What happened to XEmacs?

I used XEmacs quite a lot in the 2000s before I switched back to the more stable GNU Emacs. That was back then before GNU Emacs offered a stable official Windows build when XEmacs did, and at the time I was doing a lot of Windows development.

Out of curiosity and for some research I tried to look into the current state of the project and found that the www.xemacs.org appears to be unreachable. The domain still exists and according to whois was last updated in September 2015. The XEmacs Sourceforge page is still around, but appears to have received its last set of updates in 2009. Obviously a lot of links to the bug tracker, mailing list hosts etc are dead as they’re point to subdomains of xemacs.org.

Anybody know what happened to the project? The only reference I found was a post from January 2016 on a website I’ve never heard of (8ch.net) referencing a post on the XEmacs development that I can’t get at anymore (becauses lists.xemacs.org is dead) that suggests XEmacs development is officially dead now.

Switching to Manjaro Linux and getting an AMD RX 470 to work

I’ve been a Xubuntu user for years after switching from OpenSuse. I liked its simplicity and the fact that it just worked out of the box, but I was getting more and more disappointed with Ubuntu packages being out of date, sorry, stable. Having to rebuild a bunch of packages on every install was getting a little old. Well, they did provide material for all those “build XXX on Ubuntu” posts. Recently I’ve been playing with Manjaro Linux in a VM as I had been looking for an Arch Linux based distribution that gave me the right balance between DIY and convenience. I ended up liking it so much that I did a proper bare metal install on my main desktop. The install was pretty smooth apart from a issue with getting my AMD RX 470 graphics card to work.

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Building Emacs 25.1 on Ubuntu 16.10

A reader of this blog kindly pointed out that my instructions for building Emacs 25.1 on Ubuntu 16.10 result in a core dump when the build process bootstraps emacs. I only tested the instructions on 16.04 so I hadn’t run into this issue yet.

The core dump on 16.10 appears to be a known issue and there is a workaround. Instead of running configure with just the prefix argument, run it as follows:

./configure CFLAGS=-no-pie --prefix=$HOME/local

The in-depth bug description is here in message #38. The short version is that gcc in Ubuntu 16.10 defaults to building code with -pie and this breaks Emacs. Turning off -pie results in a working executable.

How to build GNU Emacs 25.1 on (X)Ubuntu 16.04

Now that GNU Emacs 25.1 has been released, it is time for my customary “how to install Emacs 25.1 on a recent Ubuntu” post. In my case I’m using XUbuntu 16.04, but the instructions are pretty much the same for just about every recent Ubuntu version. The package versions of the referenced packages differ, but the package names haven’t changed since I first published one of these posts.

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Scheduling WordPress posts with org2blog

Another metablogging post, but this may come in handy for people who like to produce blog posts in bulk and schedule them for publication in WordPress at a later date.

In my case, my ability to find time to blog is directly correlated to my workload in my day job. That’s why you see regular gaps in my posting that may last for a few weeks to a month or two.

To counteract this, I try to write multiple blog posts in one sitting when I’ve got both the time and am inspired to write, then schedule them such that WordPress pushes them out automatically over the next few days or weeks. My normal workflow for this was:

  • Write post in org2blog
  • Publish post to WordPress, adjust the publication date
  • Edit the post in org2blog again, push in and then remember to tweak the publication date because org2blog overwrote the publication date

The last two steps of course are unnecessary. See the #+DATE: line in the first line of the screenshot?

org2blog highlighted date entry
Date section in an org2blog post during editing

When you create a new blog post using org2blog/wp-new-entry, just edit the date that org2blog automatically inserts to your desired post schedule and the setting will carry over into WordPress. Easy if you know how.

TLS issues with Emacs and Git for Windows

I’ve recently blogged about adding TLS support to Emacs 24.5 on Windows and improving git performance on Windows by installing an alternative git command line client. The reason I ended up investigating how to add SSL and TLS support to Emacs is that when I originally upgraded from the official git Windows client to the Git for Windows build, I ended up with non-working TLS support in Emacs.

The TLS issues only occur if you tell the git installer to add git and all supporting Unix utilities to the path, which is not the default setting for a git installation on Windows.

However if you do install git with this setting, Emacs ends up finding the openssl libraries on the path. This works fine with the older versions packaged with the installer from git-scm.com but results in TLS issues with SSL/TLS connections failing with the newer binaries shipped with Git for Windows. I didn’t dig deeper into why I was seeing the issue as I was in a hurry to get Emacs working again, so I looked for the quickest way to resolve it.

tl;dr – if you’re running into TLS issues with Emacs on Windows and just installed Git for Windows, follow the instructions in Adding TLS Support to Emacs 24.5 on Windows to get SSL/TLS connection from inside Emacs working again.

Adding TLS support to Emacs 24.5 on Windows

The Windows build of Emacs 24.5 doesn’t ship with SSL and TLS support out of the box. Normally that’s not that much of a problem until you are trying to access marmalade-repo or have org2blog talk to your own blog via SSL/TLS.

