Tag archives for: blogging

Blogging with Emacs and Pelican

Pelican is my blogging engine of choice these days. Given that Emacs is usually (though not always) my text editor of choice, it made sense to try and streamline the process of writing blog entries for Pelican with Emacs. What follows is my attempt to document such an endeavour, partly because I think it might be useful to the (undoubtedly tiny) cross section of people who use both Emacs and Pelican, but mostly so that I have something to refer back to when the need arises.

Note that this blog entry does not cover things like actually setting up your Pelican blog. It also doesn't cover my reasons for using Pelican in the first place; for that, feel free to peruse my other blog entry on the subject.

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On the Irony of Using Static Site Generators

As I've mentioned before, I've recently switched to pelican as my blogging engine.

Pelican is a static site generator. This means that it generates static HTML files using templates and content as input, which can be then uploaded (via rsync, for example) to a plain vanilla web server (I use nginx).

So far the experience has been fairly smooth. The web server setup is much simpler, since there's no application to run. And it's forced me to re-think what kinds of information I want on my pages. For example, in an effort to avoid regenerating the entire site every time I publish an article, I created standalone index pages for tags, categories and archives rather than display the counts on every page.

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Moving to Pelican

After a good run, I've decided to retire YAWT for the time being. I found the workflow I set up to be a bit complicated, and I found myself wanting to concentrate more on writing rather than the nitty-gritty of publishing. I also got a bit tired of the lone wolf thing and I wanted to try using piece of software that other people actually use.

But I still liked the basics of my workflow. I still liked writing blog entries with a standard text editor (Emacs in my case). I still liked the idea of keeping my site under source control, as plain files. In other words, I did not want to switch to Wordpress.

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YAWT Lives!

I started this blog 4 years ago, got a few entries in, and then promptly shut the whole thing down when it got overrun with spam. I have now resurrected it, using a new version of YAWT written in python which, for lack of a better name, I shall call YAWT 2.0.

At some point, I hope to write an article on the features of YAWT 2.0, but for the moment I'm just happy this thing is working again. Somewhat working, anyway; comments are still deactivated until I figure out how to do it properly.

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Comments and Trackbacks Have Been Deactivated

When I started this blog, I didn't expect very much in the way of comments or trackbacks. I also didn't expect any spam, which means I didn't take any precautions. I mean, how would anybody even know about this blog?

Silly, silly me.

So, I have turned off comments and trackbacks until I figure out a reasonably reliable way of separating the spam from the ham. This will probably entail a bit of a rewrite of YAWT as I figure out a way to do this in a clean and modular manner. Why make it easy on myself when I can make it hard?

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New Blog

So I got myself a new weblog, hosted on Netfirms. I'm not particularly enjoying the Netfirms experience, but it was only $10 for a year and I get SSH access. They're quite skimpy with the perl modules, forcing me to install a bunch of stuff in my home directory.

I'm using a homemade blogging program because I got tired of blosxom's ugliness and I didn't really like what I saw of Bryar. I'm calling it YAWT in my head - short for Yet Another Weblog Tool. I'm hoping to extend it at some point to handle photo galleries in a seamless and efficient manner - my last attempt to write an online photo manager was quite slow. We'll see.

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Blosxom Warts

At the moment I'm using blosxom to generate this blog. I'm using blosxom for the following reasons:

  • the HTML is completely under my control.

  • there is no database or PHP required.

  • the codebase is tiny, which means I have a better chance of fixing whatever problems crop up and also of integrating it into my site.

So far, it seems to work okay. My blog looks more or less the way I want it to. More specifically, it looks like it's a seamless part of my web site, which is exactly the effect I was after.

That being said, I'm finding that blosxom has a few warts:

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Markdown Is Cool

I'm using Markdown to write this blog entry. I've converted all my other entries to use Markdown as well. Markdown is cool.

One of the annoying things about Blosxom (and perhaps other blogging tools) is the need to write the entries in HTML. Now, I have nothing against HTML and, as I've mentioned before, I insist on having full control over the HTML that gets used on my site, especially for layout purposes. But for writing actual text, I find the markup a bit tedious, especially since I always end up using the same tags over and over again.

The markup in my blog entries consists almost entirely of paragraph, emphasis, list, and link tags. These tags (with the possible exception of links) all represent natural artifacts in written language. And these artifacts all have natural textual representations.

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Joining the Rest of Mankind

So I've finally gotten a blog. They've only been around for, what? Ten years? I guess I'm not a bandwagon jumper.

Lately though, there've been a couple of instance where a) I've had an opinion that I wanted to share with the world and b) I didn't feel like writing a full-blown essay to express it. I guess this is where a blog fits the bill.

Anyway, after reviewing various blogging options I've finally settled on Blosxom as my blogging tool. At the moment I think this is the best option for me because:

  • it's extremely lightweight. The core package consists of a single Perl script having less than 500 lines.

  • it doesn't use a database. Blog entries are just text files, and can be edited with your favourite text editor. Databases, in my opinion, are overused in these sorts of applications.

  • there's no PHP to set up, no special Apache modules to install, unless you count mod_cgi, which I don't because it's pretty standard on most Apache installations.

  • the HTML is completely customizable by hand. I don't like applications which spit out HTML I can't control.

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