Older blog entries for pjf (starting at number 583)

Perl 5.10.1 released
I have a commitment to blog about Perl every week, and this week I was really worried about what I'd write. I've just returned from five weeks of International travel, and my scant time back in Melbourne has been spent taking photos at Manifest, rather than working on anything technical.

It's good that I haven't done anything newsworthy, because it would be completely over-ridden by the news that Perl 5.10.1 has been released. This release has a special place in my heart, as 5.10.1 includes autodie as a core module, and as most of you know, I'm very fond of autodie.

I'm in the process of writing a "What's New in Perl 5.10.1" summary, which will appear as a Perl Tip in the next couple of days. Subscribe by e-mail, Atom, or Facebook if you want to see the tip as soon as it goes out.

UK and Ireland thank-yous
I've spent the last few days travelling around the UK and Ireland, and it's just been lovely. By far one of the nicest things about travelling is the hospitality and generosity of the Perl community, and so I want to take a moment to say thank-you to a few special people who made my travels so enjoyable.

Thank-you to Drew, Kimberley, and Samantha for giving up their home in Dublin, driving around two crazy Australians, and picking us up when we get completely lost. An extra special thanks to Kimberley for some amazing cooking; it's not every day that we get to stay with a professional chef!

Thank-you to Murray and Becky for giving us booze, conversation, lodging, and wifi in their most amazing Edinburgh home. I really wish I got to spend more time in Edinburgh; both the city and its people are beautiful, and haggis is plentiful and tasty.

Thank-you to Andy Armstrong for driving us around the spectacular English countryside, putting us up for the night (and sleeping on the couch!), and then driving us on to Darlington. Given the cost of trains in the UK, Andy saved us a small fortune. Particular thanks goes to Andy for the trip to Hadrian's Wall and Vercovicium, which was spectacular!

Thank-you to my Great Aunt Jennie, who isn't at all involved in the Perl community, but gave us lunch, tea, great conversation, and acted as a guide for many miles of walking and photography around Darlington.

Thank-you to the charity shop five minutes walk from Great Aunt Jennie's house, which had an almost complete Space Hulk 1st Edition set with expansion cards for only £1.50.

Thank-you to Smylers, for putting us up in Leeds, and in particular for putting up with me running off around the city with my pirate friends.

Finally, thank-you to Léon Brocard for organising a London.pm meeting, and for Piers Cawley for the lift to the airport.

YAPC::EU 2009 microreport
I'm still travelling, and so I don't have a reliable sources of connectivity, time, or caffeine. As such, this report is much briefer than I would like.

I made it to YAPC::EU 2009 and survived. As my first YAPC ever, it was great to be at a conference where I could assume that everyone knew Perl. It was also great to meet a number of the people who I'd been working with on-line for years, but never met in person.

It seems that lots of people use autodie. That's good, because it's hard to gauge feelings and reactions on-line, but it's easy when a small group grabs one after a talk and asks detailed questions about its internals. There seems to be a lot of demand for autodie to provide the ability for third-party code to see if it's enabled, and also a lot of demand (not least for me) for Perl to call a special method on exception objects if they're about to kill one's process, as opposed to be caught and handled.

The conference highlight for me were the people. They were very warm, very willing to participate, and heckled only about things I could easily answer. I suspect that means they were also being very nice, since they were a very knowledgeable audience. Privately, everyone was extremely accommodating. Apparently travelling from Australia makes one special, and I felt very special indeed from all the attention.

Looks like I'm out of time for this entry already. I've got yet another flight tomorrow, so I'll try to squeeze out some writing on the plane.

2 Aug 2009 (updated 2 Aug 2009 at 12:38 UTC) »

Malaysia, London, Lisbon, oh my!
If I seem slow to respond, distracted, or exhausted, here's why...

15-18th July
Portland, Oregon
19-24th July
San Jose, California (OSCON)
25-27th July
San Franscisco, California
28th July
On a plane above the Pacific (yes, the whole day!)
29-30th July
Home in Melbourne, Australia
31st July
Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
1st August
London, England
2-5th August
Lisbon, Portugal (YAPC::EU)
6th August
Madrid, Spain
7-10th August
Dublin, Ireland
11th August
Edinburgh, Scotland
12-13th August
Darlington, England
14th August
Leeds and London, England
15-18th August
Kuala Lumpur, Malayasia

Yes, that's a whole month of solid travel, averaging only about 2.3 days in any one place at a time. If you wish to track my trips (eg, to see if I happen to arrive in your part of the world), or if you're curious, you can do so via dopplr.

