the "About" page - This is about things


About me

Who are you ?

I'm a 40-something guy, currently living and working in Nantes, in the north-western part of France. I've been in the IT since the early 2000's, so I'm slowly slipping into the "elders" group (let's say "experienced", instead )
You should be able to find more about me if you know how to Google .

I currently work in a "fruit company" —in the Forrest Gump way— : ... but not the one on the left. The other one : So... "Hello, colleagues !!!"

Are you a... "geek" ?
Here are the 20's and some social network addicts call themselves geeks. So please call me a nerd :
Are you a Linux guru ?
Someone once told me :
You're becoming an expert at something when it is faster to script a solution than google it.
I still google a lot !
... a Windows hater, maybe ?
Used to ... We've all been young and (some of us!) over-enthusiastic about technologies we enjoyed, and over-critical of software from Redmond.
In my defense, please remember that, at that time, the de-facto standard operating system on workstations was Windows 98 Second Edition (*cough*), NOT NT-based, having some "reliability problems", and actually deserving to be made fun of IMHO. Things have changed, they make better products now, and I'm more in the "use whatever you like" philosophy.
Despite the above, there are still things that bother me about those products :
Will you become my "friend" on random social network ?
Social networks are interesting in that they make limitations of the physical world irrelevant and allow everybody to interact. But meeting is only the first step, and falls useless if there's no outcome : nothing shared, nothing told, nothing learnt. I'm not the kind of person who's interested in befriending anybody passing by to increment my "contacts" counter and prove how "social" I am. I value interaction quality, discussion, mutual interests more than a meaningless counter : less is more.
I strongly believe in Beer-to-peer networking , though, and will reply to every mail you'll send : questions / bugs / suggestions / ...


About this site

Table of contents

Why did you create this website ?
Long story short, this is my collection of :
  • cheatsheets : I write things so that I can safely forget them
  • snippets of any kind of code (mostly Bash) and configuration files
The real added value is that it allows me to capitalize on everything I learn : while working on something, I can switch to anything else, learn new things, and return to the initial topic at the knowledge level I had when leaving it (plus some extra experience on other topics that may help too). On the long term, this helps building my expertise.
(Read more about how it all started.)
Don't you know there already are sites doing what you do ?
I started taking notes (for my own usage) LONG BEFORE these sites emerged. My point is not to compete with them : no ads here, so 10 or 10000 visitors a day is no big deal (even 0 is fine, except for my ego ). I just want to give back some experience to the FOSS community, I want to do it my way, and also learn new things and enjoy the journey.
Putting this online is also very convenient to have my notes "always available" whe(r|n)ever I need them. And I can refer friends or colleagues to some point I wrote about when they ask for help.
I see people copy-pasting lines of Bash, using scripts straight from GitHub or adding directives to configuration files without REALLY knowing what they're doing. Good for them (they're fast!) but this is not the way I work : I want to understand what I'm doing and be confident about the result of commands, the effect of configuration directives. Which is why examples are so valuable to me : they are stepping stones on the long road to become a Jedi .

Here are some "competitors" I'm aware of that may be of some interest :

How did it start ?
It all began when I started my first job, in the early 2000's. At that time (details) :
  1. information was not only from the web, but also from books, magazines, and experienced colleagues : not everything had a URI.
  2. nobody had a permanent internet connection (even with your own phone line + ISP subscription + computer). Which means ANY online information (if existing) was —at best— 5 minutes away (provided you were at work or at home, because the Internet was not mobile yet ).
Since I was a newbie, there was sooo much new information to me. So I started taking notes, in a paperbook at first, but I quickly learnt that I couldn't CTRL-f there, so I switched to a digital format (in .doc files, shame on me ). This went fine but proved inefficient when trying to build a web of hyperlinks between documents to avoid repeating things. So I switched to plain .html files which did the trick for a while (still visible in the *_legacy.html pages here, here and here).
Then I learnt about dynamically building web pages (PHP, templates, ...), and thanks to a gang of gurus I was working with (and too), I decided to switch to XML documents with XSL / XSLT templates, which I still use today (details : 1, 2).
For years, it stayed like this (i.e. "offline" : mine! Mine! MINE!!!), then I had enough experience / time / knowledge to share it. Let's say this is how I contribute to the open source : documenting things.
Which framework do you use ?
  • For the offline version (let's say development version), pages are XML documents which are transformed on-the-fly into HTML by my browser + XSLT stylesheets. When I created this, the 2 main conditions were it had to work :
    1. without a web server (no admin rights on my PC at work : can't install Apache, PHP & al.)
    2. both in MS-Windows and GNU/Linux environments
  • For the production version, a Python script performs the XSL transformations and generates static .html files. Today, pushing to prod is a matter of minutes .
  • My main tools are :
You DEFINITELY MUST use framework X / tool Y : ALL serious webmasters use it. UPGRADE NOW!!!
Hype comes and goes. My current framework works fine so far so, no, thank you.
Is it "optimized for" a browser / a screen resolution / ... ?
Seriously ?

