31/12 2019
Color Conundrum

This piece aims to highlight (pun intended) some of the reasons behind my color free editor setup.

Imagine highlighting an entire book because all of it is important. That is exactly what (most) syntax highlighting does. It is difficult for the human eye to filter out noise in rainbow barf. Use color to draw attention, not diverge it.

At the same time, a book devoid of color is boring! What is the takeaway from this 10 line paragraph? What are the technical terms used?

Prose and code are certainly different, but the fickle minded human eye is the same. The eye constantly looks for a frame of reference, a focal point. It grows tired when it can’t find one.

The following comparison does a better job of explaining (none, ample and over-the-top highlighting, from left to right):


Without highlighting (far left), it is hard to differentiate between comments and code! The florid color scheme (far right) is no good either, it contains too many attention grabbers. The center sample is a healthy balance of both. Function calls and constants stand out, and repetitive keywords and other noise (let, as) are mildly dimmed out. Comments and non-code text (sign column, status text) are dimmed further.

I’ll stop myself before I rant about color contrast and combinations.

23/11 2019
Static Sites With Bash

After going through a bunch of static site generators (pelican, hugo, vite), I decided to roll my own. If you are more of the ‘show me the code’ kinda guy, here you go.

Text formatting: I chose to write in markdown, and convert to html with lowdown.

Directory structure: I host my site on GitHub pages, so docs/ has to be the entry point. Markdown formatted posts go into posts/, get converted into html, and end up in docs/index.html, something like this:

posts=$(ls -t ./posts)     # chronological order!
for f in $posts; do
    file="./posts/"$f      # `ls` mangled our file paths
    echo "generating post $file"

    html=$(lowdown "$file")
    echo -e "html" >> docs/index.html

Assets: Most static site generators recommend dropping image assets into the site source itself. That does have it’s merits, but I prefer hosting images separately:

# strip file extension

# generate a random file name
id=$( cat /dev/urandom | tr -dc 'a-zA-Z0-9' | fold -w 2 | head -n 1 )

# copy to my file host
scp -P 443 "$1" emerald:files/"$id" 
echo "https://files.nerdypepper.tech/$id"

Templating: generate.sh brings the above bits and pieces together (with some extra cruft to avoid javascript). It uses sed to produce nice titles from the file names (removes underscores, title-case), and date(1) to add the date to each post listing!

07/11 2019
My Setup

Decided to do one of these because everyone does one of these.


My entire setup is managed with GNU stow, making it easier to replicate on fresh installations. You can find my configuration files on GitHub.

I run Void Linux (glibc) on my HP Envy 13" (2018). To keep things simple, I run a raw X session with 2bwm as my window manager, along with dunst (notification daemon) and Sam’s compton (compositor) fork.

I am a fan of GNU tools, so I use bash as my shell, and coreutils to manage files, archives, strings, paths etc. I edit files with vim, chat with weechat, listen to music with cmus, monitor processes with htop, manage sessions with tmux, read pdfs in zathura. I rarely ever leave the comfort of my terminal emulator, urxvt.

Most of my academic typesetting is done with TeX, and compiled with xelatex. Other fun documents are made with GIMP :).

12/10 2019
WPA Woes

I finally got around to installing Void GNU/Linux on my main computer. Rolling release, non-systemd, need I say more?

As with all GNU/Linux distributions, wireless networks had me in a fix. If you can see this post, it means I’ve managed to get online. It turns out, wpa_supplicant was detecting the wrong interface by default (does it ever select the right one?). Let us fix that:

$ sudo rm -r /var/service/wpa_supplicant
$ sudo killall dhcpcd

What is the right interface though?

$ iw dev
   Interface wlp2s0

Aha! Let us run wpa_supplicant on that interface, as a background process:

$ sudo wpa_supplicant -B -i wlp2s0 -c /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
$ sudo dhcpcd -B wlp2s0
$ ping google.com
PING ...

Yay! Make those changes perpetual by enabling the service:

# Add these to /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
$ sudo ln -s /etc/sv/wpa_supplicant /var/service/
$ sudo ln -s /etc/sv/dhcpcd /var/service/
$ sudo sv restart wpa_supplicant
$ sudo sv restart dhcpcd
07/08 2019
Bye Bye BDFs

Glyph Bitmap Distribution Format is no more, as the creators of Pango, one of the most widely used text rendering libraries, announced their plans for Pango 1.44.

