Dan Connolly's tinkering lab notebook

no more life in a textarea: MozEx and emacs to the rescue!

I have been living in a textarea since I started this blog, always a little nervous, knowing that firefox doesn't know that integrity is job one. That is: Firefox doesn't guarantee to save all work, by default; I don't consider that a big bug; it's a browser, not an editor, after all. I outsourced bookmarking to delicious because that's knowledge capture, and I don't rely on my browser for that.

But as TimBL has been saying since at least as far back as his 1998 design issues note,

If you think surfing hypertext is cool, that's because you haven't tried writing it. If you have found your bookmarks/favorites have become a more and more important part of your life, that's because you have learned to put up with the simplest form of hypertext editing there is as a compromise.

Then we have Udell July 06, 2005:

Now, with oceanic quantities of text pouring through the TEXTAREAs of blogging tools and webmail applications, the situation is just insane.

I'll say. Silly me, just last week at the security workshop I jinxed myself by explaining to Eve that the first thing I do with any mail client or other editor is type "Four score and seven year ago--" and then yank the power cord and see how robust the thing is. Emacs knows to save my work. So does evolution. Apple mail does too. Thunderbird doesn't, so I don't use thunderbird, even though evolution isn't available for my laptop and Apple's mailer doesn't handle threads as nicely, and does some really annoying things with linebreaks and URIs.

Sure enough, while writing one of the next few items, firefox crashed and took an hour's worth of work with it. It's completely gone. The bits are nowhwere. I tried grep on the swapfile. Nope. I was dumbfounded. I haven't let a computer throw away that much of my work for years and years. I don't really do backups, but I'm known as a "closet librarian" for my dilligence with email and CVS:

There are very few data formats I trust... when I use the computer to capture my knowledge, I pretty much stick to plain text, XML (esp XHTML, or at least HTML that tidy can turn into XHTML for me), RCS/CVS, and RFC822/MIME.

July 2000 to www-rdf-interest

I re-wrote the item, but I'll never know if I covered all the same ground.

I had seen gizmos to integrate emacs with textareas. This was motivation to go find them. I'm happy to report that Mozex with UTF-8 in Firefox 1.5 works (after a couple configuration hassles). Thank you, Iain Murray! I found it via wikipedia tools notes.

Yay! I get to use nxml-mode when writing weblog items!