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Gems from the mailbag

By Steve Hammond

This month we turn to the premise that all columnists turn at times of desperation — the fake mailbag column!

A Mr. Richard Feder of Fort Lee, NJ writes: “I do as I am told. Once Vladimir Volokh told me that there was no need for me to ever get out of MPEX, so I don’t. I go into it when I log on in the morning and I don’t get out until I leave at night. My problem is that sometimes I do a really complex command in the morning and I don’t want to have to retype it. Unfortunately, when I do a LISTREDO I only see my last 20 commands so I have to type the command again. What can I do?”

Mr. Feder, I need to introduce you to someone I used to work with. The two of you could get together to form the “Institute for the Productively Lazy.” He was always looking for ways so he didn’t have to lift his hands off the keyboard so often. He could pound the keyboard for hours and all he got to show for it was a nice case of carpal tunnel syndrome.

Your problem can be solved fairly easily, but it opens up a whole area of MPEX that is under-appreciated. In fact, those commands from the morning are most likely still out there. Just like the operating system, MPEX maintains its own REDO stack and it holds your last 1,000 commands! So I bet your commands are out there, you just don’t know how to find them!

You are right that LISTREDO only shows the last 20 commands, but you can add a parm to the command like %LISTREDO 57/65, which will show you commands 57 through 65 in the stack, or %LISTREDO -30/-20, which uses relative position numbers to get the last 20th through 30th commands.

Then there’s my favorite, %LISTREDO P, which shows you all the commands that you executed that began with the letter P, which should cover all your PURGEs, PREPs and PRINTs. When you get that list, then you can select the command you want from the list you’re given.

If a stack of 1,000 is not your idea of a stack, you can manipulate that size. SETVAR MPEXREDOSIZE=nnn (with ‘nnn’ being your desired value) lets you set the stack size yourself. Another slick option is SETJCW HPREDONODUPS=1. This tells MPEX not to include duplicate commands in the REDO stack. (Why waste the space?).

And finally, if you want to keep you MPEX REDO stack in a permanent file, issue the file command:


and the stack becomes a permanent file!

Judy Miller of White Plains, NY, writes: “What is the command GOON? Someone told me that to use it you have to be an immediate member of the Sopranos family.”

Judy, you don’t need to be a direct family member, but Tony has to give the okay any time you use it! Just kidding. It’s really an homage to the Philadelphia Flyers of the 1970’s. Okay, enough of the sports and television humor. GOON actually means ‘go on.’ It is a way to allow you to run a command in ‘background’ and continue doing other work. You type %GOON LISTF huge fileset and MPEX tells you:

Output will be sent to temporary file VEOUnnn

Then, when it’s done, it blanks out the function keys and in their place displays:

Execution of listf fileset done, see file VEOUnnn

Now you can print that file and see what happened. You can also check on progress of a GOON command with SHOWGOON and you will get:


VEOU129 [done] command

VEOU172 [done] command

VEOU197 [active] command

If you try to exit MPEX while a GOON is running, you’ll be instructed to %KILL the command before exiting.

Mr. Richard Feder of Fort Lee, NJ again writes: “I accidentally typed a comma once and my last command came up. What was that? Now I’m afraid!”

Mr. Feder, you ask a lot of stupid questions! But you’ll like this answer, it lets you be even lazier. That was just a part of the REDO short-hand. If you use MPEX or the Robelle products, Qedit and Suprtool, there are a series of shorthand commands for DO, REDO and LISTREDO.

A single comma (,) is shorthand for REDO, a pair of commas (,,) is shorthand for LISTREDO, and a comma followed by a period (,.) is shorthand for DO. I use this all the time and it will make things easier for you.

Just don’t do like I did one time and typed ‘,.’ instead of ‘,’ and started a process that affected over 200 customers’ credit card bills. But that’s a story for another mailbag column.

Steve Hammond, who works for a trade association in Washington, DC, likes to remember that “It’s always something!”

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