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Re: Emacs's popularity

From: Tim X
Subject: Re: Emacs's popularity
Date: Wed, 17 Dec 2008 18:43:26 +1100
User-agent: Gnus/5.13 (Gnus v5.13) Emacs/23.0.60 (gnu/linux)

Phil Carmody <address@hidden> writes:

> "Lennart Borgman" <address@hidden> writes:
>> On Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 11:28 PM, Richard Riley <address@hidden> wrote:
>>>>> But Vim is not only installed; it's really used a lot. In Debian Vim has
>>>>> always been a bit more popular than Emacs but in the first half of 2007
>>>>> Vim really got popular (around Vim 7.1 and Debian 4.0 release). This
>>>>> "used actively" graph compares vim-common, emacs21-bin-common and
>>>>> emacs22-bin-common packages:
>>>> That is a bit strange since the vi emulator Viper in Emacs is now so good.
>>> Not strange at all Lennart, Why would someone run the Emacs OS to run
>>> emulated vim  when they can run the real thing in 100th of the
>>> footprint?
>> Exactly why do you think the footprint matter?
> 1 vote for 'emacs has a large footprint, and that matters to me'. My machine
> has 128MB RAM. Emacs 21 is pretty OK, but 22 uses noticeably more memory,
> which is my most limited resource.
> Exactly why do you think that it doesn't matter?
> But it's not just RAM footprint where emacs compares unfavourably to vim, 
> in fact, RAM-wise it's not a huge difference, only about a couple of megs
> difference. Far more importantly is the CPU footprint.  Emacs 21 takes 3 
> times as long to start up as vim does on a large plain text file (so no 
> syntax highlighting or anything being done). Emacs 22 takes even longer, 
> in particular as the loading was interrupted with a "that's a big file, 
> are you sure?" prompt.
> Can you imagine vim-proponents not looking at these times (averaged over
> 3 runs, after everything was in the cache) with a sense of pride?
>    vim  emacs21 emacs22
>  0.004    0.10    0.20   = start with no file, quit
>  0.18     0.58    0.62   = start with 12MB file, quit
>  ????     0.59    0.66   = start with no file, open 12MB file, quit
> (didn't know how to open a file from within vim, as it's utterly illucid.)
> In which case, why shouldn't we emacs proponents look on them with a sense
> of shame? More than 3 times slower - is that not shameful?

No, not at all. The comparison really doesn't mean anything because
the speed at which an editor starts or quits is quite irrelevant to
using it. Its like saying my car is better than a jet because I can jump
in it and start traveling quicker than I can jump in a jet and start
traveling - its the quality of the trip that matters, not how fast it is
to start and stop. 

Your comparison is also too basic on too many dimensions to list. If you
can show me an editor that has the same advanced functionality,
features, extensibility etc etc that is a lot faster with a much smaller
memory and cpu footprint, then maybe you may have a point. Under your
metric, notepad would likely be faster and therefore look better, but we
know it isn't. 

Having said this, there are many things, most of them due to historical
decisions, that may become a real problem for emacs. For example,
reading large files, multi-threading, elisp speed etc. None of these
seem to be a huge issue yet, but in the future......

I suspect that at some point, another editor, inspired by emacs, will
possibly replace emacs. Maybe it will use guile, common lisp or some
other extensible scripting language with more power than elisp. maybe it
will be designed form the ground up with support for all those things
now considered important that were not even on the horizon when emacs
was first being designed. This isn't a problem and to some extent is
just natural evolution. However, I can't see this happening for a long
time - it would take a lot of work to create a new editor from scratch
that had the power of emacs, but its not something to be feared. Rather,
its something to be embraced!

Until then, I'll continue to use emacs as the only editor I use and I
use it at least 10 hours Mon-Fri and a good 6+ hours sat and sun. If a
better alternative comes along, I'll adopt it. Until then....



tcross (at) rapttech dot com dot au

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