The Changelog

Useful Vim commands, bad first ideas, PETS config manager, Kaizen shirts for sale & infinite canvas tools

Changelog News for 2022-11-07

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Colin Bartlett’s 50 useful Vim commands, Jeremey Utley on why your first ideas aren’t always the best, Emanuele Rocca’s pets configuration management project, our Kaizen shirts are now on sale & Arun Venkatesen makes a microsite for infinite canvas tools.

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What up fellow nerds, I’m Jerod and this is Changelog News for the week of Monday, November 7th 2022.

People keep asking if I’m back…

Yes, we are back from last week’s All Things Open conference and, wow, it was so much fun seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Shout out to everyone who stopped by the best booth in the building. We had so many visitors that y’all ran us completely out of stickers, keychains, and pins, which is awesome.

Two full days in the hallway track means we recorded a bunch of awesome conversations that we’ll be releasing over the coming weeks. Stay tuned for that, and congrats to GitHub’s Mish Manners for taking home our prized Nintendo Switch.

Ok, let’s get into the news.

The top clicked article from this week’s Changelog Weekly newsletter was Colin Bartlett from VimTricks.com shared 50 useful vim commands that work in normal mode. Many of them can be combined and modified to produce dozens more, of course. Colin says you can these as inspiration for your own repeatable workflows.

Two of my favorites from Colin’s list. gg which is how you tell your files ‘good game’ at the end of a coding session and ’gf which is when you love Vim so much you refer to it as your girlfriend.

You did not just say that…

Kidding of course! For the real meaning of gg and gf you’ll have to check out Colin’s post.

Pets is a new Go-based Configuration Management System for computers that are Pets, not Cattle. Its author says, “This is for people who need to administer a handful of machines, all fairly different from each other and all Very Important. Those systems are not Cattle! They’re actually a bit more than Pets. They’re almost Family. For example: a laptop, workstation, and that personal tiny server in Sweden. They are all named after something dear.”

While other configuration management tools typically focus on usage scenarios involving complex relationships between multiple, fairly homogeneous systems. For that you need a templating language, some way to store and share information about the various systems, and a way to either push the changes to all hosts or pull them from a central location. It’s complicated and can discourage you from using a config management tool at all: why bother with Chef syntax and ERB templates if you just need to edit a few files?

Pets instead focuses on the individual, local machine. No need to ssh anywhere, no puppetmaster to configure, nada. It works by reading your regular, static configuration files (say muttrc) with added pets modelines, inspired by the concept of vim modelines. Pets can copy your configuration files to the right place, fix permissions, install packages, and run commands upon file update.

Jeremy Utley says, “keep ‘em coming: your first ideas aren’t always the best”

Jeremy is the director of executive education at Stanford’s d.school and he was recently featured on their Think Fast, Talk Smart podcast helping listeners explore how we can focus less on finding the “right” answer and open ourselves up to more innovative ideas. Here’s a moment from that show:

Most people think: “Can I just look in the back of the textbook and see: Did I get it right?”

And that’s the wrong way to approach … What the subject line of this email should be, there’s no right answer. How I open this presentation, there’s no right answer. How I give this piece of feedback, there’s no …

So forget even new products and new services. If you think about the problems most managers or professionals face, they’re problems of “I’m trying to solve this thing right now.” And if they’re aware that their tendency is to fixate on the answer, if they shift their mindsets and say, “Instead of trying to come up with the right answer, I’m going to try to generate as many as I can possibly think of,” that actually has — it’s called what Luchins referred to as an “interrupt effect.” It interrupts your cognitive tendency to fixate on a first idea, but the important thing is you’re actually shifting the goal posts. You’re saying: “Instead of looking for the right answer, I’m trying to generate as many possible answers as I can.””

Jeremey also has a new book out called “Ideaflow” that you should look in to if this is a topic that interests you.

We now interrupt this program for a very important Merch Alert.

Our much anticipated and often-asked-about Kaizen t-shirt is now available for order in the Changelog Merch shop! If you haven’t heard of Kaizen, it’s a Japanese word that’s come to mean continuing improvement in personal life, home life, social life, and working life. We do a Kaizen episode on our Ship It! podcast every tenth episode and this shirt is perfect for fans of Ship It! and/or fans of continuous improvement.

This awesome tee uses a special discharge method to achieve the front print. It is printed on a super soft black tri-blend short sleeve tee from American Apparel. Order yours at merch.changelog.com, quick before they run out!

Have you heard of the concept of an infinite canvas? People have been organizing and processing information spatially for centuries, whether by writing in a notebook or posting paper on walls. This kind of thinking harnesses areas of the brain dedicated to spatial thinking and mapping relationships. When it comes to software, Traditional tools like text editors and presentation software have linear interfaces that mimic their output. Infinite canvas tools instead embrace the messy, circuitous paths we take when brainstorming, sketching, and distilling ideas.

The story of infinite canvas software goes back more than half a century, but it’s just starting to catch on thanks to the success of apps like Miro and Figma. Arun Venkatesen and the folks at Muse are so excited by this trend that they developed a microsite explaining the history and cataloging the apps that are paving the way in this area. Check it out at infinitecanvas.tools.

The infinite canvas idea is new to me. Heroku co-founder Adam Wiggins told us about it during our recording of part 2 of his story. On last Friday’s episode we learned the story of Heroku and this coming Friday will be all about his journey beyond Heroku. Stay tuned to The Changelog, have a great week, and we’ll talk to you again real soon.

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