Right now I'm in Lisbon. I'm exhausted, and have talks to prepare for YAPC::EU. However I suspect a bath and a snooze is going to trump talk preparation for once.

30 Jul 2009 (updated 30 Jul 2009 at 01:31 UTC) »

OSCON 2009 adventures
I think that I've found a new term to describe myself. Adventuretarian. I live off adventure.

OSCON
This was my second year at OSCON, and my first visit to San Jose. Unlike last year, where I was a self-described OSCON rockstar, this year I was happy to take a more relaxed approach. I wasn't giving as many talks, the talks I gave were all quite technical, and I didn't keynote. However, that doesn't mean I didn't have fun; far from it!

This OSCON I played around a bit with outfits. I'd picked up a pirate hat earlier in Portland, and used it in my tutorial when talking about PAR, the Perl Archiver. The hat ended up being one of my best fashion decisions ever, as it found its way into photo shoots, restaurants, and social events. In terms of getting noticed, or being popular with small children, or having random people say "Arrrr..." as they walk past, a pirate's hat is awesome.

My other outfit was my Star Trek uniform, used for my talk on The Art of Klingon Programming. It's not something I can ever imagining wearing for more than an hour or two at a time, as it's hot, and doesn't breathe. Of course, it's fantastic when you want to hang out with the cast of Trek in the Park.

Talking of The Art of Klingon Programming, it looked like it came across smashingly well, but I had forgotten to remind the audience to rate the talk if they liked it. So if you were there, and you enjoyed the session, go rate it now. ;)

I went to less parties than last year, and so met fewer people, but I was able to spend more time with people who I really enjoy as a result. One of the highlights was a beach trip down to Santa Cruz and around to Half Moon Bay, with some pretty spectacular beaches, cliffs, and even a light-house.

San Francisco
After the conference was a trip to San Francisco, staying with Julian (the most amazing photographer ever), and Jackie (the most amazing story-teller ever). Julian and Jackie's house was a hub of creativity and creative people. If I hadn't been so happily exhausted for OSCON I would have made more of it, but as it was I feel I was almost bordering on impolite by crashing and immersing myself in e-mail.

The next day involved a relocation to Skud's house, a home-cooked meal (my first since Schwern's excellent cooking in Portland), and discussions about San Francisco burrito etiquette, gender issues, booth babes, Australian history, pirates, musicals, and conferences. Skud, Schwern, Jacinta, myself, Valorie, and Andre, who I thought I had never met went out for lunch and ice-cream. Of course, in true small world fashion, Andre was Australian, and knew me from linux.conf.au. He's now working for Pixar, which sounds pretty sweet.

My last day in America involved Schwern, Jacinta, and myself going of a tour of the more touristy parts of San Francisco. Crabs and clam chowder seem to be a big deal in these parts, and I was given a "sample" of chocolate that I'm sure provided me with my daily intake of sugar in a single bite. Unfortunately we didn't have enough time for a big get-together of all the SF residents and visitors before I had to fly out. The flight home was good, with an unexpected exit row seat providing lots of legroom.

Home
The only downer of the whole experience is that Jacinta had managed to wrangle me a cool (first generation) Google Android phone, which I discovered that I loved dearly, but which seemed to have fallen from my pocket inside the taxi home. Attempts to recover it were without success, and without having first recorded all the handset details I can't remote-brick the phone, so it's unlikely I'll ever see it again. Jacinta's now given me her android phone, and while I feel incredibly special and grateful, I'm paranoid about losing it, too!

Today I'm preparing my new laptop, which is about twice as awesome as my old one, comes with a three year worldwide warranty, and costs only a third of the price. Moore's Law + USA = Laptop win. I'm also paying bills, sending out invoices and faxes, paying super, catching up on tax, and generally doing all the things that keep a small business running.

Tonight I'm on a flight to Europe for YAPC::EU, which possibly represents the first conference ever where I have all my talks prepared and ready before the conference starts. I'll be back in Australia in a couple of weeks time, no doubt exhausted from my trip and looking forward to the next one.

Around the world with Perl
I've just finished my trip to the USA, which included adventures in Portland and San Francisco/San Jose and surrounds. I had a blast at OSCON, and will post memoirs soon. Right now I'm about to board a plane, fly back to Melbourne, do a stack of paperwork, and then fly off to Europe for YAPC::EU.

A huge thanks to everyone who brought me goodies, showed me around, took me adventuring, let me crash on their couch, took photographs, brought me food, gave me hugs, listened to my talks, commented on my talks, cycled back from hiking, took me to ice-cream, or any of the above. More blogging when I arrive back in Australia. ;)

Portland Adventures II
Today is my last day in Portland, and wow, what an adventure it's been. Friday was spent writing slides, relaxing in tea-houses (green mango bubble-tea with wifi rocks!), and a trip to Beer and Blog at the Green Dragon.

