Thursday at OSCON

by Ann Barcomb

Related link: http://www.oreillynet.com/oscon2004/




The first morning keynote was a discussion with the Dyson family. Esther was
unable to make it due to bad weather in Chicago, so Freeman and George spoke
about the place of technology.




Next I attended Casey West's talk on database abstraction with Class::DBI.
Class::DBI is an object syntax wrapped around a relational database. It
aims to remove SQL from the top-level code.




Packages are built by inheriting from a base class. Columns and relationships
are defined. Class::DBI appears to be a good model for simple database
relationships, but the interface is not always consistent: for example,
creating and deleting records require just one method call apiece, whereas
modification requires a call to update() for the change to take
effect. Also, transactions are not fully integrated in to the API. Still,
it is a good solution to the often redundant SQL code that frequently
appears in applications.




Several of us went to lunch at Rice Junkies, which was a bit further away
than we had anticipated. The food was pretty good, however.




Later I saw 'Writing, Reviewing, and Instigating Books' by Laurie Petrycki
of O'Reilly. This talk focused on what you need to do to become an author
or a reviewer for O'Reilly. In addition to covering desirable topics,
Laurie went over common misconceptions with writing and urged every would-be
author to create a detailed outline to assist in writing the book itself.
She also described the process that an O'Reilly book follows from conception
to distribution and beyond.




I planned to see 'The Credibility of Election Software' by Clive Boughton,
but the talk was postponed so I attended 'Parrot in the Real World' by Dan
Sugalski. In short, Dan will be using Parrot in production code, and this
has greatly aided the development of Parrot.




Dan's efforts may have created a better Parrot, but due to starting late
and computer problems, certain Parrot goals were not met.




At last year's OSCON, Dan and Guido van Rossum made a bet on whether
Parrot would run Python faster than the existing compiler. The bet was
for $10, a round of drinks, and a pie in the face at 10 paces. A series
of tests were devised. Of the tests which were completed, all but one
met the goal, but the majority of tests weren't ready.




After his speech, Dan was taken to the Python lightning talks, accompanied
by quite a number of Perl programmers. A plastic screen had been set up
in the back of the room in anticipation.




Much to the disappointment of the crowd, Guido declined to actually throw
the pie. The Perl contingent were perhaps among the most disappointed.




In the late afternoon I persuaded Bill Odom to show me 'Advice for Open Source
Job Seekers', a speech he had given earlier in the day with Andy Lester.
It was interesting to hear what a small percentage of jobs are found through
job sites. The talk also covered some interesting suggestions for resumes,
interviews and cover letters for both the job seeker and the person giving
the interview. Of paramount importance is studying the company that you
intend to apply for, both so that you can ask relevant questions and in
order to see in advance if the job would suit you.




In the evening I attended NASA's talk on open source software in the Mars
mission, which I wrote about in more detail in an article.




Following the Martian event, I grabbed a quick dinner at the hotel restaurant
and made my way to the Perl Foundation charity auction. Robert Spier and
Michael Schwern hosted the lengthy and profitable auction. Because the
Perl 6 team was being treated to dinner by Fotango, the room was missing
several key Perl developers. There were perhaps 50 people in the room, but
this small group raised over $2000 to support Perl. Rocco Caputo aided the
proceedings by serving as a waiter, bringing drinks in from Novell's
Free as in Beer party down the hall.




Amusing items seemed most popular. A banana sold for $4 and the peel was
later resold for $5. Two camps vied over the state of Schwern's clothing;
the group who wanted him to remove his shirt won. Lounge music was obtained,
and Schwern performed a lap dance to the dismay of his victim. A glossy
photograph of the event was auctioned a few minutes later.




Still feeling let down from the aborted pie-toss in the morning, the
audience met Dan Sugalski's $500 reserve price for the right to throw
a pie in his face at close range. As the largest contributor to the
group bid, Michael Schwern was chosen to deliver the pie thrust on
Friday.