Brussels / 31 January & 1 February 2015


Emacs and Elisp on the Chromebook

Emacs contains one of the most widely used Lisp dialects, Elisp. As the preferred text editor for a multitude of software developers, Emacs has been ported to a wide range of platforms. Recently, Emacs has come to the Web by way of a technology called Native Client. This talk explores the unique challenges of porting Emacs and Elisp to Native Client and the browser.

Native Client (NaCl), is an open-source technology that allows native machine code to run securely sandboxed in the browser. Two layers of sandboxing, a static verification inner sandbox combined with Chrome’s outer process sandbox, ensure users can safely run untrusted applications. Modified GCC and an LLVM based toolchains allow applications to target NaCl. An I/O API called PPAPI, mirroring the security constraints of Javascript, is provided to NaCl applications.

This talk will focus on the challenges of porting Emacs to NaCl including: emulation of POSIX APIs—processes, sockets, files—on top of Web-centric APIs, porting an X11 server and client libraries, adapting Elisp to NaCl’s memory layout, and packaging for an integrated experience. I will talk about the challenges of debugging the lisp that is a part of the editor itself. I’ll demonstrate Emacs running in Google Chrome and explorer how it can interoperate with other developer tools we’ve ported to the browser.


Pete Williamson