Letters to the editor -- SunWorld, November 1995">

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Letters to the Editor

 Letters to the editor

November  1995
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Emacs vs vi raves and flames

I agree that vi's only advantage is availability. So when will Unix vendors include Emacs in standard software so it's just as available?
--Name and firm indeterminate

I read your story. Thank you, I finally have some ammo for all the vi users. This seems like a religious decision to me, it is also true that people defend their editor decision as that defend their religious choice. As you can tell I prefer Emacs over vi. However, as you stated you still need to know vi for those times when Emacs is not available. I explain it like this: vi is like a hand screw driver and Emacs is like an electric screw driver. I user the hand screw driver when I have one or two screws to work on and I use the electric screw driver when I have real work.

I use Emacs for most of my work (mail w/ispell, editing source, reading news, SQL interface to our database, etc). It has so many tools.

Once again, thanks for your story. Loved it.

--George E. Tetterton, Sabre Decision Technologies

I liked the article on Emacs, however after stating all the wonderful things that could be done with Emacs, the writer should have included pointers to where to find Emacs and Emacs resources, so readers could go on and find them.
--(Name and firm indeterminate)

  • The editors respond: (Pointer to URLs)

    This article missed the target. I am an unabashed Emacs user, and am also proficient with vi. There are so many powerful features of Emacs that weren't even mentioned: incremental search, grep/compile/next-error, undo-out-the-wazoo, integrated online help, info, dired, narrow, ftp, tar mode, version control mode, hexl-mode, interactive query/replace, etc., etc.

    The author was too interested in bashing vi than in trying to convince vi users how and why to acquaint themselves with Emacs (via the online tutorial).

    I was hoping when I saw the article title that it would be something I could use to instill the Emacs mantra into some hard-core vi users I work with. No such luck. It would just make them be more defensive than ever. Opportunity lost. Then again, the fewer of my co-workers that use Emacs, the more opportunity for me to out-perform them!

    --(Name and firm indeterminate)

    Great article!!! Now I know everything I need to learn about Emacs and that is Control-X Control-C I had the misfortune one day of trying to learn Emacs after years of vi experience and to this day have never figured out how to exit from it (or to do anything else for that matter). I often had to either kill the window or completely logout (if on a text based terminal).

    Thanks for the tip!

    Just a vi fanatic,

    --Edsel Adap, Sun Microsystems Developer Support Center

    As you say in your article there is only one reason to use vi, it is always there. After having installed a better editor it is no longer necessary. However, Emacs is much too complicated and cryptic to be usable. I've had sam since 1990 and feel quite happy with it. Remember: There are two kinds of people in the world. Those that think that there are two kinds of people, and those that know better. Emacs or vi?

    --Sam, firm indeterminate

    While vi is indeed pond-scum, you should still be accurate. It isn't correct to say that an Emacs executable is huge. Micro Emacs binaries are smaller than vi on every platform that I've built them.

    Emacs != gnu

    --Anthony D'Atr, firm indeterminate

    Whenever an article attempts to compare different products it always runs the risk of ignoring competing products that have less of a market share or are unknown to the author, but the Emacs vs. vi article takes this to the extreme. The vi editor is about a thousand years old and was obsolete at least 10 years ago, when WYSIWIG editors such as Sun's textedit came into being.

    At the other extreme, while Emacs is without doubt the most powerful editor available anywhere, it is also extremely complicated and requires much study, frustration, and time before it can be used effectively. The article completely left out the middle ground. It is as though an article about cars only compared a 1966 Volkswagon Beetle and a 1995 Porsche. Neither is very practical for most of us, and neither is vi or Emacs. It really shows the sorry state of Unix today that these two editors are widely considered to be the only two editors available on Unix systems. (Personally, I consider Sun's own textedit to be the best editor in terms of combining functionality and ease of use.)
    --(name and firm indeterminate)

  • Columnist Musciano responds: The intent of the article was not to be an exhaustive look at Unix editors, but to specifically address the age-old Emacs/vi schism in the Unix community. There are a number of other editors for Unix with a wide range of features to meet every need.

    Personally, I think that textedit has the interesting ability to disappoint everyone. It has no non-graphical analog, limited macro capabilities, inconsistent key bindings, and no concept of multi-file editing. You can't rebind the keys or program it in any meaningful way. It's most common use, I would imagine, is in composing email messages. I often wondered why people would settle for textedit when they could move forward a bit more and use Emacs, especially since textedit uses the basic Emacs cursor movement key bindings!

    I hope Unix vendors take notice of Chuck's article and start shipping Emacs or jove on their raw system. jove actually has a smaller memory usage than vi and is better. I also think tcsh and not csh should be the default shell that vendors ship. vi, sh and csh are very bad for people with RSI. A case could be made that tcsh/jove/Emacs/pico must be provided to accommodate people with RSI. As a person with RSI I greatly appreciate command completion and the ability of tcsh to retrieve previous commands via the arrow keys and edit them WYSIWYG.

