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This is the `doc/README-0.93' file of GNU eev. Copyright (C) 2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc. Permission is granted to anyone to make or distribute verbatim copies of this document, in any medium, provided that the copyright notice and permission notice are preserved, and that the distributor grants the recipient permission for further redistribution as permitted by this notice. --snip--snip-- This is the "README" file of eev-0.93. The installation instructions are in the file INSTALL. There are some (other) philosophical texts in the directory "texts/". # (find-eev "INSTALL") # (find-eev "texts/") Sorry for the style and for the very weird English, this was written in a hurry (in a fit of inspiration). Eev.el is a package that implements support for "e-scripts" in Emacs; an e-script is a text file -- typically a file where you are keeping your notes about how to do something on the computer -- where some parts of the text can be executed in different ways, thanks to Emacs tricks; some blocks can be sequences of shell commands, and they can be saved in a certain way and be sent to be executed by a shell; and some lines can be "hyperlinks" -- they are in fact tiny programs in Emacs Lisp that you can run with the key sequences C-x C-e ("eval-last-sexp") or M-e, and whose effect is to open some file, or some manpage, or some document in "info" format, whatever, and optionally to jump to the first occurrence of a certain string in it. I believe that one can become much more efficient if he keeps his notes in e-scripts: among other things, it becomes very easy to edit steps in complex sequences of shell commands (and entering commands by hand in a shell is usually error-prone), and to "recycle" old sequences of commands and to adapt them to a new task, and it also becomes trivial to keep "links" to anything interesting that you find that is online, in your computer or on the net -- and almost any file format can be supported. I usually refer as this package as "my project to save the world"; there's a bit of humour in this, of course, but there's a serious side too -- let me explain that briefly. It is very easy to share these e-script files: if you take a bit of care not to put passwords or other sensitive information in your e-scripts, then you can put them on the net if you have a home page (I do that with my notes), or you can hand them to friends that are interested, or, if you are in some kind of on-line discussion (by e-mail, IRC, whatever) and someone has a doubt and you realize that you already did something similar to what the person is trying to do, you can select a chunk of your notes, maybe add some comments to the text, and send the piece to him; of course e-scripts without comments will look like pure gibberish to a newbie, but often they can be very useful to someone that knows a bit about the subject -- sometimes even more useful than the kind of things that we find in computer books or textual documents, because an e-script shows the real syntax, and its executable blocks are things that worked on the machine of the person that produced them... There are some other ideas below eev, that I discovered -- or got in touch with -- as I was using it, over the years. Eev grew in a very organic way, starting as a tiny hack (just the functions `find-fline' and `eev', then `find-node', then the rest) and I always had the impression that Emacs was made to be used exactly in that way, and even that Emacs used in that way was THE embodiment of the Free Software idea... I was really shocked when I discovered that maybe I was the only person using Emacs like that (RMS even said to me once that "users should never be forced to see Lisp", which made me have a fit!). Anyway, so eev comes with some subliminal ideas as a bonus, and I think that they are extremely positive, have good vibrations, etc. Here is a quick description of them. 1) I feel that we live in a kind of a "culture of the finished product", and we usually learn not to share anything that is not specifically produced for being shown in public; for example, if we had to help another person to do something we would tend to write instructions in "book form", like "do this, do that", instead of handing her, even casually, exactly the commands that we used. However, working out the missing information to understand a block of commands that someone else wrote isn't very different from trying to understand a program that we wrote years ago, and whose details we forgot; we don't need necessarily to translate an idea to a "standard language" in order to convey its meaning; sometimes we can just express it as we think of it, as we would have liked to hear it when we were trying to learn it, and -- surprise! -- the other person will grasp it. We are not so different from one another. The other person is not "a user" ("let P1, P2, P3 be three little pigs, W be a big bad wolf...") -- the other person is us. 2) We can learn more about our environment - in this case, the computer, its programs, and the ideas that their creators had about how these programs could or should be used. A GNU system is made to be explored; and if as we explore it we keep our own "maps" of it, in the form of e-scripts with hyperlinks, then it becomes easier to travel again to the same points, to continue an exploration starting from some point that we've been before, to remember vaguely that we've been to some place connected to something that we are seeing now, and to rediscover our old links about that by searching our old e-scripts for some key words, then go there and maybe now understand something that wasn't clear before... and not only we have this "travelling journals" for ourselves, and we can even use them to rememeber what we knew about something a long time ago, but we can also give them to others, or we can read other people's "maps" -- and then we will