…And We’re Back!

It has been an interesting 2 years since my last entry, and a single post will not do justice to how much has changed in my life. I just wanted to let you know dear reader that I am still around. πŸ™‚

I am figuring out in which direction I want to take the blog. Do I go into programming details with my experiments in Rust and Qt, or do I delve into my current role as a Ops person working on Kubernetes? Or maybe more musing on software engineering or maybe something completely different? Still not sure, but keep an eye for updates. πŸ™‚

Rookeries v0.17.0 – Auto-Building + Multi-Template Support

Recovering from PyCon Canada 2019, and the holidays took longer than I expected. However I am pleased to announce the release of version 0.17.0 of Rookeries to start off this new year!

Version 0.17.0 includes a number of improvements to the serve command:

  • Auto-building of the site when a file in a project changes.
  • Opening of the resulting build site in a browser using the --open flag.
  • Auto-refreshing of the opened site when in development mode.

In addition, I added:

  • Multi-template support which will allow for building out complex templates in the future.
  • Improvements to the UX experience.

If you are running version 0.16.0, you can run a re-install using the rookeries-online-installer.sh to update to the latest version. Otherwise you can install v0.17.0 by following the instruction on the Download page.

Next Steps

As for what I plan to work on next, I want to improve the infrastructure around downloading, installing and working with both plugins and templates. I will be using my new site for my Juggling JSON with jq Cookbook ebook as a test bed for improving working with Rookeries. That way I have some real use cases outside of Rookeries’ project page. I am looking forward to working on both projects and see how they both develop in parallel.

Do you know that my mailing list is the first to know about releases and developments around Rookeries? Consider subscribing to the mailing list to be among the first to know!

PyCon Canada 2019 Retrospective

This Tuesday marked the last day of the coding sprints, and with that PyCon Canada 2019 ended. Now that I have wrapped up my own commitments for the conference, I feel that I should post a brief retrospective on how the conference went.

Overall the conference this year turned out very well! The organizers received a lot of praise for our hard work. And I am humbled that I can be counted as one of the core organizers. I am seriously considering helping out again next year with the sprints.


Any larger conference takes time and energy to prepare for. PyCon Canada 2019 proved no different. Thankfully experience from last year proved valuable in getting everything to come together. As the event drew closer, we were able to stay on track with the work, through meetings, emails and messages.

If you never worked on a conference organization team, you do not realize how much work goes into a conference:

  • Picking out a venue.
  • Choosing an appropriate mix of talks.
  • Organizing schedules and volunteers.
  • Ensuring equipment runs smoothly.
  • Designing promotional material, merchandise, websites, etc.
  • Figuring out the catering to feed 500+ attendees.
  • Promoting everything.

Thankfully we had a great team, and were able to make everything come together. Thank you Elaine Wong, and Chris Fournier for chairing this conference, and getting us all through it! Thanks to the team I focused on the sprints, and getting my employer to sponsor the conference, while others could focus on other aspects of the conference.


The Carlu proved an excellent venue for the conference. Not only a stylish, comfortable, compact (but not crowded) space but also staffed by a very professional crew. We only ran into a few minor technical difficulties, but otherwise the operation went smoothly. The catering and food was amazing, even impressing our French Canadian attendees (who are accustomed to good cuisine)! Hopefully we will be able to use the space again in the future.


Corporate sponsors help keep PyCon Canada reasonably priced, and in turn as an organizer, I hope the sponsors find it benefitial. A conference lets sponsors get the word out.

During the conference I ended up chatting with quite a few of the sponsors. The visual effects and animation studio DNEG was an unexpected sponsors. I ended up chatting with their reps a lot about their asset setup (in-house Python), and their work. (I am a huge nerd when it comes to computer graphics and animation.)

Also it was nice to see the other sponsors:

It was great talking to all of you, and I learned a new thing.

I also appreciate all the effort that went into getting all the sponsors onboard. Getting my own employer to sponsor proved a bit more involved than I expected. Even though everyone at Points wanted to go, details of who could go, what benefits to expect from the sponsorship, which budget would be involved, etc., took a bit to figure out. I am hoping that planning for next year’s conference starts early, and because of that the sponsorship experience goes more smoothly.


I enjoyed our selection of talks this year! And I heard similar sentiments from other attendees. Unforunately as a speaker and organizer, I did not get to see many talks, these are the ones really stood out for me:

I also presented my talk Rust Accelerated Python at PyCon Canada this year. It went very well, thank you to both Elaine and the session chair for making the session go well. I found the setup for the slides vs. speaker notes a bit fiddly, but not terribly. Otherwise my edits to make the talk more concise went well, and I had time for a QA! Overall I got a lot of interest in both Rust and creating bindings in Python. Ended up fielding quite a few questions about the state of the Rust ecosystem, how useful would it be to learn Rust for data science, etc. I am super happy that was able to both educate and entertain, and enjoy doing so!

You can view the talk slides here and the associated BitBucket repo here.


