Emacs

Sometime ago, I wrote about being snared to the dark side of text editors’ universe, viz. Emacs. That foray was not long lasted, though. For only reading through its tutorial (and trying things out while I read) was enough to make me stop. Literally: ten minutes after I started my fingers hurt so much I just had to stop. And never bothered to continue where I’d left. Or think much about it—until I found this list of famous programmers that both used Emacs and developed RSI:

I visited Richard Stallman at MIT and I was shocked to learn that he could no longer type. He was given strict instructions by his doctor to not touch a computer keyboard for 6-12 months, and that if he did, he may lose forever his ability to type. He was a programming pioneer, and at the time, his symptoms were not well known or understood. We all came to understand that it was RSI–repetitive stress injury, exacerbated by the very keystroke combinations that made the Emacs editor such a powerful programming environment. But the root cause was not Emacs–it was the punative design of the QWERTY keyboard, a legacy of the industrial era when complex keyboard mechanisms were not able to keep up with the speed of human fingers.

Regardless of whether QWERTY keyboards are or not to blame, the fact is that Emacs is, in what shortcuts are concerned at least, stuck in the past. The shift key is not used, the documentation still refers to the Alt key by its name in the previous incarnation (Meta), and most shortcuts were indeed thought up to be used with keyboards belonging to said incarnation (which today belong in a museum; if only the same could be applied to shortcuts…).

By now you should be wandering why am I complaining about Emacs again?! (“If you don’t like it, just don’t use it!”) Well, I’ve been reading Pratical Common Lisp, and using vim with Limp for Lisp hacking. The problem is that I’m tired of it, and after all I’ve read, been told, etc, about Emacs, I am going to try it. God bless it’s viper mode

Unicode/UTF-8 compulsory reading

This should absolutely be a part of the compulsory reading at any half decent Computer Science undergrad curricula. Quoting:

So I have an announcement to make: if you are a programmer working in 2003 and you don’t know the basics of characters, character sets, encodings, and Unicode, and I catch you, I’m going to punish you by making you peel onions for 6 months in a submarine. I swear I will.

And one more thing:

IT’S NOT THAT HARD.

And as that last phrase says, it really isn’t all that complicated. It takes 20 minutes to read thoroughly, and it WILL save you a LOT of debugging time in the future (I speak out of experience). The more low level/hardcore explanation is here, for those interested.

What kind of programmer are you?

For all of you that code, which one of these are you?

Programmers enjoy a reputation for being peculiar people. In fact, even within the development community, there are certain programmer archetypes that other programmers find strange. Here are 10 types of programmers you are likely to run across. Can you think of any more?

Yours truly over here is either The Ninja or Gandalf… though just moments ago I was discussing this and was just labelled The Theoretician…

The (proper) role of email in today’s communications

I log into WordPress to write about, well, not about what I am going to write here. Anyway, as I was saying, I log into wordpress and my eyes get stuck in this post: why emails should be short instead of nice. It basically says that email is no longer a preferred method to create connections or intimacy, and therefore when you write email you should stick to the essential. This, they claim, will increase productivity, at the cost of you might being perceived as rude.

Now I’m not what you would call an “email power user”. Despite the fact that in my department “90% of information circulates through email”. And that’s a six year old quote! And I dare say, 90% of those 90% do exactly what you should do according to that article: they were quick and dirty emails that said the absolute essential. And the system worked: things got done (well not always, but the reason was seldom connected to email, except when the servers were down, but that’s another matter…).

Of course there are exceptions, situations in which “you’ll tread with utmost politeness”:

[...] contacting a potential new boss, looking for new work, approaching your favorite author online.

Yet another reason to do that is when you write to a broad audience: the larger it is, the more weight yours words will carry. Quick and dirty doesn’t work here.

Finally, although I do agree with the point that emails should stick to the essential, that does not mean that they should stop being well written, in language terms.

Teenagers of today may approach email more like instant messaging than like snail mail, and that might be just what our email overloaded work culture needs.

True as that might be, I truly dread the day when it becomes commonplace to write emails switching ‘s’ for ‘x’, and the likes, so common in teenagers’ chat and IM messages. In such a scenario, productivity (and probably mental sanity) can only go one way, and it’s not up…

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Curiosidades…

Excepção à norma, este post é em português. E isto porquê? Porque passava eu por um certo blog, quando encontrei um post totalmente em inglês. Coisa estranha, pensei eu, porque o respectivo autor é a pessoa mais inglês-fóbica que eu conheço! Aliás, acho que ele ainda não viu este blog, e quase que imagino a reacção dele quando o vir: PORTUGUÊS!!! TU ÉS PORTUGUÊS!!! PORTANTO ESCREVE EM PT!! (o leitor deverá aqui ter em conta o que eu escrevi sobre a minha tendência para exagerar).

Mas voltando ao tema, como dizia, fiquei um tanto surpreso por encontrar um post totalmente em inglês. Mesmo não sendo o referido post da autoria dele (os créditos estão indicados no fim desse post), é uma citação longa. Se ele tivesse que ler um post meu daquele tamanho, ui ui :P

Ora como não acredito que ele fosse postar uma coisa que não compreende, eu deduzo que ele compreenda aquilo, e portanto, acabaste de ficar sem a desculpa de “ah e tal, se tu escrevesses em português, eu lia o teu blog…”. Até tens direito a presença na barra de links e tudo! :-)

Fico à espera de comentários :P

PS: agora que falo em comentários, não é muito bonito ser necessário uma google account para por comentários no teu blog…

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