Emacs, Linux

Working With Emacs: First Week

<2018-06-11 Mon>

 
My first day with Org Mode after two weeks of intense learning. All things considered, it wasn’t as messy as I thought it would be. I was lucky not to have too much on my plate today, taking care of only four different cases.
 
Due to Dropbox syncing issues between beorg and WorkMac, I lost time trying to improvise. This was especially frustrating because it happened when I was working away from WorkMac, and I didn’t have the information I need. I am not sure if the problem is with the app or not, Emacs does save fine to Dropbox.
 
Another conclusion from today: learn how to build a template for Capture. Right now I’m typing headers manually (by typing ** since M-RTN doesn’t seem to work, not sure why). I can see this will get out of hand soon. Org-mode has Capture exactly for that: to enter a note quickly, from a template, and then continue to do other things. Templates are in LISP though, and LISP was what got me stuck this weekend. I should learn from more simple examples.
 
Finally, I should look into properties. Seems like these could be very useful, especially when I want to search later. Things like computer names, clients, the problem category, etc. could be fantastic. Again, something to use in Capture templates.
 
The weird issue of today: I changed the ellipses Org-mode comes with to down arrow. This works fine at home on Linux. But on WorkMac, there’s an underline under the arrow down symbol. Not sure why. When I change back from string to default, the ellipses do not have this problem.

<2018-06-13 Wed>

 
I have a new format and it works well. Each project I’m working on (each ticket in my work day) gets a header with a title that is meaningful to me. I then add sub-headers using a datestamp (C-u C-c .) and describe what I did in reverse chronological order. Org-mode is smart: pressing M-RTN at the end of the line (completely at the end, after the ellipses), will open a new header directly under the one I’m on. Do the same thing at the very beginning of the line, it creates a new header on top. This last thing allows me to work in reverse order as I mentioned. The newest timestamp is always the first header. It’s like a short micro-blog taking place during my workday.
 
Before Org-mode, attachments worried me. Coming from Onenote at work, I’m used to the iPhone app: snap pictures and add them into the note. In Org-mode, this is a non-issue with Dropbox and Office Lens. After “sharing” into “save to Dropbox” on the iPhone (it makes sense if you’re an iPhone user), I upload images to Dropbox. Later, it’s pretty simple to attach (C-c C-a) images to the time-stamp header I mentioned earlier. I don’t bother changing the names of the images, which is something I’ve done before. The files are named by date and hour by default, making it very easy to locate and attach in Org-mode later. The only annoyance with attachments: Emacs opens them inside a window, not the system default. I much prefer Preview on WorkMac, where I can annotate right away if I need to. The picture in the window is 100% zoomed in, which is not very convenient. A workaround, for now, is to open the folder for the attachment, and double-click the file. It works for now, even though feels somewhat “ugly.”

<2018-06-14 Thu>

 
Time to test Helm again (at home) and Ivy (at work). Immediately, I noticed a change in my ability to find commands (M-x) and looking stuff up. I spend much less time inside the browser reading through the Emacs Wiki or the Manual. Browsing through files makes more sense now. Opening recent files is my newest favorite command since I can auto-complete now thanks to Helm and Ivy.
 
As I’m writing these lines, I’m thinking to myself, this is fun. I can really get used to writing posts in Emacs. It never accrued to me how much visual clutter is in the way, even with the so-called “minimalist” apps. The problem is that there’s a particular app for every thing. Emacs is a powerhouse which I can use for many things, so the interface is the same. This helps with focus and flow in a way I didn’t think of before. It’s starting to be comforting to be in an environment I’m spending more and more time in.

<2018-06-15 Fri>

 
This is the conclusion of my first week with Emacs (and Org-mode) at work. As if by queue, today was a good example of a high-volume day. A test to see if my new system holds in place in face of improvisation and fast thinking.
 
Working in helpdesk environment means potential for constant interruptions. There are several people on the team who need my attention for different things. There are different managers who have can have conflicting instructions. There are clients (users) coming through the door asking for help. It doesn’t matter if you’re on the phone, working on a project, or trying to have lunch: the next interruption is a heart bit away.
 
Our workflow requires we use a web interface to work with tickets constantly. In a way, out entire workday depends on that single unyielding tab in a browser. With the first client coming up, I had to use the website to search for details in ticket tab. I updated a few details and made a mental note to add the information in my new Org-mode work journal. But as I was working on the laptop, a co-worker came up with questions which required my attention. That co-worker was shadowed by another client who answered one of my emails for a follow-up. All these cases required that I look into tickets and update them, away from Org-mode.
 
I didn’t like fact that I couldn’t use my new tool to do work, at least not at the moment. I had the information for some of the tickets in front of me, but not those I needed to work on at the moment. The web interface is limited both by design and lack of configurations. It’s a tool that supposed to help me stay organized, but instead, it’s another task of its own. Some manager at some point decided to get this platform. This decision, which must be at least a few years old, dictates what productivity means to me today. How odd.

<2018-06-16 Sat>

 
Finally, a couple of thoughts about how to improve my experience next week, based on notes I took at work and at home.
 
  1. Agenda: learn how to use it well, especially as a search tool to highlights tags and dates. (examples: look up everything that has to do with ticket number :###:. Look up all the different things I worked on last Tuesday.)
  2. Photos in an external program: have images open in default system app, or better yet, a specific one.
  3. “Archive” system: Copying everything I’ve done during the week + attachments to a different location, off of Dropbox. I purchased an SD and SD readers as an experiment as a cheap location to store information

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