January 29, 2008

MacBook Air Disappointment

I was rather surprised to see that the hard disk for the entry-level MacBook Air, while it has a reasonable 80 GB capacity, is a slow-as-a-drain 4200 rpm version. This is a real disappointment for what would otherwise be a reasonably-specified computer. It's a pity the solid-state optional drive adds a thousand dollars to the price. Still, the cool factor will inevitably have the Apple fanboys queuing round the block, so why should Steve Jobs worry?

January 24, 2008

Publicize PyCon!

PyCon 2008: ChicagoThere are signs that Chicago will be hosting the biggest and best PyCon ever in March this year. Even the publicity effort is better organized this year, with help from a PR company and now the introduction of the self-help PyCon publicity kit thanks to Catherine Devlin. The badge on the left comes pre-linked, and there's a smaller badge for your navigation bar too. Check it out, and help PyCon succeed!

January 21, 2008

PyCon 2008 Registration Opens

Roll up, roll up, roll up, for the greatest show on earth. If you're a devotee of the Python language, that is. In the USA PyCon has quickly become the conference to attend. Registration opened less than 24 hours ago, and early bird pricing ($400 corporate, $200 "hobbyist" $125 student and $60 tutorial only) is available until February 20.

Yours truly was registered early, having taken part in testing the new site, and I have also booked a hotel room. If last year is anything to go by then those wanting to register for tutorials should book early to avoid disappointment: the more popular sessions were filled up even before early bird registration closed.

Doug Napoleone (whose wife gave birth to their third child this month) and the PyCon-Tech team have put in an amazing amount of work to ensure smooth running of the registration process, and it is by far the best site PyCon has had. Kudos to them: this year you can change your registration information after sign-up, preview your conference badge and do many things that have been impossible in earlier years.

So, sign up and I'll see you there!

January 18, 2008

Resolver Released

In yet another piece of good news for Python fans, Resolver Systems have released their first product. It's a spreadsheet that you can manipulate in Python, and it's received a lot of interest from the financial communities on both sides of the Atlantic. [You would not believe how much of the world's financial dealing is controlled and managed by spreadsheets; it's really quite scary].

Resolver One is written in IronPython by a team which includes the Fuzzyman (occasionally also known as Michael Foord), of Voidspace Techie Blog fame, and it's currently the largest product developed in that languages, with a total codebase (including tests) of over 100 kloc. The company is bravely making the product available (though not, I believe, as open source) free for non-commercial use.

Mike and other members of the Resolver team will be at PyCon in Chicago in March, which is yet another reason to attend this most excellent conference. Registrations will, I am assured, be open by the beginning of next week--I have already secured my place by acting a test subject of the registration process, and will attempt to stay for a couple of the sprint days too this year.

Python Declared "Programming Language of 2007"

Yet another article meriting screaming headlines declares Python to be the language of 2007. But on the home page of the python.org website the "news" is that Python 3.0a2 was released on December 9 and there was a Python Bug Day on January 19 (hang on a minute, that publication date has to be wrong, it's 36 hours in the future—someone's been borrowing Guido's time machine again). Anyway, it's nice to see Python getting good headlines, even if it doesn't yet shout them abroad as effectively as it might.

Apparently Python has moved up from #8 to #6 in TIOBE's last table, but unfortunately their obtuse use of web technology (frames within frames, some of them dynamically populated by client-side code) makes it somewhat difficult to link to their explanation of how they compute the results. I suspect myself that a large part of Python's improvement is due to the increasing visibility of IronPython, the Microsoft-supported .NET Python implementation. One rather sad quote for the old guard: "Perl is just dead".

But now I have another blog entry to write.

Python Gets Security Plaudit, Moves to Coverity Rung 2

This is something that hasn't yet made big news, but I don't know why not. For over a year now Coverity, funded by the Department of Homeland Security's Open Source Hardening project, has been working to report potential security flaws in open source projects. The company recently announced that eleven projects had been sufficiently proactive in responding to defect reports that they now move to "rung 2", giving them access to further levels of Coverity's hardening technology.

Of course Python is one of those projects. It says a lot for the developers that they responded so aggressively to the reports (some, inevitably, were specious but several represented significant issues that thanks to this initiative will never trouble Python users). The bottom line? Python, like Amanda, NTP, OpenPAM, OpenVPN, Overdose, Perl, PHP, Postfix, Samba, and TCL, is a project whose developers take correctness and security seriously.

I anxiously await the results of the first scan of some Microsoft product, but I am not holding my breath. Even if the scan takes place (and for all I know Microsoft are using Coverity's scanners every day) Microsoft would not publish the results. This shows the value of openness, one of open source's major benefits: you know that security issues aren't being swept under the rug in the name of profit.

The tail end of a ZD-Net article suggests that some people are less than happy about this project because they feel it will lead to ill-informed discussion about security problems in open source software. While this isn't a battle that will be won in a day, being seen to assiduously fix reported software problems will eventually win against the lip service paid to security by so many commercial vendors. If you're looking for well-informed discussion then this blog is the place to come (he wrote, modestly).

January 17, 2008

Sun Buys MySQL for $1 billion

Sun just raised their bet on open source by buying MySQL AB, the company that makes the most popular open source relational database in the world. They paid $800m in cash and assumed $200m in options to do so, even though MySQL distribute most of their software as open source.

MySQL was the first to aggressively adopt the so-called dual licensing model, which allowed products to be acquired as open source or bought with a support contract, and this has been popular with those who don't like the prospect of having to fall back on their own support resources.

Sun seem to be betting that closer ties with a popular database product will bring them more server and suppoer business, and who's to say they're wrong?

January 8, 2008

Windmill Web Testing Framework

If what this page says is true then Windmill will be very well worth some investigation. Of course the major problem with the Python web world is that so much is going on it's simply impossible to keep up with everything! Of course WSGI lays the foundation for much else, and it appears that Zope 2 now plays well with others.

I think I might start trying to make shorter blog entries just to note the most interesting developments as PyPI (Cheese Shop) contributions fly past at a rate of knots.

In the past I have looked at TurboGears, and was impressed how easy it was to implement the functionality of another web site. Recently I have been doing a similar thing with Django. We are very fortunate to have two such capable frameworks available for our web developments, and I am going to try and make sure that they both get some coverage in Python Magazine.

January 7, 2008

Teaching Python to Programmers

Well, PyCon is now less than three months away, and the most recent event of note was the announcement of the list of tutorials. I am happy to say that my own proposal was accepted, so one of the offerings is Python 101 for Programmers.

The intention is to give experienced programmers who are new to Python enough insight into the language that the simpler PyCon sessions will make sense to them. PyCon is an incredibly valuable resource for promoting the Python language, and I hope that all readers will encourage programmers they know to come to the conference and learn more about this interesting language. Of course I'll be happy to see them in the tutorial too!

The PSF has made real attempts in the last couple of years to evangelize the language, but ultimately the lesson of evangelism is: the best promoters of a language are its enthusiastic users. It seems to me that Python is crossing the knee of some curve right now, and acceptance is improving to the stage that it's getting hard to find Python programmers.

Of course there's another reason for going to PyCon if you are looking for a job. The biggest and best Python employers have realized that PyCon is the easiest place to make contact with the community. You only have to look at the list of past and present sponsors to see that.

So, I hope to see you all at PyCon, preferably in the company of a programmer who's just starting out with the language!