jb… a weblog by Jonathan Buys

Setting Up Webster's Dictionary

Via a post I saw today from Chris Bowler, via a newsletter by Sarah Bray, discussing an article written by James Somers, wherein he describes the writing process of John McPhee1, and how he uses a good dictionary to go from last draft to finished work. The emphasis here is on a good dictionary, namely the 1913 Webster’s Unabridged. I won’t attempt to describe how wonderful the dictionary is here, James did a fantastic job of that on his blog five years ago. I will however say that I think his installation instructions for getting the dictionary usable on your Mac are out of date. Here’s the easy way to do it.

  1. Good grief! 

March 6, 2019 - 2 minute read - macos writing blogging

Inessential Thanks

I believe this will be the last I muck about with the design of the site for the foreseeable future. After being disappointed by the available themes, and further disappointed by my own design ability, I went back to basics. And by basics I mean that I found a few sites that I like the look of and copied large chunks of HTML and CSS to build a custom Jekyll theme.

January 16, 2019 - 1 minute read - jekyll blogging design

Example 50031 of Web Developers Overcomplicating Projects

I spent some time over the past couple nights adopting a new theme for the old digs here at jb. I found the beautiful Chalk theme by Nielsen Ramon and adopted my site to use it, including, finally, a working tags system. I’m quite happy with the tags, but I’m less happy with the bundled deployment system the theme shipped with.

January 11, 2019 - 4 minute read - web jekyll blogging

A Dream Jekyll App

I’ve never been 100% happy with this site. On the one hand, Jekyll lets me have full control of my content, and I never have to worry about losing any of it or having anything locked inside a database on a server somewhere. On the other hand, things like adding media is more complicated than I’d like. I’ve written scripts to help, of course, but I’d really rather have the best of both worlds.

January 7, 2019 - 2 minute read - apps mac jekyll blogging

A Fresh Coat of Paint

I spent some time remodeling the old digs here, adding a fresh coat of paint in the form of a new theme, new hosting, and a shiny new SSL lock.

March 26, 2018 - 2 minute read - jekyll blogging

Serverless Jekyll Hosting on AWS

This is a bit silly, I’ll be the first to admit. The contraption I’ve built to host this site is clearly unnecessary, especially when I could host the site on Github for free, with very little effort, but I was curious, so down the rabbit hole I went.

July 7, 2017 - 2 minute read - aws jekyll blogging

Why Blog?

Monday I was offered a new position, yesterday I accepted it. I’m hoping that this is the last time I’ll have to look for a job for a very, very long time. Having an unexpected change in your career and having to search for a new job is one of the most stressful things a person can do. It was hard, I didn’t sleep well.

February 24, 2016 - 2 minute read - writing blogging

All Mine

I’ve been experimenting with the design of this site for the past couple weeks. First, I used a default Jekyll template, slightly modified to my liking. Next, I tried out a very nice theme that made good use of hero images and included nice typography. I changed the name of the site to “INTERACT”, and briefly considered leaving it at that. Unfortunately, the more I looked at the site the more it looked like it belonged to someone else.

January 3, 2015 - 1 minute read - site hosting blogging

Marked Down

If you really, really care about Markdown, Jeff Atwood of Coding Horror and Stack Exchange fame has a new project for you. Apparently, Jeff didn’t think Markdown’s original creator’s care of the code was quite up to snuff, and decided to build a new project to more accurately codify the syntax and implementation details. All good things, if, again, you really care about such details. If, however, you are using Markdown like the majority of us: to making writing on the web a bit easier, well, this all might go by unnoticed. At least, it probably would have if Jeff had named his project anything other than “Standard Markdown”.

September 4, 2014 - 2 minute read - blogging

Small Site Update

I’ve been publishing this site with Jekyll for several years. I’m not sure exactly when I switched over from Wordpress, but it’s long enough ago that I’ve forgotten when I started.1 Over the past few weeks I’ve run into a few issues with Jekyll that have caused me to reevaluate if it was still the right choice for me. The short answer is no, the long answer is that this site is now published with my own Python script.

  1. There was, of course, Paragraphs, but I’m content to let that go. Making peace with your past, learning from your mistakes, and moving on older and wiser is the only way to live in peace. 

July 11, 2014 - 3 minute read - blogging personal

Site Design Non-Update

The site design of jb was very nearly upgraded tonight. Well, upgraded is not quite the word for it. Changed is more accurate. Even though I’m quite happy with the look and feel of the site, from time to time I get frustrated with one aspect of it or another. I’ve spent more time that I want to admit thinking about readability, fonts, font sizes, spacing, kerning, and the like, but occasionally I’ll look at another site and think “that looks good”. And then mine looks like crap for a day or so.

