December 28, 2008

PyCon 2009 Presentations

I've just been thinking about planning for PyCon, and I have a lot to do. The tutorial schedule is a little bare right now, but I am hoping it will be fleshed out soon. There are over 30 tutorials, two of which I am involved in.

Firstly I have to write Python 401: Some Advanced Topics (not my own choice of title), which is supposed to discuss iteration, generators, descriptors and metaclasses. These are all features of Python that could stand some more explanation, but I'd like to put a twist on the material and have the audience suggest potential applications that we can discuss as a part of the tutorial.

There's a second tutorial, Python for Teachers that I'll be presenting jointly with Kirby Urner. The idea behind this one is to try and enthuse those involved with formal education about Python's potential for teaching mathematics of various kinds. Kirby has a lot of experience doing that, and I am supposed to provide irreverent questioning and keep Kirby headed in the right direction. He's the education side, I represent the geeks, if you like. I'm really looking forward to it, but I owe Kirby email about those plans.

Then I have to give an invited talk which I believe will be a plenary session, though that hasn't been confirmed yet. My working title for this is Leading the Python Tribe, in which I want to investigate the shared sense of direction in the Python community, in so far as it currently exists, and offer some thoughts about the roles of the Python Software Foundation.

I am also hoping to run an Open Space session along the same lines as last year's Teach Me Twisted, but this time looking at web testing - an area I would really like to learn more about. I think I have Grig Gheorghiu interested in helping out, but he's a busy guy and hasn't yet committed. If anyone can rope in the knowledgeable web testers we need it's Grig.

To top this all off there'll be the PSF members meeting to chair, sundry sessions in the bar, meals with friends old and new, and all the other wonderful things that happen at PyCon with absolutely no formal scheduling. So I expect to be busy, but I also expect to enjoy myself hugely. See you in Chicago?

December 17, 2008

Sun Developer Network Podcast

It's taken quite a long time to get through the production cycle, but here's a podcast of Ted Leung and me discussing Python 3.0 migration. Something to listen to on the commute?

December 13, 2008

We're, and We Fail

Don't you just hate it when an advertised email address fails? Particularly so when you've sent the email to notify a company about a problem with their web site? It's surprising how some quite large companies fail to pay proper attention to the basics, and I came across a perfect example today.

I've just booked a trip with Jet Blue, and wanted to add a car rental reservation to the booking. Let's ignore for the moment the tedium of having to enter the same details twice due to a lack of integration between Jet Blue and TravelNow, as the price of lower-cost flying. Alas, when I click the "printable version" link after completing the rental reservation I see a pop-up window saying "Unrecoverable error: if this persists please email". Being a good web citizen and having a certain fellow feeling for anyone who struggles to keep the Intarweb working I dash off an email with the URL and my reservation details, only to receive the following missive:

Oh well, these things happen in the best-regulated domains, I guess. An email to postmaster should sort it out. I mean after all, RFC2821 explicitly says
SMTP systems are expected to make every reasonable effort to accept mail directed to Postmaster from any other system on the Internet. In extreme cases --such as to contain a denial of service attack or other breach of security-- an SMTP server may block mail directed to Postmaster. However, such arrangements SHOULD be narrowly tailored so as to avoid blocking messages which are not part of such attacks.

so that's bound to work, right? Wrong:

So I guess the lesson here is "we don't care if there's anything wrong with our web site, and we haven't bothered testing our customer feedback channels". If this company has stockholders, they should be asking questions.

Yes, I have verified my own domain's webmaster and postmaster addresses. I thought it would be a good idea before I made this post. Can you say the same?

Edit: A colleague pointed out that I had amused her by including a typo in the email address, which I have now fixed. So I am not as good at checking the basics as I'd like to be myself ...

December 6, 2008

A Pythonista Lending Group?

I've finally taken the plunge and become a lender with Kiva. It got me wondering whether there might be some potential for a lenders' group in the Python world. I know from personal experience that it contains many people with philanthropic and charitable instincts. If you'd like to join in, let me know.

December 4, 2008

Python 3.0 Is Out

Even though I am on vacation this is worth a quick note. After long efforts by many developers Python 3.0 was released today!

I posted a short article a while ago about 3.0 (in)compatibility, but the differences between 2.6 and 3.0 aren't so great. It's perfectly possible to write 3.0 code that will run on 2.6 too, as most of the language hasn't changed at all.

The preferred strategy for writing code that runs on both versions is to write in 2.6 and then apply the 2to3 converter and verify that it produces a correct 3.0 program. There's no guarantee that it will, so you may need to paraphrase the 2.6 code a few times before you get a transatable program.

Once all the third-party modules you and extensions you rely on are 3.0-ready, and you no longer have clients requiring 2.6 version of your software, you can simply drop the 2.6 compatibility requirement and start to make use of the few 3.0-only constructs that have been introduced.

December 2, 2008

Religion is not Python

About six months ago I made a post called Python is not a Religion, discussing some aspects Python advocacy in response to some comments by Doug Napoleone. About two weeks ago I see a new comment (by Jonathan) appear against that piece:
I noticed that your Blogger profile says "Catholic tastes" for your favorite music. Are you a Catholic, and would you be interested in joining the recently formed Association of Catholic Computer Programmers?
Firstly, I should like to point out that I am not a member of any church. I have no interest at all in worshipping anybody else's imaginary friend, though I try (with varying degrees of success) not to make too much fun of other people's delusional belief systems. I have my own to maintain. In this case I am going to make an exception. Without my really knowing why, this particular comment got right up my nose. I suppose, now I think about it, it's the shallowness of understanding that led the person to post the comment. Google has a lot to answer for.

Secondly, the word "catholic" in my profile is specifically used in the sense of "free from provincial prejudices or attachments", but apparently some Catholics don't appreciate that the name of their church has a broader (and far less exclusionary) meaning, dating back to the days when you were Catholic or you were on the rack, buddy. The Catholic church is so named because it was originally the "general or universal" Christian sect. Of course Henry the Eighth laid waste to that when he started the Church of England, and as far as I can see the Christian faith has more branches than the average oak tree. Whatever.

The Association of Catholic Computer Programmers (Catholics interested in software engineering best practices) appears to be a little schizoid. Are they a social network, a religious institution, or a movement? Some of the discussions are interesting, with comments like "I think we should start a project to benefit a charity of our choosing and put our collective talents as Catholic SEs to good use", which makes me wonder what skills Catholic software engineers have that I don't.

The same guy who started ACCP has started "a pro-life network", though apparently it have only four nodes so far. There's a pretty badge people can use "to identify themselves as being pro-life". Well, of course I am pro-life. Without life I'd be nowhere, and you wouldn't be reading this drivel now. In fact I find it difficult to understand how any living being can be anti-life, with the exception of the dysfunctional. But of course there's a hidden semantic trap there: the opposite of pro-life isn't really anti-life at all, it's "murderer".

The most revelaing thing of all to me is that neither the ACCP nor the above-mentioned network are prepared to do what enabled the commenter to make his or her comment in the first place. They require sign-up to make any sort of input to their site, while my blog allows anonymous comments from anyone (though as a spam reduction measure they aren't immediately posted). So the Catholic Programmers aren't at all catholic in their approach to discussion.

I know a lot of good Christians, but I don't want to join that club. Sorry. I suppose Jonathan can only hope there's no such thing as bad publicity.