January 28, 2011

PyCon: No Dead Kittens This Year

What, me, harm an innocent kitten?
Last year I was perhaps a little over-enthusiastic in suggesting that if people didn't sign up for PyCon then kittens might be harmed. After a certain amount of retraining at the hands of the ASPCA (who may be kind to animals but surely know how to chastise a recalcitrant human) I am sadder but wiser, and will be threatening absolutely no more tiny harmless furry animals. People misunderstand one's motivations so easily.

Anyway, the purpose of this post is to bring to your attention the fact that for the first time this year places at PyCon US are limited. There is a boat, and it's sailing, so if you want to be on it make sure you proceed straight to registration. Proceed directly to registration. Do not pass "GO", do not collect $200. Why are you still reading this? Didn't I just tell you to go straight to registration?

It is true that registration will have to increase somewhat (about 30%) over last year for the cap on places to be reached, but PyCon has had a growth spurt like that before, and places are definitely selling earlier than they did last year. And why should this be a surprise? After all, Python is one of the faster-growing programming languages at the moment. I have an idea there might not be many last-minute places available this year.

If you or your employer is looking for greater visibility among the Python community PyCon is by far the best place to achieve it, and there are still sponsorship opportunities available. Go to it!

And yes, I have already booked my place. I got the early bird rate. You'll have to get there earlier next year ...

January 23, 2011

Too Busy Writing About Python to Write About Python

Though the subject line of this post might seem self-contradictory it does in fact reflect why I have blogged relatively little of late, and particularly to the Python channel. I became something of a hermit towards the end of last year to put the third of a series of four Python classes into production with O'Reilly School of Technology.

Given that each class is required to represent the approximate equivalent of forty learning hours, I think we can agree I have been writing about Python. Just not in my blog.

Anyway, this leaves the fourth class, which will complete the basic certificate series. So now I have a somewhat different problem: in this last class I want to focus on making sure that successful students have all the fundamentals in their grasp as they set off to earn their livings or indulge their hobbies hacking in Python. I need to wrap the language up--encapsulate it, if you will--in a way that gives students confidence that they understand the whole thing.

In the past, various denizens of comp.lang.python (python-list at python dot org) have offered to help by reviewing existing materials, but I haven't yet cleared that with O'Reilly. Since I suffered some data loss around Christmas time those addresses aren't currently available to me, but I am hoping if I post a link to this article those who are still interested will make themselves known by commenting here.

If you have anything to add, dear reader, kindly do not hesitate to comment yourself. What bits or bits of Python could you absolutely not bear to be without? Techniques, patterns, representations, algorithms and documentation are all grist to the mill. Favorite pieces of code, and even descriptions of warts (but remember, this is a Python 3 class). Tell your friends, invite the gang around, wire in, have a party.

It would serve students well to have as many external links in the last class's lessons as possible, I think, as well as to offer rules of thumb and handy hints. All contributions making it into classes will be appropriately acknowledged.

Once the series is complete I then have to think about what other topics I might tackle. Or should I take a rest and blog a bit more?

Disclosure: the author of this blog will benefit financially from sales of the courses mentioned above.

January 21, 2011

Serious Python Conference Information

Just in case the world needed reminding how active the Python conference world is, I did a search for Python conferences on the lanyrd.com site. At time of writing the query returned 84 conferences in the last couple of years. This is gratifying, but I am pretty sure it's only the beginning.

Answering My Own Question

If I had paused a little longer, or perhaps even taken a slightly fuller screen shot, I would have realized that my original capture was not of Twitter's @holdenweb home page (which is actually shown above, complete with tweet input widget—though it will link to your Twitter home page, as I don't know how to send you to mine; I don't know what you will see if you don't have a Twitter account, but most likely a sign-up page). In fact the previous post shows the @holdenweb profile page.

Never too old to learn, and never (apparently) too old not to need to. Thank you for reading. I now return you to your normal programming.

Wossup, Twitter?

A screen shot of today's @holdenweb Twitter home page
Maybe I am such an old fart that something is staring me in the face and I can't see it, but the "new Twitter" interface in its current manifestation is giving me plenty of reasons to consider usng a third-party application. Where do I enter my tweets?

January 18, 2011

Python at OSCON 2011

The OSCON organizers have asked me to help them recruit more Python talks there this year. It seems that maybe PyCon is the principal venue for those who are already using Python, but there is a vast audience of people who are interested in open source but not necessarily yet committed to Python, and such people are much more likely to attend OSCON, which runs July 25-29, to stay in touch with a range of open source technologies rather than ust Python alone.

Unlike PyCon OSCON is a full commercial conference. Tutorial speakers get help with their travel as well as an honorarium for talking, regular speakers get a free regstration. Both times I have attended I have managed to cover the majority of my costs. And, of course, OSCON is back in the wonderful city of Portland for the second year after a brief flirtation with California. It's a great place to visit, and by the time the conference comes around I hope to be living there.

If you are interested in going one further and would like to join the team that puts the Python syllabus together then drop me a line or simply make a comment here. That's another way to pay your way to OSCON!

The Future Has Arrived

So, after a very nice lunch I am sitting here typing this blog post on my MacBook Air (a device well beyond the limits of the imaginations of most of the science fiction writers of my youth) using a device which I invented three years ago, as I imagine did many other switched-on technologists.

Fortunately unlike most of us Novatel wireless went a bit further and actually built what Verizon are marketing as the "MiFi". It's a device about the size of a credit card and maybe just over a quarter of an inch thick incorporating a cellular broadband wireless router and an 802.11b/g wireless interface.

So to get Internet-connected all I have to do is switch it on (the only control is an on/off switch) and my laptop associates with it and is immediately connected to the 'Net. Not only that but the connection can be shared by up to five wireless devices, so my lucky pals will also be able to take advantage of the connectivity.

As far as I can see the MiFi is a sensible little device that is destined to become the preferred way of accessing the Internet. I hope that coupled with solar chargers it might also help African and other less-developed nations to build a viable Internet infrastructure (not that this will necessarily be their most urgent need).

Quite where this leaves the plans to enforce an Internet ban on copyright offenders in the various jurisdictions of the world I have no real idea. Technology sometimes makes fools of those who would control it, and it is only a matter of time before the MiFi or something similar is available as a "pay as you go" service to all comers.

Equal-opportunity (network neutrality) is an excellent ideal. The problem is with those who would abuse their power to change the laws unfairly to their own advantage, and those who stand idly by as their rights are eroded. The Electronic Frontier Foundation is celebrating its 20th anniversary in 2011. Celebrate the new year by joining the EFF or at least making a donation!