This series is written by a representative of the latter group, which is comprised mostly of what might be called "productivity users" (perhaps "tinkerly productivity users?"). Though my lack of training precludes me from writing code or improving anyone else's, I can, nonetheless, try and figure out creative ways of utilizing open source programs. And again, because of my lack of expertise, though I may be capable of deploying open source programs in creative ways, my modest technical acumen hinders me from utilizing those programs in what may be the most optimal ways. The open-source character, then, of this series, consists in my presentation to the community of open source users and programmers of my own crude and halting attempts at accomplishing computing tasks, in the hope that those who are more knowledgeable than me can offer advice, alternatives, and corrections. The desired end result is the discovery, through a communal process, of optimal and/or alternate ways of accomplishing the sorts of tasks that I and other open source productivity users need to perform.

Thursday, October 20, 2016

Discussion topic 1: vim or emacs for personal wiki, etc?

Instead of my more typical how-to, this posting will aim to solicit input from readers. I realize I may be inviting some sort of flame war, but rest assured that my intentions are sincere: I really am largely ignorant of the respective virtues and and flaws of the two utilities on which I want to solicit input, having barely dabbled in either. My hope is that I might get input here on which will be the more worthwhile one to put further effort into learning.

First, a bit about my aims. I set up for myself some time ago a personal wiki--a vehicle for keeping track of inspiring ideas, tasks on which I am now working, or will need at some point in the future, to work, and a receptacle for various tech tips I have employed and which I may need again in the future to use, but which I have difficulty remembering. I wanted the wiki to be accessible to me, not just at home, but from the internet as well. Much as I wanted to keep the wiki's set-up and maintenance simple, at the time I deemed that deploying it under a web-serving scenario would be required. To that end, I implemented the MoinMoin wiki on a machine I administered.

That scenario has worked out acceptably well over the last few years. But it is now time to take that machine out of service. So I will be needing to reconstitute my wiki and so am revisiting the matter of how I will set up and administer it.

Having a preference for simple, resource-frugal utilities, I am hoping I might migrate my wiki to some command-line interface. The overhead and complexity of the web server most wikis involve is not really justified for my use case: in fact, I might be engaging in a bit of hyperbole in claiming that I use what I have as a real wiki--it's used more like just an organizer.

Under my best-case envisioned scenario, I could either ssh into my machine to consult and/or modify my wiki, or perhaps even host it at a shell account to which I have access. It's an appealing thought and one I hope I will soon be able to implement.

So far as I can tell, the two candidate command-line tools I might use for this are vimwiki and emacs in org-mode. And I must admit that my experience with both has been very slight. In fact, I've tried to avoid using either vim or emacs, typically gravitating to nano for the sorts of needs either of those utilities might otherwise fulfill. Perhaps emacs will be slightly more preferable since development on the vimwikiplugin seems to have ceased a little over 4 years ago, while emacs org-mode seems to have a quite active and extensive user and development base.

Both utilities, with their arcane interfaces and keystroke options have left me baffled and even trapped on more than one occasion. Having a few years of command-line interaction under my belt, I did recently manage a bit of experimentation with emacs org-mode--at least enough to convince me that it could be a suitable new vehicle for my wiki.

I had pretty much written off vim as a possible vehicle since, in past attempts to utilize it, I have found it even more obtuse and intractable than emacs. But that situation recently changed somewhat when I realized that one of the best tools for doing some routine maintenance on one of my Arch systems employs vimdiff. Having used that a few times, I can now say that I've recently managed, under the guise of vimdiff, to use vim successfully for some system maintenance tasks.

And just today I learn that emacs has its own diff implementation--ediff--as well. So emacs might also be serviceable in the system-maintenance capacity, should I decide that it will be more worthwhile to try and better learn emacs org-mode.

Bottom line here is that it looks as though I am going to be using one or other of these utilities routinely, so it is time I started learning it better. And I can, at the same time, use whichever I will be learning better, as the new vehicle for my wiki.

So I am looking for guidance and recommendations on which is likely better to suit my needs and disposition--or whether I might even have overlooked some other command-line utility for creating an maintaining a personal wiki. I should state that I am unlikely ever to do any sort of programming, so whatever may be the relative advantages of either with respect to coding, will be largely irrelevant for me. Rather, I would be using them for perhaps some simple editing functions, and mostly for some routine maintenance tasks (comparing updated config files with files already on my system) and for managing my wiki.

Let the discussion begin.

Afterthought: perhaps even creating a markdown file containing my wiki's material, then converting that to html for viewing with elinks/lynx could even work? In other words, a sort of homebrew solution?