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blech (1597)

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Journal of blech (1597)

Thursday June 27, 2002
05:21 PM

YAPC::NA 2.2- lighting strikes

This afternoon wasn't quite as frantic as this morning's six talks, in one way, since you didn't have to decide where to be as often. I decided to camp in the room with Jos's CPANPLUS talk, which was interesting although I think I paid a little too little attention once again; the fact it has interfaces to many package management systems had passed me by (and Aevil managed to volunteer to build Solaris packages, too, I think). That was nifty. I was fighting various installation problems on OS X during the talk on TERN, which would have gone over my head anyway, I suspect.

The main reason I was camped in that room was for Adam Turoff's talk, advertised as SOAP but really covering XML-RPC and REST too. In the end it was more of a high-level overview but it did help clear up the distinctions between them. I'm not sure a longer talk would strictly be useful. Following that was a talk on getting through authenticating firewalls with Perl's socket programming, which again I paid slightly too little attention to.

Lightning talks followed, with Adam Turoff doing two good talks, on learning from other languages (FORTRAN, Lisp, Smalltalk, C++ and Forth) and why Perl6 is a good thing. There were also talks criticising the community's handling of social issues and which seemed to go down badly on IRC, but which I thought had a kernel of truth; Allison Randal, a newcomer to the Perl community who's involved in Perl6 design, who did a Dr Seuss style poem on the new language, and other talks on graphing web sites (acme would be proud), using Getopt::Declare, buidling complex websites, SNMP and a few others that seemed to have less impact my memory. Oh, we're just about to get gnat's movie...

Once the lightning talks finish (yes, I'm being very bad and blogging them during the time allocated) there's a set of BOFs; I think I'll go to the CPANPLUS one, continuing my avoidance of pretty much all the Perl6 stuff (sorry, people). There's also a barbecue on later, which I think I've managed to get a lift to.

11:16 AM

YAPC::NA 2.1- presentations, images, modules and patches

Today started with a fun little meeting in the lobby whilst waiting for the bus to the conference, while mjd castigated people for giving away his talk (by reading the Big Orange Proceedings Book and remembering them), and there was also some talk about Mail::Audit, Procmail and non-crispy duck.

After arriving I went to Adam Turoff's talk on open-source presentation tools. He swiftly pointed out why Powerpoint won't do, covered the shortcoming of both Magicpoint and HTML slides, and pointed out Projector (which runs on Perl/TK), TeX to PDF tools (which he doesn't use as he doesn't know TeX, which I can identify with) and AxPoint, which he settled on and I might have a look at (being similarly enamoured with XML myself; I'm aiming to see his SOAP talk later.)

Following that I stayed put partly as it was easy, but Casey West's talk on Imager turned out to be interesting. Imager is somewhere between Image::Magick and GD, although if I heard right it doesn't use C. Anyway, the talk was a good quick intro to writing things, and it looks like it can handle at least TrueType fonts, so I'll think about giving it a go.

A quick run down the corridor to Brown 100 led me to Simon Cozen's talk on his top ten useful modules. He cheated a bit by including a couple of bundles, but the plugs for XML::Simple (something I like) and POE (see yesterday's entries), along with a bunch of others which I'd largely come across already (even if I didn't use them).

I stayed in that room while mjd talked about Mailing List Judo, or how to get your patch past the minefield that is p5p. It was very amusing, even to a non-p5p reader like myself.

For lunchtime, pizza has been ordered and paid for. Mmm.

07:28 AM

YAPC::NA 1.2- mjd's talk and an evening out

Yesterday afternoon brought mjd's Stolen Secrets of the Ivory Tower. Mcdonnell 162 was quite a bit busier for this talk than for Jos's POE talk earlier, despite the draw of Damien's Perl 6 talk which seemed to be the other choice, at least of #perl-ers.

