Pat Gunn (dachte) wrote,
Pat Gunn

Texas Foot Shootout

Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about a sponsor fora project he works on (in academia). Apparently, the sponsor decided thatto be buzzword-compliant, they are to move from one software system they'vebeen using (which is quite good) to another software system that's prettysimilar (but sucks). Sponsors, being as clueless as they generally are,are known to make technical decisions that they hardly understand.Unfortunately, this software they've been told to use will make producinga working project harder. My friend remarked that to go against what thesponsor wants would be looking a gift horse in the mouth, or shooting oneselfin the foot. I remarked that to use the lousy software would be to shootoneself in the other foot. It's wonderful that they're left with a choicebetween feet to shoot. What a wonderful world. It'll be a challenge toproduce a project that can walk at the end of the day.

Today, while editing a file, I wanted to look up a less-well-known featureof my preferred editor, vim. I like vim a lot because it's very fast and small,and has far more functionality than I use, so if I ever need something I don'tyet know how to do, I can likely just look it up in the manual. I happenedacross a separate mode of vim called evim, which promises to be modelessand easy (vi having two main modes is a common barrier for people learning touse it). So, I start it up, via "vim -y" as the documentation suggests, and itis indeed modeless. And.. I can't get out of it. I can't switch into commandmode to quit (or save, or anything), and no keyboard shortcuts work, insteadjust inserting themselves as literals, which in other circumstances would bekind of cool. So, I look at the manpage, and find out a few things.Firstly, it's also known as "Vim for gumbies", who if memory serves, are thebrain-damaged londoners from Monty Python who stagger about and say stupidthings. "When using evim you are expected to take a handkerchief, make a knotin each corner and wear it on your head." I love using Unix. There are a lotof clever people who do clever things and don't take themselves too seriously.I then see that evim is always meant to be run from the GUI, because it won'twork without the menubars. Aha! So that's why I couldn't leave it when I ranit from the shell. How clever of them to provide a way to enter it where Ican't leave. I make a mental note never to invoke it that way again, and insteadfire it up in graphical mode as "evim". It's nice now, and while I stillwouldn't give it to windows users new to Unix (I'd probably give them gedit ornano), I could imagine them using it in a pinch. Then I notice that the menushave, in parentheses, all the keyboard shortcuts for command mode, which evimdoesn't have. I can tell they really have thought this through for new usersto vim. Let's make a simplified, modeless vim for new users, and in the menusfor it add keyboard shortcuts that don't work. I'm sure they'll feel verywelcome indeed.

I also found some really great brain analysis software for MacOSX recently.It's called OsiriX, and it can nicely do some things that no other softwareI've seen can. I'm fortunate to have a Mac, a Windows box, and a Linux box onmy desk at work -- I have all the software opportunity I might want availableto me. Anyhow, Osirix does a lot of the stuff that the separate analysis toolswe use do, and I hope it sees some use in our lab.

Tags: tech

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