Saturday, January 24, 2015

To an Aquamacsen

I was getting so tired of Emacs crashing on my Macbook Pro that I had decided to sell it in order to raise enough cash to buy parts to update my desktop, whose board and CPU combo are five or six years old. I am running Xubuntu on my eight years old desktop, and Emacs has not faltered or crashed in forever. My Mac, on the other hand, is a fancy deal: I7 quad, OWC SSD Extreme, and 16G of RAM. So I was figuring I might built a pretty desktop to write with. Then a friend on the web suggested I give Aquamacs a try. He thought I'd have less problems, which has proved to be true. I have been using Aquamacs for a couple of weeks now and no crashes to speak of, one sort of, maybe, my fingers got tangled up and I hit a bunch of keys at once. The lack of crashes has encouraged me to move out of the stripped Aquamacs. I found out quickly that Aquamacs does not get along with Custom. Changing up the looks of the mini-buffer for instance in Custom may not be a happy venture. But Aquamacs comes out of the box with more stuff than Emacs. Also, just downloaded Aquamacs-3a this morn, which is the latest thing. I have been on it all day. No crashes. Maybe I won't sell the Mac after all.

More Aquamacs for Writers

It is a real thing not worth arguing about any longer that OS X is in a slump. Apple socialites soldier on in the struggle to get the damned machine, which sits on their desk in icy splendor, as mine does, to work. Even made for Apple apps seem uncomfortable to use. A good example is DEVONthink. I have always admired the idea behind it, but the thought of actually using it to write with for hour after hour is obnoxious. Emacs, even the one which supposedly has OS X in mind, crashes all the time. Eventually the word junk comes to mind.

I can assure Emacsen who are having trouble with Emacs but love their Macs like the girl in the first row in grade school, Aquamacs is not that much different than Emacs. Get a grip of the one and you've pretty much got the other too. On either Emacs or Aquamacs a beginner who has done the tutorial and mastered the function keys can soon begin to pound out text. All the rest is gravy; I admit there is a world of gravy. But Emacs and Aquamacs are similar enough that if you can't afford the Mac Pro any more, you can load up Xubuntu on your junker, and set up Emacs, and after awhile it will work like or better than the Mac did. You won't get that crazy, erotic feeling like you used to with the Mac, but think of the thousands of dollars you'll be able to keep in your pocket. An old Emacsen, on the other hand, progressing out of their worn out Dell or Thinkpad into a Mac retina, might be more aggravated switching to Aquamacs. But if they are smart, as I'm not, they might be able to get round the lack of cooperation that seems to be going on between Emacs and Apple OS.

I found the interval between auto saves in Emacs to be too long, 300 characters, but when I shortened it to 100 the frequency of the crashes seemed to increase also, so I changed it back. At first I copied over the .emacs and the .emacs.d I had been running so successfully on Xubuntu onto the Mac. But soon I gave up on that and I deleted everything and downloaded a new copy of Emacs and built it from scratch. That didn't seem to make any difference. (Incidentally, Homebrew's copy didn't work either.) The pattern of crashes in Emacs decided me to try Aquamacs. Since I have switched to Aquamacs I have loaded most of my favorite extensions, yassnippet, sublimity mode, ido, deft and writeroom. Recently, I loaded wordsmith-mode, pandoc-mode and zoom-frm, and I have not had any crashes.

A few times I have had missing letters, and garbage showing up on the screen. It can be worrisome when there is writing to do and no time to fuss. But M-X redraw-display seems to resolve the issue. It has not happened often. One time I resized the frame and the problem went away. It has not happened at all lately.

One feature on Aquamacs, besides the beautiful Apple colors and fonts, is sessions. It comes in Aquamacs out of the box. You can load the session from Files. In GNU Emacs you have to load the package from Melpa. There are odds and ends to go through before it will work. One complaint I have always had with Emacs is that you often have to do tiresome setting up before you get the frames all organized the way you'd like before starting work. I'm settling in to write well before dawn, still half asleep, so fiddling with frames and colors is not what I want to do. In Aquamacs first thing, when you get your basic files set up, create and name a session file, then after you launch each morning go to File>Load session. A browser will open up. Go to your session file, click on it, and click on "open". It takes a second, but suddenly all your big morning files will show up appropriately framed and most of the fiddling done. It is then off to work. I have a novel session and a blog session. I may be working on three or four blogs at a time. Or I might have three or four chapters of my novel Jimmy Freeman plus a notes file all in buffers for me to get at instantly. It is a time and effort saving feature that helps.

Now I am in Aquamacs, since everything seems to be going pretty well, deft was working, sublimity and ido and yassnippet, and my LaTex files seemed to be compiling without a hitch out of the box(!),&emdash;a big surprise&emdash;, the issue came up the other morning about whether I should download the latest Aquamacs-3a. I usually take a pass on updates because I'm too busy writing, especially now when I'm in the middle of a novel, to put up with the glitches. But this time I couldn't resist. It has a browser in it: EWW. For years now I have dreamed of a relatively modern browser that I could keep open in an Emacs buffer. Then I could have Internet references at hand and all Emacs key bindings.

While I'm on the subject of bugs, tabbar mode seems doubtful, but with other options for file switching in Aquamacs, I shut it off in Options and prefer ido mode. I may have twenty or so files open at any one time anyway. If they were all in tabs that would take up too much space in the frame.

As you go along working in the app, interesting things happen. The echo area just informed me that I did not close one of my heads. Sure enough, I closed a two head with a three head call. (Does that sound slightly unbelievable? I am not kidding.) Also, try "m-x bs-show" and see what you think of it for switching files. Bookmarks of course will open up a file where you left the cursor — just key C-x r-m. Speedbar is available. Recentf mode will present a buffer with all of your most recent files. If you like to point and click, check out the GUI Window or control/mouse 1. All of these methods bring up a file much faster than Finder.

So far so good. I'll be looking at EWW in Xubuntu soon. But wouldn't it be nice to have 24 or so buffers open, a browser in Emacs, and Firefox and Safari open at once ten tabs in each on a 40 inch UHD TV! If I sell my Mac, then one of the new Mac Pros would be only another two thousand dollars!

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