2023-08 Austin Emacs Meetup

There was another meeting a couple of weeks ago of EmacsATX, the Austin Emacs Meetup group. For this month we had no predetermined topic. However, as always, there was mention of new modes, packages, technologies and websites that I had never heard of, and some of this may be of interest to you as well. I was only on for an hour before I had to drop off; hopefully people did not save their bon mots for the period I was absent for.

#1 was the organizer.
#2 was a devloper in the Dallas area.
#3 was again a no show.
#4 was someone whose name was unfamiliar to me. They did speak during the meeting, but I do not remember much about them.
#5 was a developer in Seattle; he gave a presentation on Org React last month.
#6 was a hardware developer in north Texas.
#7 was the professor in OKC. I only noticed him right before I left.

Here is a list of the modes and packages that were mentioned (I will not list the big ones here, like Org, Doom, Spacemacs):

Non-Emacs Topics:

  • Linux distributions
  • Vim (again)
  • Hammerspoon

We started out talking about Emacs 29.

I asked about building Emacs 29 locally. I run Pop!_OS, which is based off of Ubuntu. The version that comes with it is 27.1. There are reasons to stick with what your distro gives you, but there are a lot of things in 29 that look like it might be worth it to build it myself (like use-package). I got a few suggestions, most of which were in line with what is on this page. (This site also has a page on using Emacs 29.1 with Golang.)

On one of my computers I do have Emacs 29.1 as a flatpak. For my own future reference, flatpaks are stored at $HOME/.local/share/flatpak, and I can run the app in a terminal with “flatpak run org.gnu.emacs”. I do not know when I installed it. I picked Pop!_OS because they do not use snaps. I do not want to jump out of the frying snap and into the flat. I will get rid of it.

A few people talked about long lines. A few said they have used files with really long lines, and wonder how long a line has to be to cause a problem. #6 works on chips, and said the core dumps are CSV files that are over one gigabyte; he said he needs GVim to look at them, and hopes that Emacs will get better at handling large files. Excel cannot handle CSV files that large either.

I wonder if use-package, tree-sitter and long lines will be incorporated into XEmacs. Or will it fall so far behind that we will call it Twitter-Emacs?

#4 said they grew up in Emacs, while #2 and #6 started out as Vim people. #2 said that he learned Vim because it was the default editor for Git. He said learning vim caused him to hate himself. He has said that a couple of times in the past; he has never said that Emacs caused him to hate himself.

A few of us wondered why nano wasn’t the default. It has the commands along the bottom, so you would never have to remember how to use it.

I know a lot of sysadmins say a reason to learn vim is that it is always on a Linux/Unix system, but that is a terrible reason for using it except when you have to. That is no different than the unwashed masses using Windows because that is what was installed on when they got their system from Best Buy. I know this is just one person’s view, but I had an exhange on the Emacs subreddit with a sysadmin who uses Emacs, and they agreed that if systems had nano instead of vim, then nano would be the most popular editor.

A few of the former vim-mers talked about modal interfaces, and using even using them outside of vim, like for the whole OS, or in Emacs. A few Emacs meta-modes (which are Emacs modes that allow you to use Emacs modally) are Meow mode, God mode, and Hydra mode. The best names for one of these would be “à la mode”, or just “Mode mode”. I googled for those, and those names are not used. One of the former vim-mers shared a link explaining the vim philosphy.

#2 showed how he uses a tool called Hammerspoon to automate actions on a Mac. He switches between windows, opens files, controls the volume, you name it, with the keyboard. Hammerspoon uses Lua. I glanced at a few videos about it on Youtube, and they seemed to spend more time in an editor editing the Lua files than showing what you can do with the tool. At least this guy used Emacs to edit Lua.

Then #2 gave another demo of Embark. He did not make a presentation, but he did have some notes outlined in an Org file. He compared it to Hyperbole (Reddit posts on Hyperbole here and here; some of the comments compare it to Embark). I asked him if it would work if Emacs was started with –no-window-system, and he said it would. Embark uses Posframe to pop up frames, and that should still work with no window system.

Embark is a context-aware actionable helper. You can highlight text, or just call it from within a buffer, and it pops up a frame listing functions that could be used at that point, based on the text, the type of buffer, or your place in the buffer (like in a Org outline). It can be used on dired buffers as well as files. It has built-in targets and actions, and you can define your own.

Embark can do a lot. It looks to me like Org: powerful, but a beast to learn. I think I will just tell you to search for Emacs and Embark on Youtube to see what Embark can do. Or you could attend a future meeting and ask #2 to demo it a third time.

This post was created in Emacs with Org Mode and Love. You’re welcome.

I give people numbers since I do not know if they want their names in this write-up. Think of it as the stoner’s version of the Chatham House Rule. I figured that numbers are a little clearer than “someone said this, and someone else said that, and a third person said something else”. Plus it gives participants some deniability. People’s numbers are based on the order they are listed on the call screen, and the same person may be referred to by different numbers in different months.

I am not the official spokesperson for the group. I just got into the habit of summarizing the meetings every month, and adding my own opinions about things. The participants may remember things differently, and may disagree with opinions expressed in this post. Nothing should be construed as views held by anyone’s employers past, present or future. That said, if you like something in this post, I will take credit; if you don’t, blame somebody else.

Image from “Evangelia [Evangiles dits de Du Fay]”, a 9th century manuscript housed at the Bibliothèque nationale de France. Source gallica.bnf.fr / BnF; image assumed allowed under public domain.