Open Source Language Roundtable Webcast: Wednesday, July 22nd


O’Reilly’s conference on Open Source, OSCON, takes place this week in San Jose, California. One of the events taking place at OSCON is the Open Source Language Roundtable, the abstract for which appears below:

We all have our favorite languages in our tool-belt, but is there a ‘best’ overall language? If anyone can hash that out, it will be the members of this roundtable discussion, some of the stars of the open source language space. This wide-ranging session, hosted and moderated by the O’Reilly Media editorial staff, and broadcast live on the web, will try to identify the best and worst features of each language, and which are best for various types of application development.

The roundtable will me moderated by O’Reilly Media’s James Turner and will cover the following languages, listed below with the corresponding panelist:

  • Java: Rod Johnson (SpringSource)
  • Perl: Jim Brandt (Perl Foundation)
  • PHP: Laura Thomason (Mozilla)
  • Python: Alex Martelli (Google)
  • Ruby: Brian Ford (Engine Yard)

You can catch this roundtable even if you’re not going to be at OSCON because O’Reilly is webcasting the event. It takes place this Wednesday, July 22nd at 10pm EDT (7 pm Pacific) and is expected to run 90 minutes. It costs nothing to catch the webcast and you’ll even be able to ask the panelists questions via chat, but you’ll need to register.


Damian Conway’s Talk, “The Missing Link”: Monday July 27th in Toronto

Damian Conway

Although I’m not a terribly big fan of the Perl programming language, I am a big fan of one of its best-known contributors and advocates, Damian Conway. There’s nothing quite like a Damian Conway presentation, which is equal parts pop culture, deep science, software engineering and Monty Python’s Flying Circus. I make it a point to see him whenever he comes to Toronto, and that’s happening next Monday, July 27th to the Bahen Centre for Information Technology at University of Toronto to give another amusing, enlightening and most importantly, free talk. This one’s called The Missing Link, and here’s the abstract:

What do:

  • watching trees grow,
  • debugging debuggers,
  • Greek mythology,
  • code that writes code that writes code that writes code,
  • the hazards of LaTeX, successful failures,
  • the treacherous Vorta,
  • objective syntax,
  • anti-stacks,
  • Danish mind-control,
  • active null statements,
  • synthetic standup,
  • and the prospect of certain death

…all have in common?           

Watch as Damian Conway weaves them together into a new and improbably useful module that demonstrates the awesome power and beauty of Perl 5.10.

Even if you’ll never write a line of Perl in your life (which, IMHO, isn’t necessarily a bad thing), you’d do well to catch a Damian Conway presentation. His guided tours of his way-out-in-left-field thinking about life, the universe, programming and everything will turn your brain upside down, give you some good laughs, make you think about coding differently and might even make you a better developer.

Once again, the details:

  • When: Monday, July 27th at 7:00 p.m.
  • Where: Bahen Centre, University of Toronto (40 St. George Street), room 1160 (the major lecture theatre on the ground floor)
  • How much? Free!

Show up early to make sure you get a good seat. I’ll see you there!


Damian Conway Tonight!

Damian Conway - July 16, 2008

Damian Conway, Perl expert extraordinaire, Open Source luminary and long-time friend of the Toronto Perl Mongers, will deliver — free and to the public — one of his signature tour-de-force completely insane talks that is…

  • 1/3 high-end IT,
  • 1/3 showmanship,
  • and 1/3 peyote-fuelled hallucination.

Tonight will be the world premiere of a new talk, which goes under the title of Temporally Quaquaversal Virtual Nanomachine Programming in Multiple Topologically Connected Quantum-Relativistic Parallel Timespaces…Made Easy.

As with the fanciful titles of his other talks, it’s hard to tell what it’ll actually be about, but having seen a couple of his presentations, I can guarantee that it will be a slightly-askew look at technology done in an engaging and hilarious fashion. Better still, you’ll be the first to see this presentation, which is a dress rehearsal for the O’Reilly Open Source Conference taking place later this month in Portland, Oregon.

Best of all, unlike the people at the Open Source Conference who’ll have to shell out something in the neighbourhood of $2000, admission to this event is absolutely free. (They will be taking up a collection for Damian in order to provide him some sort of honorarium for his doing the presentation, and some of the DemoCamp money is also going to Damian).

If you’d like to catch this event (I’ll be there), it’s tonight at the Bahen Centre for Information Technology, which is on 40 St. George Street (just north of College), right in the middle of the University of Toronto campus.

As I like to say for this sort of event: be there and be square!


“Now, While Rails is Weak, We Must Strike!”

Rebel pilot briefing from “Star Wars: A New Hope”, with some Rails-specific changes made to the display of the Death Star

If you’ve been following the usual programmer and tech new sites, you’ve probably read (or at least heard of) Zed Shaw’s rant, titled Rails is a Ghetto. If you haven’t read it yet, go there now, give it a quick read and come back. I can wait.

High-spirited stuff, isn’t it? As you might expect, there have been a number of interesting responses to Zed’s polemic, but only one made me laugh out loud — it’s this entry in Jesse Stay’s blog:

Ruby on Rails is weak right now, it’s breaking apart from the inside. Now is the time for the Perl community to show its strength and unite in an effort to make Perl once again the most used platform on the web!

Perhaps it’s time for Larry Wall to update his maxim about the great virtues of a programmer: it should now be laziness, impatience, hubris and revenge fantasies.


Happy 20th Birthday, Perl!

The Perl CamelWhether you think of it as “Practical Extraction and Report Language” or “Pathologically Eclectic Rubbish Lister” (that’s my choice), we internet app developers owe a lot to Perl. It may have started as a little language that let its creator Larry Wall automate administrative tasks, but in the 1990s, its strong text-manipulation capabilities made it well-suited for producing dynamic web applications. Its success in this arena earned it the sobriquet “The Duct Tape of the Internet” and it led the wave of “scripting languages” — of which my current language of choice, Ruby, is a member — which function as the “P” in the LAMP stack. I think of Perl in the way I think of all those music lessons I had to take as a kid: it drives me crazy, but I wouldn’t be where I am without it.

December 18, 1987 is generally regarded as the day that Larry Wall first released Perl via the newsgroup comp.sources.misc. Here’s an excerpt from Larry’s description of the language, taken from his manpage:

Perl is a interpreted language optimized for scanning arbitrary text files, extracting information from those text files, and printing reports based on that information. It’s also a good language for many system management tasks. The language is intended to be practical (easy to use, efficient, complete) rather than beautiful (tiny, elegant, minimal). It combines (in the author’s opinion, anyway) some of the best features of C, sed, awk, and sh, so people familiar with those languages should have little difficulty with it. (Language historians will also note some vestiges of csh, Pascal, and even BASIC-PLUS.) Expression syntax corresponds quite closely to C expression syntax. If you have a problem that would ordinarily use sed or awk or sh, but it exceeds their capabilities or must run a little faster, and you don’t want to write the silly thing in C, then perl may be for you. There are also translators to turn your sed and awk scripts into perl scripts.

Happy 20th birthday, Perl, and thank you Larry Wall (even though your language often made me want to hurl my machine out the window)!