Einar's blog
06 aug. 2022

Emacs text-editing cheat sheet

I have made a text-editing cheat sheet for Emacs. My plan is to print and laminate it and hang it on my wall underneath my screen above my standing desk where I formerly had my vim cheat sheet. I find that quick access at a place I naturally look helps me learn and remember keyboard shortcuts. The more I look at them, the easier they are to remember and the more I use them, the more they become part of my muscle memory.

There are of course a lot more functionality in Emacs with keybindings specific to their particular modes (in Emacs a mode is a group of functionality for a particular workflow or task unlike in vim), but even though Emacs can do anything else as well, it is also a really good text editor. This cheat sheet is only for the text-editing parts of Emacs. There are probably more keyboard commands than I am aware of that should/could have been included. I will probably revise and update this blog post in the future.

I have only used Emacs for a few months by now, but it's text-editing abilities and speed has won me over from vim. I originally just wanted to test Emacs to give it a chance, but I am now convinced I am going to continue to use it. (Neo)vim is also a great text editor, but it is just not as good as Emacs in my opinion. I will write more about why I think this in a future blog post. You are of course free to disagree with me and use whatever text editor you like.

I made this cheat sheet the Emacs way in Org Mode. Underneath, you see a downloadable png of the cheat sheet. The original .org-file is also available for you. Maybe you want a light version instead of the dark png, maybe you want it to be high resolution or maybe you want to include more keychords. As always, my content is licensed as CC BY SA 4.0, so feel free to do whatever you want to the files as long as you attribute me and share your remixes under the same license.

Emacs_text-editing_cheat_sheet.png
04 aug. 2022

I now use org-static-blog to create this blog

I have moved from WordPress to Hugo to nothing and now on to org-static-blog to create this blog. One reason to move to org-static-blog is that I have switched from using vim to using GNU Emacs as my text editor. When I used Hugo, I wrote my blog posts in vim and Hugo made it into a bunch of static pages that I uploaded to my webserver. Hugo has many features, like themes, RSS feeds, tags etc and is very practical to use if you use markdown on a regular basis. Since I was a vim user, my idea was to use markdown for everything and use Hugo for my website and pandoc to convert my .md files into LaTex-styled PDFs, LaTex Beamer presentation PDFs, ODTs and the occasional .docx when needed. I converted most of my older documents to .md and worked like this for a while. Then my Emacs curiosity got the better of me, and this spring, I started dipping my feet into Emacs.

I soon realised the power of Org Mode and that it could replace my former markdown workflow with practical features like automatic tables, lots of easy to use keyboard shortcuts for creating the .org markup syntax and very easy exporting to all the aforementioned formats plus many more. Not to mention that it is also a calendaring and todo-system, that it includes a REPL for any programming language you care for that you can use for literate programming, that it can also be used for journaling, a personal note taking system with reverse-linking etc. Naturally, I have been looking for a way to write my blog posts in Org Mode as well. Many people use Hugo and just convert their .org files to .md files with the emacs package ox-hugo. To me, this seems to be one step more than what I would actually like to do and what is actually necessary. After the war in Ukraine started, I left my website with just a static HTML page, but I have recently wanted to get back into blogging. I had started to work on making a program to make a static site from a bunch of .org files when I discovered the Emacs package org-static-blog that did the same. My plan with my program was to make it first in Bash Shell since I am more familiar with that language and then move it to Elisp for easy integration with Emacs later. Org-static-blog made all that work unecessary.

Org-static-blog makes a nice index page with a blog-roll of the newest pages, an archive page and an RSS feed. You may also add links to other static pages you would like to include. If you use the tags feature, you can also get RSS feeds for each tag. Personally, I want to just keep things simple for now and have opted out of that feature. To make a new post, you just write an .org file with a title and date and optionally also a description and file tags metadata on the top and then just write your content. Each .org-file becomes a blog post. You can also use org-static-blog-create-new-post to automatically make that document with the correct tags for you which is nice for people like me that have yet to start using metadata heavily in Org files and would enjoy a helping hand with that.

