And the livin’ is easy

Hm, this space has been quiet for a while, but for justifiable reasons: I have two journal manuscripts submitted since the summer break began.

I'm never thrilled about writing for journals, because it often means that the key problem is already solved, and I usually would prefer to work on new problems than to “dot all the i's” on old ones. On the other hand, it's liberating to escape the strict space constraints of a conference paper. On the third hand, constraints are sometimes cited as catalysts for creativity. I'm reminded of the proverb “I wrote you a long letter because I didn't have time to write a short one.”

I have also been ‘sharpening the saw’, also known as… Emacs hacking! Version 22.1 was finally released, and I took it as an opportunity to run through the manual and look for all the great little features and tweaks that have become available since the last time I studied the manual so intently. For example, just one thing that I adore for Java programming is glasses-mode (o^o). On-screen, it inserts some customizable little character in between LongCamelCaseWords so that you see them as Long·Camel·Case·Words. Ha!

Now I'd like to ‘sharpen my shell’ too. Zsh has lots of great stuff that I'm not currently using. I learned shell scripting in the early 90s on straight Bourne shell and tcsh, and only recently learned I could do concise parameter-frobbing things like ${file/foo/bar} rather than `echo $file | sed 's/foo/bar/'` or whatever. Tab-completion for sub-commands (of svn, darcs, etc.) and host names (for ssh) would be great, and I know there are some directory-hopping features (beyond pushd/popd) that would help me. But one thing I'm grappling with is that I currently use zsh both in regular xterms and inside Emacs shell-mode. In the latter case, a lot of the fancy stuff in zsh won't work. So do I avoid running shells inside Emacs, or hack shell-mode, or get term-mode working instead? Or, maybe forget zsh and do everything with eshell? Am I prepared to run always in Emacs, even when logged in to remote machines? I'm stuck.

Meanwhile, I cleaned up /usr/local/ on most of my machines. I try to avoid installing anything that's not managed by apt, even if I have to backport it myself (such as with emacs22 on Debian etch). But sometimes it's inevitable: either it's something impossibly obscure, or I need a newer version than what's available already, or it's something I have hacked on myself and I need my version installed. So now what I do is keep a branch in /usr/local/src/, install it to /usr/local/stow/, and everything else in /usr/local/ is a symbolic link managed by GNU Stow. This should solve the problem of discovering some problematic file or library in local that I make-installed six years ago, and can't remember what package it's from or why it's there.

©20022015 Christopher League