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August 08 2012

Damian Conway weighs in on new features, best practices and Perl’s future

Damian Conway is a prominent member of the Perl community, author and presenter.

Key points from the full video of our recent interview include:

  • Perl 6 might not be here yet but it is seeping into Perl 5. [Discussed at the 1:09 mark]
  • You really should use a more current version of Perl — one reason — Regular Expressions. [Discussed at the 1:48 mark]
  • Moose — making object orientation easier. [Discussed at the 2:38 mark]
  • Best Practice — Test! Test! Test! [Discussed at the 6:08 mark]
  • The Perl Community — 25 years old and still optimizing the fastest dynamic language out there. [Discussed at the 9:42 mark]

You can view the entire interview in the following video.

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May 25 2012

Developer Week in Review: Oracle's big bet fails to pay off

I've been taking the opportunity this week to do some spring office cleaning. Unfortunately, I clean my home office infrequently enough that at a certain point, cleaning it becomes more an exercise in archeology than organization. There's nothing like finding a six-month-old check you never deposited to encourage more frequent cleaning.

The same can be said for code, of course. It's far too easy to let crufty code build up in an application, and then be faced with the mother of all refactoring efforts six months down the road, when your code finally reaches a critical mass of flaky behavior. It's worth the effort to continually refactor and improve your code, assuming you can convince your product management that quality is as important as new features.

Android is almost out of the woods

It wouldn't be a Week in Review without the latest in Godzilla vs. Gamera Oracle vs. Google. Things aren't looking all too sunny for Oracle at the moment, as the jury in the case just threw out all the patent-related claims in the lawsuit. This doesn't leave Oracle with much left on the plate, as the case now boils down to the question of whether the Java APIs are copyrightable. That's a matter the jury is deadlocked on.

Like all things legal, this is going to drag on for years as there are appeals and retrials and the like. But for the moment, it appears that Android is out of the woods, at least as far as the use of Java is concerned. Of course, there's still all those pesky International Trade Commission issues keeping many Android handsets waiting at the border, but that's a battle for another day ...

Scripters of the world, rejoice!

For Perl developers, a point release of the language is a major event, as it only occurs roughly once a year. This year's edition has just been released, and Perl 5.16 packs a ton of improvements (nearly 600,000 lines' worth!).

Since Perl is such a mature language, most of the changes are incremental. Probably the most significant is further enhancements in Unicode support. Nonetheless, there should be something useful for the serious Perl developer.

FreeBSD bids GCC farewell

As the licensing on the GCC compiler has become increasingly restrictive, some of us have been wondering when the fallout would start. Wait no longer: The FreeBSD team has ditched GCC for the more BSD-friendly licensing of Clang.

GCC has spent decades as the compiler of choice for just about everything, but recent changes in the GPL have made it less attractive to use, especially in commercial development. With the Apple-sponsored Clang compiler now seen as a viable (and perhaps even superior) alternative, with a much less restrictive license, the Free Software Foundation may need to decide if it would rather stand on principle, or avoid becoming marginalized.

Got news?

Please send tips and leads here.

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May 22 2012

Four short links: 22 May 2012

  1. New Zealand Government Budget App -- when the NZ budget is announced, it'll go live on iOS and Android apps. Tablet users get details, mobile users get talking points and speeches. Half-political, but an interesting approach to reaching out to voters with political actions.
  2. Health Care Data Dump (Washington Post) -- 5B health insurance claims (attempted anonymized) to be released. Researchers will be able to access that data, largely using it to probe a critical question: What makes health care so expensive?
  3. Perl 5.16.0 Out -- two epic things here: 590k lines of changes, and announcement quote from Auden. Auden is my favourite poet, Perl my favourite programming language.
  4. WYSIHTML5 (GitHub) -- wysihtml5 is an open source rich text editor based on HTML5 technology and the progressive-enhancement approach. It uses a sophisticated security concept and aims to generate fully valid HTML5 markup by preventing unmaintainable tag soups and inline styles.

