Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Apple: iPad and Emacs

Someone asked my boss's buddy Art Medlar if he was going to buy an iPad. He said, "I figure as soon as it runs Emacs, that will be the sign to buy." I think he was just trying to be funny, but his statement is actually fairly profound.

It's well known that submitting iPhone and iPad applications for sale on Apple's store is a huge pain--even if they're free and open source. Apple is acting as a gatekeeper for what is and isn't allowed on your device. I heard that Apple would never allow a scripting language to be installed on your iPad because it would allow end users to run code that they hadn't verified. (I don't have a reference for this, but if you do, please post it below.) Emacs is mostly written in Emacs Lisp. Per Apple's policy, I don't think it'll ever be possible to run Emacs on the iPad.

Emacs was written by Richard Stallman, and it practically defines the Free Software movement (in a manner of speaking at least). Stallman's vision for the future of computing is very open, and Apple's vision for the future of computing is very closed. Hence, it's ironic that Emacs, which is such a profound part of Free Software history, can't ever run on the iPad.

Hence, I think there's a profound truth when Art Medlar said, "I figure as soon as it runs Emacs, that will be the sign to buy."

16 comments:

carmen said...

apparnetly someone got emacs going on android, in console mode

a debian/ubuntu-derived UI on a tablet and bluetooth keyboard is a lot simpler - youre not fighting freedom, or the complete lack of standard xlibs and libC...

Anonymous said...

That is not ironic. It is expected.

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

> apparnetly someone got emacs going on android, in console mode

I have an Android phone ;)

ananda said...

Does Vim run on the iPad. it's in C, but it does use a lot of scripts in its own language.

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

I have no clue, but I doubt it.

Anonymous said...

Vim runs on iPhone so it also works on iPad. I'm using Vim on iPhone.

Darrin Eden said...

I agree completely.

Joe said...

I've used emacs from an iPad, but not "on" one of course.

Jonas said...

Wrong usage of the word 'irony'.

dan said...

and ycombinator folks get in on the action: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1359533

Anonymous said...

A Nokia N900 (or Nokia internet tablet) can run Emacs though. It's GPL-friendly all the way down to the kernel. I regularly hack in Emacs on the underground/subway on the way to work.

Ken Mankoff said...

I use emacs on my iPhone and plan to use it on an iPad if I get one. It isn't the official emacs, but is 'mg' the MicroGnuEmacs editor

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mg_%28editor%29

Jailbreak your iPhone/iPad and Cydia will allow you to install Vim or mg, plus Ruby, Python, etc. MG even supports LaTeX syntax highlighting, although of course the compilation must be done elsewhere.

Aaron Griffith said...

Porting GNU Emacs was one of the first things I did with my freshly-jailbroken iPad. The second thing I did was port TeX Live.

Unfortunately, none of the terminal emulator apps work well with special keys on the bluetooth keyboard. It's kinda hard to use emacs without C and M.

Of course, now my job is writing a mobile substrate plugin that gets those keys working!

Shannon -jj Behrens said...

> Porting GNU Emacs was one of the first things I did with my freshly-jailbroken iPad.

Nice!

Anonymous said...

The very big problem is that you HAVE TO jailbreak the iphone or ipad in order to use the software you want (emacs, or vim, in this case), so breaking the law at the same time. Is it useful to do this when you have MUCH MUCH MUCH better alternatives to an iphone or ipad? I use Nokia N900 with all the applications I use generally under linux installed (it IS a LINUX phone indeed!), and I use an acer aspire one with two batteries (of 9 hours' life!), a webcam (ipad has none), 250 GB HD (not the 64 GB, in the best case, of an ipad), multitasking, and many other things, which costed a half of an ipad. And I have of course emacs, vim, and a whole operating system OF MY CHOICE, on it. What is an ipad good for? Nothing, of course, it's just a stilish toy!!!

Anonymous said...

I desparately hope there'll be an Android-Pad some time soon!
The iPad is an incredible useful device, but the Apple approach to software is a pain in the ass.

iPad user