Finally the coding sprints went very well. Apart from some minor organizational snafus that almost noone noticed, and that I plan on improving for next year, the sprints went very well. We got a good mix of both experienced and novice developers come out. People sprint on around 8-10 projects including: pyodide, graphene, pylint, commitzen, flask and statsmodels. Overall people enjoyed the sprints, and many of the first time sprinters expressed wanting to sprint again!

I personally I got to work on the pyodide project, once everyone was settled in:

Thanks to Mozilla Toronto for providing the space and hosting us! And thanks again to Elaine with making sure we had coffee, sweets and pizza to fuel the sprinters!

On Increasing Creative Output

This week I am juggling a number of things related to PyCon Canada, and life
in general. Also I came to the realization in the past few weeks, that if I
want to effectively work on long term projects like Rookeries, writing
about tooling, working on my side adventure, et cetera, without burnning
out I need to have the time, space, and health to do so effectively in the long

Still it felt wrong to break my writing/publishing schedule, just because I am
figuring things out. After I want to work on my output consistency while still
performing my normal day-to-day activities. Rather than force myself to rush
through the more technical post on Rookeries, I will something simpler.
Today I want to discuss some guidelines that have I adopted that help me get
better at creative work. Since both technical writing and programming are
ultimately creative work, the ideas I want to look at apply to them as well.

Schedules and Commitments

Creative types (e.g. writers and coders) often avoid schedules like the plague.
Yet I would agree you need both schedules and commitments (i.e. deadlines).
These push you to perform and ship real work. The more often you ship, publish,
release, so on, the more experience you gain and the better you become as a
professional creative. You need that feedback from your audience, client or
end-user, and you can only gain that by releasing your work to them.

Often you need external motivation to get something out there. Otherwise
you may engage endlessly in either procrastination or polishing something that
is already ready. Consistent commitments (like my own weekly journal post) help
you build that habit of shipping regularly. I would argue that regular shipping
is what differentiates a true professional creative and a wannabe. So embrace
those schedules and commitments!

Good Workflows and Environments Help You Get into the Flow

Creative output is the greatest when you are in the flow of things. Output
becomes natural, and you become more productive. However distractions can
easily pop you out of flow. If your tools, workflow or work environment
become the reason for distractions, then you will have a rough time creating.

Investing in a good workflow–tools and process that make you effective–pays
large dividends. In my case I figured out that Markdown and a good text editor,
makes me the most productive when writing. The ultimate reason for my creating
Rookeries is to create a better workflow for me when I work on websites.

Also finding the right environment to work improves creative output.
Environment includes both the physical and mental space. Hence putting on
the right music gets me into the flow than listening to the ambient noise of
an open office. (Actually I have a whole rant on why open office spaces are
the worst for creative work but that will be for another time.) Unfortunately
I do not currently have the luxury of adapting my work environment too much,
but if you have that option you should take it.

Stay Healthy

Staying healthy is one area that I often neglect to think about as a creative.
I get too caught up in the work, to remember to care of myself as well as I
ought to. The truth is that you can not consistently crank out great work when
you are sick, tired, unfocused, under the influence, or distracted by other
issues. Even if you try to push through say a cold while doing coding, you
generally find the results less than satifactory after the fact.

Physical fitness is important since you are human and you have a physical
component. That is why regular exercise, healthy food, regular rest, etc.
help with creative productivity. If you are not healthy, you will not have the
good enough energy levels for creative work.

Also as a human creative, you need to work on your mental and spirtual fitness
as well. Very few creatives can work outside of a supportive environment. I
could not imagine being productive without the support of my family, friends,
and colleagues. Also the less worries you have, the easier it will be to focus
on creative work.


I will summarize simply saying that if you want to maintain a creative
profession (writing, art, music, programming, etc.), you need to stick to
schedules and commitments to ship work regularly. Investing in a good
environment to work in will pay huge dividends. And stay healthy so that you
can continue to do the work you love for many happy years to come.

Speaking At PyCon Canada 2019 – Rust Accelerated Pythons

I am happy to announce that I will be giving a talk on Rust and Python at PyCon Canada 2019: Rust Accelerated Pythons!

I will be talking about how to write Python bindings for Rust. With Rust you can create and call fast native code without worrying about having to use C/C++. And creating Python bindings is pretty easy in Rust. This talk will give an introduction to the Rust language, the challenges of writing cross-language bindings, and an example of working with the excellent PyO3 library. Hope to see you there if you are in the Toronto area for PyCon Canada!

If you can’t make it out to PyCon Canada this year, I also plan on giving this talk at an upcoming Rust Toronto meetup. More details will on that in a future post.

Rookeries v0.16.0 – Cross-Platform Support

On Wednesday night, I released version 0.16.0 of Rookeries, my developer/designer friendly static site generator! What makes this release exciting is that I added cross-platform support for macOS and FreeBSD! Also I setup an cross-platform installer, that works on all 64-bit x86 Linux distros including Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) 2.0. And I plan on supporting Linux, macOS (OS X) and FreeBSD as first-class systems going forward.