October 26 2011

Four short links: 26 October 2011

  1. CPAN Turns 0x10 -- sixteenth anniversary of the creation of the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network. Now holds 480k objects.
  2. Subtext -- social bookreading by adding chat, links, etc. to a book. I haven't tried the implementation yet but I've wanted this for years. (Just haven't wanted to jump into the cesspool of rights negotiations enough to actually build it :-) (via David Eagleman)
  3. Questions to Ask about Election Polls -- information to help you critically consume data analysis. (via Rachel Cunliffe)
  4. Technologies, Potential, and Implications of Additive Manufacturing (PDF) -- AM is a group of emerging technologies that create objects from the bottom-up by adding material one cross-sectional layer at a time. [...] Ultimately, AM has the potential to be as disruptive as the personal computer and the internet. The digitization of physical artifacts allows for global sharing and distribution of designed solutions. It enables crowd-sourced design (and individual fabrication) of physical hardware. It lowers the barriers to manufacturing, and allows everyone to become an entrepreneur. (via Bruce Sterling)

June 15 2011

Developer Week in Review: Are .NET programmers going extinct?

After an adventure-filled return trip from WWDC (Southwest eventually did find my luggage ...), it's back to the regular grind, spanning the globe to bring you all the news you need.

Are .NET developers the next buggy whip makers?

So, you say you're a ninja .NET guru, able to churn out WFC C# code in the blink of the eye, and you've got every obscure Microsoft API call memorized? Well, if recent rumblings from Redmond are to be believed, there's a large asteroid heading your way called Windows 8.

To say that Microsoft developers are unhappy over the news that tablets running Windows 8 will use HTML5 and JavaScript as an app programming platform would be to say that Steve Jobs likes black turtlenecks. While Microsoft was clear to point out that old-style Windows programs will run on Windows 8, the message seems to be that spending years and years becoming a master of the arcane programming secrets that make Windows tick will no longer be necessary.

This is certainly good news for anyone who has ever taken one look at the phonebook-size manuals that .NET programming requires and ran away screaming. It also would seem to be good news for the HTML5 standard, although Microsoft's history with standards is a checkered one. But if your claim to fame is knowing the Microsoft platform inside and out, the writing may be on the wall that your talents are no longer going to be in such high demand.

Sorry I missed gym class, I was managing my IPO...

You may feel pretty proud of your child, who just won the spelling bee or got an A on her last math test. Then again, you could consider young Daniil Kulchenko, who just sold his company to ActiveState at the tender age of 15. Kulchenko's product, a tool for Perl development in the cloud, evidently caught the eye of the scripting IDE maker, and ActiveState both bought out the company and brought Kulchenko on-board as a part-time employee.

Forget feeling inadequate about your child. Kulchenko makes me feel inadequate.

OSCON Java 2011, being held July 25-27 in Portland, Ore., is focused on open source technologies that make up the Java ecosystem. (This event is co-located with OSCON.)

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Get Ready for J2SE 7

It's taken five years, but the Java Community Process (JCP) executive committee has finally put their seal of approval on Java v7. The vote was 13-1, with Google the lone holdout. However, if you look at the comments that accompany the "yes" votes from companies such as Red Hat and IBM, you'll see that no one was particularly happy about Oracle's insistence on retaining the licensing veto on Java implementations, a stand that drove Apache out of the JCP after Oracle refused to bless the Apache Harmony implementation.

Java 7 will include support for multicore processing, as well as a bunch of improvements to the language, such as being able to switch on a string value, and a better way to check for null values. The new standard faces a final vote before it becomes the law of the land.

Got news?

Please send tips and leads here.


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May 18 2011

Developer Week in Review: Buying a lawsuit with an in-app purchase

Hello, and welcome to another fun-filled week of frolic and mayhem in the software industry. We'll get right to the news, but first this short commercial message.

Do you suffer from the heartbreak of buffer overruns? Has your SQL been injected? Do you stay awake at night because of cross-site scripting attacks? If so, try new Hackitol Plus, now available in convenient 8-hour strength. Don't let poorly secured applications keep you from leading the life you want to have. Note: Side effects may include nausea, heart palpitations, and the inability to use Flash or Facebook. Consult your doctor if you are currently developing in JavaScript.

