Wilder Hazard

grad student blog

Technical adjustments

March 26, 2021 — Asher Wycoff

I recently jumped ship from the Mac following the Big Sur update, which not only introduced an assortment of disgusting UI changes, but signaled a much more fundamental shift. Apple is deadset on cutting macOS down from an OS that lets you do what you want to a sad, locked-down, tablet-with-extras stump. The efficiency gains of Apple Silicon™ are impressive, but it looks like they'll be purchased too dearly from the software side. Thanks to Apple's growing hostility to hardware repairability, I'd been flirting with a move to Linux since the twelve-inch MacBook was introduced. The OS 11 transition looked like the time to commit.

Moving to a new operating system gave me the opportunity to reevaluate my priorities when it comes to privacy. One of the initial alarm bells around Big Sur was that it broke or bypassed a bunch of anti-telemetry software. Some of the big issues have since been remedied, but the underlying problem of Apple's disregard for user privacy, despite their marketing, remains. I've grown increasingly (belatedly) paranoid about digital surveillance, both commercial and governmental, so I'm beginning a gradual process of moving away from the FAANG giants to the greatest extent possible. Given the nature of my work and the world, I likely won't be able to break away completely, but less is better. Since I don't have an iPhone, and used little Mac-specific software to begin with, leaving Apple was a relatively easy step. The main thing keeping me on the Mac was the UX, which now sucks and seems poised to get worse.

Of course, Apple is a boy scout compared to Google and Facebook, which doubtless have far more data on me. I've been trying to wean myself off of those two as well, which means deleting as much old data as they'll let me, and ditching services I no longer need. One such service is Blogger, which hosted the old blog. I went with Blogger because it offers a lot of functionality for free, it's much cleaner on the back-end than WordPress, and—this is how they get you—I already had a Google account anyway. But Blogger's still cluttered, like most WYSIWYG CMSes, and it's stuck out lately as a Google service I used without needing to. So I spent some time this past week thinking about what I wanted this blog to be, and more generally how I wanted to be on the Web.

I'll spare you my feelings on the Web generally for now, and just focus on the immediately relevant bits. My personal website is very simple, and I've done my best to keep it that way. I've mostly avoided static site generators because they tend to introduce more complexity (i.e., client-side scripting, social media integration, and viewer analytics) than is necessary for a few pages of text and images. That said, if you want to run a static blog, you kind of need to use a generator unless you want to do the legwork of updating page and tag archives yourself every time you post. I do most of my Real Writing in org-mode these days, so I played around with a few "blorg" generators. I liked none of them. Unfortunately, most other static blog generators are either Markdown-based or much bigger than I need (Hugo supports org syntax, e.g., but it does all those things I just mentioned I don't like about static site generators). I've settled on bashblog for now, for a few simple reasons:

  • Despite being Markdown-oriented, it lets me write in HTML.
  • It generates valid, strict XHTML by default.
  • All the analytics and social media integration can be stripped out easily.
  • The script is lightweight and dead simple, even for a bash novice like me.

I briefly entertained saving everything to a ~/blog folder on my main site, but I like the blog being a separate project. Plus, I already had this Neocities page I didn't know what to do with. I've deleted the old Blogger site and transfered the two latest posts from it, because they were written in HTML to begin with, so it was easy to do. The earlier posts are few in number and not very interesting, so I decided not to bother. One of the few things I like about the Web now is the ephemerality of everything—old posts lost in time, like tears in rain. Might as well extend that here.

tags: web