This is a copy of a newsletter I try to get out each month. It goes direct to newsletter subscribers. You can enjoy it straight to your mailbox by signing up here.
I’ve started making YANA
I mentioned in the last update I was thinking about making a notes app. In the last couple of weeks I made a start.
The App is called YANA (you can guess what that stands for, right?) and it will be a web-based application. Eventually, hopefully, something subscription based for others to use too.
I take notes all the time and whilst Notes on macOS/iOS has served me well, it has always been a little clunky, and obviously hopeless if you ever want your notes on another device (Android, Windows, Linux).
I wanted something that took the best part of Notes (and not the ruddy auto-correct!) and simplified things further still, allowing incredibly rapid searching and creation of notes you can access anywhere.
I have lots of features planned but aim to get the MVP up and running first.
Worst case, it’ll be something only I enjoy using. Best case, something many do!
YANA is going to be my new ‘30 mins a night’ project so I’ll be updating you on progress with each newsletter, even if just the odd screen-shot or feature description.
So far I’ve only got as far as getting Node, Express and MongoDB setup and a basic Gulp build file made for rudimentary developer ergonomics as I hack away.
Svelte or lit-html?
I’m a big fan of lit-html having used it extensively for a year or so now, day-to-day, for building prototypes.
I’m currently debating whether to use that client-side for YANA (see above) or give Svelte a whirl.
Svelte appeals to me in a way that React never has. Besides the fact React comes from Facebook, I just never felt the pull to React that others have. I find peoples willingness, indeed eagerness, to pull in a framework with its associated page weight to do the most basic of jobs baffling.
Svelte on the other hand, with its ability to compile away, seems more aligned with my sensibilities. Anyway, maybe by the next update I’ll have made a decision.
Design IS development
Thankfully I caught myself and forced myself to get some designs made in the first instance to head off as many dead-ends as possible before getting to code.
Moving from Sketch to Figma
Last time I designed something ‘app like’, I did it in Sketch, but I’m using Linux currently so that’s not possible. Thankfully, I had Figma to turn to. And if you ever wanted a demonstration of just how good a browser based application can be, Figma isn’t a bad place to start!
It took an evening or so to feel competent in Figma, and now, I already think I prefer it to Sketch. Obviously it helps that, for now at least, it’s free for lone-gunmen!
Moved to Fedora 32
Again, comments on my blog have proven to be worth writing the piece for. Someone (thanks Gour) suggested Fedora and also Fish shell, both of which I am now using.
I do miss using Tilix a little, which is a Terminal that shoots in from the top of the screen on keypress, and also Thunderbird is still in low-res mode currently in Fedora 32. However, these are minor grievances. Thunderbird will be HiDPI there soon and thanks to the fantastic window-snapping shortcuts of Linux, the standard Terminal is serving me fine.
Ubuntu and Fedora are certainly very similar but I just feel at home on Fedora. Just something about the design feels better to me. Plus the 4K display settings just work, without oddly resetting every so often, as they did on Ubuntu.
After the piece on Linux, a couple of people reached out on Twitter and the post comments to tell me about the ‘Compose’ key in Linux. This is something that feels conceptually similar to a leader key in Vim. You set a ‘compose’ key (mine is set to the right ‘Alt’ key) and then type a series of keys to get the symbol you want. For example, an em dash would be ‘compose key’ and then
---. The UK pound symbol is ‘compose key’ followed by
L-. One more, an accented letter ‘a’ would be ‘compose key’ followed by
a and then a backtick.
One thing that as a pain to setup on Fedora 32 though was Docker. Wait, what? Did he say Docker. Yes, nerds. I’ve been getting schooled on Docker by Craig Buckler who let me take an advance look at his ‘Docker for Web Designers’ course.
Docker Book from Craig Buckler
I knew the sum total of nothing about Docker a month ago. Well, I had a vague idea about what it was conceptually, but nothing more. I knew the nerds downstairs at work got excited about it from time to time but that was it. I certainly didn’t appreciate what it could do for the average web developer.
Now I tend to only have a few things on the go personally, but if you freelance and regularly have to work on multiple projects on different stacks, I’d say you’re missing a trick if you haven’t looked at Docker yet.
Anyway, I don’t want to steal the book/courses thunder. Go take a look for yourself. It’s going to be on offer for $50 for book and videos to begin with.
My Sony XM3 headphones broke
I loved my Sony XM3s. But then they broke — and not through any fault of my own. I always treated them with great care. However, apparently, this is a well-known and common grievance, as the Sony user forums testify.
I was pretty annoyed as they were very expensive for a set of headphones. I got onto Amazon customer service and despite me having owned them for over a year, they offered to take them back and provide a refund. I really felt I dodged a bullet there but also felt bad for all the other owners who weren’t lucky enough to be offered a full refund.
Long story short: I can’t recommend the Sony XM3s anymore. For all their plus points, something of that nature should last well beyond a year and Sony should stand by their product and provide free repairs to those effected; it’s clearly a manufacturing/design issue.
As a replacement, for now I’ve picked a pair from Amazon made by Boltune for £50 which get me about 80% of the Sony performance for nearly 15% of the cost!
W4H, new KVM and incoming office chair from Autonomous
After the last one of these newsletters I delivered on the promise of a uses page. I’ve already had to update it quite a bit as I make amendments to my working setup and software.
One thing I kept having problems with, was a decent way to switch my monitor between my work MacBook Pro and my own Intel NUC. I thought I had it cracked with a Sabrent USB-C based switch but I found out that wasn’t outputting audio via HDMI so I couldn’t get any sound out of the NUC.
I ended up returning that and picking up a unbranded ‘AV Access’ HDMI KVM switch that not only works perfectly, it also comes with a little IR remote control which has meant I can attach the switch and cables to the underside of the standing desk and switch inputs with the click of a remote. It doesn’t need anything like line-of-sight to work so I’m pretty happy about that — plus it cost less than the Sabrent I had returned!
Hopefully the final piece of the working from home setup that is on the way is an ErgoChair 2 from Autonomous. I’d borrowed a chair from work in the interim but the ErgoChair 2 promises something approaching Herman Miller Aeron levels of comfort and adjustment for a fraction of the price. Full review on that coming once I’ve got it and spent a couple of weeks with it.
Books and learning
I’ve been light on reading since our commutes have disappeared (my Audible subscription is on pause). However, one thing I have enjoyed, learning wise, is Daniel Shiffman AKA Coding Train on YouTube. I watched the section on working with data APIs and this guys enthusiasm is fantastic. Highly recommended.
Other than that I’ve been trying to wrap my head around all things ‘full-stack’ as I attempt to get to grips with making an API, populating a MongoDB and considering all the possibilities that Node offers.
That’s all for this month. Thanks for reading. Hope to see you again next time.