March 23, 2014 - 2 minute read - blogging personal

Bigfoot Footnotes in Jekyll

Like the good doctor, I knew as soon as I saw Bigfoot that I would be adding it to this site. 1 I’ve avoided footnotes up till now because the HTML formatting for them seemed far too fiddley, and the Jekyll Markdown processor I was using did not support them.

  1. I’ve always liked footnotes. 

December 27, 2013 - 1 minute read - tech jekyll blogging

Vim Power

vim_iconNo server, desktop, or laptop install is complete without Vim, and yet, there are times when I still see questions pop up on IRC about how to do basic editing of config files with vi. I remember, years ago, asking some of the same questions of an older Unix guru, and asking why I should bother learning such an eccentric and “outdated” text editor. His answer has stuck with me, he said “Because it is the only text editor guaranteed to be on every server, and some day you will need it, and have no other alternatives.” Vim, short for “vi improved” is ubiquitous, but it is also so much more, and the time you spend learning it will be repaid to you tenfold in productivity.

January 28, 2013 - 5 minute read - blogging vim


You get good at something by doing it repeatedly. I’ve been writing on this site for six years now, but with little direction or topic. I’ve gotten good at not making anything of the site, which is not where I wanted to be when I wrote about why I kept this site in 2011. I’ve not kept to a regular schedule, or a common theme, so I am not surprised to see that the only traffic I have going to the site is my own, and a few that found the site from Google. The preceding statement will make the next seem a bit ridiculous, but bear with me.

January 26, 2013 - 2 minute read - blogging


I would like to introduce you to Scout, my desktop, baked blogging engine. I’d like to, but Scout is not quite ready yet, so I’m keeping him under wraps till I’m sure. There is only one way to be really sure, and that’s to use Scout to publish my own blog, every day.

January 15, 2013 - 3 minute read - paragraphs blogging

Writing Online

Every so often I get the inkling to make this site more than what it is. Since 2008 I’ve been writing fairly regularly here about whatever comes to mind, and in doing so I’ve covered several topics. I’ve written about Android and Mac geekery, success and failure in Mac development, business, psychology, systems administration, personal stories, and memories. More than anything, I have tried to inspire others, and sometimes, if I’m very, very lucky, I succeed.

August 21, 2011 - 3 minute read - blogging life personal

Text Editing in MacVim

The venerable BBEdit recently received a big upgrade, and looks poised to attract users of TextMate, which, by all accounts, has been abandoned by its developer. I tried to love BBEdit, but it always felt like trying on someone else’s clothes. They might look good, but that does not mean the clothes will be comfortable for you. Recent conversations about text editors on Build and Analyze led me to rethink my position, and examine in more detail how I came to choose MacVim.

August 4, 2011 - 4 minute read - vim blogging setup

Jekyll Bookmarklet

I have a handful of Automator scripts I’ve created to make maintaining this site with Jekyll just a little easier. The first script let’s me highlight some text on a web page and click a bookmarklet (or, more likely, hit the command+3 key combo), and the script creates a newly formatted Jekyll post with the highlighted text in markdown quoted syntax, and opens it in my default Markdown editor.

April 5, 2011 - 3 minute read - blogging programming javascript

Writing about Jekyll

I’m writing an article for TAB about my new blogging engine, Jekyll. I’ve taken most of the reliance on the command line out of dealing with Jekyll on a day to day basis, and instead have a few Automator workflows in the scripts menu in the Mac menubar. It’s a great setup, I’m really enjoying it. I’m sure there will be quite a bit of enhancement yet to come, but my initial workflow looks like this:

  1. Click “New Blog Post”
  2. Write the article
  3. Click “Run Jekyll”
  4. Make sure everything worked using the local webrick web server.
  5. Click “Kill Jekyll”
  6. Click “Sync Site”

Here’s what I’ve got so far in the automator workflows:

New Blog Post

First, I run the “Ask for Text” action to get the name of the post. Then, I run this script:

NAME=`echo $1 | sed s/\ /-/g`
POSTNAME=`date "+%Y-%m-%d"-$NAME`
touch $POST_FQN
echo "---" >> $POST_FQN
echo "layout: post" >> $POST_FQN
echo "title: $1" >> $POST_FQN
echo "---" >> $POST_FQN
/usr/bin/mate $POST_FQN

Run Jekyll

First, I run this script:

cd /Users/$USERNAME/Sites
/usr/bin/jekyll > /dev/null
/usr/bin/jekyll --server  > /dev/null 2>&1 &
/usr/local/bin/growlnotify --appIcon Automator Jekyll is Done -m 'And there was much rejoicing.'
echo "http://localhost:4000"

Followed by the “New Safari Document” Automator action. This runs Jekyll which converts the blog post I just wrote in markdown syntax to html, updates the site navigation, starts the local web server and opens the site in Safari to preview.

