Saturday, 23 March 2013

Emacs Redux

Recently, I've discovered myself spending more & more time in Emacs.

This post is really about why that's the case, and how I have Emacs configured, in case it's of interest or use to someone else.

I used to use Emacs a long time ago - back when Perl & C were my primary languages, and dinosaurs still walked the Earth. I largely stopped around 2000, when I started writing a certain amount of Java, and using Eclipse as a primary environment.

These days, I find myself doing a fair amount of work with the OpenJDK codebase. This is a particular pain to write in an IDE. This is because to work properly, the IDE needs to hook a working version of the platform & fully support all of its features.

Now, if I'm working on the platform itself, then that self-consistency and support is not present. So I'm going to get, at best, a bunch of failures around the new features.

So a lot of the typical reasons why IDEs are useful are absent - so basic syntax highlighting is pretty much all we can hope for, and Emacs has pretty good support for that.

In terms of application code, whenever possible I like to write Clojure. These days, there is excellent support in Emacs for Clojure, including the NREPL for a very nice interactive environment.

To get clojure-mode installed, follow the instructions from here. However, the sections about inferior-lisp-mode and slime are obsolete - you should use NREPL instead.

I'm also tending to write articles & other documents in Markdown, which doesn't really need much in the way of WYSIWYG support (although I spent a tiny amount of money on for the times when I do want to see what my .md files look like, or export to PDF).

My primary machine is a MacBook Pro, so I use the Emacs from here. I tend not to use package managers for OS X, so I don't use brew or macports.

Finally, I've been pleasantly surprised by many aspects of the modern Emacs experience. The Clojure integration has come a long way & it's now a joy to use. For OpenJDK development, it's almost as good as a full IDE.

However, there are still some rough edges. For example, Emacs doesn't ship with a spellchecker by default, and I have so far been unable to get one working - which is a medium-sized pain when writing Markdown. Instructions on how to get it working in comments would be very welcome.

Thursday, 21 March 2013

A Starting Point

So, to ease myself back into writing, I'm going to cheat, and start by repeating some very good advice I heard recently.

This is by Rich Hickey, the inventor of Clojure, and I think it's a near-perfect statement of how I would like mailing list interactions to work (& how I aspire to behave myself).

Thanks Rich - over to you:

"This is just a reminder. While in general our communication here is very good, occasionally it goes astray.

These mailing lists are run by, and for, people who make things. Most messages should have one of these forms:

I made something - here is my contribution
I am trying to use the thing someone made and am having trouble, please help.
I can help you with that thing someone made.
I am trying to make something and am having trouble, please help.
I can help you make something.

They are not the place for opinion pieces and diatribes.

They are not the place for advocacy about what 'ought' to be made. If you think something ought to be made, then make it. Otherwise, respect others peoples' right to choose what they do with their time.

Occasionally, there may be disagreements about how something has been, or will be, made. These disagreements should take the form of technical arguments. To make a technical argument that gets (and gives!) respect:

Keep it short
Stick to the facts
Use logic
Leave people out of it
Avoid rhetorical devices:
        Superfluous or opinion-laden adjectives
        Claims to speak for the community, or that everyone agrees with you.
        Threats of what will happen unless things go your way
        Any flavor of 'the sky is falling'

If you are not the one making something, you should restrict your input to very short technical arguments supporting your position. If someone has already made your point, just +1 it.

Please keep your posts short.

Ignoring these guidelines fails to respect the time and effort of people who make things, which you should care about if you intend to be one.



If you've read down this far, please leave me a comment with a link to other good advice you've heard recently.

Still Not Dead

Can't believe how long it's been since I last posted here.

A number of times I have wanted to start blogging again but for one reason or another, haven't managed it.

But let's give it a go - I am still crazily busy, but I do have things to say.