Cleaning up UTF-8 character entities when exporting from WordPress to Jekyll

I’ve been experimenting with converting this blog to Jekyll or another static blog generator. I’m sticking with Jekyll at the moment due to its ease of use and its plugin environment. The main idea behind this is to reduce the resource consumption and hopefully also speed up the delivery of the blog. In fact, there is a static version of the blog available right now, even though it’s kinda pre-alpha and not always up to date. The Jekyll version also doesn’t have the comments set up yet nor does it have a theme I like, so it’s still very much work in slow progress.

To export the contents from WordPress to Jekyll I use the surprisingly named WordPress to Jekyll exporter plugin. This plugin dumps the whole WordPress data including pictures into a zip file in a format that is mostly markdown grokked by Jekyll. It doesn’t convert all the links to markdown, so the generated files need some manual cleanup. One problem I keep running into is that the exporter dumps out certain UTF-8 character entities as their numerical code. Unfortunately when processing the data with Jekyll afterwards, those UTF-8 entities get turned into strings that are displayed as is. Please note I’m not complaining about this functionality, I’d rather have this information preserved so I can rework it later on. So I wrote a script to help with this task.

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Building Emacs 25.2 on XUbuntu 17.04

I haven’t done much with Ubuntu recently, but had to set up a laptop with XUbuntu 17.04. That came with Emacs 24.5 as the default emacs package, and as skeeto pointed out in the comments, with a separate emacs25 package for Emacs 25.1. I tend to run the latest release Emacs everywhere out of habit, so I revisited my build instructions to build a current Emacs on Ubuntu and its derivates. The good news is that in thanks to some changes in the Emacs build, the build is as straightforward as it used to be prior to the combination of Ubuntu 16.10 and Emacs 25.1. In other words, no need to remember to switch off PIE as was necessary when building GNU Emacs 25.1 on Ubuntu 16.10.

Here’s a brief recap of the build steps so you don’t have to go back and click your way through my old posts.

First, if you haven’t enabled the ‘source code’ repository in Ubuntu’s software sources, do so now. If you don’t, you’ll run into the following error when installing the build dependencies for Emacs:

E: You must put some 'source' URIs in your sources.list

Assuming you have added the source code repositories to your software sources, execute the following commands. The first command installs the build tools, the second one installs all the build dependencies for the stock Emacs build. Those dependencies will give you a fully functioning GUI Emacs. If you need additional third party libraries for additional functionality that aren’t covered by the regular Ubuntu Emacs build dependencies, make sure you install those also. I usually go with the stock configuration so for me, these are the two commands I need to run:

sudo apt install build-essential
sudo apt build-dep emacs25

On my fresh install of XUbuntu 17.04, the build-essential packages were already installed, so it may not be necessary to execute that step any longer. However, it was necessary in the past so I’m still leaving it in there as it makes sure you have the normal build setup.

You can install the build-deps for either the emacs or the emacs24 package instead of the one for the emacs25 package as I show in the example above. They all appear to install the same dependencies as trying to install all three doesn’t appear to result in any additional packages being installed.

At this point, it’s time to download the GNU Emacs 25.2 tarball from your favourite GNU mirror, extract it to a suitable place and do the usual configure/make/make install dance. I prefer to install my home built binaries in a local subtree in my user directory, hence the $HOME/local prefix passed to configure:

./configure --prefix=$HOME/local
make && make install

At this point, we’re good to go:

timo-xubuntu-VirtualBox% emacs --version
GNU Emacs 25.2.1
Copyright (C) 2017 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
GNU Emacs comes with ABSOLUTELY NO WARRANTY.
You may redistribute copies of GNU Emacs
under the terms of the GNU General Public License.
For more information about these matters, see the file named COPYING.

The instructions above will also work for building Emacs 25.2 on older versions of Ubuntu, although you have to make sure that you pick the correct build-dep package to install the build dependencies first.

Why I don’t like getter and setter functions in C++, reason #314.15

This is a post I wrote several years ago and it’s been languishing in my drafts folder ever since. I’m not working on this particular codebase any more. That said, the problems caused by using Java-like getter and setter functions as the sole interface to an object in the context described in the post have a bigger impact these days as they will also affect move construction and move assignment. While I’m not opposed to using getter and setter functions in C++ in general, I am opposed to using them as the only member access method and especially in this particular context where they had to be used to initialise class members that were complex objects themselves.

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Tracking down why the iOS mail app couldn’t retrieve my email over an LTE connection

We all love the odd debugging story, so I finally sat down and wrote up how I debugged a configuration issue that got in the way of the iOS mail app’s ability to retrieve email while I was on the go.

tl;dr – iOS Mail uses IPV6 to access you email server when the server supports IPV6 and doesn’t fall back to IPV4 if the IPV6 connection attempt fails. If if fails, you don’t get an error, but you don’t get any email either.

The long story of why I sporadically couldn’t access my email from the iOS 10 Mail app

Somewhere around the time of upgrading my iPhone 6 to iOS 10 or even iOS 10.2, I lost the ability to check my email using the built-in iOS Mail app over an LTE connection. I am not really able to nail down the exact point in time was because I used Spark for a little while on my phone. Spark is a very good email app and I like it a lot, but it turned out that I’m not that much of an email power user on the go. I didn’t really need Spark as Apple had added the main reason for my Spark usage to the built-in Mail app. In case you’re wondering, it’s the heuristics determining which folder you want to move an email to that allow both Spark and now Mail to suggest a usually correct destination folder when you want to move the message.

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RTFM, or how to make unnecessary work for yourself editing inf-mongo

Turns out I made some unnecessary “work” for myself when I tried to add support for command history to inf-mongo.

