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gnotebook: The Desktop War: A Separate Peace

Killing Emacs, Progeny Gives the Gift of GNOME 1.4

  • June 1, 2001
  • By Michael Hall

By way of a quick bit of GNOME scoop before launching into the column today, Progeny Debian GNU/Linux users will be happy to know that apt-get update && apt-get upgrade will net them GNOME 1.4 today. The distribution's made an update available that provides a current GNOME desktop and Nautilus 1.03 (with the very nifty newsfeed sidebar). It also means Progeny users can enjoy a current GNOME without going through the contortions they might have had to involving Ximian's release, the notable missing elements being the GNOME doorkeeper, Monkeytalk, and Red Carpet, all of which are specific to Ximian GNOME. That noted, onward.

Killing Emacs

I'd like a quick and easy way to record Emacs' "uptime." I managed to crash it for the first time in a decade a few weeks ago and it was, frankly, a stunning experience vaguely akin to being told Bozo the clown secretly hated children or learning Bill Clinton was actually a Republican sleeper agent. That left me also wondering how many hours of uninterrupted productivity came before this particular aberration.

A little background helps:

Since last December, I've been running GNU/Emacs 21. Most distributions are shipping with version 20.7, and the jump forward represented by the newest (and still unreleased) version is good enough that I've become hooked and I've taken to following along with Takuo Kitame's experimental packages, which are built around Debian's unstable/Sid branch. Thanks to the magic of Debian and its children, and the availability of a source archive from Kitame, it's pretty easy to to do this, too. In fact, here's a mini-tutorial, the steps of which I've used on Debian 2.2 (Potato) and Progeny 1.0:

  • log in as root
  • add this line to /etc/apt/sources.list:
    deb-src http://people.debian.org/~kitame/emacs21 ./
  • run apt-get update
  • make sure you're in a directory on a partition with plenty of space (ie, not your root directory if / happens to be smallish
  • run apt-get source --build emacs21
  • install the resulting .deb's once the build is through

For the most part, the resulting packages are very solid. I didn't have any trouble until I decided to track down how to get Emacs' browsing package, w3, working under Emacs 21. A little googling later, I located a patch to apply to the w3 source that took care of that as well. As much as it was nice to once again flirt with the sort of absolutism Emacs encourages, it wasn't so nice when a pre-release running on top of a pre-release eventually ran across a bit of agressively nasty web design and locked Emacs hard.

I can't blame Emacs, really. In fact, in a world of uncertainty, Emacs is one of the few absolutes I'm willing to point to in terms of reliability. My recent crash represented the first time in over ten years of use that I managed to figure out a way to take it down, and I think it's safe to blame my own insistence on riding the cutting edge with it.

Regardless of where blame is to be assigned, it instilled in me a sudden and healthy loathing for the urge to live on the bleeding edge where my daily work tools were involved.

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