StackEdit

StackEdit is a in-browser markdown editor that takes on the likes of iA Writer and GitHub Pages in terms of its capability. If you’re a fan of Markdown in even the least bit, it’ll be easy for StackEdit to be your go to text editor.

The interface window features the basic text editor and styling controls like text format, linking, inserting code and images, and creating lists. In fact, it’s so easy to pick up, you really don’t need any instructions.

Screenshot 2015-06-30 15.57.20

The dual pane editor/preview layout is like that of the NodeJS-powered Ghost blog platform. Everything you type shows up in real time on the right-hand side of the screen in proper format. When you’re done, you can sync your texts to Dropbox or Google Drive, save them in the editor, and even push them to various end points including Blogger, WordPress, GitHub, Tumblr, and an SSH server if you have your own static site platform you wish to use.

What’s really cool? If you have a CouchDB instance, it’ll push straight to it. Pretty nifty.

Give StackEdit a try. I think you’ll like it.

A Kitematic Overview

Kitematic Main Screen

I have only recently started tinkering with Docker when I made a brief attempt at getting Discourse running on my server. What started out as me being quite frustrated with my lack of SMTP knowledge ended in my admittance that a pre-packaged setup would be much easier, and indeed it was.

Docker is good for that. Docker’s purpose is to allow swift and efficient deployment and management of applications that reside in their own containers. Think of a cargo ship. Each one of those containers can be its own app that runs exclusively in its own box/bubble/container/virtual world and on the outside Docker and the system it runs on maintains structural integrity so each container can keep running.

If you’re relatively new to Docker like I am, you’ll probably be wondering how easy it is to get started.

There are two routes: the command line route and the GUI route. Today I’m going to show off the GUI route by way of an app called Kitematic.

Screenshot 2015-06-27 16.02.42

Overview

The purpose of Kitematic, in my opinion, is to bridge the gap that’s created by the learning curve created by not being fully aware of how to interact with Docker on the command line.

Deploying an image is dirt simple. The UI presents you with a searchable area in which you can comb the Docker Hub. One click is all it takes to create an instance of the application you’re looking to install.

The actual deployment time will depend on your Internet connection speed because the image has to be downloaded. The larger the application, the longer it’ll take to deploy, install, and configure, so keep that in mind.

Deployment Tests

Here are a few examples of apps I downloaded and how long they took from the moment I clicked the Create button to the moment they were ready to go. These incredibly non-scientific numbers come from my 2011 Macbook Pro with a 2.2GHz Intel Core i7, 8GB of RAM, and the images being stored and run on an SSD. I also used the most popular choices for each of these images, including recommended ones if they were available. Each of the image were downloaded on a 125mbps Internet connection and the timing below includes that.

Application Time to Ready
Ghost 0m 26s
Atlassian JIRA 1m 45s
Redis 0m 12s
MySQL *
Nginx 0m 5s
Minecraft 1m 50s
Jenkins 1m 16s
Elasticsearch 0m 35s

I obviously want to stress that the above numbers are essentially me using a stopwatch and watching the process take place. When it came to MySQL, it never fully initialized and I was unable to determine its progress after about 30 seconds. I couldn’t connect to the service and the logs weren’t displaying anything. It’s possible that I just got a bad run and re-doing it could have fixed my issue. YMMV.

If you plan on running Kitematic a lot, you’ll want to make sure you can reserve at least 2GB of RAM for the VirtualBox VM it runs in the background. Also, check Kitematic’s settings and check the box to clean up the VM on closure if you’re on a battery-powered system. It’ll take a bit of extra time on boot but it’ll save your battery when you’re not using it, for sure.

I do believe it’s prudent to point out that if you choose the delete-on-closure option, you might find yourself with a VM that can’t fetch an IP address when you re-start Kitematic. This was the case 100% of the time I restarted Kitematic after killing VirtualBox on Kitematic’s closure.

The Bottom Line

So here’s where I tell you if it’s worth it. In short, completely. For people like me that just want to get things done and move on with my day and not have to deal with the command line all the time, this is a boon. If you’re a die-hard command line junkie that thrives on typos and mashing away at the keyboard, go do it the regular, old-fashioned way.

Kitematic is free to use and is in Beta. It might be a bit rough around the edges, and may not work very well on Windows. I tried running the JIRA install on Windows and it failed every time.

If you’re looking to break into Docker and the idea of containered apps, this is your vice.

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Check Yourself

TAKE IT FROM ME.

It’s easy to give advice. It’s actually way too easy. Standing on the outside, looking in, it’s easy to observe, to judge. We compare someone and the pieces that make them whole to ourselves and our own components.

One thing we fail to do all too often is heed our own advice.

do as I say, not as I do.

Those words were likely spoken by every parent to ever exist even so far as millennia past. We secretly swear but tell our children that such acts are bad. We teach that good [religious group] should regularly [reglion-based activity] but we fail to even keep par with the course.

