Coding On An iPad

Using an iPad for Coding

This project will attempt to document my experiences using an iPad as a code-creation device using Git, Github and various applications. This document is not about creating iPad apps.

I’ve had a 64GB iPad 2 that was under-utilized, mainly living near my bed, where it served as an alarm clock and a way to play Pandora while I fell asleep. This being a waste of usable technology, I decided to factory wipe it and epurpose it as a mini-workstation that wouldn’t weigh me down.


Now, coding using the on-screen keyboard would be a hellish way to live your life, but fortunately, the iPad has bluetooth, so you can connect any bluetooth keyboard. I had one of those aluminum Apple keyboards and that connected well and worked perfectly, but did not lend itself to being tossed in a messenger bag with the iPad, as errant keystrokes woke the iPad, drained the battery and would manage to take dozens and dozens of random screen captures.

USB keyboards are out, obviously, as are any of the Logitec keyboards that use their dongle. Fortunately, Logitec makes a fairly ideal keyboard, the Logitec K48o bluetooth multi-device keyboard.

It has a groove that you set your ipad into in landscape mode, or, if you prefer in portrait mode, which frees up enough space for a smartphone. It makes no attempt to charge your devices, but doesn’t get in the way of cables. It also has a 3-position switch that lets you easily jump between different devices.

SSH Client

With that sorted out, it was time to go looking for apps with which to get some work done. The first thing I needed was a reliable SSH client. Server Auditor is a free, very well-thought-out app that gets the job done. There is a paid version that I haven’t tried, but the free version is ad-free.

With SSH working, I had a good, reliable way to do quite a bit of what I need to do, such as logging in to linux servers and editing files. I could have really stopped there, since my servers all have git and vi, but I started to wonder what else I could do, leveraging the iPad’s capabilities.

Editing and Git

There are a lot of text editors for the iPad, but I wanted one that would work with git and not add a lot of steps to my workflow. A thread on Reddit recommended the combination of WorkingCopy (git client) and Textastic (TextMate for iPad, basically) for editing.

Working Copy Git App

Working Copy has a free version that lets you check out repositories, but not check in changes. While this would be useful to some, I decided to buy the paid version for $14.99 and have not regretted it in the least. Working copy will become the cornerstone of your workflow on the iPad, both with GitHub as well as privately-hosted repos. (There is an ’Enterprise Version" that lets you get the full-featured version in a single step, but I do not believe it offers any additional features, it’s just a convenience for deploying throughout a company.)

Once you have Working Copy, authorize it against your GitHub account and clone or create a repo. Now, it may appear that you can edit right there in WorkingCopy, but you really want to fire up an a real editor at this point. Put WorkingCopy in the background and open up Textastic.


Working Copy is where you’ll manage your git repositories, but if you’re using GitHub, you’ll also want to install iOctocat to do all of the things on GitHub that come along with being a member of the ecosystem. GitHub is a social platform, after all, and iOctocat is where you manage your life on it.

Textastic Text Editor App

Get the $10 upgrade for Textastic. I can’t remember exactly what’s different between the paid and unpaid versions, but the developers deserve the love.

My first instinct was to first open up Textastic, create a file, then check it in to git. This is not the best way to go about it. Start from Working Copy. Open your repo and click the “+” mark to create a new file. Once you type the name, hit enter and the file will be created. Switch over to Textastic and the file will be available from the file chooser.
(Yes, you can create files in Textastic, but it’s more difficult to get them into Working Copy afterwards, so don’t bother doing it this way.)

What also threw me a bit was when I looked for the save button. There is none. You edit to your heart’s content, then switch back to WorkingCopy. Looking at the repository view, you’ll see that it has seen the changes and gives you a simple way to commit your changes.

Byword Markdown Editor

GitHub projects default to displaying a README as the top page of your project and they use Markdown syntax for formatting, but I’m a real newbie when it comes to Markdown, so I decided to look for an editor that would let me work visually, rather than just monospaced text and formatting codes.



BATHVS, as you probably know, is my girlfriend Shana’s business.  She makes soaps, shampoo bars, bubble bars, lotions, and other products.

Recently, she just launched her website, from which you can purchase her products.  Aside from the initial website, she’s done everything herself and, I must say, it looks gorgeous.

