Automatically open remote files in local emacs

I prefer to edit text locally in emacs. Most of the files I edit reside on remote servers so I use TRAMP to open remote files locally. What kills me is using emacs remotely via terminal when a shell command invokes $EDITOR (e.g. svn commit). With my new setup, the default editor on the remote machine is my local emacs. I love this.

First, I configure SSH to forward a remote port to my machine. This means that whenever the remote machine tries to connect to itself on that port (localhost:9999) it actually connects to port 9999 on my local OSX machine. I like to keep these details in my ssh_config file (my local ~/.ssh/config):

Host des
User wpdev
ControlMaster auto
ControlPath ~/.ssh/des.sock
RemoteForward 9999 localhost:9999

(I use abbreviated hostnames to save keystrokes. There is a matching entry in my hosts file.)

Second, I configure my local emacs to start the server and copy the server file to the remote host. The server file tells emacsclient how to connect to the server. Adding this to emacs-startup-hook adds a few seconds to my emacs startup time but I rarely start emacs more than once in a day so that’s fine. This is in my local ~/.emacs:

(setq server-use-tcp t
      server-port    9999)
(defun server-start-and-copy ()
  (copy-file "~/.emacs.d/server/server" "/des:.emacs.d/server/server" t))
(add-hook 'emacs-startup-hook 'server-start-and-copy)

Third, I create a bash script on the remote host which calls emacsclient with the necessary TRAMP path prefixed to its arguments. (If you try running emacsclient remotely without the TRAMP path you’ll get an empty emacs buffer.) Here is the script I put in remote ~/bin/ec and then chmod +x:


for p in "$@"; do
    if [ "$p" == "-n" ]; then
        params+=( "$p" )
    elif [ "${p:0:1}" == "+" ]; then
        params+=( "$p" )
        params+=( "/ssh:des:"$(readlink -f $p) )
emacsclient "${params[@]}"

Finally, I set up $EDITOR on the remote machine. I also add my bin directory to $PATH so I can invoke ec. This is in my remote ~/.bashrc:

export PATH=~/bin:$PATH
export EDITOR=~/bin/ec

That’s it! More elegant solutions are possible but my new tool is sufficiently sharp and I have work to do!

Python: ISO-8601 year/week from year/month/day

I needed to convert dates to ISO-8601 calendar week and year in a bash script. This is what I came up with:

#!/usr/bin/env python

import optparse
import datetime

parser = optparse.OptionParser()
_, args = parser.parse_args()

y, w, _ = datetime.datetime.strptime(args[0], "%Y/%m/%d").isocalendar()
print "%d/%02d" % (y, w)

It takes input from the command line as YYYY/MM/DD and outputs YYYY/WW.

Copyright Automattic 2012. Public domain where recognized; otherwise Apache 2.0.

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A sandwich. A good one.

White Paper Bag

What’s inside?

While in Burlington, Vermont, I worked at the excellent Office Squared downtown coworking space. Some days I had to go out for lunch. That one burrito place on Church Street was unworthy of mention. My next try was Top of the Block Sandwich Shoppe. Here I found my usual.

My first time there, I was overwhelmed by the endless options on the sandwich menu. I didn’t want to spend half my lunch break studying a food list. So I simply asked for a sandwich. Any sandwich would do, I said, as long as it’s good. No, I don’t have any food allergies or restrictions. Just make it a sandwich, not a wrap. Surprise me.

This intrigued the young ladies behind the counter. The lucky one who got to make my sandwich was thrilled by the possibilities. She could make whatever she fancied and I would probably love it. The others kept an eye on the project, jealous of her creative opportunity.

I took my sandwich back to the office and I loved it. The bread, the special mayo, the juicy meat and unconventional mix of veggies. This was a unique sandwich made by a person whose curiosity and passion had been aroused by a simple, open-minded request: make me a sandwich. A good one.

Each week I went back once or twice for a new sandwich. Each visit brought smiles to the faces behind the counter. Each sandwich was better than my memory of the last.

By the third visit I didn’t have to speak my order. My request was so memorable that I was an instant regular. I am the guy who wants a random sandwich. Surprise me.

My surprise sandwich was the most consistently pleasurable lunch outside of my home. For the same price everyone else paid for their made-to-order sandwich I got joy, suspense, and possibly the best sandwich made that day.

When ordering a sandwich what I really want is two slices of bread surrounding something good. Turkey, peppers, mustard, none of the above, whatever. Maybe not every sandwich maker has the passion or the sense of humor to do it right like Top of the Block. Maybe I’d be unhappy with the “surprise item” from most other places. I’m happy I found these professionals and took that chance.

How to end fear of the dark

Fear of the darkMy 2-year-old daughter suddenly became afraid of the dark. “I’m scared of the dark!” became her screaming mantra at bedtime and her objection to entering any room without an electric light on–even when there was still daylight. This is how I helped to ease her back into a painless bedtime routine. Read the full post »


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