July 2015 Archives

My First Legitimate Vagrantfile

I feel like I’ve created this sort of new kind of being. Previously, I had rarely used Vagrant or Docker or anything of the sort, so the idea of being able to craft an on-demand virtual machine with whatever the hell I want inside of it was both exciting and terrifying.

Linux isn’t foreign to me, and neither is the idea of automation, but after being so accustomed to working in a Windows environment against my better judgement for several years, there was a lot of cobweb removal.

Needless to say I could have prevented the aging of my knowledge by staying up to date on every development and deployment technology I could get my hands on. There are, however, only so many hours in the day. Something had to give.

Now I’m paying for that decision as I work on slowing transitioning myself into a more software-development oriented career path. I enjoy ops-y stuff, but I like building things. I like tinkering (hacking?). My boss made a joke today about how involved I get whenever there’s a discussion about minor HTML tweaks to one of our sites.

Hey… I like that s–t.

One thing that made it easier for me to get into this new and soon-to-be-awe-inspiring technology is that I had a purpose. There was a clear goal I wanted to meet and beat.

One of our software offerings runs on JIRA. If you’re unfamiliar with the product, it’s a Java-based project management/issue tracking/development/agile tool for organize and keep track of just about anything. Software companies and app development teams are likely the largest consumers of this product. On a regular basis, my team is spinning up and burning down JIRA instances in the never-ending hunt for bug reproduction, walkthroughs, and everyday troubleshooting.

Unfortunately, installing JIRA by hand isn’t fun if you’re running a Linux box. The Windows installer is pretty hands-off but Windows is Windows.

My end goal was to be able to fire up the almighty Vagrant, have it build out a Linux image with a database, JIRA, and be ready to accept input in the browser. I piggy-backed off a couple other like-minded setups I found on GitHub so it only took a couple hours to get it doing what I wanted.

So without further ado, here’s the link. It’s a work in progress as I’d like to someday have data pre-filled and JIRA pre-installed. I’m not sure how feasible that is given JIRA’s licensing structure. For the uninitiated, the license key is unique and time-based. The key starts to wither away the moment its generated instead of the system stopping working after 30 days from install.

Next week I might try the same with Docker. I’d love to be able to manage a cluster of these types of setups that can be built up and torn down as needed with little overhead. Instead of making the pre-game ritual longer, I want to make it shorter but more enjoyable.

Point of No Return

The point at which I can’t turn back as I pivot my career is approaching. I see it coming, though, which allows me to prepare. Although I’ll never be fully ready, I know I have time to at least pack my suitcase.

Sunday Fun Day

It’s Sunday, and the one thing I enjoy doing on Sunday is watching (American) football. Since it’s still 19 days away from the Seahawk’s first pre-season game–that I might end up missing because I live in California, now, and DirecTV’s NFL Sunday Ticket is both over-priced and only available on DirecTV–I might have to find my way to a Seahawks bar… if they even exist in the Bay Area.

If that doesn’t end up working out, my guess is it’ll be chores and projects… and games. I try to fit in some game time whenever I can because it’s relaxing for me. being able to shut off for a bit and kill some monsters is almost as good as coffee.

Leaf Turning

Ever heard the saying:

I’m turning over a new leaf?

I’d say that, but in this case, the leaf is the same one. This morning I took the time to get back into a morning routine that makes me feel the best.

I’m also working on better planning of my week, as per this video:

If you’re not doing this, do it with me. I’d love to hear how it goes.

On Docker (Briefly)

Ever since I discovered Docker, I’ve been a fan. Trying to explain Docker to the un-initiated is also fun. I describe it like so:

Docker is like a Lunchable (or bento box). The container of said Lunchable is Docker and the VM it controls. Every section inside the container is each of the apps it runs.

I try to tell folks that you use a Virtual Machine if you need to control an entirely specific environment. You use Docker if your interest is just with apps. In this day and age, trying to maintain a fleet of systems or virtual machines can be daunting.

Focusing on the Future, Part 1

I’ve been internally reflecting on the future of my career quite a bit over the last month or so. One thing I know for sure is where I want my career to head, but what I’m not 100% sure about is how to get there.

My overall plan is to pivot into software development. I enjoy solving technical puzzles, fixing things, and making things, all of which can be accomplished with great detail and satisfaction in software development. At this time I haven’t picked a single language or group of languages to stick to and become an expert in. I feel that’ll come within the next few months.

In the meantime, I have to figure out how to best build up these new skills I require while still maintaining my current day job, which I don’t dislike.

10 Web-based CSS Tools

It’s pretty much impossible to design a site without CSS these days. It controls everything. CSS has a hand in so many visual aspects of a site that it can get daunting to keep track of it all or figure out how to tweak it just a certain way. I came up with a list of various web-based CSS tools that can assist any designer in their front-end development quest. If there’s something I missed, please add it to the comments!



Rocket Helps you create animations for items that move from point A to point B on a page. Just include rocket.css and rocket.js on your page.

Font Library


Use Font Library to tag and organize Google fonts. If you’re looking for a font that fits a certain feel, this could come in handy.



Have StyleStats check out your CSS and give you an overview of its qualities including size, unique font sizes, all colors listed, etc.

CSS Shrink


Unless your regular shrink who charges $300 an hour, this guy does his work for free, slimming down your CSS and removing un-necessary code.