I do my best so that it's optimized for readers, with details, links and working examples. My "development" environment is Debian stable + Firefox, and as long as everything displays correctly, I consider it ok. I admit I don't check with other browsers or systems (...could be better, but, you know, I'm doing this on my free time). However, what you'll see here is plain HTML and CSS (mostly text, few images, no sound, no video), and the only "exotic" stuff you may miss on "unsupported" browser(s) is eye-candy such as color gradients, round corners, transparent icons or animated GIFs here and there.

It is not mobile-friendly either. I know Google values "mobile-friendliness" a lot, but I'm still a newbie when it comes to mobility, responsiveness and all that sorta things (suggestions welcome !). I don't want to include KiB of Javascript just to make Google happy. I do my best so that everything I write turns into "good" HTML and browsers (mobile or not) are able to display it. From time to time, I visit this site with my smartphone and —so far— it LGTM . I also "optimize" as much as I can (light pages, minify CSS, ...) so that everything displays fast. Finally, the topics I discuss here are not exactly the kind of stuff you search / read on a mobile. So no need rushing .

How often do you update it ?
Depends on my readings and the questions or bugs I face in my activities (either professional or personal). And also on the time left to write articles, since (already mentioned earlier ?) : all of this is made of my free time. There are seldom new articles but lots of fixes and adds (but still no ads ).
Have a look at the latest updates page.
Do you track me when I visit your site ?
The "tracking" things you'll find here (i.e. what I do to know more about you) are :
  • a Piwik Matomo (1, 2) javascript. (details)
  • and a daily analysis of the logs of my webserver with AWStats (these suggest that many visitors block this "tracking" javascript, and I'm ok with that).
But I don't actively "track" visitors :
  • if I care where (some of) you come from, it's because I'm interested in learning someone linked one of my pages
  • I don't collect / process / resell personal data
  • I'm also interested in the audience of my pages : which are visited most / least, ... This helps me decide whether it's worth spending time refactoring them (making them lighter, rewording, splitting contents into dedicated articles or pages, ...)
  • seeing a hit on an "old" page (something I didn't refresh lately) reminds me of this page, so I can have a look and update it if necessary
What's up with Matomo ?
Matomo worked fine but I stopped using it because :
  • I used 1% of its functionalities
  • it misses visitors who block the "tracking" javascript, so I can't have reliable statistics
  • this site is hosted on a tiny server which is low on CPU / RAM / storage. Matomo + MySQL are pretty greedy and several times put the server down on its knees.
What about social network buttons ?
You're french, why is this in english ?
  1. There are more english than french readers on the Internet
  2. Wherever you are, working in IT implies _many_ words you use are in english anyway (you should hear us during meetings or coffee breaks !). I prefer writing basic english rather than poor french .
  3. English is often shorter than french, so same idea, fewer text
  4. Doing this (as well as disabling movie subtitles) helps me practice / maintain my english skills
You know this is ugly, do you ?

This is something I've heard a few times, mostly from people :

  • who have no website, no experience on this and no interesting advice to share
  • who use a default WordPress theme
  • who do the bare minimum (black text on white background) and nothing to visually support reading : fonts, colors, paragraphs, titles, lists, ...
... so I consider this "criticism" rather than "feedback" and don't care too much .
I've also had pretty positive feedback too :
  • a reader told me the colors and "vintage" look reminded him of the NeXTSTEP user interface
  • another one told me I "invented" the tiles menu short before Windows 8

More seriously, my color chart and CSS possibly "could be better" . But I like it this way : this is "me". I prefer doing this MY way rather than copying others (what for ? Remember : no ads ) and doing something I don't like. Many websites look like each other, already. Flat design is just a trend, and something more fashionable will replace it someday.

I actually wanted this to be as "semantically visual" as possible : commands are written like this, file names like that, this is code, and this mimics a shell output. I'm slowly learning CSS3 and CSS grids...