Beer and Blog I was particularly pleased with on many different levels. Ua had invited me to this fine establishment at last year's OSCON, and this represented me arriving, albeit a year late. I had a chance to socialise with cool new people, although I didn't realise just how cool some of them are until I did my research.

What made Beer and Blog really special was that during one of my conversations there was a comment that, "there's another Australian here, he's only just moved over". That other Australian was Mike McClure, with whom I went to University, but had not seen in about a decade!

Oh yes, Beer and Blog also had free beer. That also made it special. ;)

That evening was I was given a tour of Portland by Schwern, Kate, Ua, and Nick. That included beer, dinner, a walk along the river, and a trip to Voodoo Doughnuts. I'd been assured many times that my life would not be complete without having gone to Voodoo Doughnuts, and having been there, I can agree.

While I've been in Portland, Selena has been a wonderful host, and I'd felt that I'd been a terrible guest. Selena is a morning person, and I routinely came home late, slept in, and disappeared at odd times for ice-cream or doughnuts. On Saturday morning, I was determined to buck this trend. With thanks to Jacinta and Schwern who went on a secret ninja grocery mission, I got up extra-early and prepared breakfast. Coffee, juice, amazing toast, and an omelette made with thinly sliced super-fresh swiss brown mushrooms. The look on Selena's face and the huge thank-you hug made it all worthwhile. ;)

The rest of Sunday was amazing. After a snooze I made it to Trek in the Park. This is theatre at its absolute finest. Trek in the Park is brimming over with quality, humour, and superb acting. If you haven't seen it yet, then tonight and next weekend are your last chances to do so, and it won't cost you a cent.

I wore my starfleet uniform to Trek in the Park, which was a huge win. I had arrived a little late, but many members of the audience members must have assumed that I was part of the production, and as such I was able to get a rather nice seat. But the biggest win was the cast reaction; having a guy in uniform and an Australian accent seemed to be something special, which meant that I had no problems meeting the cast, learning about the production, and getting lots and lots of photographs. One amusing fact about the whole thing is that in true cosplay fashion, all the uniforms were made by Kirk's mum. ;)

In the evening was dinner with Stacy, one of my most favourite Portlandians. Stacy was my guide at OSCON 2008, where she gave up much of her time to show me around town, explain the local customs and delicacies, educate me regarding local mushrooms, and stop me from cycling on the wrong side of the road. Stacy was out and about bicycle-hiking this week, but cut short her trip and cycled all the way back to Portland in record time for dinner, making me feel incredibly special.

Today ends my Portland adventures, as I head to San Jose for OSCON 2009, where I'm presenting Doing Perl Right and The Art of Klingon Programming.

Portland Adventures
Last year I went to OSCON 2008 in Portland, Oregeon (PDX), and had a fantastic time. I made many great friends, and fell in love with the town and its people. I was looking forward to returning to PDX every year, but unfortunately this year OSCON moved to San Jose.

Not to be denied the Portland experience by mere conference shifts, I arranged to arrive in America a week early, and re-visit PDX the week before OSCON. I'm here right now with Jacinta, and have had an incredibly social time with friends both old and new.

We've been staying with Selena who has been nothing short of amazing. Accommodation, network access, food, transport, good coffee, and most of all fantastic company have made me feel extremely privileged. Selena knows everyone, and is incredibly popular, so we get invited to all the cool events too! I've met more people in the last two days than I can possibly count. Selena also has a beautiful house; and I'm currently sitting under a tree, next to a pond, with a fountain, fish, power, and wireless. I could happily make this my new office.

I've had a chance to catch up with Kate and Schwern, who caught me on the night I landed in PDX for gelato and conversation. Hanging with Kate and Schwern is like fractal socialising; I'll meet someone, discover we have common interests, they'll introduce me to someone else, and the process repeats. It was only at 2am when I was talking to Kate's house-mate's boyfriend about Magic: The Gathering that my body reminded me that I hadn't slept in a real bed for more than 48 hours, and that passing out in the middle of a conversation would probably be considered impolite.

Yesterday I went to the Portland Pirate Shop with the intention of picking up a puffy white shirt, and was informed that I had just missed Plunderathon, and that all the puffy shirts are gone, so I was doubly sad. Next year I'll need to make sure to arrive in PDX much earlier, so I can participate in costumed piratical goodness.