    On the machine I am administrating, tcsh is the default shell and in the default windows settings, users get 2 xterm windows and 1 Emacs window. vi is very poorly designed from a human interface point of view. vi is incapable of doing rectangular editing.

    --(name and firm indeterminate)

    I think that was one of the most informative and well written article I've seen. I am a vi user! Not that it matters too much:). I personally am a fan of most of the functionality that comes with the base Unix machine like tar, backup, dump,and vi. I have had too many times when a total system crashes when I don't have tools like Emacs, or a special backup tool to restore files or edit files. Many times you are under a large amount of pressure to get a machine back up and running, so one additional setup of installing Emacs or the backup software you use or what have you can be viewed as a waste of someone precious time. Thank you very much for you article.

    --Pete S., firm indeterminate

    The only thing good about Emacs is VI mode. :-) :-)

    Another advantage of VI: built-in ED/EX.

    I spent a very painful month trying to migrate to Emacs from vi (I took the cold-turkey approach). The things I missed the most were:

    1. ED/EX
    2. control-key-free operation (gotta love that control-key cramp!)
    3. the things you mentioned: ubiquity, consistency, and efficiency.

    --John DiMarco, Computing Disciplines Facility Systems Manager, University of Toronto

    I assume you have a flood of these, so I'll keep it short.

    Things you said that I disagree with:

    [your editor] must be robust, extensible, easily learned, and productive.

    I question the second and third, and especially the third. It's ok for an editor to be hard to learn, since you only have to go through it once. I claim only the first and fourth matter in an editor you use every day. And I've crashed Emacs many more times than I've crashed vi, despite having started it only a tiny fraction of the number of times I've used vi (I can say the same for DOS verses Unix, incidentally :-).

    And, incidentally, I have several macros written in perl that I use with vi to do things like pgp signing and automatic comment-block generation.

    You list vi's best features as consistency and availability. I disagree. If vi were not generally available, I'd grab the source and compile it. Because it's fast. It's very efficient for a touch-typist (all the commands are letters). It starts fast, searches fast, comes up fast, redraws fast, and quits fast. Despite decades of cpu-speed doublings, Emacs never seems to get faster. I suspect it's got hidden delay loops to make it act like it's running on a Sun-3 even when it's on an HP735.

    If I could change one thing in vi, I would change ... nothing. The multiple buffer features of Emacs are neat when you're running on a 24-line tty. But this is the 90's. I've got X. I've got a 19-inch monitor. I can look at all the files I want, thank you very much. Any feature added to vi would be bound to slow it down. No thanks, I'll take it the way it is.

    --Matt DiMeo, firm indeterminate

    One thing to consider when looking at editors is not only vi, but the vi clone VIM. VIM is an improved vi that gives you everything vi has, and much more.

    This is a summary of the differences between VIM and vi. It is not complete. see also reference.doc and look for comments in {}.
    --(name and firm indeterminate)

  • The editors note: This reader sent a long file describing VIM. We include this as a separate document.

    $500 Java terminal?

    I am looking for information on the notebook like system that is supposed to be for net use only. The approximate price is ~$500.

    If you can direct me to the info I would appreciate it. I can't even recall the the name of the device.

    --Paul Hiscocks, The Principal Financial Group

  • The editors respond: Oracle said it will try to ship something like this in the spring, but hasn't announced who will make it, or many details about the product itself, and it's hard to get anybody there to talk specifics. Sun Microsystems has also blue-skyed about such a system but we haven't found anyone to spill the beans.

    The premise is a terminal-like system that would handle email and simple word processing and other applications that can be downloaded on the fly over the Internet. They didn't say a notebook, because the system needs to be wired into the Internet.

    InfoWorld's Robert Metcalfe said in his October 23, 1995 column that Hermann Hauser, "the internationally famous entrepreneur" and founder of Acorn Computers has developed a US $299 terminal with 2 megabytes of RAM, 4 megabytes of ROM, a 14.4 kbps modem, and the same Acorn RISC microprocessor used in the Apple Newton. The device uses a television as a video display, and also sports a VGA port. Hauser seeks partners for bringing the device to the United States in the first half of 1996.

    (As is customary on the Web, we'd hyperlink to Metcalf's column. Unfortunately, InfoWorld does not archive its columns on its Web site, but instead points readers to InfoSeek where its back-issues are available for a fee.)

    Update January 1996: InfoWorld now keeps an archive of its back issues at www.infoworld.com.