Adding SSL and TLS support to the Windows builds of Emacs is easy. SSL/TLS support in the official Emacs build for Windows isn’t enabled because it doesn’t ship with the necessary support libraries, but you can get pre-built binaries from the ezwinports project on Sourceforge. Installation is simple – grab the desired binaries (I used gnutls, but there’s also an older openssl build available) and extract them into the root directory of your Emacs install. The directory layout is the same and mimics the standard Unix directory layout so everything ends up in the correct place.

After the next restart of Emacs, a quick

M-: (gnutls-available-p)

should result in ‘t’, showing you that Emacs has found the gnutls binaries. All of a sudden, org2blog can talk to my blog again and I’m finally set up the same way I am on the other OSs I use.

ezwinports has a whole bunch of other useful libraries available as well, like libpng, so check it out.

One caveat – the ezwinports libraries are 32 bit libraries so they work fine with the official 32 bit build of Emacs for Windows, but you need to look into alternatives if you use a 64 bit build.

Setting up Emacs spell checking on OS X

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, I’m trying to improve my blogging workflow by using org2blog to draft my posts before pushing them to my WordPress blog. When I posted yesterday I had the basic workflow going, could edit posts in Emacs, save them, update drafts and push them to WordPress. The last piece that was missing was getting spell checking to work.

I’ve actually never spent much time thinking about spell checkers until I discovered that OS X doesn’t come with a spell checker that ispell recognises. A little research led me to Joel Kuiper’s blog post on spell checking in Emacs on Mac OS X. I decided to install Hunspell as it seemed to be modern, supported and able to do the job. Plus, it’s available via Homebrew which I’m already using to install other Unix software on my OS X machine. A quick

brew install hunspell

followed by me grabbing the German and English dictionaries from OpenOffice.org and I was in the spelling business. Just make sure that you unzip the .oxt files containing the dictionaries, copy/move the .dic and .aff files into either ~/Library/Spelling or /Library/Spelling (I prefer the first one) and run hunspell -D to check that it’s picking up the files. Oh, and don’t forget to set up soft links from default.dic and default.aff to your default language’s dictionary files.

Now I should be able run M-x flyspell-mode and we’re in business, correct? Only we weren’t, because my Emacs setup couldn’t find hunspell. Oops. Turns out I had neglected to add the Homebrew installation directory to the exec-path, with predictable results. The following code in my .emacs fixes that:

;; On OS X/Darwin, make sure we add the path to the homebrew installs
(when (string-equal system-type "darwin")
  (setq exec-path (append exec-path '("/usr/local/bin"))))

With the above in place and Emacs being able to find the hunspell executable, it was time to add the following code to my .emacs to ensure that ispell and flyspell use hunspell if it’s available:

(when (executable-find "hunspell")
  (setq-default ispell-program-name "hunspell")
  (setq ispell-really-hunspell t))

Now flyspell-mode is happily running using Hunspell at it’s time to crack open an adult beverage.

Improving my blogging workflow using Emacs (of course)

I try not to post too many metablogging posts. Other people do it better and I’m trying to focus on journalling what I learn as a software engineer and manager, not what tools I use for blogging. However after losing another post to WordPress’s built-in editor I decided Something Must Be Done. I think this is only the second post I lost, but it’s a fairly regular occurrence for a journalist friend of mine and I really don’t have that much time to retype blog entries that ended up in Bit Nirvana.

My first attempt was to resurrect the weblogger-mode setup I used to have a while ago but after switching the admin interface on my WordPress install to https, I couldn’t quite get it to work again. Plus it was a bit of a half hearted attempt as I never quite warmed to this mode in the first place. It’s actually quite odd as I tend to use gnus semi-regularly and the interface is very similar, but it never quite clicked for me for writing blog posts.

If I would exclusively blog on Windows, I’d just use Windows Live Writer, but as I switch between Windows, OS X, Linux and FreeBSD depending on which machine I’m on, Windows only software just isn’t going to cut it.

As everybody raves about org-mode (which I admittedly have never used) I decided to give org2blog a chance. It’s probably not the smartest idea to try to learn too many new tools at the same time but at least Emacs doesn’t occasionally eat my scribblings. Plus, I’ve started using Jekyll for another one of my experimental blogs, so using org mode and having they ability to publish to a Jekyll blog is also very useful.

So far I’ve got the basics up and running and the main blog configured. I’m using visual-line-mode to do automatic line wrapping and now will have to set up flyspell on the machines that haven’t got it installed yet so I can have basic spell checking.

So far, the basic workflow I’m planning is:

  • Sketch the post(s) and write the drafts in Emacs in the comforts of my local machine
  • Publish them as drafts to my standalone WordPress install
  • Do the final editing and spill chucking in WordPress
  • Ignore or heed the recommendations from the WordPress SEO plugin. That’ll be mostly ignore, then
  • Schedule the final publishing on the WordPress admin console

Hopefully that should work better than the “log into WordPress and start typing” approach I’ve used so far.