Blogging from my phone is nothing new. I’ve been connecting my trusty K760 for a while. But… apps.
I was as excited as anyone when Steve Job’s introduced the idea of mobile apps. I like small, single purpose applications that do one thing well, but that thing is rarely text entry and even pointing is very imprecise.
Screen keyboards are a lot better than T9, but that really doesn’t say very much. So, we’ve built apps around the idea that people aren’t going to type, or, do anything other than consume.
Here is my litany of complaints about the apps I’ve used for blogging on my phone:
- They’re just text editors and getting text out of them is involved
- They’re designed for one service and I don’t want to use that service
- They’re designed for one service, which is good, but they’re terrible editors.
- They’re not emacs
Phones are still really interesting as a platform. They are tiny, they have great screens, they have an internet connection and they’re getting more powerful every year. Also, my phone is with me constantly - so turning it into something that I can create on, in addition to consume is appealing.
But they’re still incredibly slow compared to laptops, at least the laptops of today, but its a super computer compared to technology from 30 years ago.
So what happens when we treat our 2016 phones like 1986 desktop computers.
Turns out, really, really good things. Text interfaces work really well, especially in landscape mode. Plus, even with a bad connection, SSH and git work surprisingly well.
So what does this old/new world look like?
My Android phone is a linux kernal wrapped in a finger friendly GUI. Termux peels away the GUI and leaves me with a very useful terminal emulator.
This is all well and good. It has allowed me to ssh into my servers, which is neat but not exactly worth carrying a keyboard around for.
But recently it got Emacs. Emacs!. The one true editor. To Emacs, my phone is like a palace. It was first created when 80 charactors was widescreen, when 256 colours was 254 too many. Emacs, an editor who’s one true purpose is to be the true interface to every single text file you have ever edited. And its not Emacs ‘lite’, its full emacs, so full that I can use Outpace Starter Kit, which is what I use every day for real software developement.
So, here I am, editing a blog on a device that fits in my pocket, on a full sized keyboard, that weighs next to nothing, and has a cute slot for my phone to stand in and I have editting power comparable to my beloved MacBook Pro (which doesn’t have built in LTE).
It is not ok to call this the future. There is nothing novel about using small, under powered computers for text editing. But I do feel that it drives home, once again, that investing time in learning a technology like terminal emulators, ssh and emacs/vi is rarely time wasted.
Now the only problem is that the lovely screen in my phone is almost as useless in daylight as my laptop… I wonder if I can get emacs running on a kindle.