    Career Advisor advisors

    The article was pretty good, but would have liked to see a sample. Cutting down 15 years of experience into one page is quite a feat, especially if you then place that experience into a business context. I'd like to see an example that doesn't look too superficial, one that a reader would assume to be supportable.

    Also, job history does little good if the person's goal is to make a career shift. The employer needs to see which skills are transferable. And a one page resume does not really allow for much skill description.

    --Carolyn, (firm indeterminate)

    Good article, but needs a picture. Yes, I saw it has a picture of the author, but I wanted a picture of a good resume. Appearance is important -- show good example.

    --(name and firm indeterminate)

  • The editors respond: Good idea. We'll ask Ed to include examples -- good and bad -- next time.

    Security column feedback: Don't forget SUG

    I enjoyed your article on security tools and I agree that the ones you chose to highlight are some of the easiest ways to seal security holes.

    Your readers may not be aware that three of the tools you discuss (Tiger, COPS, and Crack) are available on the Sun User Group's latest CD-ROM library, SECURITY. The SECURITY CD includes over 80 security related packages, with source code and binaries for both SunOS and Solaris. It's available from the Sun User Group and we can be reached at:

    	Sun User Group
    	1330 Beacon St., #344
    	Brookline, MA 02146
    	(617) 232-0514 - voice
    	(617) 232-1347 - fax

    --Alex Newman, Sun User Group

    Openboot question

    I read the article about the Openboot and it was great. I have a question about the JumpStart. If I have SunOS installed and I want to upgrade or install it from scratch, what is the command for booting?

    --Avi Karmon, System Support Dept., ECI Telecom Israel

    Readers' use of Java

    In Oct. 95 issue article re: readers feedback on Java, an app was mentioned:

    "An interactive GIS system that can use more than one database to get its data, comparing each data set to its ground reference map."

    Could you tell me who this is, or else give them my email and express my interest in not re-inventing the wheel. I am with a public agency, so no proprietary issues...Thanks.
    --(Name and firm indeterminate)

  • The editors respond: The survey data generated was anonymous. We suggest you keep an eye on the Java home page at http://java.sun.com/ for news about user-developed Java repositories (in plain English, "ftp sites").

    Praise for Hal Stern's Sysadmin column

    Hey, I was exploring the web site at Sun when I ran across this column and it caught my eye. I read through the whole article. Great! Cool! Great writing.

    --Pat, (firm indeterminate)

    Rave for RAID story

    I am a student at Winona State University in Minnesota. I have been using Netscape to do research on RAID for a presentation I am doing for one of my classes. On the entire WWW, your paper is the best information on the concepts of RAID I have read. It is very straight-forward and easy to understand. I am planning on using it as one of my main references in my presentation.

    --Tony Hughes, Computer Science Student, Winona State University

    We like Duck

    Great article! I'm in the WAN and Unix business, and only entered it recently at the ripe old age of 35. I'm 40 now, and wouldn't want to change a thing about how I have entered this business. Even a newbie like me can jump in and come up to speed rather quickly with all the changes in the industry.

    --Nancy Bergstrom, (firm indeterminate)

    Nice TCP/IP review, but...

    Your article on TCP/IP products was very good and long overdue. I am very disappointed that you did not include any information or reviews on TCP/IP products for OS/2. I know Hummingbird makes an OS/2 version of eXceed, and I currently use IBM TCP/IP products. With OS/2 becoming a more popular choice for corporate networked pc's I am actually quite surprised this platform was omitted, particularly in light of how big of a flop Windows 95 has been.

    --Mike Ridlon, (firm indeterminate)

  • The editors respond: Win95 a flop? Hmm... how do we politely say Windows 95 sold more copies in its first few months than OS/2 in its entire run?

    From our reader support dept.

    I am a new Internet user, and have just finished one and a half of your articles. Some of the information I would like to keep for reference, How can I off-load articles for reading and printing. Will you be allowing this?
    --(name and firm indeterminate)

  • The editors respond:

    Netscape, Mosaic, and Lynx allow users to save pages to their local disks. In Netscape, go to the File menu and select Save as... Name the file, tell Netscape if you want to save the file as PostScript, text, or HTML, and press the OK button.

    To print a story, go to the File menu and select Print...

    All browsers offer many other useful commands. You should read the documentation for more information.

    I have just located your web-site for SunWorld Online, and would like to know:

    1. Is a printed version is available?
    2. If so, how do I go about subscribing?
    --(name and firm indeterminate)

  • The editors respond: SunWorld Online has no printed alter ego.

    To get free e-mail notifications of significant updates to SunWorld Online go to http://www.sunworld.com/common/swol-subscribe.html and complete the form.

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    URL: http://www.sunworld.com/swol-10-1995/swol-10-letters.html
    Last updated: 3 January 1996

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