I have a problem with emacs downloading packages and would appreciate some pointers on how this could be tracked/solved.

disclaimers first: I'm a complete noob at emacs, so if something looks/sounds stupid, it most likely is, please let me know.

Note that I'm running this behind a proxy set-up at $work.

I'm trying to set-up an emacs install to use ENSIME for Scala development. On the getting started page they have a sample init.el that is causing me problems:

;; global variables
 inhibit-startup-screen t
 create-lockfiles nil
 make-backup-files nil
 column-number-mode t
 scroll-error-top-bottom t
 show-paren-delay 0.5
 use-package-always-ensure t
 sentence-end-double-space nil)

;; buffer local variables
 indent-tabs-mode nil
 tab-width 4
 c-basic-offset 4)

;; modes
(electric-indent-mode 0)

;; global keybindings
(global-unset-key (kbd "C-z"))

;; the package manager
(require 'package)
 package-archives '(("gnu" . "http://elpa.gnu.org/packages/")
                    ("org" . "http://orgmode.org/elpa/")
                    ("melpa" . "http://melpa.org/packages/")
                    ("melpa-stable" . "http://stable.melpa.org/packages/"))
 package-archive-priorities '(("melpa-stable" . 1)))

(when (not package-archive-contents)
  (package-install 'use-package))
(require 'use-package)

(use-package ensime
  :ensure t
  :pin melpa-stable)

When running emacs --debug-init I get the following error:

Debugger entered--Lisp error: (error "Package `use-package-' is unavailable")
signal(error ("Package `use-package-' is unavailable"))
error("Package `%s-%s' is unavailable" use-package "")
package-compute-transaction(nil ((use-package)))
(progn (package-refresh-contents) (package-install (quote use-package)))
(if (not package-archive-contents) (progn (package-refresh-contents) (package-install ($
eval-buffer(#<buffer  *load*> nil "/home/ubuntu/.emacs.d/init.el" nil t)  ; Reading at $
load-with-code-conversion("/home/ubuntu/.emacs.d/init.el" "/home/ubuntu/.emacs.d/init.e$
load("/home/ubuntu/.emacs.d/init" t t)
#[0 "^H\205\262^@ \306=\203^Q^@\307^H\310Q\202;^@ \311=\204^^^@\307^H\312Q\202;^@\313\3$

What I understand from this error is that use-package is not available/installed. Which is weird.

If I do: M-x package-refresh-contents I get this:

Loading 00debian-vars...done
Importing package-keyring.gpg...done
Using a proxy for http...
Contacting host: elpa.gnu.org:80 [2 times]
Failed to download `gnu' archive.
Contacting host: orgmode.org:80 [2 times]
Failed to download `org' archive.
Contacting host: melpa.org:80 [2 times]
Failed to download `melpa' archive.
Contacting host: stable.melpa.org:80 [2 times]
Failed to download `melpa-stable' archive.
For information about GNU Emacs and the GNU system, type C-h C-a.

So it seems that emacs understands that it is behind a proxy, but for some reason it fails the download.

How would I go about finding out the root cause of this and fixing it?

  • I use (unless (package-installed-p 'use-package) (package-refresh-contents) (package-install 'use-package))
    – bertfred
    Dec 15, 2016 at 13:26
  • I think I tried all possible combinations of installing a package on the internet :( Anyways, it seems that in my case the problem is not in actually installing a package, but in accessing the different package repositories. It seems the proxy screws up my config, but I'm not sure how to fix that. Dec 15, 2016 at 13:37
  • 1
    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it was based on a misunderstanding by the OP.
    – Drew
    Dec 15, 2016 at 14:58

1 Answer 1


Never mind, it seems that I've messed up my proxy config on the machine.

I had


but didn't have:


It seems this was causing emacs to fail.

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