May 09, 2003 |

People sometimes ask me what software I use.

Okay, usually this is phrased more like, ``what the fuck is this shit?! How do I change the music?! Control Tee whatwasthat?'' (One should visit my web-based random music player if they're surfing locally...)

Regular-Use Software

Software which I use on a regular basis. The only operating system I run is Debian GNU/Linux right now and I am using 100% Free Software, or close approximations thereof.

Debian: the GNU/Linux distribution I'm using. It is getting pretty fantastically easy to install with the latest installation system, and promises to get even better for the next release. The biggest reason I'm now using Debian is their packaging system: it is fantastic.

XEmacs: political disagreements with FSF/GNU Emacs aside, XEmacs — as with all emacsen — really is the One True Editor; can your text editor read mail and news, edit files directly off FTP sites or via SSH, browse directories, spell-check any of the above, indent code nicely, look up build errors for you, read man pages, etcetera? Well, mine can :)

I use emacs for organising (diary, calendar), for editing source (like the SGML and Python for my Web site or C/C++, etcetera) for typing documents (latex-mode) for keeping notes (outline-mode in a structured directory) and pretty much anything else involving text.

GNUS: I've been using Gnus (in XEmacs) for at least 4 years to read both USENET and email; I don't think I could live without it anymore. One can easily split email into news-group-like folders, rate things (manually and automatically) and generally efficiently get rid of unwanted posters, etcetera. Not for the faint of heart (read: not for Emacs newbies), IMO, but hey.

Mozilla: nobody should be without a standards-compliant Web rendering system...luckily, Mozilla runs on pretty much anything (some people may be "secretly" running it disguised at Netscape 6 or 7 or whatever they're calling it).

LaTeX: the best typesetting system around. I use this when I need to produce nice-looking printed documents and don't want to do Desktop Publishing sorts of voodoo.

Abiword: if I absolutely have to read a Word document, I turn to Abiword.

Python: Python is an object-oriented scripting language with a nice syntax and a fantastic library. I use Python to do must "scripting" tasks (things most people might have used shell-scripts for back in the day) as well as for larger systems (Active-2, my Web site, for example). It is also a good language for learning to program (object-oriented or procedural), IMO.

Xiph (vorbis,ogg): I use's varios tools to encode and play music into the Ogg Vorbis format — like MP3, but without patents and with better compression and sound. ogg123 plays music (I also use alsaplayer, xmms or cplay) and oggenc encodes it, with the help of cdparanoia for ripping CDs. I have about 90 of my CDs converted thus far.

GNU Screen: this is a sort of text-mode window-manager of sorts which will keep running after you log out (you can "detach" from a Screen session) and then re-attach. This allows me to keep the One True Editor running for days...

ratpoison: this is an X window-manager inspired by GNU Screen; it is quite similar, minus the ability to detach. I usually have ratpoison running with a sinle wterm running screen and a mozilla. Ratpoison is no good for things which have lots of little windows, like The Gimp.

WindowMaker: this is an X window manager which is a clone of NeXTStep. I use it when ratpoison is impractical.

The Gimp: this basically started out as a Photoshop clone. It's now much cooler, IMO, and can be customized via Scheme or Python. I use it for all my bitmap graphic editing needs.

GnuPG: The GNU Privacy Guard is a public-key encryption system. I use it to sign or encrypt my emails (via mailcrypt in XEmacs) and to keep personal things private on my machine (e.g. my journal).

Possible Software

Software I would use more in the future if I had the need.

eicq: an XEmacs ICQ client. I don't use instant-messaging systems, but if I did, emacs compatibility would be a Really Good Thing.

SodiPodi: a vector graphics editor which supports SVG. It's a little rough around the edges, but seems to work pretty well and looks quite promising. Unfortunately, I don't have much call to edit or create vector grapichs...