Monday, February 26, 2007

Thanks to Google

... the Geek Event Aggregator is working again. Shortly after my post about the upload to gCal not working, I got an email from Ryan Boyd, of Google's Calendar team:
Someone brought the following post to my attention and I thought I'd follow up and see if I can be of any assistance... The problem that you are experiencing (500 error: Cannot access the calendar you requested) is due to the large size of (number of events in) the calendar.
Wow! Thanks to whoever passed my whining on to him... let me never speak ill of this social web stuff!

With that information, I was able to get it working again, so go ahead and check out that APL conference near your uncle in Kalamazoo.

Better yet, I was able to give my Lightning Talk on it, and it was very well received. The Lightning Talks are so popular that PyCon doesn't even schedule anything opposite them anymore, so basically the entire conference body of 593 people (!!!) was there; I've never spoken before so many in my life. I'm glad that didn't occur to me until afterward.

In the talk, I briefly outlined the architecture. At some point I'll post about it here. The basic principle is: HTML interpretation is hard, let's go datetutils.parser.parse()ing!

Yeah, PyCon! I just got back, and I've got so much to say; expect a flurry of blog posts as soon as I can get to it. I'm as happy as a clam. As several clams! As several unusually happy clams!

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Geek Event Aggravator

I swear to you, the code that gathers data for the Geek Event Aggregator is running great.  It's harvesting over 5,000 events, with ever-improving completeness and accuracy.  

Unfortunately... the code that ships the harvested data up to Google Calendar - which worked perfectly at first - is now falling flat, with gCal returning 
"Error: Cannot access the calendar you requested." 
when I try to ship the new data up, or to clear out the old data - thus the redundant entries.  (No, it's not a simple password problem, I did check that...) 

I suspect that I triggered something at gCal that said, "Hey, there's way too much activity on this calendar, it must be some evil bot, lock it down."
I guess this is the problem with mashups.  It's great to springboard off the work of total strangers - but you're at the mercy of a black box.  Maybe I can buttonhole somebody from Google at PyCon next week (holy cow!  PyCon next week!) and ask for a contact somewhere in the bowels of the gCal team who might be willing to help me troubleshoot.  The sad thing is, this pretty much sinks my plan to do a Lightning Talk on it.

So anyway, my apologies if you've been trying to use the Aggregator and have found only stale and redundant information.  My box is overladen with fresh, hot event data; I just have to figure out a way to get it out to you.  I tried Swivel, but can't seem to get the data there, either.  And the old-fashioned solution - the app running in the Oracle Application Express sandbox - can only receive data by manual uploads, and then only in small chunks; I would have to do about fifty mouse clicks every time I wanted to refresh the Aggregator's data, and I'm sorry, but I'm not a clicker.

The ultimate solution, of course, is to build my own app on my own web server, or on a web host with permissive policies on installing software.  I don't have those resources right now, unfortunately.  (sigh)

[I apologize; Blogger has gone loony on the line breaks for this post, and I can't seem to fix it. Grumble. All my web resources are letting me down today.]

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Presenting at Dayton-Cincinnati Code Camp

The following topics you submitted have been selected to be included in this year’s Code Camp:

· Data in Python, from ASCII to ZODB

Yay! Be in West Chester, OH (i.e., Northern Cincinnati, basically) on March 24 for a fun, free day of Code Camp. Most of the content is .NET, but they're very gracious about encouraging other content, too.

My talk is going to be a broad survey of ways you can get data of various sorts into and out of Python programs - not just RDBMS, but everything from the simplest to the most elaborate of data infrastructures. It's a lot to take on in an hour, but I think it'll be good for raising awareness of the breadth of possibilities - even for non-Python programmers (you poor things). I know I've learned quite a bit already just outlining the talk.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

held for ransom by Vista

I attended an MSDN event here in Dayton last fall, where I was given a beta CD of Vista. I finally got around to putting it on my Windows partition last month. The install went pretty smoothly - it had an option to upgrade the XP partition, preserving the applications and data already present.

I didn't really play with it long enough to form a firm opinion on Vista, but the experiment ended rather badly. Vista popped up a window telling me that the trial period had expired, and it was time to pay up. I had to go to work at that point, so I shut down the machine, brought it into the office, and booted it up again. Then, the "trial period expired" window and a browser window - supplied so that I could buy a license at the MS site - were the only functionality that Vista would enable.
I couldn't go to my desktop, Windows Explorer, a command prompt, or anything that would enable me to access my hard drive. Files that I had created under my paid-for XP were now inaccessible to me; no way was provided to copy them off before reinstalling XP. My hard disk was, in essence, being held hostage; paying for a Vista licence was the ransom.

I tried to reinstall XP from its CD while preserving the data on the partition, but I got some frightening error messages in the process and aborted before risking the whole partition.

This could have been a serious crisis, but for two things -
  • I do all my real work on the Linux partition, and didn't really have anything to preserve from the Windows side. I just wanted to take a look around to verify that.
  • The Windows NTFS partition was perfectly accessible from Ubuntu, so I copied what I needed that way - didn't even need a thumb drive, just dragged icons onto the Ubuntu desktop. Hooray! I hadn't realized that read-only access to NTFS was so foolproof from Linux.
But what if I hadn't been a Linux freak? This could have been a real sackcloth-and-ashes event.

[If it hadn't been a dual-boot machine, I think I could have accomplished the same thing with an Ubuntu install CD, booting from it and copying the files to a USB drive.]

I don't think MS planned it this way. They just failed to plan a soft landing for their software's trial period ending. I'll remember that next time I play with a demo.

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

Microsoft Expression Web

Let me say two things in praise of Microsoft today:

1. They sponsored CodeMash.

2. I really, really like their new HTML editor, Expression Web. I like the split-screen, with the cursor that simultaneously shows each element in the WYSIWYG and HTML panes; I like the ease of generating in-line styles and moving them easily and cleanly to a separate CSS, I *love* the clean, uncluttered HTML it generates (*so* unlike FrontPage, ptui)

And, to my amazement, it's not Microsofty at all. It doesn't generate IIS-dependent code, you can preview the rendering in Firefox, etc. as easily as in IE. It's... respectful!

I'm officially asking my boss to buy us a copy. The one problem is... I prefer to work on Linux. Yes, I have a dual-boot machine, but going back and forth is a pain. So - can anybody recommend their favorite Linux-compatible HTML editors? Has anybody else tried Expression Web? Can you speak to how its features compare? Honestly, I've pretty much stuck with a text editor all this time, and I don't know if Expression Web's features are unique or routine.