Installing My Dotfiles Via A Script

January 30, 2016 | posted in: snippet

For too long now I have been putting off creating a script to setup my collection of dotfiles on a new machine. My excuse has always been, "I don't need to set them up on a new machine that often." Still it would be nice to run one command rather then enter multiple ln -s ~/.dotfiles/... ... commands in a row.

Here's my script:

#!/usr/bin/env bash

# This script creates symlinks for desired dotfiles in the users home diretory.

# Variables
dirs="bash gem git openconnect tmux"

# Update dotfiles to master branch
echo "Updating $dotfiles_dir to master"
cd $dotfiles_dir;
git pull origin master;

echo ""

function makeLinks() {
  # For each directory in dirs, make a symlink for each file found that starts
  # with a . (dot)
  for dir in $dirs; do
    echo "Linking $dir files"
    cd $dotfiles_dir/$dir;
    for file in *; do
      ln -svf $dotfiles_dir/$dir/$file ~/.$file
    echo ""

  # Handle odd-ball cases
  # Vim files¬
  echo "Linking vim files"
  ln -svf $dotfiles_dir/vim ~/.vim;
  ln -svf $dotfiles_dir/vim/vimrc ~/.vimrc;
  ln -svf $dotfiles_dir/vim/vimrc.bundles ~/.vimrc.bundles;

  # ssh
  echo ""
  echo "Linking ssh configuration."
  ln -svf $dotfiles_dir/ssh/config ~/.ssh/config

  echo ""
  echo "Caveats:"
  echo "Vim:  If remote server, rm .vimrc.bundles"
  echo "Bash: If local server, rm .bashrc.local"

  echo ""

  echo "Finished."

if [ "$1" == "--force" -o "$1" == "-f" ]; then
  read -p "This may overwrite existing files in your home directory. Are you sure? (y/n) " -n 1;
  echo ""
  if [[ $REPLY =~ ^[Yy]$ ]]; then
unset makeLinks;

Some Caveats:

  • This script works for the way I have my dotfiles arranged in ~/.dotfiles. Each tool has a directory containing the file or files that make up the configuration. None of the files are preceeded by a dot (.) in my repository, so the link command adds that.

  • My Vim configurtion and my ssh config don't follow this pattern, so they are handled separately.

The dirs variable has a list of the configurations I want to setup using this script. All of the files in each of those directories is symlinked in turn. I'm using the -svf flags on the ln statement.

  • s for symlink, of course
  • v for verbose
  • f for force if the link already exists

To make the script a scant more friendly it offers a --force option, that eliminates the "Are you sure?" prompt.

As with any script you find laying around on the Internet, read the source and understand what it's doing before unleashing it's awesome powers on your computer.

Bash History Search Bind Keys

January 26, 2016 | posted in: snippet

I recently switched back to bash shell from zsh and in doing so I lost zsh's history search. From your zsh prompt if you type in part of a command and then press the up arrow, you'll be shown the previous occurrence of that command. Repeated up arrows walk you through all previous occurrences. A very handy tool, and one I grew fond of.

Here's how to have this history search in bash.

First use the read command to learn what code is transmitted by the up or down arrow key press.

$ read
^[[A  # up arrow
^[[B  # down arrow

Control-c will return you to your prompt from the read builtin command.

Parsing the up and down arrow strings reveals that they both start with an escape character ^[ and then the key value itself: [A or [B.

The bash function to search history is history-search-backward or history-search-forward. So binding ^[[A to history-search-backward and ^[[B to history-search-forward emulates the arrow key behavior from zsh.

Here is what I have in my .bash_bindkeys file, which is sourced from my .bashrc file.

bind '"\e[A":history-search-backward'
bind '"\e[B":history-search-forward'

The \e is the escape character (^[) from the read builtin output. With these bindings in my .bashrc I can enter part of a command and search back through my history using my arrow keys.

2015 Books

December 30, 2015 | posted in: nerdliness

I read or listened to a total of 123 books in 2015. 40 were brand new to me, the other 83 were rereads or re-listens.