I can sit here in front of my screen and bang on the keyboard in an attempt to preach to you about how you should create better habits and how you should do that extra good thing every day and how you should stop shoveling shit for food into your grub hole every day.

I’d be a damn hypocrite if I did that. There’s a fine line between sharing good ideas and things that sound like they’d be worthwhile and preaching them as gospel and it’s hard to see when initially observed.

Take it from me. There are times when I want to tell the world how awesome it is to get up early in the morning, sit down, and kick some creative ass, all before breakfast, except I can’t manage to do that, myself, right now. So I don’t. I use to. I used to tout how awesome it was, regularly.

Back then, though, I did it. Every single day. I woke up between 3:30 and 4:00 A.M., hopped in the shower, made coffee, and sat down with enough time for almost an hour of un-interrupted creativity and morning reflection.

take care of your own yard before you start criticizing your neighbor’s.

I refuse to tout what I don’t follow or believe, myself. I think it’s important to nut up or shut up. I know struggling with inspiration is real. I’ve discovered creativity comes to those who hunt it down like a rabid wolf hunts a juicy deer. I know what it’s like to have your mind in the wrong place.

Most of all, I know making excuses is for the weak. The professional doesn’t make an excuse. Take it from me.

 


This post came about from the daily writing prompt at The Daily Post.

48 Hours of Slack

Two nights ago, I convinced my team to pick up Slack. I wanted them to stop slacking on effective communication and while I can cut them some slack on being in different time zones, there’s no excuse with today’s technology.

That’s about all I have for Slack puns and euphemisms. We’ve been using Slack for about 48 hours now and we’re loving it. I think I might be loving it the most because I championed the idea.

Given its super low barrier for entry (free!) it wasn’t hard for us to pick it up and give it a go. My team is only twelve people but I think we’ve communicated more via text than we’ve communicated via Lync and email in a week.

I described it in our meeting as IRC for this decade, but it’s a lot more than that and I’m striving to find ways to expand the service for my people as much as possible.

For those who don’t know, I’m the Senior Technical Support Lead for Zephyr’s Americas support team. That puts me at second in command and makes me responsible for my teams success. One struggle I’ve seen is keeping effective lines of communication open between each staff member and creating open dialog about technical and customer-facing issues we encounter on a regular basis.

We really didn’t have any sort of real-time collaboration going on.

This is why I brought in Slack. I can see who’s available, strike up conversations with them, discuss particular issues in channels, and get notified from various other systems right away, without having to leave Slack.

I’ve found out about support requests faster through Slack than by staring at ZenDesk all day (our ticketing system). Getting notifications on all my devices at the same time about what’s happening as its happening is a boon for me and that only drives my desire to integrate more.

One thing that bothers me though is autocomplete requires some fancy service on the other end in order to work. I don’t want to sit down and write middleware to tie into Slack so I can shorthand with a /slash command. I should be able to say /ticket 12345 prints in chat http://ticket.system/12345. I don’t see what’s so hard about that.

Webhooks are super cool though and being able to touch them with 3rd party service and update my channels with relevant information is awesome. Being able to be notified in real time about anything that’s happening in another system with minimal code change is sweet. All our custom apps can push notifications, now.

Even well-known 3rd party services can integrate well. Some leave things to be desired like my ZenDesk-Slack integration, but I can’t blame Slack for that.

For a service that’s had next to no marketing done and has survived on majority word of mouth and small advertisements here and there, Slack is killing it in the real-time collaboration space.

Someone on my team suggested we look at HipChat, too… is it bad that I sort of don’t want to?

Crozdesk

I’m always looking for new places to discover great services and products. Last night Crozdesk followed me on Twitter and I couldn’t help but check them out and see what they offer. Really, I check out just about anyone that follows me on twitter. I’m by no means a superstar on the social network so I have time for things like that.

Crozdesk is a place to find a company, service, or product offering to fulfill a need you might have in various spaces, be it web design, hosting, social media, marketing, or anything relatively similar.

Their offering list is small-ish but I see it growing quickly as there’s no charge for submitting your product or service to the site. If you’re an indie developer or a small startup that has something cool, this would be the place to share it and let the community rate and offer their opinion on it.

Creativity

So I’m sitting here, pondering what to write about. I’ve been a terrible person, not sticking to the plan.

If you know me at all, you’ll know it is indeed a chaotic scene when there’s no plan and I’m involved.

Steven Pressfield is one of my new favorite authors and his book Turning Pro speaks great truths about what it takes to transition from average joe doing some crap somewhere to becoming a professional and doing what you really want to do.

There’s a small passage in Turning Pro that fits well in today’s post:

Twelve-step programs say: “One day at a time.” The professional says the same thing.

