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This is the `doc/README-0.93' file of GNU eev.
Copyright (C) 2002 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
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--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/>,
  <edrx@mat.puc-rio.br>.