Sacha Chua

How I use Emacs


I used to use PlannerMode a lot. Then I switched my blog to Wordpress ( and started using Emacs Org + Toodledo for my task management. Now I use org2blog to post some entries from my Giant Org File of Awesomeness.


I used to use Gnus, the built-in mail/newsreader that slices, dices and juliennes - not as easy to integrate into a Windows-based workflow, though. When I used it, I had basic splitting set up to file my mail into separate groups neatly organized in a hierarchical tree that allows me to see at a glance how much mailing list messages I’ve received. I used “c” to catch-up groups or even whole subtrees, mark threads as read or even uninteresting. Adaptive scoring meant that I don’t have to manually specify my reading preferences - gnus learned what I don’t like to read, so that I don’t have to read related messages next time unless I really want to. I’d set it to score down all messages from hotmail or aol unless I like the author. ;) I elided mailing list identifiers so I don’t see those [….] things, banners like the ads at the end of yahoogroups, really long signatures or To: headers. Gnus is definitely a mail/newsreader for the netiquette-sensitive. :-)

BbdbMode integrated well with Gnus, so I could easily bring up or create contact records for the people I receive mail from. I had Gnus automatically add notes for the people I know, and it’s interesting to see what mailing lists people are subscribed to. I could add notes, check phone numbers, and even see when someone wrote me last. (Time to write a “Haven’t heard from you in a while!” note…)

Mail is a somewhat dangerous thing to experiment with, of course. :-) I had lost some outgoing mail due to masqmail silently failing if you specify the -f flag (evil!), but some debugging later turned up a message-sendmail-f-is-evil variable I could set to t. I have since then moved to postfix so that I could use + as an address separator, so I haven’t needed that.

(outdated - I no longer send text messages from my computer. I’m in Canada now, and text messages are expensive!)

Ah, yes, text messaging. SMS is pretty big here in the Philippines. I am a lazy computer geek who would rather type than fish out my cellphone and start texting. Besides, I kinda like having all of my text messages stored on my laptop - search, store, reply, and even see threaded displays. :-) I used to use gnokii, alamin, postfix, bbdb and gnus in order to have practically seamless SMS sending. :-) Here’s how it works. I’ve set up alamin (a GSM-SMS gateway that can talk to a gnokii-supported phone) to poll my cellphone for incoming text messages and convert any such to e-mail messages from alamin+<SOMENUMBER>@localhost to sacha@localhost. I receive those messages in Gnus in my mail.text group, and BBDB steps in to fill in the name from my contact database thanks to (gnus-summary-line-format “%U%-40,40uB %S\n”), (bbdb/gnus-summary-prefer-bbdb-data t) and (bbdb/gnus-summary-prefer-real-names ‘bbdb) in the group parameters. My reply is processed by postfix and piped through email2sms, a short Perl script I wrote that just invokes alamin’s client program. Alamin queues the message and tries to resend it at regular intervals until it is finally sent. No more dealing with “Message failed.” or lack of signal, and I get a full record of all of my text messages, and I can text while in class.. ;) Unfortunately, I don’t have a serial port any more, and my phone is not Linux-friendly. Can’t pull off this neat hack these days.

Taking notes

I keep my notes in plain text files. I find that typing on my laptop encourages me to keep more complete notes because I can type faster than I handwrite (and it’s much less tiring!). OrgMode makes it easy to keep my notes in outline mode.

Internet relay chat

ERC! EmacsIRCClient forever. Well, not really forever, but I’ve tried quite a few Internet relay chat clients and I must say that ERC is really cool. erc-track lets me keep track of channels that have changed even though I’ve got my notes maximized, and since it’s part of my editor I can easily cut/paste/navigate/tweak/do-funky-stuff. I hang out on Freenode #emacs, and it’s tons of fun.



  • 13:48 UTC Week ending 2018-06-22Field trip A- wanted to go to the Ontario Science Centre. The field trip kids were a bit rowdy, so we hung out in the toddler play area instead. We read all their books and played with the rising toys. Outside, we played with bubbles. Gross motor At the playground, A- was interested in climbing […]


  • 23:18 UTC Notes on the babysitting experimentWe’ve had 6 babysitting sessions so far: a month and a half of experimenting with one afternoon a week. A- has so far gotten along pretty well with everyone, switching over to playing with them almost immediately after they arrive. It’s reassuring to see how she enjoys playing with the babysitters and how she adapted […]