Someone described the talk later as 'mjd tries to get functional programming taught without letting you know'. The first slide is fairly upfront about the aim, pointing out that most Perl programmers either learnt C first or learnt from people who did. After this he talked about solving Towers of Hanoi, seperating algorithms from presentation, recursion, callbacks and avoiding the pitfalls thereof, caching and Memoize, closures and iterators. I particularly liked the use of user parameters to make callback programming easier (the new scribot front end has to do nasty things to capture URI::Find's results, which could be avoided).

There were a couple of amusing digressions, including mjd finding a stick, and a rant on the superiority of the ISO date and paper size formats, but sadly there was a bit of bogging down in explaining closures so some of the later slides (handily presented in the bumper conference notes) weren't presented in time, which is a shame as I think I'd have gained from hearing them rather than reading them.

A bunch of folks headed up to the Loop (the only bit of St Louis I've seen far, except one, that seems to have nice shops and bars) for Thai food (with a bunch of people involved in either Parrot or Perl 6, it seems) before heading back to the BOFs, but I decided instead to have a quick drink before heading back to the dorms and collapsing (at which point people finally asked about the PIMB t-shirt I was wearing)., so hopefully (despite the early rising) I've almost got jetlag kicked. It was a shame to miss the TT BOF though. Ah well.

Now it's time to catch the bus, nearly.

Wednesday June 26, 2002
01:46 PM

YAPC::NA 1.1- keynotes and poe and card games, oh my

This morning the conference started properly. I had no problem getting up (jetlag is still confusing my body, I think; it's not sure if it's 6am, noon or some time in between, but it's definitely not going back to sleep). Anyway, thankfully this meant I was in plenty of time to pick up croissants, eat muffins and get a seat well before Lenzo introduced us to the people who'd organised it (thanks Sarah and the others, especially for handling panicky emails from stoopid Europeans) before handing over to Larry for the keynote.

Despite the difficulties with projection Larry had it was an excellent keynote, even if you didn't get all the subtleties of the Lord of the Rings books he was using to build his allegory (despite reading from the intro to FotR where Tolkien explicity rejects reading his novels as an allegory for the Second World War. On the other hand, I suppose that doesn't rule out building an allegory from them. Anyway, I digress). One of the analogies I liked comparing learning Perl before C to reading LotR before the Hobbit; there were many others, and if there's audio of the talk online (and I hope there will be) you should have a listen, although it works less well without the slides.

There was a choice of talks after this, and unlike most of the people who've written journals so far, I opted for Jos Bouman's POE talk, since I've played with it a little and wanted to understand it better. Jos did a good job of building up from the core of POE through sessions, wheels and components, with a couple of versions of an example TCP serving application. I'll only be using POE through components, I suspect, but even so it was useful to get to grips with the underside of the system.

Lunchtime brought a nice box of food, a very strange card game based on the dot com bubble that Shane Landrum brought down from Boston (I think) and a chance to write this. So far I'm planning to see mjd's talk, after davorg and others recommended passing on Damian's talk.

Weather? Sunny, warm, and hence I'm avoiding it like the plague...

06:43 AM

Yet Another YAPC Day 0 Post

Tuesday was the day everyone seemed to turn up to the conference. However, Adeola and myself flew in on Monday, hoping that the extra day would help us get over jetlag and give us time to see some things before the conference started. Sadly it rained for a large chunk of the day and we couldn't find anything that, to me, resembled a city centre. Still, riding the Metro was interesting.

We turned up at the dorms at 5, quickly found ourselves in our rooms, connected to the internet (that was nice), found the dorms had showers in (that was nice too) and went down to meet the other folks. Ingy recognised me (which was also nice) and a guy called Steve drove some of us to Wash U (as they say here) to register (which was very nice of him).

A whole bunch of people were milling around during and after registration, and we were soon herded towards a bar called, I believe, Blueberry Hill, where we proceeded to drink alcohol (except, of course, the under 21s [0]). As you'd expect, this being my first non-European YAPC, there were lots of new people to meet, with faces placed to nicks and email addresses.

Keeping the reputation up, I was one of the last people to leave, with the aforementioned Ingy, who seems to be the dumrats of this side of the pond. (People who were in thye hotel in Amsterdam last August will *definitely* get that reference.)

