Archive for the ‘emacs’ Category

New article: Configuring Emacs

Thursday, October 24th, 2013

I just published my Emacs configuration as an article. Contains interesting stuff on Emacs, OrgMode, Clojure and other things.

New zeekat website design

Thursday, May 9th, 2013

This week, I re-implemented my main website. The text on the old one needed to be revised heavily (in fact I removed almost all of it except a short bio and some longer articles) and I wanted to experiment with a more colorful look. I need to revise the stylesheet a bit more to give a better experience on small screens (mobile), but so far I’m pleased with the result.

The new site html is generated completely by emacs’ org-mode project publishing functionality (the old one used a custom bunch of perl scripts generating from HTML snippets and perl POD documents). This hopefully means it’ll be easier to add and revise content, and it also provides nice syntax highlighting for any code snippets I put in my articles.

The whole switchover was pretty smooth, especially once I wrote a bit of elisp to roughly prepare conversion from POD formatting to org:

(defun pod2org
(point mark)
"Rougly convert region from pod syntax to org-mode"
(interactive "r")
(replace-regexp "C<\\([^>]+\\)>" "=\\1=" nil point mark)
(replace-regexp "I<\\([^>]+\\)>" "/\\1/" nil point mark)
(replace-regexp "B<\\([^>]+\\)>" "*\\1*" nil point mark)
(replace-regexp "^=head1 \\(.*\\)" "* \\1" nil point mark)
(replace-regexp "^=head2 \\(.*\\)" "** \\1" nil point mark)
(replace-regexp "^=head3 \\(.*\\)" "*** \\1" nil point mark)
(replace-regexp "^=head4 \\(.*\\)" "**** \\1" nil point mark)
(replace-regexp "^=head5 \\(.*\\)" "***** \\1" nil point mark))

Very basic, but pretty useful.

Now, I’m considering replacing WordPress for this blog with org-mode too. That probably requires a bit more investigation. I want to keep at least the tags/categories feature and related rss feeds, and I’m not sure if that’s available for org at the moment.

See the incredible emacs config.

Saturday, November 3rd, 2012

Because people asked: my current emacs configuration is at

Note that it will not work as is, as it depends on my local file tree and specific installs from marmalade. So it’s mostly useful as a raw bucket of references to interesting stuff. Oh, and it includes my personal color theme, which may be an interesting example of emacs 24’s new color-theme functionalities.

Clojure-refactoring gets a little love, a new release and a new maintainer.

Monday, October 24th, 2011

clojure-refactoring, the Emacs/SLIME based toolkit for doing refactoring wasn’t getting enough love and attention, so I fixed a few things. Tom Crayford unfortunately doesn’t have the time to work on it any further so I’m taking over as the maintainer. Inspect the code at the new “official” repository.

For now, I’m focused on fixing parsing issues first, then installing ease (I’m thinking about packaging everything Emacs-related on marmalade but that depends on what’s the easiest way to get stuff integrated for the user on the Emacs and Clojure sides). I’ve already removed the dependencies on out-dated libraries. Basically, everything I need to make the current functionality reliable enough for production use. Next up is support for clojure 1.3, probably, if that needs any work (I’m running 1.2 in production everywhere for now).

For the further future, I’d like this code to be useful for other editors/APIs/tools, so the SLIME/swank/Emacs specific stuff probably has to be separated out at some point. Some more refactorings will also be useful.

For now, version 0.6.1 is on clojars. Get it while it’s hot.

SLIME hints #5 – slime-apropos

Thursday, February 10th, 2011

This is part of the series on SLIME functions. See the introduction for information on what SLIME is.

Another very short post.

Now what is the name of that function again? Which namespace contains that variable?

Call slime-apropos; Default key-binding: C-c C-d C-a and type the part of the name you remember and SLIME will list all matching globals/symbols in the running program.

In search of a better keyboard; The IBM Model M

Wednesday, September 1st, 2010

IBM Model M, full size 101-key version

By far the oldest board in this series. Production of these things started in 1985 and slightly modified versions are still being build by Unicomp (the Customizers are the closest to the standard IBM Model M, but always make sure you pick the Buckling Spring versions, see below).

