Unfashionably still an Atom editor fan

I’ve loved the idea of the Atom editor since I saw the initial announcement video three years ago:

I used it on and off as a text editor since it was released. Sure, it was sluggish, but I didn’t think too much of it. I used Atom for a text-based productivity system a couple years ago, when I couldn’t find a cross-platform task management system I liked. At some point, I decided to try something a little more responsive, and lightweight.

All the cool kids seem to be using Visual Studio Code, and they love it. There’s certainly a lot to like about Microsoft’s (mostly) open source code editor. It’s lightweight, extensible through a range of really good extensions, it’s cross-platform, and free.

I used it for a while, and enjoyed it. As a newbie coder, it gives me a lot of feedback as I poke around at my coding projects. This can be really helpful, for sure. That’s probably one of the reasons I used VS Code for as long as I did (and why I still have it installed on my laptop). Of course, another reason why I used it is that a number of developers I follow have raved about it.

I initially moved off VS Code, and returned to Atom earlier this year when I started using a more powerful MacBook Pro, and felt drawn back to Atom for some reason. Part of the reason was that a Markdown extension I relied on in VS Code stopped working for me (at least when I used it in conjunction with Alfred.app that I use heavily for my work).

When I came back to Atom, I noticed how well some of the packages I installed seemed to fit into how I worked. The Markdown Writer package, for one, has become one of my favourite packages, just because it makes it easier for me to write in Markdown.

There was certainly a point where I was concerned about Atom’s ongoing development, and how seemingly simple issues didn’t appear to be addressed. I received some good feedback on this, and moved on.

One of my colleagues recommended Sublime Text, so I spent some time testing it out. I love how quickly it starts up, how similar it is to Atom (well, more the other way round). At the same time, I’m not sure I can justify paying the cost for Sublime Text because Atom does want I want to do, with less of the fiddling I need to do to Sublime Text to configure it for how I like to work (mostly keybindings, and Markdown support).

It’s not that Sublime Text isn’t worth the $80 license fee, it really is (and I agree with paying for good quality software). Even though it took me a few weeks to configure it to work pretty well for me, there are little features that I absolutely love. One little one that I discovered is how it automatically closes HTML tags when I start typing closing tags. These little things are awesome, and bring a little more joy to my day.

In the meantime, Atom has been improving with each release. Sure, it doesn’t have all the tips and feedback that VS Code, and it loads a little slower (although not as much as it used to). I don’t mind that as much actually. I stick with Atom because it works for me.

It fits into how I write Markdown, works well enough for me when I switch over to CSS, HTML, Python, shell scripts, JavaScript, and so on. On those occasions when I need extra help, I may dip back into VS Code, or give Sublime Text another go.

I’m also just figuring out how to “hack” this “hackable text editor for the 21st Century”, and I really enjoy this sort of freedom with my text editor. There’s still so much I can learn about how to use my editor more effectively. Another colleague pointed out a really cool Emmet feature that just blew my mind.

So, in a time when everyone seems to be flocking to VS Code, I thought I’d add my vote for Atom. I’m still a fan, thanks GitHub!

unsplash-logoFeatured image by Luca Bravo

Creating good through open source

I really like videos like this:

Open source as a way of doing things has such amazing potential to make our world so much better.

Watching videos like this tend to prompt me to revisit my calendar and try find regular blocks of time I can dedicate to my dusty coding projects.

Great collection of Python packages

I enjoy the Talk Python to Me podcast. Episode 181 was a discussion about a great collection of Python packages. Even though I don’t have an immediate use for most of them, I’ve captured them for later reference because there’s some really useful stuff in there!

Listeners often tell me one of the really valuable aspects of this podcast is the packages and libraries that they learn about and start using in their projects from guests and myself. On this episode, I’ve invited Brian Okken (my co-host over on Python Bytes) to take this to 11. We are going to cover the top 30 Python packages from the past year (metric to be determined later in the show).

Talk Python to Me, episode 181

Here’s the episode if you’d like to listen:

Pretty excited about Gutenberg

Gutenberg 4.0 has arrived. I’m planning to spend a lot more time using it in the week ahead. I’m really looking forward to it rolling out as the default WordPress editor!

