I know the people who read this blog generally do not care about Perl at all (hi Mom!)
but I spend a great deal of time writing code in the language and talking with other
members of the Perl community about our common projects, and so like anyone who has lived
in the Perl world for any length of time, I have an opinion about Perl6. For those not
in the know, Perl5 is the current version of Perl and has been around for over 10 years.
Perl6 is the next major version evolution, but it has been in development for nearly the same
length of time. The problem is that 10 years is a long time for a computer language release
to gestate and many folks whose opinions count (i.e. managers) see that lack of a release
as a sign that Perl Is Dead and not a good choice for their next programming project. So (the
argument goes) Perl6's vaporware status makes it hard for Perl5 programmers to find jobs, because
the "if it ain't new it ain't sexy" ethos of technology counts for more than it should with those
making the money decisions.
The real problem isn't that Perl6 hasn't been released. The real problem is the name Perl6. Perl6
is not a single executable "thing" like Perl5 is; it's an umbrella for several different projects. Right
now I can sit down at just about any modern Unix-like computer and type 'perl' and write some code
that runs. Perl6 doesn't work quite that way. It's a whole new language, not just a major revision to
an existing language. So the version number 5 vs 6 is misleading. That's the problem. Perl is alive and well.
Perl5 continues to be maintained and developed. I get lots of work done every day using it.
So I've been playing in this country band for the last several years, purely for fun. Our cardinal rule
as a band is "do not overprepare" which means we might practice for an hour or so ahead of a gig,
but rarely more than that. The second rule is "you may not sing a song you wrote" which sounds funny till
you realize that nearly everyone in the band is a songwriter.
It's a fun bunch of folks and the vibe is definitely low key.
I recently reactivated my free yahoo.com email account so that I could test something for $work.
I signed up for it 12 years ago, but stopped using it a couple of years later when I got my own
domain @peknet.com. So yahoo finally deactivated it. All I had to do was click a couple of buttons
to reactivate account, so that was painless. All my mail was, understandably, deleted.
Within 60 seconds of reactivating it, while I watched, I got one new message. In my Spam bucket.
While I would like to figure out how to compile as a native 64bit app, my
MacBook has too many libs from before the 10.5 to 10.6 upgrade to trust that all the dep
chain is 64bit compat.
The error I was seeing was the noxious BAD_ADDRESS error which traced back to
some libxml2 hash features. Red herring. Of course, I had to recompile libxml2
with the -m32 as well so that everything was 32bit compatible. Took me hours
before I noticed that the older working version on the same box was about half
the size of the new version... which triggered the ol' 32-vs-64-bit thing in
Update: In the end this was a bug in libswish3 with confusing naming of
some variables. But the 64-bit thing was a Good Thing To Realize.
I need to test web apps with IE7 for $work. I work from home and use a
reverse SSH tunnel into the corporate LAN. I run a SOCKS5 proxy using the
-D option to ssh over the reverse tunnel. I use a Mac.
What's a geek to do with these odds and ends?
I run VirtualBox (free VM from Sun) with WinXP for IE7. No problem.
I use Putty to open a ssh SOCKS5 proxy over the reverse ssh tunnel. No problem.
Problem: IE7 does not route DNS requests over SOCKS so even though I can theoretically
get to the remote HTTP server, I can't resolve names inside the corporate LAN using the corporate
The big thing in this release is a rewrite in XS/C for much of the tokenizing and snippet extraction
code. That, and lots more test coverage. A big thanks to Henry at zen for prompting this development
and release and for providing good bug reports.
I also want to acknowledge how awesome the NYTProf
profiling tool is. Helped me find all the bottlenecks.
My son and I walked over the next day to visit the ice house and Ari was so intrigued that he snapped one of those
delicate icicles off in his little hand. Chris and I quickly intervened lest any more of his hard work be undone
by a curious three-year-old.
But that is the way with Chris's work: my boys -- most everyone who encounters it -- want to climb inside and animate
the work. Chris's sculpture begs for it. In a good way.
That huffingtonpost article interprets the work in a way I never would. Global climate change? If anything,
works like that will become harder to create as Minnesota gets warmer. Chris had to ice that house two times,
as after the first time it thawed out. That's where the quiet fear is for me: winter is disappearing. I need
winter just like I need summer: it resets my psychic clock.
For several years I have developed software projects using Perl, pushing them to the
shared Perl repository at CPAN. During that
time I have maintained my own Trac install at perl.peknet.com,
mostly for the use of the SVN browser, which I find helpful. I've started updating the wiki
on that site as a home base for my Perl projects. Google suggest to me that I've not made
that URL public before, so here it is, for the collective memory.