When you are ready to publish your blog, you just run org-static-blog-publish in Emacs, and org-static-blog spits out all the HTML-files you need in your chosen export folder. To make the site look nice, you should make a style.css file that you put into your export folder and link to it in your header as described in the README. There are no themes, but the author links to his own website's Git repo where you can grab his style.css and tweak it to your own liking. As a dark mode lover that also likes to keep things simple, I have opted for a simple black and white look with the occasional light blue for links. The CSS styling is set it and forget it, so after the initial tweak, you are good to go. Just org-static-blog-publish and upload your static files to your website and there you go.

org-static-blog.png

The advantage of using a static site generator over something dynamic is faster load times, easier access to content for non-JavaScript enabled users and less storage space and CPU used on your server. Not having unecessary JavaScript running just to show some content that is easily accessible without it also saves power which is good both for the environment and the economy. There are more non-JavaScript users than you think out there and everyone else also benefits from faster load times. Everyone that browses with the NoScripts extension (which I highly recommend) is a non-JS user by default. Everyone that browses from such an old machine that even if JS is enabled, the capacity to actually run it is limited (both due to old browsers and lack of CPU and RAM resources) can also be considered non-JS users in practice. (When I use the Quadra 700 to browse the internet with Clasilla, most sites look like garbage and are unrenderable.) Everyone that blocks non-free JavaScript with LibreJS, which is recommended by the FSF, is also a non-JS user unless you make certain the only JS used by your site is free software (which can be hard to achive if you use WordPress with a theme that does not care). The last group of non-JS users are users like me who like to use text-based, non-JS browsers combined with an RSS reader for feeds that do not supply the whole text to the RSS entry. I generally try in eww, Emacs built in browser, first if I come from an RSS feed I have read in elfeed (an Emacs package for RSS feed reading). I have made an elisp function to be able to hit b to read a feed entry in eww and if that doesn't work, I hit B for Firefox instead. Many vim users use lynx or w3c, two other non-JS, text-based browsers, together with the Newsboat RSS reader program in the same way. It was what I did before switching my feed reading to elfeed.

24 feb. 2022

In support of Ukraine

In support of freedom, democracy and self-determination for Ukraine.

Flag_of_Ukraine.jpg
07 juli 2020

The Non-commercial clause

A month or something ago, I wrote a blog post about changing the license of every cultural product I make. I went with the Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial ShareAlike 4.0 International. After writing the blog post, I changed the license of all my pictures on Flickr and the copyright notice on the bottom of this blog.

I have since seen some videos from LibrePlanet, the Free Software foundation's conference and through that been introduced to some new and interresting people and projects that I have checked out online. I don't remember exactly where, but through checking out one of these websites, I came across a a page discussing the Creative Commons Non-Commercial clause. The site states that any Creative Commons license with the Non-Commercial part is non-free and is problematic in a number of ways. The main problems are that it makes the work incompatible with other free works and therefore derivatives and combinations are not possible, it may rule out other basic and beneficial uses (say a charity using the work to earn money), it supports the near-infinite copyright terms (one of the things I want to avoid by using a free culture license on my works) and it is unlikely to increase the potential profit. A share-alike license serves the goal to protect the work from unethical exploutation just as well. There is a long discussion about each of these points.

I had opted to use a ShareAlike license precisely to make certain that my work could not be modified and redistributed as copyrighted by someone else that did the modifications. It also ensure that I am also attributed in any derivative work. It is this ShareAlike part of the license that makes it copylefted, ie, once released under a free license, it cannot be copyrighted again by anyone.

My reasoning for choosing a Non-Commercial License was that I do not want others to reap commercial benefit from my work without having to come to me for a commercial license and thereby making me some money. I then discussed different business models people use to earn money even if their work is licensed as free culture. The implication is that for me to earn money off of my work, I would have to set up some business model around my work. This would be the case even if the work was released to the public with full copyrights without any free culture license.

For most of the business models I can think of, the license for the work does not actually matter. If I were to sell (limited edition) prints of my photographs, the license of the digital file it was printed off of would not matter. Other people could print from that file, but only I can sign my pictures. If I were to set up a patreon or paypal tip button or some other business model where people who appreciate the things I make (whatever the medium) pay me for continuing to make them, it doesn't really matter whether my works are licensed only for non-commercial use or not. If I were to sell a(n) (e)book, it would not matter that the content was also available under a fully free license without the non-commercial part. If I were to make a video course, a workshop, … it would't limit my income from that work if I made the content available under a free license without a non-commercial clause.

The only time the non-commercial part of the license really matters is if my business model is to sue people for using my work commercially to extract some compensation for their use of my work. I would rather spend my time creating things than suing people and companies, and I would rather trust people to get in touch and pay me something if they value what I make, as good people in the free culture community do, instead of spending my time and my money going after people that use my work commercially without contributing back. Maybe I am naive, but I do think that releasing the work for possible sharing and cooperation has a value in itself and makes the work more valuable for the world, not less, even if I might loose a bit of money by not going after people "stealing" my work. If I am able to make a business model that actually works, I would not have to go after people for using my content commercially to earn enough off of my work to make it worth my time.

