drive.
  • Setting up offsite backups, probably handled by swapping encrypted drives and keeping one stored at HackLab
  • Cloning my backup VM into a development VM with proper version control and committing, so I can easily copy changes over

I’ve grabbed files from my backup a few times, and I’m so glad I had them. I wish I’d been better at keeping financial statements and things like that from earlier. I have Ledger records but no electronic statements from 2009. I’ve gotten much better at saving statements every month, so now they’re part of my regular archives. Working on it!

Emacs Org Mode Customization Survey

Org Mode is an outlining and TODO tool for Emacs. Except it’s so much more than that, since people have written all sorts of code to make it do way more than an outliner (or even a text editor!) usually does. Seriously, it even has a Sudoku solver. (The code is optional, so you don’t lose memory if you don’t load it.)

If you use Emacs and you haven’t tried out Org Mode yet, check it out.

If you’ve made Org Mode a part of your life, you’ve probably customized lots of little things about it. Please help the developers by submitting the customization survey to Mike McLean!

As discussed a few days ago on this list, Carsten and the other developers are interested in what and how us users are customizing Org mode. This was first done in 2009, so a re-do of the survey is useful as is for how people are using Org now, as well as a comparison to the past.

Carsten provided the function that was used before to collect the raw data and I am working on the data collection and summarization this time around.

I have place the function on Github, https://github.com/SkydiveMike/org-customization-survey
The raw elisp is at: https://raw.github.com/SkydiveMike/org-customization-survey/master/org-customization-survey.el

All you need to do is:
1. Load and eval the function
2. Execute (interactive) org-customization-survey
3. Review the buffer, cleanse for sensitive information if any
4. Email the buffer to [email protected] (If your Emacs is configured for email, C-c C-c will send)

I’m looking forward to the results, which will most likely be posted to the Org Mode mailing list.

Curious about my Org configuration? Check out my annotated Emacs config.

Next steps for system administration

System administration is one of those things that is useful to get better at before you need it. I’ve got a lot to learn in this area. For starters, I need to set up solid backups before I can let other people into my servers to help me. That way, even if things go haywire, I should be able to get things back in order. Once that’s sorted out, I can move on to tweaking my memory and server configuration so that I can make my website more responsive, and I can work on improving my web site.

What do I need to do in terms of system administration

So much to do, one step at a time… =)