Friday, 14 December 2018

Why has emacs stopped running in a window?

I use several editors (and also Eclipse, which has its own) and manage to be reasonably productive with all of them, but all other things being equal emacs is my favourite.I have it installed as an icon on the Linux Mint start bar.

Imagine my annoyance and distress when yesterday clicking on the emacs icon did nothing; no error message, no window display, just a momentary blink and then nothing.  emacs would run in a terminal window, but not in its own emacs window on the desktop.  Reinstalling the "emacs" package didn't help.

I traced the problem to a mistake I made yesterday.  I have a list of packages to install on a remote Ubuntu server, which has no X windows installed and which runs headless.  In error I typed the "apt install" command into a window which was not ssh-ed into the local machine, thus installing all those packages on my local laptop (the one where emacs was failing to run).  I do my development and testing locally so in fact installing those packages was a no-op, with one important exception: I use emacs on the Ubuntu Server system, but to avoid problems install only the terminal-only version, called emacs-nox.  So of course I had installed emacs-nox on my laptop, which had faithfully done what was required of it: stop emacs running in an X Window.  I purged it, reinstalled emacs and all was well. 

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