There is a parrallel between free culture and free software in that many large companies are using and contributing to free software these days, but Amazon and probably many more, are relying on free software projects for their cloud without contributing anything back. Recently, one of the non-SQL-database projects (I cannot remember which) changed their license from a free software license to something restricting commercial use to combat this exploitation by Amazon's Web Services. The result is that their work is now incompatible with Free Software and is either forked or removed from the GNU/Linux distributions and repos where only free software may reside. In effect, the project has made itself less valuable to the community they want to be valuable for, ie. people using free software, for the sake of limiting the commercial exploitation of their work. They have become less relevant and receives less funding from the community as a result of this. Over time, it will definitely harm their brand and Amazon has switched to offering other free software Non-SQL-databases, thereby limiting the project's reach further.

From the example above, it is clear that by licensing work as non-free, one is limiting one's reach within the free software/culture movement, and thereby limiting one's abillity to reach new users willing to fund further work. As Microsoft, IBM, Google, Facebook and Amazon has discovered, the power of collaboration and community is worth more than proprietary products they make by themselves. Not being willing to contribute back to the projects you benefit from when you are one of the largest companies in the world is extremely short-sighted and morally questionable (which many other aspects of these companies' practices also are). Companies and people that want to exploit others for their own benefit will always be here, but for every such company, there are many others that do contribute back to the community.

As a baroque cellist, most of the music I played were made by people making a living creating music in a time long before copyright existed. Most of these great composers did not starve (Monteverdi is the exception) and their work was available for people, less than 70 years after their death, to use, study, modify and distribute, like for instance Mozart's version of Händel's Messiah. Mozart would not be allowed to make that during his lifetime since he died less than 70 years after Händel and the world would have been robbed of a great work of art had Mozart lived under our present copyright laws. Even if the work was licensed as CC BY NC SA, Mozart could not have made his derivative work since it was used commercially.

I am currently not working as an artist, designer, photographer, musician, video maker etc, but when I were, I relied on playing live for (parts of) my income. If I am ever to get back to work as an artist, I will find a businees model that works and continue to use a free culture license so my work can be more valuable to the world since people can modify, share, study and distribute it as they like. Profit can be a motivation factor, but in reality, in most circumstances, there is little to gain except if the business model is to sue people, by using a non-commercial license. I do think it is important to use a ShareAlike license which makes it illegal to change the license of modified versions of the work to ensure that the work and its derivatives stays free cultured. By using a license which demands attribution and is ShareAlike, people also get the chance to find the original creator and possible contribute back if they enjoyed the work or used it for something or simply are curious about who made it in the first place.

To sum up, I am changing my licensing again for my cultural and artistic work from Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY NC SA) to the fully free culture license Creative Commons Attribution ShareAlike 4.0 Internationl (CC BY SA). It is more in line with my original reasons for licensing my work under a Creative Commons license and it doesn't make it any harder for me, should I ever pursue a carreer in the artst or in culture again, to survive economically. It will make my work relevant and more valuable for the free culture community than if I continued to use a non-commercial license. When it comes to software, my ideal licenses are still the GPL and the AGPL (for server-side software).

27 juni 2020

How to survive as a musician

I used to be a baroque cellist. During my years of music studies, I focused on learning instrumental technique, music theory, performance practice and repertoire. I had absolutely no clue as to how to build a career out of what I knew. For people studying orchestral instruments or organ, the path from studies to work is quite clear. For those of us that studied something else, like early music instruments, saxophones, alto horn, electric guitar, piano, jazz vocals, euphonium etc the path is not clear at all.

The focus of music students and their teachers is on becoming as good as you can be as a performer on your instrument. It is a very natural focus, but one thing I realised after finishing my studies is that it is not always the people that are the best at playing their instrument that get the most gigs. For me, it was very hard to understand how or why some people succeded and others did not. The people that do succeed absolutely deserve it, but for every musician enjoying a successful career, there are a number of others at more or less the same skill level that do not. Some people struggle on for years and then suddenly at some point get more work and enjoy greater success. Others come out of their studies already well placed for continued success, but after a few years of getting a lot of gigs, their careers diminuendo al niente and at some point they disappear from the scene. It might be a conscious choice, but it might also be something that just happens. Others are able to sustain a successful carreer over a longer period of time.

The combination of stabile income and freelance work is a way to survive the ebbs and flows of freelancing and within the early music world in the Nordic countries, there are almost no one that only plays for a living. I think I know two musicians that don't do anything else than play early music. I don't think it is that much different in other genres. Freelance work ebbs and flows and it is good to have something part time in addition to playing to be certain to survive.

