Author: Stephan

About Stephan

I'm a self-employed software tester. I test and write software, listen to music and go hiking — sometimes simultaneously. Prior to this was a physicist and oceanographer, among other things.

Seeing And Saying On The Command Line

Occasionally I like command line tools to also say the output, in addition to ‘printing’ it (to STDOUT).

A current context is starting a server locally with updated information. The start up takes time, so I tend to not wait at the command line for it to fully boot.

I wanted a noticeable signal when the thing is up – and also a confirmation that the version of the information source *is* actually updated. The commands tee and (the macOS) say do this for me:

tee >(say&)

tee copies the output of its input to STDOUT (usually the terminal) and the given file. The construction >(other command&) causes tee to send the input not to a file but to othercommand and the & causes that command to return immediately (instead of returning only after the command to finish).

Overall, I do something like this. The system returns a lengthy JSON string, so I use jq to get to the version information I’m looking for:

curl -s -u <username:thepassword> “<url_to_locally_running_service>” | jq “<path_to_version_info_in_json>” | tee >(say&)

The GitHub page explains that

jq is a lightweight and flexible command-line JSON processor.

https://stedolan.github.io/jq/

It’s well worth trying, if you’re dealing with JSON input on the command line.

Passing Multiple Arguments To One Rake Task

Occasionally, I want Rake tasks to take multiple arguments. If the number of these arguments are know beforehand, Rake provides a nice way to express that in the Rakefile (see the Rake documentation for more details).

However, sometimes I like to pass a varying number of arguments the a task, which shall all be processed in the same way. Maybe its user IDs that need to be removed from a database, or a given list of piles to be processed.

Today I found a way to do this, by using Rake::TaskArguments#extras . The method extras returns a list of all the extra arguments passed to a Rake task, that are not named in the task definition. If no argument name(s) are declared in the task definition, then all arguments will be ‘extra arguments’.

An example Rakefile is this:

task :list do |t, args|
  puts "In task '#{t.name}"
  puts 'Passed arguments:'
  puts args.extras.map { |extra| "  * #{extra}" }
end

Calling this task from the command line and its output (in zsh) looks like this:

$ rake list\[one,2,3.141]
In task 'list
Passed arguments:
  * one
  * 2
  * 3.141

Note, the \ before the opening bracket ‘[‘. In zsh, this is needed to escape the ‘[‘ (pairs of ‘[]’ have a special meaning in zsh). Also note, that there are no spaces between the arguments, just the comma.

If you prefer to add a space after the comma, there’s a way to achieve this (again in zsh): Drop the ‘\’ and instead put the task name and the arguments in quotes:

$ rake "list[one, 2, 3.141]"
In task 'list
Passed arguments:
  * one
  * 2
  * 3.141

$ rake 'list[one, 2, 42]'
In task 'list
Passed arguments:
  * one
  * 2
  * 42

In this example it doesn’t affect the output whether single or double quotes are used. Quoting in shells is … complicated, see for example: http://zsh.sourceforge.net/Guide/zshguide05.html#l112.

Did you find this helpful? Or do you know a better way to pass multiple arguments to one Rake task? Please let me know.


Generating a Preview on LeanPub Using Rake

While working on the e-books I published on LeanPub, I have developed a number of useful approaches to get fast(er) feedback on how the book looks. Two earlier blog posts describe some of this:

While this provides a nice feedback cycle, sometimes I like to generate a new preview without pushing to the GitHub repository I am using to share the book content with LeanPub. This happens, when I change settings on the Leanpub site that affect the generation of the book (the title image, font faces and sizes are set via the book’s pages on LeanPub, not a configuration file in the repository).

While I could click thought the UI and navigate to the page where I can generate a new preview, I prefer using a command line tool from my local machine: Rake

The Setup

A warning: The LeanPub API documentation says: “Using the Leanpub API requires a Pro plan.

To use the LeanPub API, an API key is needed. The link to the API documentation above has information where to get that key. To easily use this API key, I store it in an environment variable LEANPUB_API_KEY.

The Rake Task Definition

In the repository of my book I have a Rakefile containing the task definitions. Here’s the one to trigger the generation of a preview on Leanpub:

require 'rest-client'

namespace :leanpub do
  LEANPUB_BASE_URL = "https://leanpub.com/<book_id_on_leanpub>"
  namespace :preview do
    desc "Generate new Preview on LeanPub"
    task :generate do |t|
      what_to_generate = t.name.split(':')[1]
      url = "#{LEANPUB_BASE_URL}/#{what_to_generate}.json"
      begin
        RestClient.post url, api_key: ENV['LEANPUB_API_KEY']
      rescue RestClient::Exception => e
        puts "Got error #{e.message} in", caller.first
        exit 1
      end
      puts "Generation of preview was triggered"
    end
  end
end

I can now easily generate a preview, without having to leave the IDE I’m using to write the book (or the command line) using this:

$ rake leanpub:preview:generate
Generation of preview was triggered

The Rakefile will likely change, for example to also support publishing a new version of the current ebook, or to make it more flexible in order to handle different ebooks.

Update (8. Jan 2021): It turns out that this is really useful: LeanPub provides a web hook to generate a _sub set_ of the book that also generates the PDF (but not the ebook and mobi file). This saves some time from pushing to GitHub to being able to review the generated file. I now use this web hook most of the time.

I now only generate for full book in all formats when I want to check that the book looks good enough to be published. Since this happens less regularly than pushing to the repository, I use the Rake task.

A Quick Way To Sort Text on macOS

One way to quickly sort text on macOS that I’m currently using is this:

I copy the text (Mark text & CMD-C) and them do this in iTerm:

pbpaste | sort | pbcopy

And that’s it, already. The text is sorted and copied back to the clip board.

Update: this small change fits my actual needs even better: Sort the input case-insensitive:

pbpaste | sort -f | pbcopy

And as an Alfred App user I can even do this (and don’t have to open a terminal):

Writing – Advice from Johanna Rothman

Just before Christmas (2020) Jabe Bloom asked this over on Twitter::

Johanna Rothmann‘s answers were short and easy to understand (but maybe hard to actually do):

I (publicly) agreed…

…and am now signed up to be informed when the book writing class opens.

It already showing some effect: I’m (re-) starting to update “Fast Feedback Using Ruby” (for the just released Ruby 3). 🙂

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