Teaching Gemini at university, dreaming of moving out of Wordpress, simplifying my tools and thinking about learning emacs

by Ploum on 2021-11-09

I teach at university (École Polytechnique de Louvain) and, today, I introduced my students to Digital Minimalism, Permacomputing and… Gemini. This might be the first recorded ex-cathedra academic course about Gemini. I’m still writing about the subject I taught today. I planned to make a small article but it is already 4000 words and counting. Writing about the fact that I write makes me realise I want to completely migrate my blog to a very simple text-based infrastructure that would serve automatically HTML/Gemini/RSS, one for French content, the other for English content.

Two challenges: first, I have more than 750 blog posts to migrate and I want to keep the URLs for each of them (good URLs never change, some posts are widely referenced in the web). The second is that a bit less than 1000 people subscribed to my mailing-lists and I want to keep the "one blog post - one mail sent" rule while migrating the subscription to the new service. I’m still wondering if sourcehut would be a good provider for that kind of hosting (I don’t want any javascript and I removed any tracking tool long ago, see the following post).

I said two challenges but the most obvious one is that I need to develop the thing that would generate the blog. I feel like I need to understand how it works and do a python script myself instead of relying on a website generator. Having all my content as simple markdown files who would be converted locally to html/gmi/rss by a python script I fully understand. Publishing would then be a simple matter of git push. Yep, I really dream of that. Sourcehut "hire free software devs" makes me think that, maybe, I should hire someone to do it with me. (I’m lionel on ploum.net by mail)

Because, suddenly, I’ve more time. The reason is simple : I’ve deleted my Facebook/Twitter and Medium accounts. I’ve blocked every news website but tilde.news and lobste.rs (I subscribed to those by email with lots of filters). I’m thus bored and forced to think about what I really want to do. I’m still thinking about my Offmini protocol and discovered, on my own blog, a link that I made to the Pigeon Protocol. It really looks like Offmini but a bit too complex and without any identity mechanism. I want to explore more the idea of an OpenPGP based protocol.

In the process, I’m also simplifying a lot the tools I use. My regolith desktop is completely black, I’m trying to remove GNOME dependencies (I’ve been a GNOME developer but I really feel that the path taken by the project is not healthy). I stil need to set up my mail in order to access it offline but everything else is becoming really simple. I’ve removed my Pocket account and when I want to read a webpage later, I’m printing it and keeping it in a folder. For shorter webpages, I simply use forlater.email, which is brilliant (and one of the reasons why I want to use my emails offline). I’m reading RSS in newsboat and replaced the browser command by an append in an "urls.txt" file. At the end of the day, I send this file to forlater.email. I could automatise it but I realise that less automation is also a good way to add friction and to think about : "do I really want to do that?". The act of printing a PDF of a website is much harder than clicking the Pocket icon so I find myself really thinking if it worth saving that content on my hard disk.

I’m still using some proprietary tools. Antidote, the famous French spellchecker, who recently announced that the new version will not work on Linux, and Obsidian, which is brilliant to maintain my Zettelkasten and all my notes/files. I’m still wondering if I could bypass it by using Vim or Emacs. I’ve always been a Vim guy but never managed to learn more than some basic commands. A few months ago, I decided to spend two weeks learning emacs. In two weeks, I managed to not even be able to edit a file. I found multiple how-tos on how to configure emacs, how to make complex stuff but I never managed to reliably edit one single text file. It’s a black magic arcane. My mistake was probably to try emacs distribution (doom, space) while I should go with the basic but I’ve yet to find a written howto that allows me to start with emacs. The built-in help allowed me to move in a file, that was all. That’s probably why I like Vim. As soon as you understand insert mode, you can do everything. Not efficiently but you can do it. It is usable, you can run it trivially with any command line.

I’m really curious to see how far I could go. Regolith is based on Ubuntu, which has a lot of bloat (I was an Ubuntu developer too in another life). I was planning to go back to Debian but, at some point, I would be really curious to see if there’s a way to port Regolith on Alpine Linux. Ok, that’s probably too far. Removing all those social accounts might not be a good idea after all.

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