All My Dotfiles Are Belong To You

Under a Blood Red Moon

As I mentioned in my last post, I am a bit of a computer nerd. The last couple of months have seen my head buried in my Mac’s Terminal tapping out and learning old-style commands: grep this, ack that, and vim you. I say old-style but the computer terminal is still as current and as useful as it was back in the ’60s and ’70s when it was the only way to access computing power. Technically, Terminal (and other software like it) is not a real terminal, it is a piece of software emulating—or pretending to be—a terminal. There is even a terminal emulator available (for a fee) that looks just like an actual vintage computer screen—complete with flickering, fuzzy letters, and curved edges—called Cathode. It is visually spectacular, but a little OTT for me.

Sharing is Caring

I recently decided to join the growing community of dotfilers on GitHub, a web frontend for using git, a distributed version control system (VCS). VCSs are used where it is handy to keep track of files in a project as they change. At various intervals one commits changes made to the project into the local repository. This way, one has a record of all the changes made to a file over the length of time the project is worked on.

Using GitHub and git is a great way of sharing stuff, giving back to the community—it is a social coding site. It is also a great way of sharing stuff between one’s own machines, a bit like Dropbox but more nerdy. This makes it ideal to keep something like your dotfiles. All you have to do is upload (or push in git-speak) on one machine, and then download (or clone) your files on another. Et voila! You have your familiar environment set up and ready to go. What’s really great is that one can make changes on this other machine, push the changes to GitHub, and grab them on the original machine. Cool.

But What Are Dotfiles?

On a UNIX-like OS (think all the Linuxes, Mac OS X, and more I don’t know), dotfiles are simply files whose name starts with a dot, otherwise known as a full stop, or period. They are usually not displayed in a directory listing, or in file browsers like OS X’s Finder. Prepending a dot to a file’s name is a way of hiding that file from a basic directory listing.

They are use mainly for storing application settings and configuration data, or for data that shouldn’t be as easily accessible as a plain file. Some common dot-files are the so-called RC files, named after runcom files, of which .vimrc and .bash_profile (.bashrc on Linux etc.) are a few examples.

All My Dotfiles…

So anyhow, all that was just to say that I have my dotfiles on GitHub. I don’t expect that to make much if a difference to most of you, but you never know. I hope it does. Merry Christmas.


Adhesive Binding is Perfect

It’s Been a While

So this is the post where I apologise to all my readers for not posting for so long: sorry! I have a good excuse—he is 6 months old soon. I have had a busy time at work, and have been engaged in other creative pursuits, bookbinding being just one of many creative things I love to do.

Believe it or not I love writing computer programs. I just love it. I started off at Uni teaching myself C++, I learnt Pascal, HTML, JavaScript, did some Prolog, and a whole lot of Windows API programming and ASP with VBScript. I can get myself into trouble with a bit of ConTeXt, SQLPHP, and CSS. Now I code in C#, and I am learning Objective-C and Cocoa, Regular Expressions, and I am becoming a Bash nerd.

Anyway, I don’t want to freak you out or anything.

Pictures are Worth Heaps of Words

I thought that it would be an excellent idea to not type another word, and just let my pictures do the talking. So here is an image gallery of the steps involved in adhesive binding.

On the Shortness of Life

It is not that we have a short space of time, but that we waste much of it. Life is long enough, and has been given in sufficiently generous measure to allow the accomplishment of the very greatest things if the whole of it is well invested.
—Lucius Annaeus Seneca, translated by John W. Basore.

The Craft and Trade of Bookbinding

The Lonely Tree

I have always appreciated the multi-dimensional aspect of bookbinding. It is neither solely a creative outlet of beautiful works of art, nor solely a trade producing an object that must be usable and durable (and saleable): for me it us both of those things at once. I love that as bookbinders, we are creating something that is nice to look at, to touch, and to hold (and listen to: I love the sound when I snap a book closed, or the sound of a finger tapped on a closed book’s cover, dok dok dok), but also serves a definite purpose as an information repository, a place to pour out one’s heart through words or pictures, or as a vehicle transporting one to another world via a great story—books are there to be used.

In days gone by, bookbinding by hand was a big trade, with lots of workers all performing separate tasks in big factories. All this has now been mostly superseded by some amazing machinery (and amazing people who run them), and has now become a niche trade with only a few companies around maintaining the old ways, some of whom also maintain the old books. Mostly, hand bookbinding has become an art-form, a hobby for people like me and perhaps you. Nevertheless, I believe it is still important that we who practice this trade–craft as a hobby learn the skills, techniques, and methods of traditional tradesmen and women.

Since starting my Bookbinding and Restoration course at Sydney Institute of TAFE, this trade aspect of bookbinding has really been made apparent to me, because that’s how bookbinding is taught: as a trade. So we learn all the ‘right’ ways to do things, practices that with practice (!) will become second nature, and will result in a high-quality, well made book. We are not really given much opportunity for creativity (unless you’re a rebel like me and use random bits of waste paper as end-sheets!) but it is only the first semester of the course. I am not complaining. As I mentioned above, I think it is a good thing to know all the rules and the right ways of doing things—after all, doesn’t one need to know the rules to break them?

I yearn for the chance to create a book beautifully bound in leather with a beautiful design tooled into the covers. I also yearn to create books that are well-made and that will last. I look forward to learning the more decorative skills, but I look forward with as much eagerness to learning better bindings, and to bettering my skills.