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Elle and mined; elle as mined

modified: 14 Apr 2007

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For MINIX 3 go to http://www.minix3.org. (Minix 3 released Oct 2005)
 

Q: I am trying to use "elle" as an editor but I am not able to save the file. The man page says that Ctl-x and then Ctl-s is used to save the file, but when I try this it opens the search prompt. Can somebody help me?

A: That's because elle is being configured to act differently from its default behavior.

Minix provides a simple editor called mined. It is small and easy to use and is available at installation time after mounting the usr file system (in Minix 2 this is the fd0p2 floppy disk partition).

Elle (Elle Looks Like Emacs), is much more capable than mined. It is also configurable. Elle has a default configuration, but this can be changed by a .ellepro.b1 file in a user's home directory.

In the early days, when Minix ran from floppy disks on IBM PCs and few students in a university Operating Systems course could be expected to have previous experience with Unix systems, mined was typically the first editor a student learned to use. In fact mined might be the only editor the student used until the day he or she discovered that mined could only handle a file of less than about 50 KBytes length and an assignment required editing a longer file. Knowing mined already is a reason why a user might want elle to emulate mined. And, by default, if you create a Minix account using the /usr/ast account as the template for your home directory, you will have a .ellepro.b1 file in your home directory that makes elle look like mined (sort of).

Actually I think mined is a pretty nice and easy-to-use editor, but I find elle with the mined emulation awful, and I prefer an Elle that really Looks Like Emacs. (TIOMO - This Is Only My Opinion.) The simplest way to get elle to work as a reasonable approximation to what it ought to act like is to remove or rename the ellepro.b1 file in your home directory and any other home directory you will use (remember, you will probably work as bin when programming and as root some of the time, and elle will look in these users' home directories then).

When elle can't find the .ellepro.b1 file it works pretty nicely the way I expect emacs to work (and this may not be the same as what some others expect, I learned emacs from mince and microemacs, which, like elle, are emacs look-alikes -- Mince Is Not Complete Emacs). Lacking is correct response to control characters, at least when emulating a vt100 terminal over a network connection.

Elle is configured by editing the .ellepro.e text file and then compiling it with the ellec program (hmmm, I can't find man pages on this or on the ellepro.e format). Somewhere along the way I found or made a new .ellepro.e file that compiles to a new .ellepro.b1 that, for my purposes at least, makes elle work even better than with no .ellepro.b1. Unfortunately, somewhere in my history of installing and upgrading Minix from version 1.5 to version 2.0.4 on dozens of different computers I misplaced that original .ellepro.e source file. But I didn't lose the binary file. It's small, 334 bytes, just a little longer than the default one.

Here is my uuencoded emacs-like .ellepro.b1. Cut and paste this to a file named elleprob1.uue. Rename or back up your existing .ellepro.b1 before unpacking this with uud, in case you decide the mined emulation is preferable for you.

-------------------------------- cut here ----------------------
table
 !"#$%&'()*+,-./0123456789:;<=>?
@ABCDEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVWXYZ[\]^_
begin 644 .ellepro.b1
M 0"  !( -@"2 "@ _@   $X!(Q0%  85!  ' 7H<3@,8&AD"<7 )74\E7&D z
M6XT C&$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$!y
M 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$! 0$!x
M 0$! 0$! 0$! 08"5@P>#E004Q)O$VX451=K&#,>2B5S+5XP7S%?,E\S7S1?w
M-5\V7S=?.%\Y7SM\/#@^.5M;7 A=+4(80P1$!48*1RE(.$E]3!!->TX63V!0v
M%U$P5 Y53U905R99.7XV?PU:A" C01D#$14/" T"-0.$!4,&/ M$#"@--P\;u
M$%H2/1- %2<6/A="&"0:@R&")'0E<BAD*64J9RYV,$LQ1S)&.$PY33TZ7DE"t
3,D5F1G5)/TLT3TA3051W?QT)/W0Es
 r
end
-------------------------------- cut here ----------------------

More about elle:

The behavior of su is supposed to leave the person who executes it with his normal login environment if not executed with the '-' argument, so one would suppose that having the .ellepro.b1 you want in your home directory would be sufficient, even if you do 'su bin' to edit source files. But elle apparently does not use the $HOME environment variable to find the .ellepro.b1 to use, it uses the .ellepro.b1 of the effective user. So if you want to have a consistent elle environment on a Minix system you should make sure that the home directories of bin and root have the same .ellepro.b1 as your home directory.

More on mined:

If you'd like to know more about mined, there are very extensive comments by the original author in the source, at /usr/src/commands/mined/mined1.c (on-line as http://minix1.woodhull.com/src/commands/mined/mined1.c). Also, prolific Minix contributor Will Rose wrote an improved version of mined, see http://minix1.woodhull.com/pub/contrib/mined2.txt for a description or download from http://minix1.woodhull.com/pub/contrib/mined2.tar.Z.

More thoughts on editors in general:

I learned long ago that for most computer users the best editor is the first one they learn to use well, and when people get excited about the relative merits of vi, emacs, pico, or whatever editor, it really means they know how to use their favorite and don't know of anything they might want to do that they can't do with the editor they already know how to use. This is perfectly natural, and I'm sure it's what Andy had in mind when he put the .ellepro.b1 that makes elle emulate mined into the Minix /usr/ast home directory, used as the template for new users created with the adduser script.


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