Kill Jekyll

Since I start the local server in the last step, I need to kill it in this step. This action does just that.

PID=`ps -eaf | grep "jekyll --server" | grep -v grep | awk '{ print $2 }'`
kill $PID
/usr/local/bin/growlnotify --appIcon Automator Jekyll is Dead -m 'Long Live Jekyll.'

This is entered in as a shell script action, and is the only action in this workflow.

Sync Site

Once I’m certain everything looks good, I run the final Automator action to upload the site:

cd /Users/USERNAME/Sites/_site/
rsync -avz -e ssh . USERNAME@jonathanbuys.com:/home/USERNAME/jonathanbuys.com/ > /dev/null
/usr/local/bin/growlnotify --appIcon Automator Site Sync Complete -m 'Check it out.'

This is also a single Automator action workflow. You’ll notice that I use Growl to notify me that the script is finished. This is also not really necessary, but it’s fun anyway.

Like I said, there’s a lot of improvement yet to go, but I think it’s a solid start. I’m at a point now where I’m tempted to start writing a Wordpress import feature, which seems to be the only major piece missing from the Jekyll puzzle. I’m not sure what this would take just yet, but I’ve got a few ideas. I haven’t tried uploading any images or media yet, but since everything is static, I assume it would just be a matter of placing the image in a /images folder and embedding it in html. So far, I’m having a lot of fun, and that’s what blogging is really all about.

August 25, 2009 - 3 minute read - blogging online

A Work in Progress

A few days ago I decided that I was not going to use anyone else’s theme on my site. It happened after I stumbled across another site using the exact same theme as mine. Unavoidable really, as long as you are using someone else’s theme. So, the decision was to either stop using Wordpress, or to design my own theme. I love Wordpress, so I decided to go with the latter.

Designing a web site is a strange mix of code and graphic design. In my case, I’ve had to go back to php, a language I left a long time ago, and start learning CSS. Since I’ve been fooling around in Cocoa for quite a while, going back to php is just painful. Objective-C is a beautiful programming language. Mixing php and html… well, that’s just plain ugly. However, that being said, it’s familiar territory, so I almost feel like I’m coming home. One concept that I’ve learned with Cocoa is the Modal-View-Controller method, basically separating out the presentation code from the application code (yes, I know there is a lot, lot, lot more to it than that… no I’m not going to get into it here), using CSS kind of reminds me of the MVC method, in your php/xhtml code you define what objects are going to be displayed, and in CSS you define where and how to display them. I like the separation… keeps it clean.

At any rate, I’ve been busy coming up with the overall look and feel of the site. One thing I believe about software is that simplicity always wins. At least where I’m concerned it does, that’s why I use a lot of the apps that I use, because they are simple to use. Think about the Google home page. Simple, and it wins.

I’d appreciate any comments on the design, and please keep in mind this is only a very early mockup. Also, I’m going to be using this as my avatar for everywhere that I’ve got an account online: A friend of mine, who actually is a designer, laughed when I told him about the tools I’ve been using to do the design so far. First, the initial concept was created in OmniGraffle. From OmniGraffle, I’d export it as a Photoshop file and open it in Pixelmator to add the leaves and other touch ups. Right now, that’s as far as I’ve got. I’ll finish the design in the next couple of days, and then move into chopping the file up and getting deep into some code. Hopefully, I’ll have this finished in two or three weeks.

February 19, 2009 - 2 minute read - blogging mac setup

MobileMe is not a Blogging Platform

I thought I’d try OSZen on MobileMe yesterday, to see if I could consolidate even more of my online accounts. Unfortunately, the limitations of both iWeb and RapidWeaver became quickly apparent. I pointed 1and1’s DNS servers at MobileMe, and uploaded an iWeb site. I liked the theme, but the first thing that struck me as odd was the URL. In iWeb I configured the site’s name to be OSZen, and to use the Blog page as the home page, but the URL turned out to be http://oszen.net/OSZen/blog/blog.html which for the home page was just ridiculous.

December 24, 2008 - 2 minute read - apple online blogging

Poor Web Apps

I just spent the past 10 minutes trying to get this article I wrote for BrightHub posted using their online writers application. I’m not sure what language they are using, or what platform the site is running on, but I tried Chrome, Firefox, and finally, out of desperation, Internet Explorer 7, all with the same results. Almost every time I would try to preview the article before submitting it, the application would wipe out everything I just typed. Everything.

October 16, 2008 - 1 minute read - blogging online