Sunday, November 22, 2009

Viva Tortuga

Joseph Lisee, author of the upcoming Python submarine robot PyCon talk, left a comment on my last post. I think he was a little shy about me highlighting him.

I'm sorry, Joseph. You really left me no choice.

Completely Unfounded Rumors About "An Underwater Python: Tortuga the Python Powered Robot"

Roll 1d6 for each hour spent in the Atlanta Hyatt bar.
  1. 1. Joseph will announce the release of, a pure-Python implementation of the Three Laws of Robotics.
  2. 2. Bring a swimsuit and snorkel. One lucky audience member will be picked to join Tortuga in the hotel pool, where Tortuga will take a fish from their hand.*
  3. 3. Jozeph 'az been practeeseeng 'eez reedeeculous Jacques Cousteau accent for months and weel uze eet to deeleever zee eentire talk.
  4. 4. Several minutes into the presentation, Tortuga will overpower Joseph, throw him from the stage, and announce that humankind is obsolete and has been deprecated.
  5. 5. Attendees will be asked to pour out a libation to Poseidon. Any caffeinated beverage may be used.
  6. 6. There will be a sprint to construct a tall, dapper companion to Tortuga for communication and protocol purposes.
* - No, Tortuga won't be physically present at PyCon. It's not that portable. Believe me, the program committee asked!

P. S. Blogger, don't you know what an <ol> is? You know, like an <ul> with numbers.

Friday, November 20, 2009

PyCon pre-favorites

When I look over the PyCon 2010 talk list, I'd like to be at about half of them (a physical impossibility, until I master self-multiplexing). Still, these are the ones that I'll move heaven and earth to be at. What about you - what are your favorites?
Extending Java Applications with Jython
I'm hopeful that this can really move Jython from my "stuff I think is cool" box to my "stuff I use every day" box.
IronPython Tooling
This is going to cover development environments and tools for debugging and profiling... pretty much a necessity in the .NET world. I also hope to use the video of this talk in the future in talking to the hordes of programmers around here who live and breathe Visual Studio.
Python in the Browser
Silverlight is way too cool to leave to the C# kids.
Think Globally, Hack Locally - Teaching Python in Your Community
As a local group-leader type geek, I'd love to start some of these Hack Nights.
Dude, Where's My Database?
There were so many proposals for descriptions of non-relational databases - but this one really stands out because it looks at the huge picture, classifying databases by their broad category and highlighting what makes each category beneficial for particular purposes.
Sprox: data driven web development
I confess - I've fallen behind the TurboGears world lately. Nobody's demanded a dynamic web app of me for a while, and TG has moved too fast for me to keep track of it. When last I was involved, Sprox was just emerging. I hope this talk will help me catch up.
Revisioned Databases for MultiUser Editing
Revisioned databases are an interesting concept, and seeing how one was actually developed should warm my datageek heart.
Easy command-line applications with cmd and cmd2
Interactive command-line interfaces were good enough for ZORK, and they're good enough for you! cmd and cmd2 make them crazy-easy. (I'll get in trouble if I don't go to this one, since I'm the speaker.)
Dealing with unsightly data in the real world
Gathering data from disparate, chaotic sources is a big part of pretty much everybody's life. I'm eager for any new insights.
An Underwater Python: Tortuga the Python Powered Robot
because, deep down inside, people everywhere are the same; we all want to be loved, and Python-powered robot submarines.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Configuring Oracle Data Guard

The official Oracle Data Guard docs are, of course, the most complete and accurate source of information about setting up Data Guard.

They're not very easy to use, though. They don't provide a walk-through of the entire process, for example, instead branching the discussion at every possible decision point.

I just fought my way through the process, with help from Chris Ruel of Perpetual Technologies, and thought I'd record my steps for the benefit of humankind. OK, that's not true - it's actually because the Internet is the only place I can leave myself notes and be certain to find them again later.

It's too bulky for a blog post, so here: Oracle Data Guard Configuration Walk-Through

Thursday, November 05, 2009

pernicious proxy problem

For the past few weeks, I haven't been able to access or any of its pages through a proxy server. My workplace has one standard proxy server, and I also use a personal machine as a SOCKS proxy for an SSH tunnel - and both of them have been getting name resolution errors for all sites. I haven't seen it for any other sites, or when using no proxy.

