It would appear I have finally I achieved my long-time goal of slashdotting pudge's private Slashdot beta testing site
For the last 2 years, starting with the Vertical Metre of Beer competition, I've been working to make Win32 a truly first class citizen of the Perl platform world.
The goal, as I keep repeating on the Strawbery Perl website, is Complete Platform Equality. Not different, or "better", just equal and identical. When writing Perl code, your platform should ideally be irrelevant.
I feel that Strawberry Perl has managed to achieve this for the Perl core.
In the year since it was released, the community has used it to help fix many of the largest and most important CPAN modules as well. Modules that have improved their release process and are now reliably problem-free on Windows include Bundle::CPAN, the DateTime family, Template Toolkit, POE, Wx, and a number of XML modules.
Unfortunately, we are now reaching the end of the large important modules that have big teams and are relatively well resourced. For smaller modules, and many individual CPAN authors, problems accessing legal licenses or the hardware to run it on, is now becomming a critical limiting factor. Some authors have simply never used Windows before, and don't want the hassle of learning how to set it up.
So it's time to remove that problem.
At YAPC::NA this year, at the beginning of my world tour, I was introduced to an attendee from the Microsoft Open Source Software Lab. He was interested in finding out if there was anything Microsoft could do to help with Strawberry.
Later in my tour, after diverting my first week in Portland over to Seattle, with Ingy and I took a trip out to Redmond to visit the Microsoft OSSL. After some discussions there, lunch, and a look at what they are doing for people like the Samba team, one interesting very possibility started to emerge.
A week or two later at OSCON, I managed to catch up with Sam Ramji (the head of the OSSL) briefly in the hallway track after his keynote, and bounced the idea off him directly. He was extremely positive about it, so after I returned to Australia I polished the idea into a formal proposal and sent it off for consideration.
The proposal was accepted about 3 weeks later, and last night at OSDC we announced a new partnership between Microsoft and Strawberry Perl.
So, finally, I can now stop with the waffling around and just unveil The Sekrit.
Commencing this month, Microsoft will be providing every CPAN author with free access to a centrally-hosted virtual machine environment containing every major version of Windows.
The result is now practically the entire Perl community has a zero-cost and zero-setup way to doing light development, problem replication, debugging, and ad-hoc hesting on every version of Windows.
This arrangement is particularly amazing because it is, to my knowledge, several orders of magnitude larger than anything of this nature ever attempted before with the Open Source community.
Neither the Microsoft guys nor I know quite what is going to happen once we turn this baby on. With 7,000 potential users and endless possible use cases, I expect at the very least something of an adventure.
So as a result, we are treating the initial implementation as completely experimental. Within Microsoft, the partnership is being lead directly by the locals in Microsoft Australia.
They have already procured and installed the hardware, and the OSSL guys in Redmond have prepared the Windows system images.
The actual hosting service itself needs to be provided by a non-Microsoft Sydney-based hosting company, due to some legal wrinkles relating to the Australian Trade Practices Act.
Once some final paperwork issues are resolved (which should happen over the next few business days) the admin passwords will be handed over to me, and then we have to work out the specific mechanics for how to manage firstname.lastname@example.org, and how we'll be dealing with instancing and rollback of the environments.
The launch set of Windows system images is currently exoected to be the following:
Windows XP Professional
Windows Server 2003 32-bit
Windows Server 2003 64-bit
Windows Vista Ultimate
Windows Server 2008 32-bit
Windows Server 2008 64-bit
All environments will be updated to the current service packs, and are (I believe) the default English (American) versions.
It's worth nothing that this initial set is based on the MINIMUM useful variations I identified as necesary. Once the environment is running, it's likely that more environments will be added.
I've already suggested we add internationalisation as the next major priority, so hopefully we can also shortly see localised instanced that represent typical install configurations from Germany, Japan and China.
As for types of activities you can use the environment for, initially I want to contain it to relatively light activities to prevent over-loading the servers.
Ad-hoc testing, debugging and experimentation is fine. Resource-intensive CPAN Testers installs and other heavy smoke testing activities will initially not be allowed, until I have some idea of just what the resource implications of this whole exercise will be.
I'd very much like to avoid melting the servers for at LEAST the first week
More information (and press releases) will follow, the entire program under which this partnership will be run is so new it's only just been given a name, so some of the organisational details will ironed out as we go.
But for now, to all the CPAN authors, all I have to add is...
P.S. Or your appropriate equivalent religious or non-religious event, if any, occuring during the month of December, etc etc