And now, back to our program.

iPhone developers ask for whom the suit trolls

The continued three-ring-circus that is software intellectual property continued to roll right along last week, with a group of iPhone app developers the latest to feel the sting. Lodsys sent legal nasty-grams to a number of developers who were taking advantage of the evidently patented idea of doing in-app purchases. This has evidently led Apple to put some new iPhone apps, which use the feature, on hold.

Interestingly, Lodsys claims that Apple, among others (including Microsoft and Google) already licenses the patent, but that it doesn't extend to developers using Apple's in-app function. That's going to be an interesting argument to watch play out. Does that mean if Apple licensed a technology to render an iOS control, and developers use that control in their applications, they'd need to get a license as well?

Apart from being a headache for both Apple and the developer community, there could be other far-reaching ramifications. For example, would Steam's in-game purchasing of weapons and clothing be subject to the same patent? Until Congress or the courts step in and stop the madness, it's anyone's guess.

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Mono strikes out on its own

MonoAs previously reported, Novell's new overlords (that would be Attachmate, which still sounds like some kind of "As Seen On TV" product to me) gave the Mono developers their walking papers last week. Now Mono guru Miguel De Icaza has formed a new company to pick up the pieces. The company, called Xamarin (which sounds like a prescription sleeping aid to me), will offer commercial Mono support, as well as .NET tools for Android and iOS.

Knit One, perl 5.14

Perl 6 may be languishing out there with "Duke Nukem Forever," but there's still new perl to be had. This week, perl 5.14 hit the streets. Improved Unicode support seems to be a major thrust of the release (click here for all the gripping details.)

For those of us who grew up (professionally, at least) with perl in our toolbag, it's good to see continued active development on the language. While I may not pull that particular tool out as often as I used to, I still find myself writing the occasional script to grovel over a file and pull out the golden nuggets I need.

Got news?

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May 09 2011

Four short links: 9 May 2011

  1. UDID DeAnonymization -- a developer exposed an API that connected UDID to other information such as Facebook ID. The API has been closed, but it remains true that your iPhone has a primary key and darn near every app developer has a database linking your UDID to other details about you. Apple requires this to not be public, but every private database is a bad architecture choice or security slipup away from being a public database.
  2. Be Your Own Souvenir -- Kinect + 3D printer = print a tiny figurine of yourself. Kinect has solved a very real part of the input problem that 3D fabbing had. (via BoingBoing)
  3. Campher -- Perl embedded in Go, by Brad Fitzpatrick.
  4. Slides from JS Conf 2011 -- more than thirty talks, from greats like David Flanagan, Thomas Fuchs, and Tom Hughes-Croucher. (via Isaac Z Schlueter)

April 19 2011

Four short links: 19 April 2011

  1. Lines (Mark Jason Dominus) -- If you wanted to hear more about phylogeny, Java programming, or tree algorithms, you are about to be disappointed. The subject of my article today is those fat black lines. Anatomy of a clever piece of everyday programming. There is no part of this program of which I am proud. Rather, I am proud of the thing as a whole. It did the job I needed, and it did it by 5 PM. Larry Wall once said that "a Perl script is correct if it's halfway readable and gets the job done before your boss fires you." Thank you, Larry.
  2. PHP Clone of Panic Status Board (GitHub) -- The Panic status board shows state of downloads, servers, countdown, etc. It's a dashboard for the company. This PHP implementation lets you build your own. (via Hacker News)
  3. The Management Myth (The Atlantic) -- a philosophy PhD gets an MBA, works as management consultant, then calls bullshit on the whole thing. Taylorism, like much of management theory to come, is at its core a collection of quasi-religious dicta on the virtue of being good at what you do, ensconced in a protective bubble of parables (otherwise known as case studies). (via BoingBoing)
  4. Obsolete Technology -- or, as I like to think of it, post-Zombie-apocalypse technology. Bone up on your kilns if you want your earthen cookware once our undead overlords are running (or, at least, lurching) the country. (via Bruce Sterling)