Does anybody know what's going on? Is there something about that would make name resolution work differently for it?

[EDIT: Friends from the Dayton Dynamic Languages SIG figured this one out. My primary workplace proxy server is blocking DNS lookup on the domain. Trying to use a different proxy through a SOCKS/SSH tunnel produced the same DNS failure, because - to my surprise - by default, Firefox does not make its DNS requests through the SSH tunnel even when all other traffic is tunneled. The network.proxy.socks_remote_dns preference must be set to change this. See "Proxy Firefox through a SSH tunnel".]

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

A PyCon program committee volunteer reflects

The PyCon program committee has finished its work. All submissions have been reviewed, debated, argued on, and voted - often through several cycles. Emails accepting and declining talks have gone out.

I wanted to blog about my impressions as a program committee volunteer. Note that this is totally unofficial, and I'm not speaking on behalf of the committee, PyCon, etc.

It was wonderful

Just reviewing the talks was a great experience. Some of the talks were fun just to visualize; watching them will be even better. I learned lots about what is going on in the Python community. The program committee is a smart and fun crowd to work with, too.

It was horrible

The problem with a programming language that can do pretty much anything is that three days of scheduled talks are nowhere near enough to see everything that's going on. I wish we could have five days of talks, but there are too many people who wouldn't have the time or money for such a conference.

With room to accept fewer than half of our submissions, we had to turn away talks that would have been great. For instance, the one talk I most wanted to see - the proposal I would have walked barefoot to Atlanta for - got declined. What can you do? Often "pretty much everybody was pretty excited about this" talks had to be sacrificed for the sake of "virtually everybody was dying to see this" talks.

But wait, there's more

Fortunately, scheduled talks are only the tip of the PyCon iceberg. We have Lightning Talks, Open Spaces, and (new this year) poster board sessions! I hope all declined speakers will consider taking their material to one or more of those formats!

PyCon is going to be wonderful

I think we have the best crop of presentations we've ever had. If you can look through the list of accepted talks and not start making Atlanta travel plans, then you are already dead.

PyCon is going to be horrible

... because, with five simultaneous tracks packed with the very best of material, I promise you will face multiple can't-miss talks going on at the same time, all day, every day. The painful decisions of the program committee are really only a preview of the difficult decisions every attendee will have to make at the conference itself.

For 2011: increasing your chances

If you want to make your future PyCon proposal more appealing to the committee (making our decisions even harder - thanks a lot), here are some of the things I saw that helped talks make the cut.
  • The basics: a clear talk description, orderly-looking outline, plausible-looking timings. If reviewers ask questions, answer them. Give every impression that you're prepared to put serious effort into your talk.

  • Broad appeal. It's OK to present on specialty topics, of course, but if you can point out ways that even people outside the specialty will also want to see it, it will help.

  • Unusual topic. Every year, there are some hot topics that everybody in the community seems to be talking about... and submitting talks on. Since we're not going to accept a dozen talks on any topic, no matter how hot, these talks need to prevail over a lot of competitors. On the other hand, if you've got a topic that makes the committee say, "HUH? Wow, I'd never heard of anything like that!", it really helps you stand out.

  • We always get more intermediate-level submissions than for beginner or advanced, so the competition was fiercest there.

  • What will attendees get from your talk that they couldn't get simply from reading the docs? Make sure we can tell.

  • Evidence of preparation and skill. Some speakers had established reputations as skillful, engaging presenters; some provided links to their slide decks from earlier versions of their talks given at local groups or regional conferences; a few linked to actual recordings of earlier versions of their talks. Give your talk at a nearby usergroup, then convince one of your group members to volunteer for the program committee. :)

  • Scratch the itch. When committee members say, "Ah, yes, I've been puzzled by that and dying for a proper explanation!" - or, "I personally understand it, but I see misunderstanding of it throughout the community and wish somebody would help clear it up", that is a big plus.

  • Keep the Py in PyCon. If the topic is one of general IT interest - database technology or rich web client programming, for instance - then make sure to emphasize the Python angle of your talk. How do you work the problem from Python specifically? What do Python users need to know about the problem that they won't learn from materials aimed at the IT community overall?
Anyway, my personal thanks to everyone who submitted, and I really hope to see you all at PyCon!