Chris Anderson's new book on Free continues to get press. I noted it here when Malcolm Gladwell wrote about it for the New Yorker. This is about the 6th time I've seen it reviewed or referenced in the last month.
The tradeoff of creating more abstraction layers provides, as always, flexibility at the cost of complexity. Often times we resort to inferior workarounds because they seem simpler, when in truth they are just dumbing down the problem. KISS is not a synonym for "half assed".
with that extra little  bracket pair. That's just Wrong. And bad.
My HTML shouldn't care what the server side language is. HTTP is HTTP.
HTML is HTML. It's agnostic. Unless your scripting language is broken.
Like PHP is.
I usually like the fiction pieces in the NY but this particular story, in its surrealism, seemed to tell me a truth I already knew but had forgotten. I immediately sat down to google Stephen O'Connor (the author) to find out more. He sounds like a compelling person.
The religious nature of the story continues a recent trend in NY fiction. Last week's story was also very compelling, a kind of Flannery O'Connor-esque morality tale. O'Connor. There's another trend. I expect next week's fiction piece to have an O'Connor connection as well.
Speaking of New Yorker threads, has anyone else noticed the subtle vocabulary threads in each issue, where a single uncommon word might appear in multiple pieces in the issue? The editors must enjoy finding those connections in their submissions.
I get literally hundreds of spam messages urging me to buy a higher education
degree. I realized today why these kinds of messages must appeal, because
I've had more than one dream in which I realized I had never graduated from
high school or college and was completely unprepared to meet fill in challenge here.
These spam must be aimed at a kind of Jungian-level subconscious anxiety
that manifests itself as the Unfinished Degree. Of course, there are plenty of folks
who really do have unfinished degrees and are struggling in a competitive marketplace.
But even a college-degreed person like myself still localizes my dream-time anxiety about
life in not having finished school, and I suspect that is also at play.
Object-relational mappers are a nice way of simplifying data store interactions,
by abstracting the data model into a OO class structure. Or put another way,
don't write SQL, write code that is storage agnostic.
my $thing = Thing->new( id => 123 )->load;
# the above is mock code
# representing something like:
UPDATE table things
SET foo = 'bar'
WHERE ID = 123;
I've used a couple of different Perl ORMs over the last four years with great joy:
DBIx::Class and (mostly) Rose::DB::Object. Now I'm looking for a suitable PHP
project for my toolbelt.
Ambitious. The docs make it seem a little like the Rose framework in its goals:
an ORM, a Form manager, a web framework. There's a DB abstraction layer that claims
to support many different db flavors. It seems pretty young though.
I hang out as karpet on freenode.net in the #swish-e channel, where there is occasionally
meaningful conversation related to the project. I have registered the channel
under my nick, but I often logout and back in and forget how to regain operator status.
Here's the cheatsheet for my own memory:
/msg nickserv identify karpet mypassword
/msg chanserv op #swish-e karpet
Not too complicated but I always have to hunt around to find the right
bots to /msg to.
I just looked over the history of the books section of this blog and find
it fairly representative that most of the entries date from 2005, around the time
I was in library school and my first child was a baby. Since that time I've become busy as a
parent and breadwinner and have found my time for book-reading greatly diminished. Or perhaps
my appetite for reading and writing here is diminished.
Instead, I've become an avid New Yorker reader, thanks
to the gift from my wife of a multi-year subscription. As my friend Russell said to me
yesterday, it's amazing that they can publish an issue every week, with such depth and breadth
of quality writing. I laugh, cry, ponder and hmmmm my way through each issue and am grateful
for its regularity.
But I am returning to books, and I'll be ruminating and reviewing here a bit as I stretch
out into a summer of reading.
My friend Debbie is a writer and pastor. She published her first book of sermons about five years ago,
and though I've had my signed copy on the shelf in my office since then, I've been slow to pick it up.
That's no reflection on the quality of the writing or thinking in the book; it's more a reflection
of the fact that I had already heard many of the sermons delivered from the pulpit and around the time
the book came out, I was ready to take a break from church and theology and religion. (Why I was ready to
take a break would fill many pages, but I'm not inclined to write it down.)
But the last six months or so I have felt more hopeful, despite the woe in the world,
and revisiting Debbie's excellent sermons seemed timely. I am glad I did. I'm
about four pieces in so far, and already have heard things I don't remember
hearing the first time. Good writing is like that.
Of course, I approached the book with obvious biases. I knew I was going to
like the sermons, since I like Debbie. I can hear her voice very clearly in my
head as I read. The cadence, the tempo, the flurry of images. Very Debbie.