Picking what to do in the evening was hard. Portland seems to be the place where on a Thursday night one needs to choose between a mountain-biking festival, PostgreSQL user-group, Perl hackathon, and Ignite Portland. It's a great place to be a geek. ;)

In the evening I made it to Ignite, which I've decided that I have to speak at if I get the chance. The audience is relaxed, friendly, looking to be entertained, and all have beer. The talks were pretty good, too. I even met one person who recognised me from my work on the Perl 5.8.9 release notes.

Afterwards I made it to the tail end of the hackathon, drank David's beer at a pub that had a huge number of board-games, and retired back to Selena's with Schwern and Jacinta, where we talked late into the night about all sorts of Perl community ideas, including a cute little plan involving community achievement badges that I like to think of as "Perl Scouts". ;)

These are the last of my Arabian Adventure blogs, which means I'm now caught up with my blogging backlog in time for OSCON.

Saudi Arabian Adventures - Day 6
Today was my last day of teaching, and a challenging one. I had more variation in students backgrounds and skills for this class, which always makes teaching more interesting. Lots of practical examples seemed popular, so they were the main fare for the day. It's easy to show off Perl's strengths when working with text.

During my week in Saudi Arabia I've discovered a few interesting things. While Saudi Arabia as a country fares poorly with women's rights, it's clear that Aramco as a company (or this campus, at least) was very progressive.

Women aren't allowed to drive on public roads in Saudi Arabia. As one of my colleagues put it, "we're hoping that will change soon, but we've been hoping twenty years". However the Aramco campus isn't public, and so there's no problem with women driving inside. Likewise, Aramco recruits the brightest girls from high school. They go through an English language program, and are then sent overseas (usually America or Europe), to earn their degree. They're required to work for Aramco for an equal period to the time they spent studying overseas, although it appears most continue working well beyond that. It sounds like an almost identical scheme to what Australia has with some defence force scholarships.

On my class I had three women out of twenty-four students overall, which is on par for what we get for courses conducted inside Australia. I fear the gender imbalance in IT is a worldwide problem.

Saudi Ararbian Adventures - Day 7
My last day in Saudi Arabia didn't involve teaching, something for which I was extremely grateful. My body clock had fully adjusted to local time, so waking up at 5am was now feeling like waking up at 5am. I slept in, slept some more, had brunch, and walked down to the entertainment complex. It wasn't very busy, and nobody seemed interested in checking passes, so I walked straight in. Sure enough, there was a bowling alley, a cafe, and a library.

I had a late flight back to Dubai, and Fuad had very generously offered to show me about in the afternoon, Breaking the "never turn down an adventure" rule, I actually called Fuad, and turned down an adventure. I was utterly exhausted from the last week, and I seemed to have an endless amount of e-mail and patches to catch up on.

The lack of adventure during the day was more than compensated by the taxi ride that night. It appears that cars put on their hazard lights to tell other road users that they're sticking to the speed limit. In fact, the speed limit appears as if it's the minimum speed at which people are willing to drive.

When we got to the airport, I sighed a huge sigh of relief, thanked my driver, and grabbed my bags. There was an awesome looking mosque opposite, and I went to grab my camera for a photograph. Then I noticed that outside the airport were two guards, heavily armed, and sitting on a tank, smoking. This would have made an even better photograph, until I realised I'd be photographing two heavily armed guards, on a tank, that was parked next to a "no photographs" sign, in a country where I don't speak the language. Consequently, I decided to leave the camera in my bag.

The airport was like airports everywhere, although with less respect for the "no smoking" signs. Most notably, one of the guards who was screening baggage was smoking. Again, I thought this would make a great photograph, and again I thought better of it. Despite the fact that I was told that everyone in Arabia smokes, I actually found it to be quite rare, despite the exceptions I've mentioned here.

Getting through passport control took only one hour, as opposed to three hours getting into the country. I discovered that the airport has a duty free section, but it was rather small, and didn't appear very popular.

The flight back to Dubai was short and pleasant. One of the cabin crew had recognised me from my flight from Melbourne, and we had a nice chat. Another managed to find what I swear was the best coffee I'd had all week. I suspect they have a secret espresso machine hidden in business class, which was broken out purely for my benefit.

Arriving in Dubai I remembered to pick up both my bags, changed my Riyals to Dirhams, and looked at the time. It was about 2:30am in Dubai, which made it around 8:30am in Australia. Through the wonders of free wireless at Dubai airport, and VoIP, I called home for satisfying price of about 2.5 cents/minute.

A short taxi ride later, I was in my hotel, with NetStumbler running and me waving my laptop around on the balcony. I discovered a lack of promising hotspots, and went to sleep.

You read my adventures in Dubai starting here.

