Higher Education Web Dev 2004, Day 2.2

by brian d foy

Related link: http://www.highedweb.org/2004/index.html

11:00 am Jason Moore, an undergraduate from the University of Rochester, spent a half hour looking for open source project logos. He found 91, which are now crowding each other out on the slide. He started with "Ruby", which is now covered by a bunch of other logos.

This talk is well-attended: most of the seats in the room are taken: I count about 70 people in the room. The estimated attendance for the conference is about 300, I think, and there are several other tracks going on at the same time.

Jason is going through the basic free software / open source stuff, so I'm tuning out a bit. I have to remember where I put SubEthaEdit so I can take notes with Jim Brandt, who's sitting next to me. Most of this stuff you can find in Open Sources and Free as in Freedom

11:15 am Jason canvasses the room: Who knows the basic open source licenses? Five of us raise our hands, which probably really means 15, since I go by the rule that only 1/3 of the people who can answer yes ever raise their hands.

11:20 am Jason is going over Eric Raymond's Cathedral and Bazaar stuff, which I've really started to detest. I liked it when it came out, but now I think it's facile and dividing. The fight isn't between proprietary and open source programming processes because both have elements of both styles and both can develop great things. You can have my Excel when you pry it from my cold, dead Powerbook. It's pleasant here though: I don't see many fanatics around, so I can have a middle-of-the-road opinion.

11:25 am Slim Devices: Perl source code available.

k12host.com: a website to help K-12 educators set up websites which their classes can use.

11:40 am The most attractive feature of open source at this conference seems to be hackability rather than moral or ethical purity. These people are about getting work done, and they need things that help them do that.

11:45 am Question from the floor: What happens when Jason graduates? He's "the open source guy" in his world right now. Students churn more then employees. Hopefully someone else will take his place. Part of good open source development (well, any development) is gracefully passing the torch.

Lunch What a nice spread! We get restaurant quality food for free (well, as part of the conference price).

2:45 pm Jim Brandt is talking about "Test Driven Development" (I published an article about this by Denis Kosykh in the last issue of The Perl Review). Tests are error-prone, repetitive, and boring, which computers are really good at.

A good testing suite lets us code without fear: without fearing of breaking things, without fear of taking the system down, and so on. The tests (should) catch those things.

3:00 pm Now Jim is onto Test::More. I didn't think this would be a hot topic here, but the room is mostly packed and people are crowding around the doors: probably 70 people or so.

3:20 pm Jim canvasses the room: Who has ever installed a Perl module. It looks like a fourth of the people raised their hands.

3:22 pm On to browser testing. Some of this we can automate with WWW::Mechanize by Andy Lester. We could use that to check some accessibility things, like ALT values in IMG tags. I think I just volunteered to write that extension to WWW::Mechanize to do that. I think it's already done, maybe as a part of HTML::Tidy, so I might get off easy).

3:50 pm I'm off to find an empty room so I can show off Test::More and WWW::Mechanize. If you're at this conference and can corner me, I'd be glad to do the same for you. Although I would really like everyone hear to hire Stonehenge to do formal training and consulting on all this, I'd really just like more people to use it and like to show off. ;)

4:45 pm Rick Ells from the University of Washington is talking about spoofing and phishing attacks. At some point someone will target university networks, so we should be prepared. He has an interesting true life story: some phishers set up signs around campus advertising free wireless (just log in with your campus username and password). The people who fell for it just gave their identity to these clowns running their own wireless network. You don't even need a network for this: just the base station. Once you have their info, who cares if the service actually works?

5:20 pm I think the day is over. Time for dinner!