see which paths these people have decided to follow. So, there isn't an unbridgeable abyss between the programmers who made the software and we, mere users, and each of us users are isolated from one another -- no, each path taken, each sequence of links that we create, marks in a subtle way one road as being more travelled than the others, for us and for the other people with whom we share our maps. 3) We are part of our environment. There isn't a clear division between "user" and "programmer" in a *NIX system; every sequence of commands is like a program, in that its execution can be automated - we can mark any block of commands that appears in an e-script, then go to a shell, type "ee", and the commands of the block are executed one after the other by the shell. Giving an e-script with block of commands to other person isn't so different from giving a program - it's just that the person has to mark the blocks she wants to execute, instead of invoking each block by a specific name. And saving as named scripts some blocks from an e-script that turn out to be especially useful isn't so unnatural either... so, where's the difference between programmers and users? Maybe the programmers are the ones that write BIG sequences of commands in named scripts; but if we have some specific routine task that require many steps, we will end up writing that in an e-script with many lines, possibly with "if"s and loops... almost a "real" script, and it can become a real script. And if the "programmer" is the one who packs the work he does and makes it available, well, in the process of using the computer for our own tasks we may decide that we have to create a home page ourselves, for computer-related or not computer-related reasons, and we may take e-script notes of how to create an account, how to edit and test a page and how to upload files, whatever... and maybe we are going to allow some other people to see our notes, and because of that for them it will be easier to create their own pages, and so making information available (and packaging programs...) can become easier and easier, because for more people it will become something more natural, as they'll be finding working examples everywhere to learn from, and "everybody" will be doing it... This may look like a kind of an idea towards a "*NIX ecology", and that can sound very sick, very nerdish... "Where is the nature, the plants, the birds?" "Where is the real world?" "What about the children dying of hunger in Africa?" "But not everybody has access to computers" "You can't pretend to solve all the problems of the world using just technology" -- true, true, and I'm not planning to save the world by doing e-scripts for every human activity, but we *are* going to use computers for a part of our days, and we do want to use them to share information, and we would like that to be easier; what I see is that we don't need to spend that part of our days interacting passively with a "product", isolated; interacting with a *NIX system, especially a free (i.e., GNU) one, is interacting with something that came from a community, and that carries the marks of the many thousands of people who have been there, in many thousands of different moods; and some of them even understood how the hardware was made, and some were the ones who designed parts of the hardware, or who were in charge of the money, or of the jobs, or of the firms behind all that; using *NIX/GNU systems we are part of an environment and of a community, and the distinction between its active and passive members is very blurry and very fluid; the widespread impression that in modern societies we are powerless little machines in a big mechanical society is an illusion, and this illusion is especially unconvincing when we come to think about the Free Software environments and OSs; there we are part of an environment that changes slowly and continuosly, together with us, exactly as it is also happening with ourselves in the rest of the human society, and with us in the natural environment in the planet, and with any animal species (of which we are only one) or any living species in any environment. And I feel that we can't pretend to save the world by sending N dollars (even, say, for a big value of N :) to a child in Africa, when she for us is little more than a number; I feel that it is important to have this very concrete feeling that there is no clear frontier between what is "us" and what is "them", what is "human" and what is "animal" or "nature", etc; for me developing this sense of being part of a whole, and struggling continuously to feel it each time more sharply, has been a very important process -- I used to feel terribly bored, and to have no hope that something interesting would ever happen with me; but, as I manage to feel more present and more attached to what is going on, life is starting to seem almost interesting, even tolerable sometimes. Get out of the closet, kid. Do something interesting instead of just playing your videogame and grumbling that there's nothing to do, nothing to feel, nothing to think, except for some silly distractions, and that everything is ridiculous. The world is getting full of people like me, that have little to lose -- we would like to jump on your throath, lift you up from the sofa, slap your face, and wake you up, but our time is short, you should consider doing that to yourself on your own instead of just waiting. And we are dreaming too of someone else coming and waking up the parts of us that are still sleeping, so sometimes it is too frustrating to be just waking others. That's it for now. If you want to know my personal influences, read some articles and essays from which I may be copying a bit of the style and tone, etc, go to my home page. Eduardo Ochs, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, 2002may11, 9:18am, (with some small revisions afterwards), <http://angg.twu.net/>, <firstname.lastname@example.org>.