Until recently, Pango used FreeType to draw fonts. They will be moving over to Harfbuzz, an evolution of FreeType.


In short, FreeType was hard to work with. It required complex logic, and provided no advantage over Harfbuzz (other than being able to fetch opentype metrics with ease).

Upgrading to Pango v1.44 will break your GTK applications (if you use a bdf/pcf bitmap font). Harfbuzz does support bitmap-only OpenType fonts, otbs. Convert your existing fonts over to otbs using FontForge. It is to be noted that applications such as xterm and rxvt use xft (X FreeType) to render fonts, and will remain unaffected by the update.

Both scientifica and curie will soon ship with bitmap-only OpenType font formats.

02/08 2019
Onivim Sucks

Onivim is a ‘modern modal editor’, combining fancy interface and language features with vim-style modal editing. What’s wrong you ask?

Apart from buggy syntax highlighting, broken scrolling and others, Onivim is proprietary software. It is licensed under a commercial end user agreement license, which prohibits redistribution in both object code and source code formats.

Onivim’s core editor logic (bits that belong to vim), have been separated from the interface, into libvim. libvim is licensed under MIT, which means, this ‘extension’ of vim is perfectly in adherence to vim’s license text! Outrun Labs are exploiting this loophole (distributing vim as a library) to commercialize Onivim.

Onivim’s source code is available on GitHub. They do mention that the source code trickles down to the oni2-mit repository, which (not yet) contains MIT-licensed code, 18 months after each commit to the original repository.

Want to contribute to Onivim? Don’t. They make a profit out of your contributions. Currently, Onivim is priced at $19.99, ‘pre-alpha’ pricing which is 80% off the final price! If you are on the lookout for an editor, I would suggest using Vim, charity ware that actually works, and costs $100 lesser.

31/07 2019
Bash Harder With Vim

Bash is tricky, don’t let your editor get in your way. Here’s a couple of neat additions you could make to your vimrc for a better shell programming experience.

Man pages inside vim

Source this script to get started:

runtime ftplugin/man.vim

Now, you can open manpages inside vim with :Man! It adds nicer syntax highlighting and the ability to jump around with Ctrl-] and Ctrl-T.

By default, the manpage is opened in a horizontal split, I prefer using a new tab:

let g:ft_man_open_mode = 'tab'

Scratchpad to test your commands

I often test my sed substitutions, here is a sample from the script used to generate this site:

# a substitution to convert snake_case to Title Case With Spaces
echo "$1" | sed -E -e "s/\..+$//g"  -e "s/_(.)/ \u\1/g" -e "s/^(.)/\u\1/g"

Instead of dropping into a new shell, just test it out directly from vim!

  • Yank the line into a register:

  • Paste it into the command-line window:

  • Make edits as required:

    syntax off            # previously run commands
    edit index.html       # in a buffer!
    w | so %
    !echo "new_post.md" | sed -E -e "s/\..+$//g"  --snip--
    ^--- note the use of '!'
  • Hit enter with the cursor on the line containing your command!

    $ vim
    New Post         # output
    Press ENTER or type command to continue
30/07 2019
Hold Position!

Often times, when I run a vim command that makes “big” changes to a file (a macro or a :vimgrep command) I lose my original position and feel disoriented.

Save position with winsaveview()!

The winsaveview() command returns a Dictionary that contains information about the view of the current window. This includes the cursor line number, cursor coloumn, the top most line in the window and a couple of other values, none of which concern us.

Before running our command (one that jumps around the buffer, a lot), we save our view, and restore it once its done, with winrestview.

let view = winsaveview()
s/\s\+$//gc              " find and (confirm) replace trailing blanks
winrestview(view)        " restore our original view!

It might seem a little overkill in the above example, just use “ (double backticks) instead, but it comes in handy when you run your file through heavier filtering.

29/07 2019
Get Better At Yanking And Putting In Vim
  1. reselecting previously selected text (i use this to fix botched selections):

    gv  " :h gv for more
        " you can use `o` in visual mode to go to the `Other` end of the selection
        " use a motion to fix the selection
  2. reselecting previously yanked text:

    `[         " marks the beginning of the previously yanked text   :h `[
    `]         " marks the end                                       :h `]
     v         " visual select everything in between
    nnoremap gb `[v`]    " "a quick map to perform the above
  3. pasting and indenting text (in one go):

    ]p   " put (p) and adjust indent to current line
    ]P   " put the text before the cursor (P) and adjust indent to current line