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Re: How to debug "Debugger entered--Lisp error: (void-function nil)"

From: Tim X
Subject: Re: How to debug "Debugger entered--Lisp error: (void-function nil)"
Date: Sun, 01 Apr 2007 11:47:10 +1000
User-agent: Gnus/5.11 (Gnus v5.11) Emacs/22.0.95 (gnu/linux)

address@hidden writes:

> Tim X <address@hidden> writes:
>> address@hidden writes:
>>> Hi,
>>> I am using "GNU Emacs (i686-pc-linux-gnu, X toolkit)"
>>> and run VM (view mail) in it, but the error comes also with
>>> 21.4.1. 
>>> Whenever I enable debug-on-error I get a backtrace with the
>>> following content:
>>> ,------------------------------------------
>>> | Debugger entered--Lisp error: (void-function nil)
>>> |  (nil)
>>> `------------------------------------------
>>> How can I debug this to find the source of this problem?
>>> It also happens most of the time when I single step in edebug
>>> mode which makes edebug practically useless.  When running with
>>> debug-on-error set to nil I do not see the error.
>>> Also it seems to be there already for some time as I found other
>>> references when googling for <<<emacs debugger entered--Lisp error:
>>> "(void-function nil)">>>, e.g.!
>>> Thanks,
>>> Robert


>> What you need to do is track down the init error in your .vm file. Normally,
>> the backtrace will show the call stack, but what you have copied appears to
>> just be the last (top) element in the stack. With the rest of the call stack
>> you can usually narrow down the search as it will show you what emacs was 
>> doing
>> prior to trying to call the void function. 
> This is exactly my problem, GNU Emacs does NOT give anything more,
> i.e. those two lines are all I get in my backtrace buffer.

hmmm. Not sure exactly what that means. Sounds like the error is happening at
the very top level of the stack, which I would have thought was 'unusual' if
the error is being generated by an add-on package rather than in the core of

>> I'd suggest going through your VM config and comment out everything and then
>> try adding each value back, one at a time until you get the error again. 
> It is not in the config, it is in (my) VM sources and it does not
> happen for XEmacs with the same sources and configuration.

So, your getting the same error without any .vm file? Are you certain your
xemacs and emacs source trees are totally separate and there isn't some path
shadowing going on thats giving you a mix of emacs 21 and xemacs compiled code?

>> To give you confidence it will work, I'm running VM under emacs 22. I've not
>> had any problems except a couple of weeks ago when a change to emacs 22 
>> caused
>> problems with compiling vm (an issue with new emacs approach to printing data
>> structures and fixed easily once I was pointed to the solution).
> Could you also point me to the solution?

Sure, but I doubt its of much use. It is specific to emacs 22 and affects the
compilation of the source rather than execution. The URL for the Debian bug
report on this is

> ... maybe I should try to get a more recent Emacs.  

Well, that might help with emacs 22, being a development branch, its always
wise to checkout the latest version if you run into an issue. However, if your
getting this under emacs 21, then you probably already have the latest version
of the stable emacs branch (there hasn't been an emacs 21 update for a while). 

>> You should also note that you can get some unexpecttd/odd
>> behavior/errors if you have some emacs code compiled with emacs
>> 21 and you try to run it under emacs 22 (though code compiled
>> with emacs 22 is more likely to cause issues for emacs 21). I
>> run different source trees for emacs 21 and emacs 22 for this
>> reason.
> I did not knew that there are problems between 21 and 22, so far
> I was only beaten by those between X and GNU Emacs, but this is
> also not the source of my problem ;-/

Its a bad idea (TM) to run code under one version of emacs that was compiled
under another. For example, emacs 22 has some functions that vary slightly form
the same functions in emacs 21 and this can cause some interesting problems. 

I still suspect it is either something in your .emacs/.vm or possibly some
interaction between the VM code and another package you are loading. I have
since confirmed that I can run VM 7.19 under both emacs 21.4 and emacs 22 (CVS)
with no errors (and I've got debug on error enabled). I'm running on a Debian
testing/unstable system and have quite a lot of additional packages installed,
including a fairly customized .emacs with my own code etc. It is possible you
are hitting a bug which has been resolved in the Debian package of VM. 

One other thing to check is your VM sources. The VM author hasn't been very
active for a few years now and there are now a couple of common forks of the
original code base getting around. Even if your not running Debian, it might be
worthwhile grabbing the Debian VM source package from the unstable branch and
build it yourself? 

It may also be worthwhile posting your .emacs and .vm, just in case there is
something others may notice that may help. Also, while trying to track down the
issue, make sure your not loading any other packages that may interact with VM,
such as bbdb, supercite, trivial-cite, etc, just in case the problem isn't VM,
but something being triggered by VM. 

sorry I can't provide more specific help. Emacs 21.4 definitely works with VM
7.19 and emacs 22 will work with it once the patch to prevent the compile bug
is applied. So, all I can say is that I wold be looking for something unique to
your installation/configuration rather than a bug in emacs or vm. 

good luck


tcross (at) rapttech dot com dot au

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