Having a secondary income from something related to playing might give you both a name within the field and a staying power people relying just on freelancing do not have. A (part time) job as an instrumental teacher at a music school, even if it is on a closely related instrument to your main baroque/electric/acustic/etc instrument, is a way to earn a steady income, clarify some of your own knowledge to yourself while teaching it and at the same time get a bit of legitimacy as a musician. If you are able to get work as an accompanist at a conservatory, you both get legitimacy and a secondary income stream. The people that get work as teachers of their main instrument at a conservatory get both status and income, even if they are only paid by the hour. (Conservatories often employ teachers on an hourly basis since some years there are no students on say baroque bassoon, while other years there are.) The job that gives you the most legitimacy and at the same time economical security is a regular job at a conservatory teaching your main instrument. Some people also combine a steady job in an orchestra or a military band with freelancing on the side, either within the same or another (sub-)genre. Even work less direcly related to playing, like administrative jobs within cultural institutions might be good as a dependable income stream while freelancing on the side.

Personally, I worked at an elevator company for a few years with customer support, but that was less lucrative economically, was not connected with music and therefore didn't give me the chance to work on my craft or get any added legitimacy and since I worked a lot of nights, it also had a negative influence on my playing during the days. I enjoyed working there and it was a good way to survive, but if I were able to get something a bit more relevant that didn't also make it hard to sleep regularly, that would have been better in hindsight.

I wish we had a course in basic business and marketing during my studies. I started my own personal business while living in Malmö during the last years of my studies in Copenhagen. A few years later, I understood what one of my friends tried to tell me at the time, that by doing so, I lost the security net of the welfare state that the Nordic countries are famous for. There are different categories of businesses and had I instead opted to make a share-holder company, even if I held all the shares and it was unlisted at stock exchanges, I would have not lost the possibility to get unemployment benefits when the gigs dried up. I had worked for years in Denmark in the elevator company and earned the right to unemployment benefits because of it, but since I had a personal business in Sweden at the same time, I lost all of those benefits. It might have been very useful to know this in advance.

Other things I think it might have been useful to know more about is what to do to get more gigs. One thing is knowing people and waiting by the phone for someone to call with a gig, but what if you know that you are the third or fourth person people call if they have gig? What do you do then? Maybe there are some networking or marketing strategies that may be useful in a situation like that? Again, I think a basic course in business and marketing might be useful.

Making your own projects is a route to go, but usually, it seems like it is more natural for people playing certain instruments that usually leads ensembles to make their own projects than it is for people playing tutti or continuo instruments. It is also a lot of work to manage a project in addition to playing in it and the skills needed are not taught at most conservatories. In addition to business and marketing, maybe even project management could be taught to give the people that it doesn't come naturally to a chance to organise their own projects.

One thing is project management. Another is funding. I know a few sources of funding for projects, but there are probably more that I don't know about. Many of the people that get to work quite a lot are people that make their own projects, finds funding for them and get paid both for organising their projects and playing in them. Another question is when does it make sense to outsource the organisational work to professionals and just do the playing and possibly leading the ensemble yourself? And how do you fund that? It is often hard enough to find the money to pay people to play, let alone someone additional to organize things. And leading an ensemble is another skill that, when it is taught, is geared more towards conducting a choir, band or orchestra of amateurs than leading from within an ensemble of (semi-)professionals.

In other types of businesses, it seems usual to make a business plan of some sort. People often define a market that they serve and the services they deliver to that market. For musicians, the market is probably the audience, but sometimes, as a freelancer, it seems like the people that actually decide if you work are the people that organize projects and lead ensembles, and possibly institutions if there are any that might be interested in hiring you or realizing a project you pitch. Maybe they are your actual market for the services you supply more than the audience?

Some musicians are good at pitching their own projects to institutions that have money to spend. Maybe the market for those people are actually the institutions they are pitching their projects to, more than the audience? Knowing who your market is probably changes how you would go about marketing and networking to get more gigs. I don't know which strategy is the most successful for getting the most work, but it might be easier to woo ensemble leaders or institutions than to try to make your own projects, but on the other hand, it might be more lucrative to get gigs through institutions than freelance based ensembles.

I am not certain I would still work as a baroque cellist even if I knew the answers to these questions. The circumstances were what they were and I made the choices I made. (Many of them were not very smart.) I didn't write this post to defer responsibility or blame anyone, but more to ask a question about why business, marketing and project management, at least at a basic level, isn't taught to people that are very likely to have to run their own business if they are going to succeed within their field. As someone told me at a party after a concert once: "the art isn't the art, but surviving off of the art." I think this is very true.

This is not how musicians and artist are trained to think, but maybe it should be? Often money is seen as something dirty that you have to deal with, but would rather not. Maybe there isn't a market for everyone that wants to become a musician or an artist, but maybe there are more possibilities if the creativity used for the art is also applied to business, project management and marketing? Maybe the real question isn't "How can I survive doing what I love?", but rather "What can I do to serve my market better?" Selling out might be the way to succeed and sustain a level of success over time. Maybe, with a bit of understanding of these other skills, selling out doesn't have to mean compromising artistically?

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