gravityboy (gravityboy) wrote,

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Upside Down

Things have been strange lately. I've been taking an official indefinite vacation from Debian due to real life priorities making it impossible to participate in the project at the level that I want, which just led to frustration. Mainly, I just haven't had the time to work on X properly, so I'm leaving it to the rest of the XSF for a while. This makes me sad, but they've grown in to a fantastic team so I know they'll keep doing a killer job while I'm away.

I have had some time though, just not enough to follow two major projects like and Debian, so I've been trying to leverage it in productive ways. Perhaps the most notable is that I've been spending most of my time coding Smalltalk using Squeak now that it's in Debian. Squeak has its flaws, but it's very fun to work with and Smalltalk is probably my favorite language at this point, displacing Ruby. This shouldn't be too big a surprise, since Ruby consciously inherits a lot from Smalltalk. Squeak is a good environment, but I don't feel too compelled to write desktop apps in it because they feel so displaced from the rest of the system. GNU Smalltalk will hopefully fix this in time. As a result though, I've been doing my first bit of web coding in a very long time. The main reason for this is the incredible Seaside framework built on Smalltalk. It's been a lot of fun to play with, and although it's very underdocumented, there's enough out there (especially with the new book) that I've used to get going. Right now I'm trying to learn AJAX techniques as well, which is something I never thought I'd be doing.

As a result of learning Smalltalk, combined with past experiences, I've been trying to learn emacs, and switch a lot of my text editing over there. I came to realize that the reasons I chose vim over emacs many years ago aren't really holding up any more, and now that I've got a lot more of both UNIX and coding under my belt that it's time to reevaluate the decision in a more intelligent way. Vim has been great to me over the years, but I found it constraining when trying to work on very large and difficult trees like the X server. I'm hoping that emacs will do a little better, since I like the way it handles multiple buffers better. Additionally, the purity of Smalltalk "all the way down" has made me appreciate the emacs architecture of lisp (almost) "all the way down" and I'm looking forward to making use of it. It's been a painful transition so far, given the years of muscle memory I'm trying to change. I've been avoiding viper mode to really try and learn emacs, which has made it even harder. I don't know if I'll end up using emacs after all is said and done, but at least I'll have a better idea of how the two major editors really compare for my own use.

With all these changes things have been a little strange lately. Debian was the rock that I've clung to over the past few years, and not being totally entrenched in it has felt unnerving. Combining that with very new and different ways of working has been a rather large change. One thing is for certain: it's been very good for me to take a break for a while and work on small things at my own pace rather than try to keep up with large projects. People burn out all the time in the free software community, and I think that disconnecting and working on small fun things is a great way to heal.
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