BΛTHVS, pronounced Bath-us, believes in using high quality ingredients for the best results in skin and hair care products. We are conscious of our ingredients and where they come from, straying away from animal testing. All ingredients are cruelty free and vegetarian. We support charitable causes throughout the year, from helping animal non-profits, to donating a part of each batch of soap to an organization called “Clean the World”, which gives the soap to impoverished countries, and educates them on personal hygiene to avoid illness. We want to make a positive difference, while also providing pleasure to all of your senses in the form of fine scents, relaxing baths, and soft, manageable hair.

Everything in our shop is handmade in small batches in our studio space at the historic Pajama Factory, from our cold process soaps, to our very popular environmentally friendly hair care products.  Our soaps are cured on our handmade wall racks for at least 4 weeks until they are ready to hit the sales floor.  The long cure ensures that all of the water put in during the soap making process can evaporate out, creating a hard, longer lasting, and mild bar.  We always have something new and interesting coming off of our soap racks to offer to our customers, so I recommend keeping an eye out on our Facebook page, as well as our Blog.

ngrok – secure introspectable tunnels to localhost

So you’re developing a website on your laptop and you want to make it available for someone else to look at, but you don’t want to push it up to a “real” server. Sure, you could do some NAT tunneling voodoo on your router, or maybe some jiggery-pokery with your network’s NGINX config, but that’s probably more effort than you want to go through, so you wind up doing a lame screen share using Skype…

Here’s a better way: Simply download and run in a terminal and it will make your local website available, via an address it generates.

securely expose a local web server to the internet and capture all traffic for detailed inspection and replay

via ngrok – secure introspectable tunnels to localhost.

Quick and Dirty vi

Quick and Dirty vi
Resurrected an old page I wrote years ago.  There was a time it was one of my most popular pages, from back when this site was just a collection of handwritten pages, not done with blogging software:

Quick and Dirty vi

Getting Out of vi

In case you are only here because you’re stuck in vi with a messed-up file on your screen, you probably just want to kill it without saving the file. Relax.

Hit “Escape” a couple of times to insure that you are in comma…

Defy Bags

Defy Bags – “Old Materials. New Ideas.” from Jerry Rig on Vimeo.

Defy has been proudly manufacturing durable goods since 2008, with each and every hand-crafted product inspected by me. All goods are crafted to be: simple, clean-lined, sturdy and manufactured to a level that would make my grandfather proud. We art direct each minute detail to ensure every bag feels truly one of a kind. And oh by the way, we mostly use vintage or reclaimed durable materials to do so. Well, that and imported solid steel and brass Austri Alpin Cobra buckles from Switzerland that are load bearing up to 1,000 lbs and used by special forces around the globe because of their world class quality and construction. Pardon the pun, but at each and every turn we like to Defy expectation.

via Story – Defy Bags.

Further afield: Raleigh Denim. | Fog + Foundry

I’d like to start sharing some stories about inspirational small manufacturing companies. This is the kind of stuff I’d love to see grow at the Pajama Factory.
Here’s the first:

Victor and Sarah Lytvinenko founded Raleigh Denim in 2007 in their North Carolina apartment. Selling their possessions to raise the fund for materials and a sewing machine, their launch was long on enthusiasm if short on expertise.

Over the intervening five years they’ve built Raleigh Denim into a cult fave. Fusing traditional craftsmanship with a modern cut, their jeans are made using denim from Cone Mill’s White Oak plant and vintage machinery such as the 43200G Union Special to produce a chainstitch hem. Each piece is signed on its inside pocket and the leather patch is handstamped with its edition number.

via Further afield: Raleigh Denim. | Fog + Foundry.

Raleigh Denim: Handcrafted in North Carolina | UNC-TV from David Huppert on Vimeo.

Matt Dempsey, Metal Artist

The following is a brief profile on Matt Dempsey and his partner Savannah Barr, two of the latest tenants at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport, PA.

Matt Dempsey, metal artist, at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport, PA

Matt Dempsey loves a challenge. For Dempsey, that challenge might be making a thing that nobody has made in generations, or perhaps something that has never been made before. Dempsey works with metal. He pounds it with hammers and heats it using fire and bellows and showers of sparks and, of course, a huge anvil of the sort rarely seen outside of cartoons. It’s the kind of anvil that makes you picture it being unsuccessfully dropped upon roadrunners, more often landing upon coyotes.

“Matt the blacksmith” is how he’s often referred to around the factory, since there are already several people named Matt around the place, but if you call him a blacksmith in his presence, he’ll correct you.

