The sky above the port was the color of television, tuned to a dead channel.

Opening lines matter, and I’d forgotten how good Neuromancer‘s is. More than 20 years since I read it, almost 30 since it was written. Sheesh.

One of the disadvantages of being an old-time blogger is that I signed up, long ago, to the idea that good URLs remain stable. See, it must have been a long time ago: we still called them ‘URLs’.

Turns out, pretty much everyone reneged on that pact. Looking back through my archives, I’m stunned by how many links are broken. Usually, the linked-to article still exists, but the address has changed and there’s no redirect in place (or the redirect is itself broken).

Given how hard I’ve worked to maintain stable URLs for my sites — including, at one point, manually coding 400+ rewrite special-cases from a particularly crazy CMS-from-hell — I’m disappointed. You hear me, internet? I’m disappointed in you. All of you.


I recently pulled an all-nighter, partly to see if I still could.

It was surprisingly OK. I did have a short nap in the small hours, and another the following afternoon, but I was mostly functional. Sure, I wouldn’t have driven a car, and in conversation I was pretty random, but the stuff I was working on turns out to be pretty good. So how was the recovery?

I slept for eleven hours straight, then the following afternoon for another three.

Drat. Not as young as I used to be.

Turns out the solution to my broken Staticmatic install was as simple as:

bundle install

Yeah. That simple. Durr. But big respect for Bundler, a simple tool that solves a subtle problem – in this case downgrading the versions of a bunch of gems, rolling them back to whatever I built this system with in the first place, but doing all that only within this project.

Yeah, I know that’s what it does, but I didn’t really know that’s what it does. I should probably RTFM for some of this stuff.

I have an Aperture library named ‘Fish and Stirling Engines’. It contains pictures of fish… and Stirling engines.


They’re not very good photos.


Fanfare, Golden Bull, Ocean Shanghai (left to right) moored off the coast at Tynemouth. Three more large vessels are out of shot – see MarineTraffic.

The light’s nicer right now, might go and have another try.

Update: it’s snowing. Hard. Hard enough that I can no longer see the ships. Stuff that.

Update 2: Chris Hadfield has posted an alternative view of these ships. They’re the little specs bottom-right of the photo in this tweet (click for full-res):

— Hadfield is in space. Cool.

I’ve been using MarsEdit for quite some time. Long enough that the ‘local drafts’ folder has unfinished posts dating back to 2004.

2004? Sheesh.

For giggles, another exploration in this series is a completely different animal, namely Octopress. Now, I’m not a complete stranger to command-line static site generators – I built in StaticMatic, later adding a blog using the same templates and stylesheet driven by Melody (the open-source Movable Type 4 fork). Both are now dead projects, so I’ve some interest in revamping that site too.

Problems strike immediately, as the Octopress install instructions require a recent Git (currently: some old crap), and RVM (broken, somewhere). These are easy enough to fix, but in installing Ruby 1.9.something under a new RVM I seem to have nuked my gem set. Which means I’ve now completely broken StaticMatic. Oh, drat. This, incidentally, is why normal, sane, well-adjusted people shy away from command-line tools. If you live in them every day then all is well, but if you only sort-of understand them there are so many ways of screwing things up by accident, it’s just not funny.

Aaanyway: with the prerequisites sorted, time to move onto Octopress itself. And it works. OK, so I had some path problems with the configuration system, but once I’d got those sorted rsync deploy locally worked well, and the default output is pretty nice. I’m a big fan of the prebuilt video player, too. That’s the sort of thing that makes my life an awful lot simpler.

The rake/Jekyll import from WordPress worked well, and in principle I could redeploy my blog on Octopress almost immediately. So why haven’t I? Well, I may yet, but my hesitations at the moment are about time.

Publish time is an issue. On my Mac Pro, rebuilding after adding a new post takes about four minutes. It’s a single-threaded sort of thing, so I suspect my laptop would be slightly quicker (SSD, and all that), but I’m concerned that’s long enough to discourage quick posting. I note with interest that one of my favourite bloggers, having jumped to Octopress, set up a Kirby blog for quick posts. Well, to replace a Tumblr, but the point remains.

My other time issue is tinkering and learning time. While the default theme looks nice enough, it’s not completely to my taste. Delving into it is where the wheels start to come off, for me – hence my brief post yesterday. Notably, there’s precious little documentation and very few code comments on what the heck is going on in the templates and stylesheets. I love Compass, but I need help getting my head around someone else’s code of this complexity, and I suspect this is why so many Octopress blogs have stuck with the default.

Now, they’ve also stuck with the defaults because there’s plain good decision-making involved here. Octopress is opinionated software, and while I don’t agree with the choice made by the Hibari folks, most of Octopress slots nicely into my thinking about blogging. Which is cool.

I doubt I’m going to take the plunge just yet, but it’s good to know the option exists. It’s a radical platform, but I can see why so many geeks are enjoying it.