January 14 2011

Four short links: 14 January 2011

  1. What Went Wrong at Borders (The Atlantic) -- a short summary of the decline and fall of Borders. Borders has a special place in our hearts at O'Reilly: it was a buyer for Borders who pointed out that Programming Perl was one of their top-selling books in any category, which got Tim focused on the Open Source story.
  2. Virtues of Monitoring -- great explanation of the different levels of monitoring you could (and should) have in your application. (via Simon Willison)
  3. Getting Started with Processing and Data Visualization -- a quick intro to building data visualizations with Processing. Nice variety in the examples, too. (via Hacker News)
  4. A Localization Horror Story -- how hard it is to localize correctly. A wonderful article that is ruthlessly accurate in its descriptions of the pains of localizing software, which is no easier today despite the article being over a decade old.

December 22 2010

Developer Year in Review: Programming Languages

Continuing our look at the year in development, let's move on to the exciting land of languages. We'll finish off next week with operating systems.

Java: Strategic asset or red-headed stepchild?

Watching Oracle's machinations around Java can be more than a little confusing. One minute, they're talking about forking it into free and commercial versions, a potential slap in the face to the open source community. Then they refused to let Apache's Harmony project have access to key testing suites to certify the Java alternative. But then Oracle ended the year on their hands and knees begging Apache to stay in the JCP (and failing).

Meanwhile, we saw yet another "that's not really Java" lawsuit. This time Oracle was suing Google over the Android implementation. Evidently, having Bill Gates and Steve Ballmer as dire enemies wasn't good enough for Larry Ellison, so he's trying to add Sergey Brin and Larry Page to his list as well.

On a side note, has anyone noticed how Java basically took over the mobile space? Of the three major smartphone platforms (sorry Windows, you have a ways to go before you make that list again ...), two of them run Java of some sort. If you add in J2ME, which is inside many of the "clamshell" phones, Java is the dominant player in mobile.

It was also a good year for the JVM, as JVM-powered languages such as Closure, Groovy and Scala leveraged the omnipresence of Java to gain traction.

I see your 8 cores, and raise you 8

Functional programming considers to gain in popularity in the years ahead, mainly as programmers try to come to terms with how to leverage all the multi-threaded power available to them in modern hardware. Along with the aforementioned Scala, Erlang and Haskell have also seen commercial deployments increase.

Francesco Cesarini gave a great talk at OSCON on how Erlang can help developers. Unfortunately, there was no transcript, because it had no side effects. (Trust me, the functional programmers in the readership are falling over laughing.)

In other language news ...

Perl: Perl 6 still lags "Duke Nukem Forever" as far as being promised software still awaiting final shipment, but only by three years.

PHP: With Salesforce.com adding PHP to their language arsenal, you can now run PHP on all the major cloud-based platforms (the others being Amazon, Windows and Google.)

Ruby: No new major version of Ruby this year, nor any earth-shattering news, but it continues to be the language that all the cool kids use.

Python: Release 3.2 is on track for a Q1 2011 release. "Python" is also a lousy word to put into a Google News search, unless you enjoy reading about people smuggling snakes through customs and DPW workers making unexpected discoveries in sewers.

That's it for this week. I'll take a look at the year in operating systems in the next edition. Suggestions are always welcome, so please send tips or news here.



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July 01 2010

Four short links: 1 July 2010

  1. Conflict Minerals and Blood Tech (Joey Devilla) -- electronic components have a human and environmental cost. I remember Saul Griffith asking me, "do you want to kill gorillas or dolphins?" for one component. Now we can add child militias and horrific rape to the list. (via Simon Willison)
  2. Meteor -- an open source HTTP server that serves streaming data feeds (for apps that need Comet-style persistent connections). (via gianouts on Delicious)
  3. Hobby King RC Store -- online source for remote control goodness, as recommended by Dan Shapiro at Foo.
  4. RethinkDB -- MySQL storage engine optimised for SSD drives. See also TechCrunch article.

May 19 2010

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