The longest book was Neal Stephenson's "Seveneves: A Novel" at 880 pages.

The shortest was "The Countess of Stanlein Restored: A History of the Countess of Stanlein Ex Paganini Stradivarius Cello of 1707", a history of a Stradivarius cello at 120 pages.

In total I read 39,160 pages, or 108 pages a day average for the year.

17 of the titles on my list were audio books. The longest of these was (again) a Neal Stephenson book, "Reamde" at 38 hours and 34 minutes.

The shortest audiobook was a mere 9 hours; "The Hanged Man's Song" by John Sandford.

In total I listened to 249 hours and 41 minutes of audio books this year. Which works out to 41 minutes per day average.

Ten of the books were non-fiction, eight were science fiction, one was historical fiction, and the rest fiction. Thirty-one of the books were from our local public library, the rest I own in one format or another.

Out of all the books I read or listened to this year, Andy Weir's "The Martian" was far and away my favortie book. Not only did I read it multiple times, I listened to the audio version. And I saw it in the theater when it came out. And I bought a copy on iTunes that I've now watched twice in a row. It's easily one of the very best books I've read in a long, long time.


November 14, 2015 | posted in: life


How to Spell Check with Vim

October 02, 2015 | posted in: nerdliness

I have never been a good speller, therefore I rely on spell check to help ensure that my writing doesn't contain basic spelling errors. Most modern software that is centered around text provides spell checking. However I do most of my writing, including all of the posts on, using Vim - a decidedly un-modern text editor.

Fortunately Vim is incredibly flexible and it is relatively straight-forward to enable spell checking.

Enable spell checking

You can turn spell checking on or off with

set spell
set nospell

Default language

The default language used is US English. You can change this to another language with

set spelllang=en_gb

The above example sets the language to British English.

In my .vimrc I have a number of file type specific settings, including spell checking. I only enable spell checking for a limited number of file types, as spell checking code isn't very useful. The three autocmd entries I have are:

autocmd FileType mail setlocal spell spelllang=en_us
autocmd BufRead COMMIT_EDITMSG setlocal spell spelllang=en_us
autocmd BufNewFile,BufRead *.md,*.mkd,*.markdown set spell spelllang=en_us

The first is for when I'm using mutt for my mail - it turns spell checking on while I'm composing or replying to messages. The second activates spell check for Git commit messages. The last autocmd set spelling on for Markdown files.

Your own dictionary

It is possible to add words to your own dictionary using the zg key combination. You can undo the add with zug. It is also possible to mark a word as incorrectly spelled using zw. zuw undoes the incorrect marking.

Find misspelled words

You can jump forwards or backwards through the buffer to the next flagged work using


Once you've located a word, z= will bring up the list of suggested words, pick the associated number and press return and the new word will be substituted in for the old one.


All of this and more can be found in the Vim help pages

:help spell

Change sshd Port on Mac OS X El Capitan

October 01, 2015 | posted in: nerdliness

Previously I had written about how to change the sshd port for Mac OS X Lion and Mountain Lion. The basic premise is still the same, but the introduction of El Capitan's System Integrity Protection (SIP) requires a slightly altered approach to having sshd running on an alternate port.

In a nutshell the controlling plist, /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist, can no longer be edited. So instead you need to make a copy of this file and store it elsewhere. In my case I put it in /Library/LaunchDaemons. Then using launchctl you can cause your new plist to be started whenever the computer is booted. The detailed steps follow.

Create a copy of the plist

Copy ssh.plist using sudo and rename it to ssh2.plist. The renaming is important, otherwise launchctl won't discriminate between your plist and the official one, which will result in your alternate port not being visible.

$ sudo cp /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh.plist /Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh2.plist

A new Label and a new port number

There are two changes to make in the plist. First it needs a different label to distinguish it from the original, and second it needs to specify the alternate port you wish to use.