He’s right though. I could sit here and ramble about how I can’t figure out anything to write, how my creativity is available for just a moment, and how planning out a crazy level of future posts would be fruitless and a waste of time.

If I said all that, it would be true. Sitting here thinking about planning out content makes me tired and want to just watch HBO (which I plan on doing after I finish writing this, anyway). Planning isn’t going to bring creativity. Inspiration is just a trigger for creativity. I could sit and stare out my window at the street and get inspiration creative.

There’s a million ways to come up with an idea, but the best one is the one where you take it one step at a time, one day at a time.

 

Incapacity

What do you think of when I say that amateurs look for excuses?

It’s a rhetorical question and I don’t expect an answer. Instead, that sentence should really be a statement. It’s an obvious one to someone who’s paying attention, but on the inside, it’s harder.

Also known as the easy way out, looking to find a way out of a tough situation by copping out or giving up is modus operandi of those who can’t hack it. Amateurs.

I’m not talking about people who aren’t good enough at a specific thing. No one should expect to be experts at everything they do. What I’m talking about is life. Sticking with the shit that comes your way. Dealing with less than ideal situations.

Whoever first said “shit happens” is the realist realist the world will ever experience. One thing a professional understands is that sometimes you step in it, but the best route is to clean it off and keep moving.

This idea became one I find myself gravitating towards after reading a relevant passage in Turning Pro:

The habits and addictions of the amateur are…self-inflicted wounds…[Amateurs] no longer have to face the real fight of our lives, which is to become who we are and to realize our destiny and our calling.

That’s not some hippie shit from a guy smoking weed. That’s real talk from a guy who used to be an amateur. If you’ve ever thought about reading what it takes to rock life and kick it’s ass, he’s the guy to go to.

Think about this: how easy is it to make an excuse? It just slips right on out there without anyone noticing… except you… time and again… uttering the same garbage… because you can’t accept the fact you failed at something… or many somethings.

A pro would admit wrong and rectify it. Today. Right freaking now.

You also don’t see pros telling their boss they didn’t have time to create that presentation that’s due today, even though all they did was sit on Reddit and bitch about their boss. An amateur is quick to make excuses for themselves to protect their mediocrity and constant state of incapacitation of potential.

I made a small resolution to kick ass this year, and this is one of the many ways to do it because 2015 isn’t quite over. I don’t have to relocate my foot in someone’s ass physically, to rock my goal.

One of the many ways it starts is by accepting the challenge that lays in front of me, every day. Each moment, there’s a hurdle, and each moment I can jump or smash into it like a lumbering blob of crap.

The latter doesn’t sound so appealing, does it…

Keeping Score

I decided to start a project for the wrong reason. It’s because of this reason that I ended up giving up said project for the short term.

I thought I had it all figured out. I carved out time on my calendar, I made plans, I had an idea…

Turns out, the measurement for success in this project was grossly incorrect, and I realized it a couple days ago when I picked up Steven Pressfield’s Turning Pro. I never finished the book, so I felt it was appropriate to continue.

I came across this passage and it really hit home surrounding this project:

The real utility of money is its convenience as a medium of exchange. If you and I have a goat in Smyrna, we don’t have to carry the poor beast in our arms all the way to Aleppo to trade it for a carpet. We can sell the goat in Smyrna, stash a silver dairy in our pocket, then take the dairy to Aleppo to buy the carpet.

But when we’re addicted to money, we become hooked on the metaphor.

Is money how we keep score? Is it magic? Is wealth a currency that opens doors, realizes possibilities, produces transcendence?

– Turning Pro

In my case… it was.

I thought I could craft this project and end up getting rich quick. I’ve seen enough documentaries on how that’s never the case but yet I thought otherwise. When my project started, I got a huge influx of traffic to it and I thought it was going to be smooth sailing.

Then the traffic died off, and everyone left. Not a sole gave a damn. I was hoping they’d throw their digital selves at me in the form of coming back or contributing, but they didn’t.

I wanted to make money off this project. I wanted it to become a full-time thing. I didn’t think about the other battle I was waging that would ultimately affect this one.

Losing sight of what’s most important in any project is common and while sometimes it’s recoverable, other times, there’s no way to go but to the bitter end.

I canceled my subscriptions to all the things necessary to keep it running. It’ll die in a few days, and that’s OK by me. It shouldn’t have ever lived. I wasn’t ready for it and I made a Frankenstein.

Such is life.

Learning experiences can be tough sometimes, but when you’re keeping score for all the wrong reasons, it’s bound to happen… and it should. It keeps reality in play.

So instead, I’m focusing on what’s most important and fulfilling for me. I need to keep my head in as few places as possible, while still getting enough stimulation to keep myself fresh and mentally alive.

Too many outlets can lead to burn out, even if all said outlets are appealing. Sometimes, going back to the basics is exactly what the doctor ordered.