Also a multitude of stability and UX improvements landed in this release.
You can download Rookeries and install it using the new cross-platform installer here.

Rookeries v0.16.0 screenshot

Now this took quite some time and effort, especially around figuring out cross-compiling and what each OS could reasonably support. Over the course of the next few weeks, I will be writing about the challenges and how I overcame them when adding cross-platform support. (Including a quick aside why I dropped native non-WSL Windows support, and took up FreeBSD instead.)

Do you know that my mailing list is the first to know about releases and developments around Rookeries? Consider subscribing to the mailing list to be among the first to know!

Rookeries v0.15.0 Released – Technical Preview of the Static Site Generator

It turns out that rewriting a CMS into a static site generator takes a bit of time. πŸ˜‰ After 3 months of silence, I can finally announce the long awaited release of version 0.15.0 of Rookeries. This release is the first fully functional technical preview of the static site generator!

You can now create, build and develop a full site with Rookeries! In fact I rebuilt the Rookeries site, using Rookeries to prove out the concept. You start by using the generator to setup a new project. Then you can add Markdown files to build new pages to an existing site, change the HTML and CSS templates, and run a build which creates a modern site. A site that in essence is a server-side rendered single-page application. So if you are running Debian or Ubuntu Linux you can try it out Rookeries by installing the deb package.

Now, this release is a technical preview release to demonstrate the concept. I plan on making the template and plugin systems more flexible. Also I want to improve the usability by adding an automatic rebuild when a page is edited. And I need to write proper documentation as well. Support for other operating systems and distributions is also in the works. However already Rookeries is significantly faster than its nearest competitor: GatsbyJS and smaller in size. And you get a nicer, more maintainable site than from many other tools.

So please take Rookeries for a spin, and let me know how you like it!

Rookeries v0.14.0 Released – Tech Preview of Plugins

I’m excited to announce today’s new release of Rookeries: version 0.14.0. This release previews support for plugins!

After quite a lot of experimentation, and I was able to create a tech preview of a plugin architecture. The server can now find and load frontend plugins. And the frontend plugins now extend the markdown editor, and provide new web components on a page. While the current plugins are essentially tech demonstrators, and the server and admin console need work, I am confident that this architecture will enable Rookeries to move to the next level.

What is the next level? I want to make Rookeries the most usable, extendable Markdown based CMS, targeted toward more technical users such as developers, and technical documentation writers. Rookeries will focus on enabling the creation of web site by writing Markdown, styling with CSS and using plugins for more complex additions: such as SEO, custom markup, image resizing, et cetera.

As for my next steps, I will be working in 3 areas:
* Reducing the size of the Rookeries Docker image (currently at a massive 4 GB).
* Refactoring the main app and the admin console to take advantage of plugins.
* Creating an experience for using plugins that rivals WordPress.

There is still a long way to go, however I am confident that Rookeries will be usable for production (outside of hosting its own site) before the end of the year.

Rookeries v0.13.1 – Release + Web Assembly Experiments

This past month I’ve been trying to determine the future direction I want to take my projects: especially Rookeries. Ultimately I want to build something that lasts and is able to sustain itself financially. As someone who is still a novice in the arts of marketing, and business development, this is hard, and doing this in an open, transparent environment like with libre software, just adds to it. While I have many musings on what is needed to run a sustainable open source project, they are just that: musings. Without getting into the weeds, I think the Ghost blogging platform team is doing the right thing. I recommend the Indie Hacker podcast that interviews John O’Nolan of Ghost.

Also I’ve been playing around with some of the interesting Rust Web Assembly projects out there. I think they have potential to improve Rookeries in a radical manner. However before I get anyone’s hopes up, I want to get something working before I announce the future direction of Rookeries. (Something, something, Web Assembly, something, something, plugin extensibility.) In the meantime I am releasing version 0.13.1 of Rookeries!

This version is mostly bug fixes, and code re-organization that will help me extend the project into the future.

P.S. My mailing list knows about my releases and plans of Rookeries, before the blog. So you should totally sign up for the Rookeries mailing list.

Rust + Gtk = Wow

As I’ve been experimenting with writing Rust apps, I attempted to create a small little GUI application. At first I attempted to setup everything with Qt, but C++/Qt interoperability with Rust is painful. Very, very painful. I experimented with some more radical UI frameworks such as Azul and Conrad. These have a lot of promise going forward. However for the here and now, I recommend looking at gtk-rs, Rust binding for Gtk.

With a bit of experimentation, looking through gtk-rs examples, some other projects using gtk-rs, and lots and lots of searching, I was able to create this:

This is a code viewer that lets you open Rust code, and view it. Yes, you are looking at a portion of the code that runs that code viewer. Getting the GtkSourceView working took some coaxing. Also I had to learn how to use the Glade UI editor for Gtk. Overall it took me about 2 to 3 hours to pull this off. I am very impressed with the results, and it opens up new possibilities for me.