How to set up a Jekyll blog with just an iPad

This site runs on WordPress and has done its entire life. In fact, apart from a brief flirt with Blogger back in 2004, I’ve always used WordPress for running a site. However, recently I wondered if this was the best option and what other blogging platforms might offer. This was especially magnified by my interest in and the fact that they run on Jekyll. So I decided to set an iPad challenge. To set up a Jekyll blog using just an iPad.

What is Jekyll?

Jekyll is a static site generator for a blog. What that means is you upload text files written in Markdown, and those are turned into blog posts. You don’t have a database which is running in the background and putting things together each time someone visits the site.

The net effect is that Jekyll sites take up less space and are super fast to load (…in general, I’m sure you can come up with some exception so don’t @ me).

There are a few reasons you might want to choose Jekyll over WordPress like it’s speed, simplicity and … likewise there are reasons to go for WordPress like the CRM backend, plugins, and support community. You can find a wealth of posts extolling the virtues of one of these platforms over the other. As such I’m not going to dwell on those aspects but go into how you can set up a Jekyll site without using a PC, mac or laptop.

(Psst! Check out this post to learn how to set up a WordPress Development site using just an iPad)

Why is this a challenge?

If you look at most of the getting started guides, they instruct you to set up a local version of the site which you are going to push live. This is so you can see how things will look, but also so you can run the command line protocols to download the correct software. This sort of thing can be tricky if you aren’t used to doing this sort of thing, but its certainly not impossible. But on an iPad, due to sand boxing, we simply can’t do it…so how can we install Jekyll and set up a Jekyll site?

SSH into a remote client.

This first option is to remotely connect to a different computer and run commands on that computer using SSH command lines. This is basically sending instructions securely over the internet to get a different computer to do stuff. Check out this episode of Canvas for more on SSH.

This means you don’t need to set up a local site but you have to get some web hosting running first so that you can carry out these SSH actions. That’s fine in most cases, but one of the reasons you might want to use Jekyll, is so that you can set your site up for free on GitHub pages. And in this case, there is a simpler and quicker solution that doesn’t require any knowledge of SSH or and SSH app like Prompt 2 or iSSH 2.

Using the Jekyll Boilerplate kit.

However, there is another, kind of simpler way, which also lets you use GitHub pages and get your account set up quickly.

Set up a GitHub Account

First you need to get your GitHub account set up. So head over and create one. Please note, that as a default, your domain name will be (though you can change it later) so think about that as you choose a username.

Copy the Jekyll now directory

The trick we’re using here is to copy the “Jekyll Now Boilerplate” which is a Jekyll set up directory. By doing this we get all the files we need to have a full functional Jekyll site on our own. Best of all, this can be done with just and iPad.

Go to Barry Clark’s Jekyll now directory. Now “fork” the repository and rename it to , the site should be visible at

Follow the instructions within the Jekyll now read me to make the site your own

The instructions in the read me will guide you through a few important changes you’ll want to make like

  • the name of the site,
  • your social links
  • Google analytics
  • Disqus comments

And your first post.

Get Blogging!

Now you’ve got your site set up, you can get on with the tricky work of blogging. This is an interesting process in Jekyll because it has some strengths and limits here on the iPad. For example, using a tool like Working Copy or Source you can upload your markdown text files into the posts folder and you’re done!

You can also use some workflow workflows to help create your post file outlines quickly (with the correct date and meta data), resize and upload images and so on.

Do you have a Jekyll site?

Does your site run on Jekyll? I’d love to know why and any tools you use for it.

TeeSpring Now Useable on the iPad…kind of.

In my Tshirt challenge that I took a while back, I found that the teespring tshirt creator tool was incompatible with the iPad. I’m guessing it was due to using flash. Well, now the teespring tshirt creator tool can be accessed on your iPad. If you head over to teespring, and click on create/sell. Now the tshirt creator tool will load and allow you to add an image and text. You can also select different options such as the colour of the tshirt and whether it is a men’, women’s tshirt or even a hoody.

However, it’s not all perfect as the control interface doesn’t allow you to drag and drop elements. That’s pretty inconvenient unless you want a single element on your shirt. If you want an image and text, well, I hope you want them to overlap.

There is of course a way around this which is to create your design in an app. Put your text and images all in the correct places. Export as a PNG or JPEG and then upload your design as one image. This has the advantage of not being limited to the icons and fonts that teespring offers as well as. You also have more options to move and manipulate elements than you would have with just the teespring tools.