Sort of a jazz aesthetic in her prose, the furious little runs of notes that culminate
in an opening unto something new. Like poetry, sermons are written to be
spoken aloud. I'm glad I have Debbie's voice in my head so I can hear them as
they were meant to be heard.
One of the things I've been enjoying is looking at the dates of each sermon
and trying to remember who and where I was at the time. Take the one I just
read, "A Potentially Gruesome Metaphor," from February, 2001. I was out of
town that winter, so I hadn't heard this one before. I know the story well
(Luke 5:1-11) where Jesus gets on Simon's boat to preach, then tells him to
throw over his nets into the deep and the size of the catch nearly capsizes
the boat. The passage ends with Jesus saying that he will make the fishermen
fishers of men. Like I said, I know the story well, but I found I didn't know
the text well. A good sermon opens up the cracks in the text. Debbie riffs for
awhile on the fishing theme, on the monotone evangelical hijacking of the
fishers of men image, and then she goes somewhere I didn't expect. Which I
like. "Put out into the deep and put down your nets for a catch," says Jesus.
And then when the fish come in in overwhelming abundance, Simon's reaction
seems, even for Simon, way overboard. "Go away from me, for I am a sinful
man." Like Dostoyevsky's opening in Notes
from Underground: "I am a sick man...I am an angry man. I am an
unattractive man." I am a sinful man.
Debbie then connects the deep with the unconscious in a nod to
postmodern psychoanalysis and sheds some light on Simon's reaction, then
offers her listener the chance to empathize:
Jesus in the same boat as you, next to you, sitting on your fish: what's been
hauled up from the absolute darkest scariest place anyone ever imagined, knee
deep in sardines, catfish on his lap, traces of the depths (your depths), the
smell of fish on his hands. You're both on the verge of being buried by this
unbelievably large catch....But Jesus says, "Don't be afraid."
Debbie prayed at my wedding. The other officiant at my wedding was Doug Frank.
Doug said to me once, there are only two things in life: fear and trust.
Everything comes back to which of those two things you are living out of.
I think about what Doug told me just about every day. Now I have Debbie's
wonderful image of fish-laden Jesus as well. Trust. Do not be afraid. Sure,
the present circumstances stink, but do not be afraid.
Lest any of my less-geeky friends assume that I know everything hip on the internet,
the Netflix Prize was unknown to me until about 20 minutes ago. Then I read a mention
of it on kottke.org and read the IEEE Spectrum article
written by the current leading team. Now I wish I had heard about it 3 years ago when it started,
because it could have been a very cool learning experience.
Now, I expect most popular writing on programming to gloss over the actual technical stuff and speak directly to managers, who often can't program their way out of a paper bag. But this quote is just pure nonsense:
"Java and its variants like Perl, Ajax, Python and Ruby, which effectively generate Java code, are unnecessarily low-level languages," Infostructure Associates' Kernochan said. "Adopting Java was, until recently, a step back in programmer productivity."
Perl, Ajax, Python and Ruby are variants of Java? That's just wrong, technically and chronologically. Perl was first released in 1987. Java was first released in 1995. Ajax isn't a language at all, it's a pattern. It's like saying "Poems are a language." Python and Ruby, while object-oriented like Java, are certainly not variants. And none of them generate Java code, effectively or not.
Roy resurrected the Swish-e project nearly 10 years ago.
There's a nice
interview with him out recently, in which he says "there really isn't anything I can't do with Perl and my favorite indexing tool, Swish-e" -- which is exactly my experience too.
No, it's not what I suffer from the lack of (as in sleep). It's
Representational State Transfer. It's been a buzzword for
a few years now. I'm just now reading about it, and thought
I would include some highlights here for my own reference.
Long before I was a computer programmer I was an essay writer, a songwriter, a poet. When I discovered
Perl, I found the transition to programming very natural. I had always played with computers,
back to the IBM PC and Macintosh circa 1984. My first program was in BASIC, in 1985. It was a
'choose your own adventure'-type program. Even then, I wanted to combine prose with code. It
was just Making Stuff with Words. I didn't differentiate.
suggests Perl programmers can improve their code by thinking in terms of sentences and paragraphs. Best practices.
Makes perfect sense to me. When my friends ask me about my work I tell them I'm a writer, that a good
piece of Perl code has the same structure and thought behind it as a well-written essay, and that I practice
the art of writing every day. It's just that the language I write in is Perl, not English. I know my metaphor is
lost on most non-programmers. But I trust some people understand.
I have a couple different Google Alerts sent to my inbox. Occasionally they
turn up something interesting. Today I got a link to an article that mentioned
a book on Perl and text mining. Since I work in a technical library building,
I checked the online card catalog, walked downstairs and checked it out.
It's now sitting on my desk. Whether I'll make time to read it remains to be