Build quality

I’ve been using a Model M keyboard for the last couple of years, and in many respects it’s the best keyboard I’ve ever used: it’s very sturdy, will last for decades (mine is 15 years old and still working fine) and the key switches are phenomenal.


This was one of the first keyboards with what’s now more or less the standard PC layout and it’s probably the reason that that layout became so popular. Probably not remarkable – even boring – these days, but on the whole it’s very well thought out and effective. Especially if you map the CAPS Lock key to Control (Unicomp sells models with CAPS and Left-CTRL swapped, but you can swap the keys on any OS and I don’t really see the point of looking at a keyboard when you’re typing on it).

Buckling Spring switch technology

The switches work via a so called “buckling spring” mechanism, which means every key is set on top of a fairly long spring that “collapses” sideways when you’ve pressed the key about half way down and activates the mechanical “hammer” attached to the bottom of the spring. You can easily feel when that is about to happen, and once it does you can feel the key “give” and it makes a very satisfying CLICK sound.

On this keyboard you simply can’t get fooled about whether you’ve pressed a key or not: the auditory and tactile feedback is very immediate.


As you can probably tell, I really like this keyboard, but there a few issues with it that are annoying:


This is a large keyboard, even for a full size standard layout: the MS Natural 4000 has a big wrist rest and a “split” main cluster and it’s still only marginally larger than the Model M.

Size is especially important if you’re a right handed mouse user. With the num-pad to the right, your mouse is quite a long way away from the main alphanumeric cluster where your hands are when you’re typing, which means that you’re not always using an optimal position for the mouse, the keyboard or both. You can tell these things were invented before PCs had mice.

There used to be Model M variants that didn’t have a numeric key pad, but production of those stopped somewhere in the early ’90s. Expect them to be expensive – if you can find one. Ebay US seems to have a few, but once you include shipping, you might want to consider something else if you live in Europe. Clickykeyboards (where that link is to) sells them for fairly reasonable prices, but they don’t seem to have them all that often – and you still have to pay shipping from the US.

Finger fatigue

The switches on these keyboards are very good, but also quite heavy: they require noticeably more force than most conventional keyboards. You get used to it, especially since the force is consistent over all keys, but for me, it’s just barely on the edge of “too heavy”.


The click sound, while satisfying, can get on your nerves late at night. Not that much of an issue for me, but sometimes you just wish it made a bit less noise. If you have coworkers or family in the same room, I expect they won’t like this keyboard much.

Pro: price

On the other hand, second hand full-size Model Ms are cheap and not that hard to get. New ones from Unicomp are also very competitively priced compared to other well-built keyboards with mechanical switches (the basic model is $69), even if you have to ship them across the Atlantic.

Previous episode: In search of a better keyboard – Early history.

Next episode: what now? (not finished, stay tuned).

In search of a better keyboard; Early history

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

When you’re typing as much as I do, sooner or later you realize that having a good keyboard is important. Years ago I was having issues with wrist-pain and switching keyboards was – for me – a very effective way of almost eliminating the problem.

But this is not about health issues directly. What I found is that the best way to stay healthy while working is to keep irritation to a minumum, and keyboards can do a lot of things that are just plainly annoying:

  • Keys in wierd and/or hard to reach places
  • Keys in half-size
  • Keys that only work most of the time
  • Keys that are much harder to press than the others

Looking at that list, there are two main things that can go wrong: keyboard layout and the key switch technology. I’m going to address both throughout this short series.

I’m going to present the main keyboards I’ve used in chronological order (that is; order that I used them), but I’m ignoring the very early stuff. Some were not that good (Commodore 64), some were horrible (Atari 400, I’m not even sure if I’d call that thing you’ve got a keyboard) and some were pretty nice (like the Amiga 500). My focus is on keyboards that are still available and useful to today’s PC or Mac user.

As an example of frustrating design, I present:

The MS Natural Elite

MS Natural Elite keyboard

All in all it’s not a bad board; they’re cheap and they’re fairly pleasant to type on with light-weight keys, but all the navigation keys are in half-size AND in non-standard places (and yet close enough to the standard locations to get really confusing). Get used to pressing INSERT instead of END and fumbling for the cursor keys. Bad, ugly and unnessessary. Also, in my experience, they break after 3 years or so.