I'm not a UI designer (and this site is not about web and CSS) but I'm open to all suggestions, especially if they're about accessibility (color-blind people or those using screen readers, ...).
99% of what you'll see here is my own work and I always credit sources. The remaining 1% is made of :
  • user manuals, slideshows, ..., that are freely available on the web
  • some PDFs that are offline copies of blog entries I found highly interesting and wanted to keep / refer to, despite the original source possibly disappearing some day
  • some charts I "screenshoted" here and there
  • cliparts / smileys / icons
How are the articles organized ?
I only have a few rules :
  1. I use all this documentation for my daily tasks, so finding information must be fast (few clicks, few scroll). So I build pages accordingly :
    • the main page (static) has the categories I use most near the top-left corner
    • the multiple tables of contents are dynamically sorted by decreasing update dates, so the higher an entry is in the list, the fresher the information
  2. Based on the POLA, if something is not in the 1st place I've sought it in, I move it there.



Like everybody else, I've spent time on forums and IRC (link for youngsters ), been the victim of some trolls and wasted sooo much time and energy in endless / pointless (both?) debates.

The reason of listing some of the "best" trolls below is not to start one more flamewar but to remember not only the good ol'times but also that Life is about choices..
Windows vs GNU/Linux ?
GNU/Linux because :
  • it "just works"
  • it's logical and well-organized (at least, it fits my mental model)
  • it lets me do what I want, the way I want
  • it's not that CPU / RAM / HDD - hungry : my desktop computer still works fine —in 2023— on a AMD Phenom II X4 955 processor + 8GB of RAM + a 128GB SSD
  • I can script everything
  • it can be upgraded without interrupting my work (making it definitely Designed for Professionals )
Emacs vs Vi ?
Actually Emacs, but it's only because I tried it first (this was a WHILE ago !). It perfectly could have been the other way around : I may have become a Vi-enthusiast in opposite circumstances. I'm still convinced Vi is great, it's just I've spent less time on it and only know the basics.
Debian vs Red Hat ?
Debian because it "just works" :
  1. download
  2. install
  3. enjoy
  4. upgrade
  5. continue enjoying

But I admit Red Hat works great too and has good documentation. I'm just cautious about the C.C.B. : We prefer Red Hat because it comes with tech support.. I'm ok with that, but in practice (working in IT for almost 20 years), I have NEVER filed a support case to Red Hat (meaning this _may_ not be money well spent. Unless you consider buying peace of mind, so it's ok ).

As for the things I appreciate less with Red Hat :
  • most of the problems we've had with Red Hat (like 90% of the time spent) is related to the subscription management process : this is particularly complex and counter-intuitive, and sometimes subscription-manager fails whereas you're doing everything right (and the problem is on Red Hat side, but their communication about it is extremely poor)
  • since their documentation is accessible to members only, it is not possible to refer everybody to it
  • Red Hat has become the de-facto standard of the corporate Linux server which has led some IT departments to build a one-size-fits-all server image that is hardly customizable
PC vs MAC ?
Since MacOS X is based on FreeBSD, MACs have become "less uninteresting" to me, but I still think they are WAY too expensive. It's not clear whether they are productivity machines or fashion items. So PC until I've figured this out .
Indent with TAB or SPACE ?
Obviously TAB (with TAB length set to 4 SPACEs) since this is what TABs were created for. I'm afraid this is the kind of question that has no answer since, whatever the pros and cons :
  • no consensus has ever been made over the decades
  • it's ultimately a matter of personal preference, which is not universal : it's like trying to figure which of vanilla or chocolate tastes better
The day when developers (TABers and SPACErs) will be able to collaborate whatever the coding styles (not only indents), Mankind will have accomplished a great step forward.
I also sometimes enjoy using Comic Sans
YES : this is deliberate trolling .
What's funny with this font is that :
  • people focus on the font rather than on the contents, finally making my point
  • I hate the haters, especially when the haters hate but don't know exactly why (because everybody else does ?). I guess I like to piss them off.

For those who are still "stuck in the middle"...

... i.e. those who don't know what to choose, remember that :
  • you are free to choose whatever looks fine / convenient / "good enough" to you
  • you should use stuff :
    1. you have chosen yourself (don't let others —including myself— decide for you)
    2. you are productive with
    3. you are comfortable with
  • you are free to change your mind
  • the majority is not always right
  • Life / the Internets are full of jerks and bullies who (intimately) feel insecure if you disagree with them
Respect others' choices, try to understand them, question yours. There is no "right" or "wrong" in these questions, just opinions. Life is too short for trollware .