Friday, February 27, 2009

Diakonos: A Programmer's Text Editor in Ruby

A text editor (or for some an IDE) is the most important tool a programmer has, other than the programming language itself. Religious wars over editors are inevitable because people spend so much time with their editor. Some people flip-flop, but many people become both functionally and emotionally attached. No one wants to spend time learning new keybindings when they could be programming instead.

Personally, I use nano. This is not out of ignorance, mental damage, or a deep moral perversion as my friends that use emacs and vi insist. I want an editor which is small and quick to install. It must be available on all platforms and easy to install (if there's no Debian/Ubuntu package in the main repositories, forget it). I'm not going to mess around with configuring it. And I basically just don't like vi. So nano has been winning the war for my soul for many years. However, like all programmers, I dream of a better world. I wouldn't mind a slightly (or even somewhat) better editor, but I everything I've ever tried lacked the beautiful simplicity of nano. With more features comes more hassle.

Then I found Diakonos. It's a console-based text editor (which I like because I ssh into my server and edit things as much as I edit them locally), and it's written in Ruby. It has the modern features, such as multiple buffers, syntax highlighting, and syntax-aware indentation. It's scriptable, either through the Ruby interface or through external programs (in any language) which are fed the old buffer on stdin and output new buffer contents on stdout.

Like all editors under my consideration, it has packages in the main repositories of both Debian and Ubuntu. It also has Windows and OS X binaries (also a Ruby gem for you Ruby guys). It's as quick and easy to install as nano, and through it has lots more features, they are not obtrusive. The keybindings are the "standard" Windows-style ones (ctrl-x cut, ctrl-c copy, ctrl-v paste). You can of course configure it to emacs or whatever style you want, but I am personally happy to use a similar set of keys across my editor and web browser.

I am particularly excited about finally having an editor that's not written in C. This is a personal issue. Many people like C, but I just think it's time for us to move on as a society. I have a T-shirt that says "I would code in C for love, but not for money." While you may love C, autoconf, and make, I am personally very excited about an editor both written in and scriptable in Ruby. It seems like a step towards the future. It's also nice to have a fresh codebase which doesn't inherit several decades of design decisions.

My apologies for insulting your favorite text editors and programming languages, my Internet friends. I meant no harm. Just check out Diakonos for a bit and see what you think. It has a feel which is both fresh and yet somehow also classic. A "modern classic" if you will. And it's fun. In a way I can't really articulate, it's just enjoyable to use. Also, the author is a really nice guy and the IRC channel isn't full of obnoxious jerks (#mathetes on freenode), just good folks like you and me, hacking on code. I'll see you there!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Startup Camp Austin, Feb 28th

Next Saturday, Feb 28th, from 1pm-6pm, is the second annual Startup Camp Austin!

Last year's Startup Camp Austin was pretty great. A lot has changed since then in the Austin Startup Scene. It's really quite booming. With events like SXSW Accelerator and the CapitalFactory application deadline coming up at the beginning of March, we decided that now was a good time to get together again and talk about the ongoing developments of interest to Austin startups.

There are still a few slots left, so if you'd like to do a presentation, pitch, or demo, or lead a roundtable discussion, sign up on the wiki and I'll save you a slot in the program. Also feel free to just add discussion topics and we can discuss whatever anyone feels like discussing.

Also, please RVSP on the Facebook event so that we know how much food to provide.

I have to say, I'm pretty excited about this camp. The first Startup Camp was kind of scary because we'd never put on an Unconference before and I had just moved back to Austin and started my own startup. I really wanted to help make Austin a great place for startups, but it was just one person's dream. Since then, things have become so exciting! There are lots of events for startups now, from SD2020 to SXSW Accelerator. There are several new experiments in funding going on, including a startup incubator and a startup organized as a coop. Coworking spaces and BarCamps have become hot items, sprouting up in Dallas, Houston, and San Antonio as well. So many of my friends have lost or quit their jobs due to the economic turmoil and instead of feeling down about it have decided that now is a great time to start a startup. It's really a very optimistic time for startup entrepreneurs as we see opportunities in every problem.

So if you're currently at a startup, are interested in starting one, or just curious about how things are going in the Austin startup community, come to the ACTLab next Saturday. It's located on the UT Campus in the Communications Building (CMB) on the 4th floor, in Studio 4B. The Communications Building is on the southeast corner of Dean Keaton and Guadalupe, across from Madam Mam's. There's a parking lot right across the street (south of Madam Mam's) which is usually $6 to park all day.

I hope to see you there!