It works pretty well on mobile too! 😁

Scientific papers shouldn’t be published as PDFs

Jupyter notebook examples
Examples of Jupyter notebooks

I enjoyed James Somers’ article in the Atlantic titled “The Scientific Paper Is Obsolete” about how the standard format for scientific papers, namely PDF, is no longer the appropriate format for such data-intensive work.

This is, of course, the whole problem of scientific communication in a nutshell: Scientific results today are as often as not found with the help of computers. That’s because the ideas are complex, dynamic, hard to grab ahold of in your mind’s eye. And yet by far the most popular tool we have for communicating these results is the PDF—literally a simulation of a piece of paper. Maybe we can do better.

The article recounts the history of Wolfram’s Wolfram Mathematica notebook model, and the rise of Jupyter notebooks as an open source alternative that’s also rising to prominence in the space.

I love the idea of more open, more dynamic formats for sharing knowledge, capturing ideas, and promoting access to knowledge.

You can now read important Jewish texts like the Talmud online

Liked Putting the Talmud online by Jason Kottke (kottke.org)
Sefaria is a free online resource for Jewish texts, specifically the Talmud, which (amazingly) wasn't previously easily availabl

This story appeals to me on so many levels. Perhaps the biggest reason why it excites me is that I’m very much in favour of important works like the Talmud being made freely available online, if anything, as an important cultural and historical resource.

After a prolonged negotiation process, and a substantial gift from the William Davidson Foundation, Sefaria was able to secure the copyright. Then, they ceded their rights and made it available free to the public, a move common to nature conservancies but vanishingly rare in the publishing world, since copyright and exclusivity are major guarantors of revenue.

I’m not even remotely a serious Jewish scholar, but the fact that these resources are available online to anyone who wants to read them, is a powerful way to ensure that our history is preserved for future generations. It’s also a terrific way to accurately communicate who we are as a people.

VS Code has a little too much of the old Microsoft

Update (2018-09-18): I had this wrong. I was able to disable the Live Share and Azure extensions in VS Code. I just wasn’t paying close enough attention to the error messages I highlighted below.

You can disable the both the Azure and Live Share extensions by first disabling their dependencies. In the case of Live Share, I first had to disable the Live Share Audio extension. In the case of the Azure extension, I had to disable the Azure Functions extension first.


I like VS Code. That, in itself, still surprises me a little given which company created it. I still remember the Old Days when Microsoft took every opportunity to coerce users to use its solutions, often using pretty aggressive tactics.

Many have said that we’re dealing with a new Microsoft, friend to the FOSS community, trusted custodian of critical platforms like GitHub. That may well be true. At the same time, I still see a little of the old Microsoft seeping through now and then.

I opened VS Code today, to take a look at some code I’ve been meaning to continue working on. I noticed that Live Share updated when I open the app, and then seemed to start running for some reason.

I don’t use Live Share (although the functionality is interesting).

Rather than have extensions running that I don’t use, I thought I’d disable Live Share, along with the Azure extensions that seem to be installed and activated by default. That didn’t quite work out for me.

Can't uninstall or deactivate Live Share
Can’t uninstall or deactivate Live Share
I can't uninstall or deactivate VS Code's Azure extensions either.
I can’t uninstall or deactivate VS Code’s Azure extensions either.

As good as VS Code is, I don’t like being required to keep Microsoft’s extensions installed when I don’t make use of them. I’d expect that from an application that doesn’t hold itself out as “extensible and customizable”.

This just taints the progress the company has made, to a degree. It also leaves me wondering what else is running in VS Code when I use it, that I didn’t enable?

Post Kinds, in depth

Read Post Kinds Plugin for WordPress by Chris AldrichChris Aldrich (BoffoSocko)
A WordPress plugin that allows you to easily create a huge variety of social media post types to own your social media life online.

If you’re looking for a detailed guide to Post Kinds, then read Chris Aldrich’s “Post Kinds Plugin for WordPress“. I’ve been meaning to read this article properly for a little while now to help me better understand how to use Post Kinds more effectively on my site.