CSS Beautifier


Take your ugly, unformatted CSS and turn it into a masterpiece.

Spin Kit


I could stare at them all day, and nothing’s ever going to load. Spin Kit is your source for CSS loading icons.

PX to EM conversion

Math is hard. PX to EM will take care of the number crunching for you. Enter your original size and required size and it’ll math it up and give you an EM equivalent.

Type Scale


How big is that font? It’s big. How big is the next size up? Bigger.

The SVG Font Machine


Turn your SVG icons into a usable font.



Take icon sets from the known joints like Font Awesome and turn them into a font.

Custom Domains on Medium

Update May 12, 2018: Medium doesn’t support this anymore. It was fun while it lasted.

This is something I never knew existed. The Medium team posted this article back in March about their limited beta launch of custom domains for publications that use Medium as a publishing platform.

The article isn’t super detailed about the whole process and there’s only a few publications on board as of the March 12, 2015 story, but this is something I’ve been wanting to see from Medium for a long time. Their publishing platform is awesome. It’s super easy to use and is formatted very well for long-form articles and stories that feature big and beautiful imagery.

My only hope is that they extend this to everyone at some point in time.

A Post I Wrote with Writed

I’m always on the lookout for new and interesting apps that make the desktop writing experience more enjoyable. I’m a big fan of Desk and iA Writer and wondered what other kinds of markdown-based writing tools were out there.

A quick Google search turned up more than a few and I only had time to talk about one, tonight, so I picked a free entry in the space, Writed.

I’m a believer of having a good-quality, distraction-free writing environment to craft stories, blog posts, news articles, and even school papers*, one of the biggest things to me is the ability to go full-on distraction-free mode and be able to just write, without anything else getting in the way. Writed does the full-screen writing mode well with several styles to choose from. Since it was night when I wrote this, I found it suitable to sit by a lamp at my desk and use the Night theme. The contrast is good and I’m not struggling to see. Plus, if I darken the brightness of my screen, the dark grey background becomes almost black, and the words still pop.

99% Distraction Free

A word and character counter sit at the bottom of the screen, and there doesn’t seem to be any way to make that bar disappear, so strictly speaking, I’m not operating in full distraction-free mode like my favorites would alow me to do, but we’re close. To be honest, I like to see the numbers from time to time because it feels like I’m increasing some magical word score and I’m shooting for a high score. I have this odd fascination with things that allow me to attain exceedingly high scores with no real reward at the end but an even higher score.

Basic Markdown Support

Writed does markdown writing well with it’s backtick ( ` ) code support, as well as proper emphasis with single and double-underscore and -asterisk support. Headers and code blocks work fine, as well as blockquoting with greater-than carats ( the > symbol).

If I was going to chang anything about this application, I’d only do one thing: make the bottom bar something I can hide. Given that it’s a slightly different color in the theme, it stands out from the rest of the editing space and is just a smidge distracting. Other than that, I like Writed and for the price of FREE with a couple optional in-app purchases, it’s super hard to say no to such an app that gets the basic markdown-centric-distraction-limited-writing-space job done.

Elder Scrolls Online: Tamirel Unlimited

I never thought I’d end up being a fan of the Elder Scrolls franchise. I haven’t so much as played any of the past titles including the ever popular Skyrim.

Then last weekend, while I was scrolling through the PlayStation Store on my PlayStation 4, I came across Elder Scrolls Online: Tamirel Unlimited. I was naturally a bit curious as I hadn’t followed the franchise much and wanted to know more about this unknown-to-me installment.

As it turns out, it wasn’t a new installment at all so much as it was an all-access pass to the Elder Scrolls Online world. Previously, people had to pay monthly for the game like those who play World of Warcraft and MMOs like it. Having a one-time fee of $60 seemed much more appealing to someone like me that might pick it up and put it down here and there and go a significant while without playing.

The last thing I wanted to do at this point in my gaming career (if you can call it that) was to end up spending $15-20 a month on a game that I only play for a few hours a week. The total cost of ownership would be much lower at this single price point, even at the same duration of play per month.

So I caved and bought it. Since it was a digital purchase, I more or less bought rights to play it, but that’s just semantics. I really thought I would be able to pick it up and start playing that same night. As it turns out, that wasn’t quite the case.

At almost 36GB for the main game and 18GB for the “update” to said game, I was in for a wait. A 55GB game is nothing to sneeze and and that gave me hope there would be a lot of content and a lot of places to explore.

The next day, long after it downloaded, I fired it up and jumped into the fray. This comes after spending a few hours the night before watching YouTube videos to partly learn about what’s going on and partly secretly justify my (probably) non-refundable purchase.

First impressions are important, and I wasn’t really disappointed. The visuals are on par with what I would expect from a current-generation game console at steady frame rates. The story is as fantasy as it can get. The interface took some getting used to as this is my first foray into the console-MMO space. Quest markers were the hardest parts to get down.

After several hours, I was hooked, however, and am glad I made the purchase. So far, I’ve sunk roughly 10 hours into the game and have just scratched the surface. I look forward to continuing my digital adventures with my character named NathanielIronbow. Cheesy, I know.

Johnathan Lyman
Kenmore, WA,
United States
blogging, design, technology, software, development, gaming, photography