So we're all set for the conference, with our vast ringbinders of notes, our free pens, lanyards and name badges. (I'm one of those people with a nick on mine.) Now, if I can squeak some more sleep....

[0] This is my second time in the US and I think the culture shock has hit me harder this time. I've certainly begun to be a little monomaniacal in conversation, I fear. St Louis is certainly less metropolitan than NY, funnily enough, and perhaps that's a factor, and maybe it's being around other people more this time.

In any case, I was carded, twice, tonight, which is a profound shock to me as it's never happened in the UK, and I'm ten years over the (British) legal drinking age. Thankfully I had my passport on me. Perhaps those guide books are worth reading after all.

Wednesday June 05, 2002
05:34 AM

Haphazard reinstallation woes have their very own box, called penderel (after one of the pubs we used to visit. Unfortunately it's been less than reliable recently; there's not been anyone regularly sysadminning it and the graphics and network cards seemed able to make it die regularly.

A couple of weeks back Alex replaced the graphics and network cards (and is in the process of getting a new motherboard and processor), and since then it's seemed stable, but the underlying problem that no-one was willing to sysadmin it remained. More seem to favour Debian than anything else, and after the usual interminable IRC debates, I decided that I may as well spend one day of this long weekend replacing the existing RedHat install.

Unfortunately, things didn't go to plan. The most serious hiccup- and entirely my own fault- was that I didn't back up the existing install. I thought I'd taken backups of /etc, /var/log and , but I'd managed to back them up to /root not /home/blech, and that got deleted when I reformatted the main partition.

LILO also seemed inexplicably unhappy, so for now penderel relies on a boot floppy, and I'm only slowly putting back all the user authentication that I managed to lose. Mailman doesn't quite seem happy either, despite one test message making it through, and the nameserver has vanished as well, unsurprisingly. On the other hand, it is at least running a system that plenty of people can admin, and the website is up.

I'm not sure whether the moral of this story is to delegate, or to do things properly yourself.

Friday January 25, 2002
09:08 AM

Phew, a tech meet done and dusted

Well, the time swung round for the first technical meeting during my stint as leader of It was a week late (since I left it a bit late confirming a venue; hosted their second meeting in a row, which was great). The turnout was a little less than the November meeting, but that was fine as the meeting was a bit crowded last time, and through no fault of the kind volunteer who was meant to be bringing a projector, he couldn't. We ended up using a biggish monitor and hoping.

Richard Clamp was the first to speak, talking about his scary hacking with parameters. Then Dave Cross stood in while Mark booted his laptop and gave his Idiotic Perl talk, which will ring bells for those of you've been keeping up with his journals. Mark Fowler spoke on the building of the 2001 Advent Calendar, which seems to have been a triumph over adversity of some magnitude, and also revealed some of the thoughts he has for the one next (uh, this) year.

After the break, Nick Clark talked about his work in long numbers for Perl 5.8; it all looked nice and scary. Finally Leon Brocard plugged Parrot a bit more; it was a good update on what's in there (yay, Perlish PMCs!) and it seems to have encouraged a few more installs, and critiques on documentation, which is all to the good.

Anyway, it seemed to go fairly well, which was a nice surprise, and there's only five more to go before I hand over the reins later toward the end of the year. If only I could delegate this all to someone...

Monday December 17, 2001
05:40 PM


Um, it's been a bit quiet on this journal front. I've been up to annoyingly little, but it seems a bunch of people on IRC thought I could make a good leader of a Perl Monger group, and forty-odd other people on a mailing list agreed, so I'm now (nominally, to use the favoured phrase of my predecessor) in charge of On the other hand, the other choice was a stuffed beany baby camel, a fact that's keeping me from self-congratulation.

Of course, this happens just as the pub we'd settled on after a year of on-off searching decides to close for refurbishment for six months, the Christmas and New Year holidays (and hence the fact that maybe the January meeting- which should be on the third- may be postponed to save our aching livers) and an upcoming technical meeting that I've not done anything about, because, well, it was someone else's problem before.

