Setting up Jekyll blog on Ubuntu subsystem for Windows 😵

Whether you are a fan or not, the Ubuntu subsystem for Windows is here to stay. Personally I am a fan as it puts an entire Ubuntu operating system at your fingertips without the need to set up a Virtual Machine. At the same time, it integrates pretty well with the Windows environment, allowing you to easily access the file system.

One thing that I have found, this is very useful for, is leveraging the power of Apititude. This package manager that comes preloaded with Ubuntu (and many other Debian based operating systems), makes it very easy to install open-source tools which on Windows typically require you to download and install them manually and often suffer from issues caused by the subtle differences between operating systems.

A while ago I decided to check out Jekyll. It is a Ruby-based platform which converts Markdown based files into static websites or even blogs. The big advantage of such websites is that they are very easy for a webserver to server up, as they require very little logic on the server to be executed. Essentially you are just reading a file from the filesystem and sending it through the HTTP socket to the requester. With a good caching system, these pages can even be served up directly from the memory of the server.

Setting up

The Ubuntu subsystem for Windows is fairly lightweight. So a lot of packages will not come pre-installed. This means that before you can follow the default instructions to start a new Jekyll project, you will have to set up some prerequisites.

These commands will install Ruby and the tools required to build Ruby gems. Next we will install the Bundler and Jekyll gems, which are needed to set up, build and serve your Jekyll based website.

Your Ubuntu subsystem should now be set up and ready for you to develop your website.

Your Jekyll project

As the prerequisites are now out of the way, it is time to follow the remaining setup instructions as they are given on the Jekyll website itself. The following commands will set up a basic project fro your website, build it and also serve it.

Your website should now be available at http://localhost:4000/ and update live when you modify it! All of the tools for editing on your Windows machine, you can now use to edit the website, even though it is being served by the Ubuntu subsystem.

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Tablets everywhere!!

As of late, there’s been an undeniable increase in the use of tablet PCs. I’ve heard people say that tablets will be the end of the desktop PC, they will take over the entire market and everything else will slowly fade away into history. Laptops were going to do the same thing a few years ago, but I’m typing this article on my desktop PC.

If you’d ask me to define today’s average tablet PC, I would respond with:

Tablets are bulky smartphones with large screens to play low-end games on.

This may be a slight exaggeration, but in a way it’s hard to deny.

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Windows 8: File Explorer

It’s been a while since my last post, I’ve been quite busy. However, in this post I’d like to take a look at the new file explorer in Windows 8.

Windows 8 File Explorer
Windows 8 File Explorer

Many people have been giving a lot of negative feedback about the fact that Microsoft decided to integrate the ribbon interface as seen in Microsoft Office 2007/2010 and other applications like Paint on never versions of Windows. Personally I think this is a great idea and they should have done this sooner.

In my opinion, this new interface opens up the capabilities of the file explorer to the every day user who often has trouble finding certain commands. The great thing about it is that the poweruser who may think of the bar as a waste of space, can jut hide it with a click of a button.

As you can see in the image, Microsoft also took some time to increase the space available. The bottom bar which showed some file properties and such has been replaced with a simple status bar to free up a lot of additional vertical space, something that will certainly be useful for users with lower screen resolutions, such as many notebook users.

Aside from the new interface I’d also like to discuss some other cool features. The first of which is that it is now possible to open a command window directly from the file menu in the file explorer, including starting it with administrative privileges. It’s of course not a big adaptation, but it’ll take a tine amount of clicks and keys off of the current methods to open this.

Another cool feature is that it is now possible to mount iso and vhd files. For those who are not familiar with either one of these files, an iso file is a sort of disk image archive file, it contains a disk image for an optical disc such as a DVD. Normally one would burn these disk images to an optical disc and insert it into a optical drive to read it, but for quite a while now, applications like Deamon Tools and VirtualCloneDrive have been able to mount these images directly as virtual drives. Windows 8 now natively supports this, removing the need for 3rd party applications. Also new is the ability to mount vhd files which are similar to iso files, but these represent virtual hard drives. The iso files mounts as a virtual optical drive and the vhd files as a virtual hard drive, which both can easily be ejected by right clicking the drive and pressing Eject.

All of these features of course are fairly trivial, but I do feel they add a lot of value to windows as a product as they increase the user experience quite a lot.

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