The MS Natural 4000

The successor to the Elite that solved most of the issues with the layout, but the modifier keys and especially the space bar were so heavy I found myself slamming my thumbs on them which can’t be good.

The extras, like the horrible multimedia “keys” and the vertical “joystick” or whatever that thing is, I won’t further address, since I never used them.


Also, it broke down after only a year. Not good at all for a keyboard that cost about 60 euros at the time.

By now I was getting frustrated by key switches, and I wanted something that would actually let me type in a consistent way and KNOW that I was really pressing a key when I thought I was, without me having to slam every one of them into the ground.

Which brings me to the next post: In search of a better keyboard; The IBM Model M.

SLIME hints #4 – slime-who-calls

Wednesday, June 9th, 2010

This is part of the series on SLIME functions. See the introduction for information on what SLIME is.

Just a short post today.

The slime-who-calls function (default binding “C-c C-w c”) lists every function that calls the given function (default argument is the symbol under the cursor). You can press ENTER on that list to go to the listed definition. Beats using M-x rgrep for convenience, but – at least with Clojure code – it doesn’t catch every call; second-order function calls aren’t caught.

For those readers using Clojure, you need a pretty recent version of swank-clojure for this to work – and it seems to also list function definitions with the same name as the argument, which I think isn’t correct.

SLIME hints #3b – lexical completions, also: a correction

Friday, June 4th, 2010

New code!

As I noted in yesterday’s post, slime-complete-symbol normally doesn’t complete locally bound “variables” (that is, function arguments and let bindings).

I’ve created a SLIME extension that does a pretty rough scan of the current top-level form and adds all the matching symbols in the form into the list of suggested completions. If you want to check it out, slime-complete-locals is available on github.

A correction

Also, if you missed the update on yesterday’s post, make sure you add the right forms to smart-tab-completion-functions-alist – the key in that alist should be the MAJOR mode. So using slime-mode (like I did yesterday) will not work. It must be clojure-mode or whatever the major mode for your lisp editing is.

SLIME hints #3 – interactive completions and smart tabs

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

This is part of the series on SLIME functions. See the introduction for information on what SLIME is.

Today I want to address auto-completion. There are many different Emacs extensions for doing completions, but the basic functionality in SLIME is provided by the function slime-complete-symbol, which takes the symbol under the cursor and expands it, using whatever symbols are reachable at that point in the code1]. The way I have it set up is a bit tricky, though, so here’s how it works:

I really prefer expansions to be bound to the TAB key. But the TAB key is also used to indent code. It’s possible to have it “do what I mean”, and the easiest method I found for that is to use Smart Tabs (see also the github repo).

Smart tab determines the expansion function to use based on the major mode of the current buffer*. So I’ve got the following in my configuration:

(require 'smart-tab) ;; make sure smart-tab.el is reachable in your load-path first
(global-smart-tab-mode 1) ;; switch on smart-tab everywhere

(setq smart-tab-completion-functions-alist 
      '((emacs-lisp-mode . lisp-complete-symbol) 
        (text-mode . dabbrev-completion) ;; this is the "default" emacs expansion function
        (clojure-mode . slime-complete-symbol))) ;; see update below

Now, whenever I press TAB and the cursor is at the end of a symbol, it gets expanded. If I press TAB on any other place, that indents that line.

There’s a lot of stuff you can customize with expansions and auto completion, but this will give you the basics quickly and without too much hassle.

1] For Clojure code, at least, this boils down to; every symbol that is defined (or imported etc) in the current name space. This has two consequences:

  • It only applies to code that has already been loaded into the program, so you will want to compile stuff pretty much immediately once you’ve written or modified it.
  • It does not expand let bindings or function arguments, since those are lexically scoped and cannot be retrieved from the name space. There is probably a way to fix this, but I haven’t looked into the problem that far.

* Update: the smart tab configuration must be keyed off the MAJOR mode. So slime-mode . slime-complete-symbol will not work, since slime-mode isn’t a major mode. I replaced it here with clojure-mode.