A new teespring tshirt experiment

I recently did this for a teespring campaign of Ukulele themed christmas shirts. I created the design in Graphic by Autodesk (previously iDraw) using an SVG file I found and then adapted. Then I uploaded that image. That meant the text and images were arranged as I wanted and the design could be more refined than just using the noun project icons and fonts that teespring provides.

I’m sure it’s the best design I’ve made so far (and all from the iPad) but it still hasn’t sold well. Oh well.

Better, but not great

While this is not a perfect replication of the desktop functionality in teespring, it does mean that you can now make a teespring campaign with only your iPad. Whether you want to use Teespring and have a limited run campaign or use a different tool like printful or Zazzel as I did. Well that’s up to you.



Fantastic Apps to Learn a Language on an IPad

Now we have talked about how we are going to learn a language, it’s useful to find some tools and resources to make sure we can learn. Depending on what language you are learning, this will be more easy or difficult to find. For example French or Spanish have a lot of resources to learn, but Welsh or basque…not so much.
With that in mind i’m linking to some general resources as well as the Welsh resources I’ve specifically tried using.

Frequency lists

One of the best tools you can get your hands on is a decent frequency list. You could buy a paper dictionary, or use wikipedias free online ones which include many languages.
A nice trick is to save the language you are learning to the home screen so you have an icon you can click on to take you to the list, like an app (but not).

Spaced repetition

Once you’ve got your most important words, you are going to need to revise them via spaced repetition. There are a lot of glorified flash card (that’s the analogue equivalent) apps which will help you to do this. The two I’d recommend are Anki, which is a more traditional flash card app with built in reminders. And Memrise which has sharable lists you can access. This means you maybe able to find your frequency list already set up, or a list of basic phrases as well. Perfect to get going


If you need to know a particular translation of a word, then Google translation is a pretty decent tool. Be warned, it get’s worse the more complex the translation. Here are a couple of general points.
1. A concrete noun [solid object] will be more accurate than an abstract noun [an idea or principle]. That is because usually we can agree on what a solid object is. Sometimes abstract ideas have one or two names in one language.
2. Phrases and sentences are more likely to be wrong.

Reading and news sources

It’s a really good idea to find something based on your interests to follow and read. I recommend doing a Google search and then using an app like Flipboard, apple news or an RSS client to follow that reading source. remember to make sure it is something you are interested in. Social networks can work too and may seem more appealing as people share shorter messages, however in reality these shorter messages often contain more complicated/“incorrect” grammar to make something fit. Just look at your last tweet and tell me if you could use this in a letter or say it to a friend.
That means it usually worth waiting a bit before you start following, especially Twitter.

Apple news (built into your device)
Flipboard(like apple news but more powerful)
Feedly RSS
Reeder (power RSS client)
Unread (my RSS app of choice)


Podcasts are a great source of information and language on a topic that you are interested in. I really recommend overcast or Pocketcasts over the apple client. Overcast is probably the best unless you really want a desktop client.
Music can be a really great way to learn a language as well, often a good song will be good even if you have no idea what people are saying. They often include poetic phrases and expressions that are useful for higher levels as well as common expressions in conversations. The pronunciation of words can be different in songs though as we often change how we say a word to make it fit a melody.


Videos have some clear advantages over just listening to something. Videos provide visual clues as well as audio clues for what is going on. That means that watching a video on a topic means you’ll feel entertained or informed even if you have no idea what they are saying, plus you will be more able to work out the meaning of words purely from the context they are said in.

Language exchanges

Language exchanges are a great way to learn a language in a natural and interesting way. The type of exchange you have can vary from person to person with one extreme being a full blown traditional lesson and the other being a conversation, perhaps with the odd correction of your errors. If you are a beginner, it’s more likely to look like the former than the latter. there are many language exchange groups that you can find across the Internet and these provide great opportunities to learn and practice.

Meeting face to face

Although language exchanges are great, just meeting someone can be valuable as well, especially once you have a foundation in a language. This allows you to talk about whatever topic you like and you will probably not have to share your own mother tongue in exchange (meaning more practice and on a topic you are interested in.)

Language learning apps

A final set of apps to consider are language learning apps. These will often follow a specific course structure with explicit focus on a grammar point and set of vocabulary. These are a great way to get good information on a language which can help you learn one but I recommend you don’t use one as your only means of learning. Using some of the cultural resources will boost your interest in a language giving you greater motivation,

Language learning audio sets

If you have a commute, an audio set can be a great way to learn a language. In fact I got my foundation in Russian via Michel Thomas’s audio course, it gave me a great foundation in the grammar and vocabulary so I could build on it easily later. Often,these courses are targeted either at phrases for travelers or highly unlikely sentences like “the lettuce, is on the table”.