Do you Twitter?

Twitter is one of those Web 2.0 applications that at first 
glance seems to beg the question: why? But first, a description of the service 
from its home page:
Twitter is a service for friends, family, and co–workers to communicate and 
stay connected through the exchange of quick, frequent answers to one simple 
question: What are you doing?
In short, it allows you to post a short description of what you are doing right 
now (or in fact, any short phrase at all – the trend seems to be for posting 
witty or funny comments).
The next obvious thing is to track what others are doing – which can be a 
limited set of your friends, or for anyone who has chosen to make their status 
Another interesting use is to use it as a virtual SMS mechanism on the 
web – you can choose to only track your friends, and use the service to keep in 
virtual touch with each other.
Twitter offers tracking and update via the web, IM as well as SMS via a 
The service has already gained a large following, and many web celebrities such 
as Marlin Mann of 43Folders fame or Cali Lewis from 
GeekBrief TV are on board.
Yours truly is also testing the waters right now, and has the handle evolve75 
on the service.
There are also quite a few tools already available to make the usage easier. A 
Firefox extension called twitbin enables live tracking via 
a side-bar on your browser, and OS X dashboard widget called 
Twadget is available for updating Twitter from your Mac desktop (for 
Vista users, an alternate version for the sidebar is available 
Whether Twitter is just another Web 2.0 meme – or here to stay – remains to be 
seen. The service is useful, but carries the risk of the novelty fading away 
to becoming a chore 😦
~ Anupam


Some useful Emacs Links

Found an interesting Emacs blog with lots of tips and tricks, and 
is run by Ryan McGeary.
The entry for running Emacs on OS X is useful. Ryan recommends the Carbon Emacs package, which is a pre-packaged version of the GNU Emacs version 
22, and contains a ton of extra packages not available in the CVS Version.
I personally use the latest Gnu Emacs Version 22 from the CVS repository, and compile 
the application manually (well, via a cron job actually) every month or so, to keep up with the 
latest developer changes being made in the code-repository itself (which – BTW – can be tracked via 
the Emacs devel newsgroup), and prefer to manually setup the packages I need.
Apart from the literally thousands of site on the net dealing with Emacs, one 
wiki Site I can whole-heartily recommend is the Emacs Wiki:, a fantastic resource on Emacs of all 
varieties, and catering users from newbies through über-geeks.

Using Emacs and Markdown for WordPress posting

While setting up this site (which is based on WordPress), I was evaluating 
a few offline blog editors, and came upon MarsEdit and Ecto – both of which seem to be well-accepted commercial blog editors in the Mac 
world. Both allow easy setup of the blog configurations, have a hassle-free 
configuration, and allow a mail-inbox like access to previous posts.
My needs for the offline blogging tool are:

  1. Support WordPress (obviously)
  2. Support formatting in Markdown (the default WordPress formatting         is atrocious). Note that you will need to enable Markdown syntax on your blog by using any         of the plugins available for WordPress.
  3. Provide easy access to prior posts
  4. Have a decent text editor built-in
  5. Provide at least a subset of my current editing muscle-memory

However, I happen to be a Emacs fanatic, and perform majority of my day-to-day computing tasks in that tool (another post on this later). So I googled around a bit for the current state of blogging using Emacs, and voila! EmacsWiki pointed to the weblogger mode, which supports WordPress, and also handles Markdown formatting easily with the markdown mode. And to top it off, the code is open-source, which means that I can tinker and change the functionality when needed.

The default version of Weblogger mode seems to have some problems as listed in Emacs Wiki, but the patched versions from jwicker work great!

The next section describes the Emacs configuration needed to setup offline blogging using Weblogger mode.

Emacs Configuration

After downloading the patched versions of xml-rpc.el and weblogger.el to your computer, perform the following steps:

  1. Rename both files, as the downloaded files have the incorrect suffix/extension .doc, which should be removed
  2. Add the renamed .el files in your Emacs load-path directory (e.g., site-lisp)
  3. Load the adding the following lines to your .emacs (i.e., the user-init) file: 
(require ‘weblogger)
  4. Restart Emacs, and initialize the blog-setup by issuing the command:
 M-x weblogger-setup-weblog and follow the prompts. Note that for WordPress, your blog URL needs to be suffixed with /xmlrpc.php
  5. If the setup worked fine till this point, you can fetch all previous posts by using the M-x weblogger-fetch-entries command, and
  6. Then access each entry using the command: M-x weblogger-next-entry or M-x weblogger-previous-entry

You can create a new post by using the weblogger-start-entry command. This brings up a mail-like buffer, where the subject line denotes title of the post, and the body is the actual post content.

At this point, you can enter your post-entry (using Markdown syntax, if you have enabled the WordPress plugin, or else by using raw HTML). Once the content is completed, press C-x C-s to save the file, which will also post the entry to your blog.

    Caveat: The current Emacs mode does not provide any categorization mechanism, which still needs to be done via the admin interface on your blog. Categorization is actually supported. While composing the post, use the Keywords: meta-header to provide names of existing categories, separated by comma.


      This setup has been working pretty well for me, and lets me use all the other 
Emacs functionalities as well. In summary, the pros and cons are:


      • Enables me to blog from within Emacs, and use all the Emacs-goodness the platform brings
      • Emacs is a multi-platform editor, and I can blog from any system I have access to (i.e., not tied to my Mac)
      • I can tweak the behavior of the system by directly accessing the code, if needed
      • This is a free and open-source solution


      Note that Ecto and MarsEdit are both capable systems, and are more Mac-like. I do have the trial versions downloaded, and will be trying both out over the next couple of weeks as well.

      Extension List Dumper for Firefox

      Since Firefox 3.0 released, I have been on a extension binge“evaluation” spree – and currently have around 37 of these installed. The problem is that having the same set of extensions across different installs of Firefox on my machines has been rather tedious, given the fact that Firefox does not provide a easy way to list the installed ones. The only way out so far has been to manually scroll through the list of add-ons and hope that I recorded the name correctly 🙂

      However, a little extension called Extension List Dumper has come to the rescue and adds a feature which should have been in Firefox in the first place – it allows one to dump a list of extensions from the add-on manager.

      After install, the extension adds a button to dump the list:

      Firefox Extension List Dumper
      Firefox Extension List Dumper

      Clicking the button opens up a dialog box with fine-grained options for specifying exactly what needs to be exported:

      All in all, a handy plugin to have – especially if you are into trying out a ton of extensions.