Pete Keen

Task-oriented Dotfiles

Recently I sat down and reorganized my dotfiles around the tasks that I do day-to-day. For example, I have bits of configuration related to ledger and some other bits related to Ruby development. In my previous dotfile setup, this stuff was all mixed together in the same files. I had started to use site-specific profiles (i.e. home vs work), but that led to a lot of copied config splattered all over. I wanted my dotfiles more organized and modifiable than that.

I borrowed the basic ideas from Zach Holman, who borrowed them from Ryan Bates. In fact, I stole their Rakefile and only made a few minor additions. Essentially, each module", where a module is a unit of config related to a single task, has it's own directory in my dotfiles repository. This directory can contain any number of files with names like foo.symlink. This will get symlinked to ~/.foo. In addition, each module can contain a init.sh and init.el file. These get loaded by bash and emacs, respecively, at runtime. The emacs initialization code contains a bunch of clever things that allow me to require external emacs packages using el-get, as well as run code before and after el-get packages get initialized. The bash initialization code contains no such cleverness (yet). Each module can also contain a bin directory, which will get added to $PATH.

So, this is great, but what if I don't want to load my ledger configuration on my work computer? Or what if I have some work-specific module that I don't want to be loaded at home? That's where the ~/.modules file comes in. This file lists the modules that bash and emacs will load, in order. This file is not checked in, because it can and will be different between machines.

One other interesting thing I've done is set up an auto-update system. I have cron set to run a git fetch every minute or so, and then I have my bash prompt set to inform me if there are updates available or if the dotfiles repo is dirty. I don't have a one-button command to apply the updates yet, but it's something I'm considering.

I owe Zach Holman a lot of credit here, but I think I've improved upon the initial design, at least for my needs, with the explicit modules list and the $PATH manipulation. I expect that my particular implementation won't be very useful for anyone else, but if you'd like to use it for inspiration, the Rakefile would probably be the easiest thing to copy.

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11 Aug 2012   Tagged: Programming