Still, we have other pubs we can go to, once a date is set people will probably turn up, and there may be a venue for the technical meeting, which is the first big hurdle overcome, so it may not be all bad.

There should probably be a witty conclusion here.

Friday September 21, 2001
05:01 AM

Fear of Flying

[ #806 ]

Not much interesting code to report upon (although I did make the front page, at least, of XHTML compliant), but there was a technical meeting last night, so here's a quick summary.

After the obligatory announcements, and the squeezing of a quart of into the pint pot that was Reading Room's conference room, I gave my talk on 'RSS, Infobots and You', which was a demo of my bbc news rss convertor as discussed previously here; despite basically wittering off the cuff it seemd to go well. Another few patch ideas came from the audience, and I really should check out that ticker.

Then Michael Stevens and Richard Clamp gave a brief overview of Pod::Coverage; people seemed to ask a lot of questions, but this was apparently a good thing. Then Michael talked about Mail::Listdetector and urged us all to test it for him; a nice idea, but being the Mac recidivist I am Eudora Filters work for me.

As the last talk before the break was the epic Wax::On, Wax::Off, surviving (mainly) undaunted from two laptop failures, a lack of dual head displaying, the usual heckling and muttering and the fact that some of the audience had heard all the jokes before. A sterling effort.

After a break so we didn't all suffocate each other, Simon Cozens turned up to talk about the Parrot virtual machine (which someone- Piers, perhaps- suggested might be better known as the Parrot Virtual Computer, purely for its initials). Leon talked about his work in converting Java bytecode to Parrot bytecode, which is, um, interestingly scary, and then we had a Sekrit Talk that didn't happen. Honest.

After that we, obviously, went down the pub, where Trelane and I discussed various infobot hackery. In a shock move for the group, people seemed to go home on or about pub closing time, but even so, it was a good meeting. Hurrah.

Wednesday September 05, 2001
05:09 PM

Yet Another RSS Feed & Adventures in Infobots

[ #765 ]

Today had one of its occasional hiccups when the box that two of our bots (and the domains of at least five Perl mongers) dropped off the net for most of the working day. Thankfully I'd downloaded the infobot sources the previous day to try and find out why googling didn't work any more. it turns out the fix to that is pretty straighforward: in Extras/ make the previous

my $Search = WWW::Search->new("$where");


my $Search = WWW::Search->new("Scraper::$where") ||

which pdcawley figured out about the time I was beginning to read about this new Scraper lark. Our discussion about the problem on channel led newcomer mordred to fix the long-standing issue with currency conversions dropping back to Zimbabwean Dollars, and also the problem with it not being able to convert Euros (quite a problem during the YAPC::Europe auction, it turned out). I'll link to it once I've tested it myself.

Hence today I launched my copy of infobot as a temporary respite for people who like talking to bots not people (me included) and finally realised this was the time to put into gear one thing I'd been meaning to do for ages: a BBC News RSS feed. This was remarkably quick to knock together: take one low graphics website, LWP, some regular expressions, XML::RSS and an infobot, and hey presto, a working feed.

However, this was on my local machine, behind a firewall. Soon after I'd finished, my regular host came back online, so I excitedly uploaded the little CGI script to a more stable host which other infobots could see. Oh dear. When it got there there was no XML::RSS, no XML::Parser and no Expat. So, a bit of rather slow building later, and the script executed, but it wasn't returning any headlines. Changing the LWP::Simple interface to full LWP helped, but then the script became slow enough to fall foul of infobot timeouts (which mstevens found before I did). Increasing that from 10 to 20 seconds finally let the finished script return RSS.

Of course, once I got it working and introduced to the channel, a couple more possibilities got banded about. DrHyde wanted the tech news pulled out too. Sadly, the low-graphics tech index is nastier to parse, and the full page would probably slow the script even further. Handily, there's a feed designed for news tickers which is already used by a couple of Freshmeat projects, which includes the tech news, and as a bonus the London temperature. On the flipside, it's updated less regularly. Still, there may be a rewrite soon to use this.

And all because the Londoners like their local news.