“A blacksmith is a person with very specialized training. I am not a blacksmith,.” he explains. “I am an an artist working primarily in metal.”

Dempsey, 37, is self-taught in his craft. He didn’t apprentice, he learned to do what he does by tackling specific problems and forging both the tools and the techniques to solve each problem.

“Most people just go buy a hammer when they need one, but I wind up making most of mine. Each one was made to do something very specific and the ones that prove useful wind up being used again.” The same goes for many of his other tools: a pair of tongs he he showed was made for a project, when no other pair was quite right for the job. The same goes for his “Hardy tools”, specialized shaping tools made with a stout square shank that fits into the square hole in his anvil.

It’s an uphill battle in semantics, though, for as long as he’s pounding away on that anvil that sits in his workshop, he’s going to be “the blacksmith” to the casual observer.

Matt Dempsey, metal artist, at the Pajama Factory in Williamsport, PA

Dempsey came to the area from Bradford, PA, the home of Zippo lighters and Case knives, both iconic American brands that epitomize reliability and dependability, traits that seem to fit with the sort of work that he does. He and his partner, Savannah Barr, came to the area for Dempsey to work in the gas industry, but it wasn’t long before he was introduced to Mark Winkelman of the Pajama Factory.

It was a natural fit and fast friendship, as Dempsey loves nothing more than solving a unique problem and a hundred year old building like the Pajama Factory is brimming with just those sorts of puzzles. You see it as you enter his studio space on the ground floor of the factory, next to the recently-closed Cobbler’s Outlet store: the latch on the door to his shop is a heavy black thing of iron, made specifically for that door, no doubt because it does something that the store-bought latches don’t.

”I got into metalwork when I learned to weld. I spent six years welding custom prototype radiators for show cars,” he explains. “It taught me to understand metal, to think about how it behaves in certain situations.”

It was a skill that proved useful when he took up horn carving as a hobby.

Turning an ornately-carved horn in his hands, he explains. “To make these kinds of cuts in the materials, you need knives in very specific shapes. I had to learn to make my own.”

Through his involvement with The Society for Creative Anachronism, an “international organization dedicated to researching and re-creating the arts and skills of pre-17th-century Europe”, he was able to meet others with a similar interest in the seemingly obsolete: “I really enjoy the old technology. Before everything was plugged into a wall socket, you had to know how to create the things for your day-to-day life.”

That sort of thinking was what helped him when he was part of the crew of the Appledore IV, a twin-masted schooner that sails the Saginaw Bay and Lake Huron, a wooden sailing ship used in marine biology and education, another of his unusual experiences. “A boat like the Appeldore isn’t a floating museum piece, it’s a working ship. You need a lot of hard-to-find skills to do that safely.”

He isn’t pretentious in the least, and there is no hint of affectation in his demeanor. He’s down-to-Earth in what he does, but when he talks about his work, there’s a playful glint in his eye and his demeanor becomes noticeably more animated. For this reason, it’s fun to watch him work, as everything becomes a demonstration. His partner, Savannah Barr, had some of her textile designs, in this case, long pieces of beautifully dyed silk, drying on large wooden frames. “See where the dye pattern looks different? She’s used salt to change how the dye is absorbed.”

Sure enough, there are tiny crystals of salt on the silk and the pattern it’s made is beautiful, but equally fascinating is the way the silk is held on the drying frame: every inch or so there’s a string attached to the edge of the silk that drapes over the edge of the frame. At the end of each string is a weight, carefully adjusted to pull the silk taut, without distorting the fabric.

Barr is not only an artist in textiles, she is also a photographer, as well as a journalist.

When asked what was in store for them at the Pajama Factory, Dempsey replied: “Classes and workshops. I plan to set up some very hands-on events for people of all ages. Something where they can come in and later walk away with something they made themselves. To get that going, though, I need more commission work.” These commissions and customers help finance his more creative projects and activities, he explained, but it all goes hand-in-hand, like everything else the pair explained.

“See these masks? See this curve here and that right angle on that one?” He shows a set of copper masks, one an owl, another, an impish-looking gargoyle. “I was doing a project where I needed a large circle of sheet copper and I had to cut it from a square piece. These masks were made from the corners I cut off.”

So much of what the pair does is like that—the tools and the process are as fascinating as the thing that gets created.

Matt Dempsey is available for commissioned work, both artistic and practical. He can be reached at (989) 415-8859.