Provide a different Label for the plist by changing this:


to this:


Setting the port number to your alternate by changing the SockSeviceName string (ssh) to the port number you want to use. In other words, change this:


to this:


where 99999 is a valid port number.

Activate your new sshd port

Using launchctl you can launch a new instance of the sshd daemon, one that listens to your alternate port. The launchctl command to do this looks like:

$ sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh2.plist

If you ever wanted to unload this plist, run this command:

$ sudo launchctl unload /Library/LaunchDaemons/ssh2.plist

To verify that your new port is being listened to, run

$ netstat -at | grep LISTEN

Your new sshd port should be listed.


As always, making changes to the murky innards of your operating system and its supporting configurations can be risky. Make copies, backup before making changes, and proceed with caution. It is worth noting that this setup does not turn off port 22, it merely allows access on an alternate port. The machine I did this to is behind my employer's boarder and firewall which blocks port 22 traffic.


I made use of the following resources for this posting.

Power to Weight

August 30, 2015 | posted in: nerdliness

With a new 2016 MINI Cooper S making its way to me I've been thinking a lot about cars lately. The Cooper S has a reputation for being quick and nimble. It boasts a sub-seven second zero-to-sixty time. I was curious how the MINI compared to the other cars I've owned. Some Internet searching and a spreadsheet later and I had my answer.

Year Make/Model Engine (cc) Weight (lbs) Horsepower Torque (ft-lb) lb/HP
1984Pontiac Fiero247124629213426.76
1987Honda Prelude1958241011011421.91
1992Mazda Navajo3958398015522025.68
1994BMW 318i1796335213812924.29
1992Lexus ES 3002959336218519518.17
1999Nissan Altima2389285915015419.06
2000Lexus ES 3002995335121022015.96
2001Audi TT Coupe1781320818017317.82
2001Lexus LS 4304300395529032013.64
2010Honda Insight133927349812327.90
2016MINI Cooper S2000278518920714.74

With the exception of the 2001 Lexus LS 430, the MINI Cooper S has the best power-to-weight ratio of any car I've owned. The 430 had a monster 4.3 liter engine, more than twice the size of the MINI's 2 liter engine, but it's also roughly 1200 pounds heavier. I think the MINI will feel faster, and it'll certainly corner better.

The best power-to-weight ratio vehicle I've ever owned was a 1987 Suzuki Katana 1100F. With a dry weight of 537 pounds and 136 horsepower, it's ratio is 3.95 pounds-per-horsepower. Incredibly fast with instant acceleration at any speed. Not much fun in the winter though, and no room for a cello.

32 Years of Cars

August 16, 2015 | posted in: life

I bought my first car 32 years ago, and I am buying my 11th car in a few weeks. Here is a list of all the cars I've owned.

  1. 1984 Pontiac Fiero
  2. 1987 Honda Prelude
  3. 1992 Mazda Navajo
  4. 1994 BMW 318i
  5. 1992 Lexus ES 300
  6. 1999 Nissan Altima
  7. 2000 Lexus ES 300
  8. 2001 Audi TT Coupe
  9. 2001 Lexus LS 430
  10. 2010 Honda Insight

Car number 11 will be a 2016 MINI Cooper S in Volcanic Orange with a black roof and mirror caps. The car has been built and is currently be loaded on a ship for transport to the US. The dealer thinks I'll have it by early September.

For completeness sake I've also owned three motorcycles.

  1. 1986 Yamaha Riva 180
  2. 1988 Yamaha Radian 600
  3. 1988 Suzuki Katana 1100F

Buying a Car Via Email

August 13, 2015 | posted in: nerdliness

Buying a car can be stressful. It's a lot of money and, unless you are very well off, a financial obligation for years to come. American dealerships have a checkered past when it comes to the whole buying experience. Everyone has heard horror stories of hours-long slogs through high-pressure sales tactics. Buying our 2016 MINI Cooper S involved none of that.

The MINI USA website has a wonderful Build and Price a MINI tool that lets you select the model car you want and then tweak endlessly the options, packages, and dealer add-ons you desire. Best of all you can save these builds in your own online garage for further tweaking later.

