Text Editors

The choice of text editor is a very personal thing, especially for a programmer. If you are going to spend several hours a day working with a program then you had better make the correct choice! The correct text editor can make a huge difference in programming productivity. However, in order to get the full benefits the programmer has to put in the time to learn the editor well enough that the major commands are in muscle memory and can be executed without thinking about them. This means that changing editors involves a significant investment in time and effort.

In the early days of my programming career I used the Brief editor under DOS and grew to know and love its key bindings. When the world moved on to Microsoft Windows, I moved onto CodeWright but still using the Brief key bindings. These days at work I am not doing as much programming but can still use CodeWright pretty well when required.

At home I generally use Linux on my computers and so can’t use the Windows specific editors that I use at work. When moving to Linux, I looked at what editors were available and decided to use of the big open source contenders so that I knew that it would be able to do anything that I needed and that support would never be a problem.

I never really considered VIM as I could never get on with the modal nature of vi when I used it at university. For a while now I have been using emacs and getting on OK with it but I have never got in to using the emacs specific keys for cursor movement, I still use the arrow keys etc. This means that I am not getting the full “move your hand as little as possible” efficiency. Recently, for this reason and general curiosity I decided to have another look at the text editors available in the Linux space.

The available editors have not changed much since the last time that I looked. The one editor that I have now tried is Sublime Text 2.

Sublime is a very good editor with some unique facilities but I was put off spending significant time learning it fully because it is not free / open source. There appears to be a slowdown in the pace of development of Sublime and this is worrying. The author could could stop development of the editor at any time and there would be no chance for the community to take over.

For now I have decided to stick with emacs and take the time to learn the cursor movement keys and at the same time brush up on my touch typing skills!

iPod under Linux – I give up!

After spending quite a bit of time trying to get my iPod Nano to work reliably under Linux, I have finally given up!

I have tried Rhythmbox, Banshee, gtkpod and gPodder but can’t find any combination that works as I need for both music and podcasts. Rhythmbox worked for a while (even though it does not provide a “by random” option for its smart playlists, which was a pain) but eventually failed.

I could get all of the above programs to work after resetting the iPod using iTunes but after a few sync cycles the iTunes database on the iPod would get corrupted. Sometimes this could be fixed by attempting to delete everything from the iPod and putting it back on. However, this left more and more “ghost” files that could not be deleted and eventually the iPod stopped working.

I have now ordered a SanDisk Sansa Clip+ and hopefully this will work better. At least with this mounted as a USB drive I can simply copy on the files I want even if I can’t get synching to work. This option is simply not available with an iPod!

New Linux desktop PC

After a period of deliberation on whether I actually need a desktop computer, I have now gone ahead and brought a new one!

The machine is more “low cost” than “high end” but is fine for what I will use it for. It has a quad core AMD FX 4100 processor, 8 Gigs of RAM and a 1TB disk. I did have plans to do a full PC build myself but in the end I brought the machine ready built as I didn’t think that self building this time around would result in any added value.

The machine will mainly be used for photo processing, video editing and software development. It is actually replacing two older desktop machines; my old Linux box that I killed by knocking it over 🙁 and an old Windows 7 machine that I have been using for video processing and iTunes.

I am now back in the situation where all of my computers are running Linux. I am still having some problems with iPod handling under Linux but maybe that is a story for a future post!

Photo processing under Linux

As I have moved back to Ubuntu I needed to install some Linux photo processing software. Looking around the Internet it appears that much of the software that I used before is still available and recommended. For example:

  • GIMP
  • UFraw
  • Hugin

I have also installed some software that is new to me but appears to work well so far.

  • Geeqie – a very fast photo viewer
  • Raw Therapee – a “Lightroom like” RAW processor

One good thing I have found out is that both UFRaw and Raw Therapee will successfully process the RAW files from my Canon G12. Photoshop Elements 8 (that I used on Windows) would not do this. Adobe wanted me to upgrade to Version 9 just to get an updated RAW processor 🙁

Back to Linux

I have returned to using Linux, specifically Ubuntu 11.10, on my main laptop.

For the last couple of months I have been switching between Windows 7 and Linux but could not settle on one or the other for a number of reasons. Windows is “the standard” and most of the applications that I want use run on it with no problems. However it is a bit boring and and not so good for software development. I have also had many problems with long startup times and lots of disk thrashing.

I love to use Linux but some of my favorite applications are not available, specifically My Life Organised and Evernote. I have now solved the first by switching (again!) to Toodledo for my “Todo List” and Evernote is now usable with the web interface and the web clipping add-on for Firefox.

Part of the reason for deciding on Linux was reading an article (which I now can’t find to reference) about how you learn so much more by using Linux than you do by using Windows. I have found this to be the case myself. For example, I brought a QNAP NAS a couple of weeks ago and last night spent some time using the rsync man pages to setup a backup mechanism for the laptop. It was very satisfying to do this myself rather than “cutting and pasting” a solution from a post on the Internet.

So, at least for now, I am back to enjoying Linux 🙂