  • 04:37 UTC 2018-06-18 Emacs newsEmacs Lisp: Create an idea box for creating new packages Emacs development: Move tls.el and starttls.el to lisp/obsolete/ (Bug#31457) rmail-summary-by-senders defaults to sender comint-insert-previous-argument doesn’t detect and ignore trailing & comint-insert-previous-argument counts args from start or from end Add new macro dolist-with-progress-reporter Apply non-user themes only when asked Rewrite memory-limit in Lisp Flymake and backends […]


  • 06:40 UTC Back to bikingWe got the Thule Chariot XT bike trailer that also quickly converts into a stroller. Our goals are: Model physical activity, and biking in particular Explore more of the city Expand our range We started by getting A- used to the stroller. She’s generally amenable to it, and has asked for it when she’s sleepy. […]
  • 05:55 UTC Week ending 2018-06-15Field trip I went for a bike ride with A- in the trailer. Good thing I picked a nearby destination, though, since she insisted on walking on the way back. Even when she got tired, she still didn’t want to get in the trailer, so I put her in the carrier and walked the bike […]


  • 13:24 UTC Circle time progressI like taking A- to music classes and circle times. I learn more songs and A- gets to see other kids in a semi-structured environment. A- usually clings to me, preferring to quietly watch instead of joining in. She’s not keen on tickling games. She tends to get anxious when the teacher or family support […]
  • 03:45 UTC Experimenting with adding labels to photosA-‘s gotten really interested in letters lately, so I’m looking for ways to add more personally relevant text and images to her life. She often flips through the 4″x6″ photos I got printed. Since they’re photos, they’re sturdier and can stand up to a little bending. I wanted to experiment with printing more pictures and […]


  • 18:55 UTC Thinking about more reflection and sharingOkay. I’ve gotten basic recording sorted out, I think. I can capture quick notes, photos, and videos to document our lives and serve as placeholders for further reflection. I can organize them into rough categories. Babysitting gives me enough brainspace for both consulting and self-improvement. My sleep is still a bit messy, but that’s probably […]


  • 05:27 UTC 2018-06-11 Emacs newsEmacs development: A recipe for creating parallel futures using threads and dynamic modules Allow to reset Deleted flag when exporting messages in Rmail Support terminal focus notifications Describe flymake-start-on-save-buffer in manual and NEWS Add support for per-window face remapping Remove Tramp “obex” and “synce” methods Obsolete Flymake’s flymake-diagnostic-types-alist Navigation: prescient.el: Simple but effective sorting and […]


  • 07:42 UTC Week ending 2018-06-08Field trip A- woke up early in the morning and insisted on going to sleep in the stroller. I managed to convince her to let me snooze, but she repeated her request after a short while. So I bundled her into the stroller and we went to Riverdale Farm, where she had lots of fun […]


  • 14:33 UTC 2018-06-04 Emacs newsEmacs Lisp: Updated format$ macro What’s the theme? Emacs development: Examples of programs/libraries/snippets that use Emacs 26 threads emax64-20180529 (26.1 final) released Emacs 26 Brings Generators and Threads (Reddit, HN) What’s New in Emacs 26.1? (Reddit) Some proposed backports from master to emacs-26 Un-obsolete ‘string-to-unibyte’ Add Imenu support to CSS mode and its derivatives Allow […]


  • 06:49 UTC May 2018Field trips: We made it out to Riverdale Farm, the Science Centre, and High Park Zoo. We also made it all the way out to Hamilton while hanging out with Jen and E-. Gross motor We’ve been practising going for walks in the neighbourhood. A- can walk to the supermarket or the playground now, although […]
  • 06:05 UTC Week ending 2018-06-01Fine motor A- carefully cut freeform spirals out of paper, turning the paper with one hand while cutting with the other. She also occasionally did a good job of following curves drawn on the paper, or cutting around drawings. She learned this from W-. Language “I did not caught the ball.” “Oh no, hair. That […]


  • 00:42 UTC 2018-05-28 Emacs newsEmacs Lisp: A fancy Emacs version Emacs Notes: Keyboard Macros: Build custom commands with the Emacs Command Language (Reddit) Emacs development: Emacs 26.1 released Support for bringing package change logs to the user’s attention (Reddit) Call out recently removed aliases in epa.el. Move epa-pinentry-mode to epg-config (Bug#26298) Appearance: Emacs Notes: Personalizing Emacs: Color schemes and […]


  • 08:10 UTC Week ending 2018-05-25Gross motor A- wanted to swing across the monkey bars with help. A- enjoyed building sandcastles in the sandbox and rolling a truck down the slide. Fine motor A- was interested in scribbling in the doodle book. A- had fun wrapping tape all around a column of Duplo blocks. She passed the tape from hand […]