As a part of the saving process you can produce a PDF file with all the details of your MINI -- interior and exterior options, colors, fabrics, wheels, you name it -- and a specifications sheet that lists the cryptic dealer codes for those options. After days (weeks, really) of tweaking and tuning, I had the set of options I wanted. With an email to the dealer I was able to initiate a new car order, I just attached the PDF.

The dealer sent me a deposit authorization form that I filled out and faxed back, along with my credit card number, and the car was ordered. No pressure, no hassel, no "what will it take to get you into this car today" tactics. After the order was placed the saleswoman sent me a scanned copy of the order to confirm the vehicle was what had been ordered. Except for the delivery time (6 - 8 weeks) it was almost Amazon-like. One-click, prime delivery cars would be amazing.

We did make a trip to the dealer about 10 days after the order was placed to have our trade-in appraised and to ask some questions about finance options. The dealer was informative and casual, no pressure whatsoever.

In (hopefully) a few weeks the car will be delivered and we'll make a final trip to sign papers and collect our new MINI. Concluding the easiest new car purchase I have ever made.

MINI Statuses

August 12, 2015 | posted in: life

Updated: 8/21/2015 - En Route status reached
Updated: 9/2/2015 - At Vehicle Distribution Center status reached
Updated: 9/8/2015 - At Your MINI Dealer status reached

After a lot of shopping we've decided to get a new car. We're replacing our 2010 Honda Insight with a 2016 MINI Cooper S. To say that I am excited by this is an understatement. Ever since the "new" MINI was released in 2000 I've been a huge fan, and, after test driving one last November, I haven't been able to stop dreaming about one.

I'll write more about the MINI itself after it gets here, right now I'm having fun with the MINI Owner's Lounge website, which allows you to track your car's progress through the building and delivery process. Currently our MINI is "awaiting transport". Here are all the statuses, in order.

On Order - July 23, 2015

Welcome to the MINI clan. The order for your new MINI is in and waiting to be scheduled for production While you await the day that you will be united with your MINI, you can come back here to check on how it's doing and what stage of the process it has reached.

Scheduled for Production - July 29, 2015

Your MINI has been scheduled for production and will begin to move through the "birth canal" at our Oxford plant, one of the most modern and advanced production plants in all of Europe. With out extremely rigorous quality control standards in place, you should rest well knowing that your baby is in the best of hands.

Awaiting Transport - August 11, 2015

Congratulations! Your healthy and handsome new MINI has been built. A wee bit heavy for any stork, your MINI will now be loaded onto a ship to make its way across the pond. At night, we're sure it'll be dreaming of tearing through twisty turns with aplomb and glee.

En Route to Vehicle Distribution Center - August 21, 2015

Though still adjusting a bit to its sea-wheels, your new MINI wants you to know that so far the cruise has acutally been a blast - great buffets and lots of partying with its brothers. But still, your MINI can't wait to dock, hit the road, and chew up solid ground again.

At Vehicle Distribution Center - September 2, 2015

Your MINI has arrived on U.S. shores and is going through one of its final stages of training and qaulity control at a MINI Vehicle Distribution Center. The center servers as yet another chance for a comprehensive, bumper-to-bumper inspection. It's also where your MINI will be taught not to make fun of Americans who call the "bonnet" a "hood" or the "boot" a "trunk".

At Your MINI Dealer - September 8, 2015

Your MINI is now being transported to your MINI Dealer. We know it's hard, but please be patient just a bit longer. Once it arrives, your dealer wil give it one last shine and a clean bill of health. Then they will call you and set up a time for you to stop by and happily head home in your new MINI.

Last weekend we visited the MINI dealer and learned that our MINI was nearly through the construction process, so I was pleased to get the "awaiting transport" status last night. The dealer said that the usual trans-Atlantic trip is three weeks. I'm hoping that time includes the "awaiting" and "vehicle distribution center" portions of the process. She thought we'd get the car in early September.

Is it September yet?