As Mickey over at Mastering Emacs points out in a blog post, comint mode already comes with M-n and M-p mapped to comint-next-input and comint-previous-input. Of course these keybindings work in inf-mongo right out of the box. I still prefer using M-up and M-down, plus I learned a bit about sparse key maps and general interaction with comint-mode. So from that perspective, no time was wasted although it wasn’t strictly necessary to put in the work.

But with Emacs being the box of wonders it is, it’s still fun to learn about features and new ways of doing things even after using it for a couple of decades.

There are a more gems hidden in Mickey’s blog post so if you’re using anything that is based on comint, I would really recommend reading it.

Extending inf-mongo to support scrolling through command history

I’m spending a lot of time in the MongoDB shell at the moment, so of course I went to see if someone had built an Emacs mode to support the MongoDB shell. Google very quickly pointed me at endofunky’s inf-mongo mode, which implements a basic shell interaction mode with MongoDB using comint. We have a winner, well, almost. The mode does exactly what it says on the tin, but I wanted a little more, namely being able to scroll through my command history. Other repl modes like Cider have this functionality already, so it couldn’t be too hard to implement, could it?

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The challenges of preserving digital content

Since the majority of content is going digital, a problem archivists have been bringing up for a while now, it’s becoming harder preserving digital content. This is the case even when it is not what would be considered old by the standards of other historic documents created by humanity. A lot of this is made worse by rapid changes in storage formats.

Case in point – the efforts required to preserve even recent movies as described in this article on IEEE Spectrum. As the article mentions, we’ve already lost access to 90% of US movies made during the silent area and about 50% of movies made before 1950. I suspect that the numbers for the European film industry might be even worse thanks to World War 2. However, keep in mind that those are numbers for movies stored on a more durable medium, namely film. And yes, I know that the early nitrate film is about as flammable as they come.

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Installing a Java 8 JDK on OS X using Homebrew

Update: The title of this post isn’t quite correct – using the homebrew cask mentioned in this blog post will install the current major version of the Oracle JDK. If you want to install a specific major version of the JDK (6 or 8 at the time of writing), I describe how to do that in this new blog post.

I’ve had a ‘manual’ install of JDK 8 on my Mac for quite a while, mainly to run Clojure. It was the typical “download from the Oracle website, then manually run the installer” deployment. As I move the management of more development tools from manual management over to homebrew, I decided to use homebrew to manage my Java installation also. It’s just so much easier to get updates and update information all in one place. Oh, and installs the same JDK anyway, just without all the additional pointy clicky work.

Removing the existing installation

Fortunately Oracle has uninstall operations on their website. It’s a rather manual approach but at least it is documented and the whole procedure consists of three commands. Unfortunately in my case this didn’t end up uninstalling an older version of the JDK. For some reason, I had ended up with both 1.8.0_60 and 1.8.0_131 installed on my machine, and Oracle’s uninstall instructions didn’t touch the 1.8.0_60 install in /System/Library/Frameworks/JavaVM.framework. I suspect this is an older JDK brought over from the Yosemite install and the consensus on the Internet I could find suggest to leave that alone as the system needs those.

Apparently in older versions of OS X is was possible to run /usr/libexec/java_home -uninstall to get rid of a Java install, but that option does not appear to work in OS X Sierra anymore

Installing Java using Homebrew

The installation via homebrew is about as simple as expected. I have cask installed already, so for me it’s a simple matter of running

brew cask install java

and it will install the latest Oracle JDK. You can use

brew cask info java

to verify which version it will install.

If you haven’t got homebrew installed, follow the installation instructions on docs.brew.sh and also make sure that you install cask:

brew tap caskroom/cask

After re-installing the JDK using homebrew, java_home also finally reports the correct version:

odie-pro:~ timo$ /usr/libexec/java_home
/Library/Java/JavaVirtualMachines/jdk1.8.0_131.jdk/Contents/Home
odie-pro:~ timo$

Manjaro Linux and AMD RX 470, revisited

I’ve blogged about getting Manjaro Linux to work with my AMD RX 470 before. The method described in that post got my AMD RX 470 graphics card working with the default 4.4 kernel. This worked fine – with the usual caveats regarding VESA software rendering – until I tried to upgrade to newer versions of the kernel.

My understanding is that the 4.4 kernel series doesn’t include drivers for the relatively recent AMD RX 470 GPUs, whereas later kernel series (4.8 and 4.9 specifically) do. Unfortunately trying to boot into a 4.9 kernel resulted in the X server locking up so well that even the usual Alt-Fx didn’t get me to a console to fix the problem.

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Fixing package download performance problems in Manjaro Linux

My adventures with Manjaro Linux continue and I’ve even moved my “craptop” – a somewhat ancient Lenovo X240 that I use as a semi-disposable travel laptop – from XUbuntu to Manjaro Linux. But that’s a subject for another blog post. Today, I wanted to write about package download performance issues I started encountering on my desktop recently and how I managed to fix them.

I was trying to install terminator this morning and kept getting errors from Pamac that the downloads timed out. Looking at the detailed output, I noticed it was trying to download the packages from a server in South Africa, which isn’t exactly in my neighbourhood. Pamac doesn’t appear to have an obvious way to update the mirror list like the Ubuntu flavours do, but a quick dive into the command line helped me fix the issue.

First, update and rank the mirror list:

sudo pacman-mirrors -g

Inspecting /etc/pacman.d/mirrorlist after running the above commands showed that the top ranked mirrors now are listed in the US with very short response times.

After updating the mirrors, it’s time to re-sync the package databases:

sudo pacman -Syy

Now with the new, faster mirrors ranked accordingly, I suddenly get my Manjaro packages and package updates at the full speed of my Internet connection rather than having hit and miss updates that take forever to install.