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Restoring my Mac


This week-end I restored my Mac. I was having some major iCloud issues, my Documents and Desktop folders would not sync. My Mac in general looked really tired.

I was prepared. I took inspiration from a colleague's bash script to write my own configuration script, in org-mode. This format allows me to organize my sh code blocks within headlines and comments. I can then tangle the blocks to a file setup.sh, which I can run on the new Mac.

I can do this by having this property at the top of setup.org:

#+PROPERTY: header-args :tangle ~/git/org/personal/setup.sh

This is the structure of the document:

* macOs settings
* brew
* zsh
* fonts
* cli
* gui
* dotfiles
* execute all

In each section I have a sh code block. This is an example block from the "gui" section:

install_apps() {
    echo "Installing: base apps"
    BASE_APPS="google-chrome amethyst slack visual-studio-code firefox iterm2 iina menumeters 1password6 qbitorrent private-internet-access"
    brew tap homebrew/cask-versions
    brew cask install $BASE_APPS
    echo "Installing: docker"
    brew cask install docker
    echo "Installing: corporate"
    CORPORATE="microsoft-office keybase microsoft-azure-storage-explorer intune-company-portal microsoft-teams"
    brew cask install $CORPORATE

I can "export" the org file to setup.sh with M-x org-babel-tangle.

Recovery Mode and setup.sh

Before erasing all content gathered in 12 months, I quickly offloaded some files to a USB key. I mostly cared about an "AI for trading" course and some work analyses not in version control.

Without thinking too much, I booted in Recovery Mode with cmd+R, erase the HD and reinstalled. (I found out later that I forgot about my .gnupg folder with my private gpg key..)

While running my install.sh script, I realized my main needs:

  • Emacs (+ Doom)
  • Dropbox (org)
  • Password Manager

I could survive with a browser and Emacs for a week. Okay, maybe I would need Slack for work but not much else.

My first impulse was to rebuild gccemacs on my Mac, in parallel to my already big configuration efforts. To my surprise, the process has been incredibly easy. Well, maybe because I have already spent a few hours fighting gccemacs in the past weeks.

All I did to install it was to clone this repo and run:

  1. brew bundle
  2. ./build-emacs-for-macos --git-sha d5791ba5feeb5500433ca43506dda13c7c67ce14 feature/native-comp
  3. Move the app to Applications.

In the meanwhile, my install.sh script was having some hiccups. I got somehow 90% of the functionalities working (loads of brew downloads: CLI tools and GUI apps) I had to manually copy-paste some commands from the harder sections such as install-zsh and restore-dotfiles. Overall, I am very satisfied: it really saved a lot of time.

Once I had built Emacs, I simply had to reinstall Doom. On its first run with gccemacs, Doom will now compile AOT all packages, which takes a while.

Halfway through, I cloned my Doom configuration (stored in git) to .doom.d and build the extra packages in my config. With minimal effort, few minutes later, I had restored my feature-complete IDE. straight and Doom in general is amazing.

Last manual steps

I then documented some final manual steps I had forgotten to include in my install script. Some examples:

  • Forgot to backup SSH keys… ssh-keygen
  • My renv library does not work. I had to add export R_LIBS_USER=... to my .zshenv
  • Forgot to install pyright.. brew install node && npm install -g pyright
  • iTerm2 does not send escape sequences.. follow this guide.

It sounds like a waste of time and a lot of work to start from scratch and fight these issues. I find it a valuable task that lets me learn about my workflow. I document it and declare it.

I have achieved full reproducibility when it comes to my IDE. Next step is my full computing environment. That is why I am now looking at nix and home-manager. Expect a blog post about it in the near future!