These events happened during my recent trip to Saudi Arabia.

Saudi Arabian Adventures - Days 3-4
On the third day of teaching my class swapped over to new students at lunchtime. Included in this group was Abdulaziz, who I had spoken to on the phone a few times, and who formally introduced me to the class on the first day. Abdulaziz spoke English with an American accent, and I was later to learn that he gone to college in America.

Lunch on the second last day Abdulaziz took me to the golf course. Saudi Aramco has a huge golf course, with beautifully kept grass, and is in stark contrast to the surrounding desert. Here they serve a variety of meals, cooked to order. Since it was the middle of a business day, nobody was actually playing golf.

There have been a few things that I've noticed over here. Business attire is very much traditional western or traditional Arabic, with both being very common. Teenage girls can be often seen wearing flowing black over-robes that were very Harry Potter-esque. Lawns and garden beds are covered with a huge number of very fine mist sprinklers, and they run during the day. These sorts of sprinklers are practically outlawed in Australia, with most states suffering from severe water shortages.

At the food hall, I learnt an important lesson. If I was asked if I wanted something to "take away", then that actually meant the food serving would feed a football team, and my answer to such questions should always be in the affirmative. The first time I foolishly said no, and found myself wondering what to do with the incredible amount of food in front of me.

Having wireless access in my room is a real blessing. I don't know where I'd get it otherwise.

Saudi Arabian Adventures - Day 5
Today was my second-last day of teaching, and Abdulaziz informed me that I needed to make sure the class finished early (3pm) as a meeting had been arranged between myself and management.

To make my day more interesting, we had a trainer who wanted to install software for her course next week. Her name was Tina, and her opening line was "Hi, you're a software developer, aren't you?" When I asked how she knew, she claimed "It's the look. You're all trendy, with long hair." That's the first time I've ever heard developers get called trendy, so I can only assume that I mis-heard.

At 3pm we finished early so that I could meet with EDMD management. For some reason, whenever anyone said "EDMD" I would hear "AD&D", my mind would fill with images of dungeon-crawling geologists in flowing black robes fighting an onslaught of umber hulks.

The meeting with management was made more interesting because I didn't have my Aramco ID, which meant Abdulaziz had to make a couple of bluff checks at the security checkpoints to get me through.

The meeting itself was very management-focused. What does Perl do, who uses it, what's its future, and so on? I honestly don't know how I fared with these questions, and in hindsight I fear my answers may have been a little too much on the technical side, but everyone seemed happy.

Afterwards I met Omar, who I had spoken to on the phone a number of times before my trip, but who wasn't enrolled in the course. Omar is a dual-classed geo/developer, and already knows Perl. It also rapidly became apparent that he was very open-source friendly. "We have a program that parses $horrible_file_format, and would like to bundle it into a module and release it to the CPAN. Is that something you can help with?"

That night, Fuad, Abdulaziz, Omar and Mohammed took me out to a traditional Arabic restaurant. The trip getting there was an adventure in itself. Saudi Arabia seemed to lack anything resembling road rules, or if they existed, they were ignored by most of the drivers on the road. Lane-changes happened at random, and cars would speed down the road at breakneck velocity. The primary form of communication between drivers was a brief flash of high-beams, which meant "I am going 40km/hr faster than you, and I'm not changing lanes. You should." This was in stark contrast to driving inside the Aramco campus, where everyone was slow, careful, and polite. Somehow, Omar drove through all this without breaking a sweat or losing his cool.

In the car we talked about content management systems, web technologies, AJAX, Catalyst, Jifty, PHP, package management and deployment, virtual worlds, and a variety of other FOSS-oriented technical subjects. This was good, as it distracted me from the traffic around us.

At the restaurant I was treated to Arabic coffee, which apparently is made from the unroasted beans, and is very good. It also rapidly became apparent that this was a restaurant/museum, with many historical photos and items on the upper floors. There was a large water feature in the middle of the building, and a large lantern feature. It was explained to me that these sorts of lanterns were traditionally lit and placed outside houses at the start of the month of Ramadan.

After a tour of the historical section, we were given quite a banquet of food, some items which I have had before (such as the dips), and some which I had not. One of the most memorable (and most tasty) dishes was a thick paste made of a variety of grains. This was eaten with a thin broth, and stuck to one's teeth almost immediately.

After dinner, and tea, and dates, and more talking, we drove back to the camp, with discussions mostly focusing around virtual worlds, 3D web interfaces, and tunnelling procedure calls from Second Life to Perl.

Sleep was an immediate priority when I returned to my room, as it had become quite late, and I was certain I'd need an extra cup of coffee to get me up in the morning.

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