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(outdated - I no longer send text messages from my computer.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.



  • 16:34 UTC 2019-11-18 Emacs newsEmacs configuration: Emacs configuration file Best way to store init.el citations for long-term? Emacs Lisp: Emacs is amazing – story about modifying pdf-view behavior Is there a code challenge resource for elisp? Emacs development: time-stamp: update support for time zone numeric offset * lisp/dired.el (dired-dwim-target): Add new choices (bug#35385) Appearance: highlight-indentation-mode: Highlighting indentation for Emacs […]


  • 16:04 UTC Making the most of the next three weeks of kindergarten readinessA-‘s kindergarten readiness program will wrap up in three weeks. So far, the best uses of my two-hour drop-off sessions have been: working on time-sensitive consulting requests drawing and writing thoughts updating my journal reading parenting books and taking notes After the program ends, I can shift back to taking A- to drop-in centres. I’ll […]


  • 16:33 UTC 2019-11-11 Emacs newsEmacs configuration: Grant Rettke: Some Pretty Good Configuration Options To Copy Marcin Borkowski: Starting Emacs with custom configuration directory Configuring Emacs from Scratch — Intro – Suvrat Apte – Medium mrbig033’s Emacs & i3 config files .emacs golf Standard Emacs keybindings vs Personal keybindings armacs: An Emacs based distribution to help novice users learn emacs […]


  • 03:07 UTC Weekly review: Week ending November 1, 2019Kaizen At the end of the family math program we went to, the teacher pulled me aside to give me some tips. She said that A- reminded her of her son because A- is pretty quick and knows what she wants to do. She shared how her son had gotten bored in school, so she […]
  • 03:05 UTC Weekly review: Week ending October 25, 2019Us It was really easy to use pandas in Python to pivot a table. I’m glad I’m doing this in code instead of in spreadsheets! I drafted thank you cards on my phone at night and then wrote them while A- was at kindergarten readiness class. It was nice to put some thought into it. […]
  • 03:04 UTC Weekly review: Week ending October 18, 2019Kaizen We passed down the potties and A-‘s old clothes to some neighbours. Yay clearing up space! I made a ham and asparagus pizza to use up leftovers. The pizza crust I made was still a bit denser than pizzas made with supermarket dough. Ham and asparagus turned out to be a great combination. I […]
  • 03:03 UTC Weekly review: Week ending October 11, 2019Kaizen I decluttered many of my clothes and a large part of my fabric stash. It’s nice to have several empty drawers and boxes. W- helped me tape up my phone screen to deal with the crack. Us I made a Tsuki rabbit out of clay. Either A- or I put weight on my phone, […]
  • 03:01 UTC Weekly review: Week ending October 4, 2019Us I dropped off my laptop for the Windows 10 upgrade, and then I dropped by work to say hi. I picked up my laptop and said hello to my coworkers. I spent a long time trying to figure out proper retained earnings calculations for filing my taxes. We dug through our camping supplies to […]


  • 16:32 UTC 2019-11-04 Emacs newsEmacsConf was a blast! Recordings may be available by next week – stay tuned. Thanks to everyone who helped make it happen! Emacs configuration: Manuel Uberti: Thirty straight days Migrating Away From Use-Package elisp: My Emacs initialization files fat-free-evil: Fat Free Evil Emacs Config Emacs “Plugins” Emacs Lisp: popup-el: Visual Popup Interface Library for Emacs […]


  • 11:31 UTC 2019-10-28 Emacs newsNov 2: EmacsConf 2019 Schedule (Reddit) Emacs configuration: {Personal} I finally wrote my own Emacs config from scratch, and I absolutely love it. Thank you. Do people post .emacs files anywhere? Emacs development: dired-dwim-target uses most recently visited window instead of next window. Improve the documentation of ‘vc-tor’ * lisp/cedet/mode-local.el: Clean up name space Ensure […]


  • 16:08 UTC Python, Org Mode, and writing Org tables to CSVs so that I can read them backI’ve been getting deeper into Python so that I can model our personal finances. I really like using the pandas library to manipulate data. All those years I spent trying to juggle increasing complex spreadsheets… Working with Python code in Org Babel blocks is just so much more fun. I like being able to keep […]
  • 14:43 UTC Reflecting on the kindergarten readiness programA- has been going to a two-hour kindergarten readiness program three times a week. It’s a drop-off program, so it was a good opportunity to test how she would do in a group situation. I knew that she could separate from me because she was happy to play with babysitters, and she was familiar with […]
  • 04:00 UTC What do I want to learn next?I have a little less than a year to spend hanging out with A- and learning about early childhood education before she goes to kindergarten next year. If I’m intentional about what I want to learn, then I can make the best use of the time. I’m not worried about making sure A- is academically […]


  • 04:00 UTC Learning and teaching early mathI was delighted to find a textbook called Learning and Teaching Early Math: The Learning Trajectories Approach at an EarlyON drop-in centre. The Esso Family Math program reminded me to talk to A- about math concepts beyond counting, and it was great to learn about math in early childhood education in even more detail. Subitizing: […]


  • 01:55 UTC 2019-10-21 Emacs newsNov 2: EmacsConf 2019 Schedule (Reddit) Emacs configuration: Configuration file organisation: literate org-mode or not? Split files or not? If split, how? Project specific commands Emacs Lisp: emacspeak: Meta-Programming In Emacs Using Defadvice Emacs development: {EmacsConf 2019} Curious to hear what you guys think/hope these new languages will be :) (Reddit) Long discussion about dir-locals.el […]