Thursday, October 30, 2008

Sprechen Sie GNU/Linux?

My boss has been supportive of my love for open-source, but I've never really been able to make him understand what makes it commercially viable. I think I finally blundered across the right analogy, though.

Simon and Schuster could develop a proprietary written language for their authors to write fiction in. Then, they could try to persuade people to learn Simon-and-Schusterese in order to read their books. In fact, if they did a fantastic job of marketing, they might persuade people to buy the right to learn Simon-and-Schusterese, then buy the books. Meanwhile, their legal department would chase down anybody using Simon-and-Schusterese without proper payment and licensing. Random House, HarperCollins, etc. could do the same with their own proprietary corporate languages. It's vastly more practical, though, for everybody to write in - and sell in - a language that nobody owns, everyone can use, and everyone contributes to.

Of course, in the real world, shared human languages came before publishing companies. But if, somehow, things had happened the other way around, you can see how there would be some initial skepticism (What? Give away our language for free? When we could charge money for it?), but companies that started working with a shared language would eventually dominate, and society would be much richer and more literate for it.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

cmd2 0.4, now with testing

cmd2 0.4 has been released. Its biggest new feature is transcript-based testing. Basically, you can write a test suite for your cmd2-based application just this easily:

1. Add to your application script (suppose it's

from cmd2 import Cmd2TestCase
class TestMyAppCase(Cmd2TestCase):
CmdApp = CmdLineApp
transcriptFileName = 'exampleSession.txt'

parser = optparse.OptionParser()
parser.add_option('-t', '--test', dest='unittests', action='store_true', default=False, help='Run unit test suite')
(callopts, callargs) = parser.parse_args()
if callopts.unittests:
sys.argv = [sys.argv[0]] # the --test argument upsets unittest.main()
app = CmdLineApp()
2. Run a session of your application. Run all the commands you want to test.

3. Cut-and-paste your entire session into exampleSession.txt.

4. Run python -t

Ta-da! cmd2 runs runs your app, issues all the commands saved in exampleSession.txt, and verifies that they produce the same output as in your transcript. Now you can change your app fearlessly without bugs sneaking in.

Finally, cmd2 is now available for Python 2.4 through 2.6.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Monty Python Fluxx

We are so going to play this game at PyCon.

Maybe I'll go to a talk or two, too. Between games.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

sqlpython: getting crowded in here

I've come across two other SQL command-line clients lately, both written in Python:

pysql, like sqlpython, is for Oracle only.

sqlcmd is intended to work across all sorts of database backends (Oracle, postgreSQL, MySQL, etc.) seamlessly.

I intend to publicly review them soon. In the meantime, thought I'd let you know of their existence.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

speaking at IEEE

In my ongoing campaign to teach Python to every multicellular organism in Ohio, I'm bringing my Smash, Crash, Kaboom Course in Python (you know, the one with the exploding planets) to this Tuesday's meeting of the IEEE-Dayton Section Computer Society Meeting. The chapter invites non-members to attend, too; no charge, but $3 to buy into the pizza.

The talk materials are here.

October 21, 2008 11:3012:30pm
Introduction to Python
Lockheed Martin Corporate Sales
2940 Presidential Drive, Suite 290
Fairborn, OH, 45324 USA

This hCalendar event brought to you by the hCalendar Creator.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Counting votes: You're doing it wrong

I have to admit, the first time I heard about people mistrusting computerized voting, I just felt amused. Silly Luddites, I thought. After all, how hard can it be for a computer to count?

Really hard, it turns out, if you start with the stupid premise that you ought to write every byte of the software from scratch, incorporating no preexisting software of known and verifiable quality. That's the approach that proprietary vending machine makers have taken - presumably to lend credibility to their patents.

There's a new interview with the Ohio Secretary of State, Jennifer Brunner, where she talks very frankly about the serious problems Ohio has found with its voting software. I'm glad Ohio now offers a paper ballot option. I'm going to use it. I truly have no idea what happened to my 2004 vote.

There's a perfect solution waiting to be used: PVote by Ka-Ping Yee, one of the Python community's greats. In his interview with NPR's Science Friday, he describes how voting software should and can be written: as a minimal, readable, high-level program that relies on existing open-source components of thoroughly-verified quality. Ka-Ping, my vote is for you.

PyOhio's table at Ohio LinuxFest

This year, PyOhio decided to buy table space in the nonprofit exhibitors' area of Ohio LinuxFest to publicize PyOhio (as well as PyCon and Python in general).

It was a really good decision! The "hallway track" is one of the most interesting parts of any conference, of course, but when you have a table of interesting stuff to draw people in and start conversations about, it goes to the next level. I barely made it into any formally scheduled events at all, and had lots of fun meeting people from the big and growing open-source community. I tried to preserve my voice, but I was half-hoarse by the time my 4:00 talk started.
  • Ponyshow was a big hit - it caught peoples' eye and drew them over to the table. I'd still like to add more flashy graphics to it for next year, though - I ran short on time, and had trouble installing pyglet. Tables in the nonprofit zone lacked electricity, but I used two laptops to get around that - one on display at the table and one recharging at an outlet elsewhere.
  • Python stickers donated by PyCon were an even bigger hit. If 1/2 the people who took a sticker are using or will use Python, we've got a very healthy community here!
  • I whipped up a homemade PyOhio banner that went pretty well. I projected our logo onto a wall, traced the outline, used an Exacto knife to make a stencil from the pattern, then used some fabric spray paint.
  • For next year: bring candy. We may see if we can do a swag raffle of our own, too.
  • A rerun of last year's Python introduction went well. The Python Beginners' Hackathon was good, but small. We'll have to think about what might need changes there.
  • I really like the idea of PyOhio running something on the Friday of next year's LinuxFest. Join the pyohio-organizers mailing list to help kick around ideas for that.

There was a lot of interest among the attendees. There were more people already actively using Python than I expected, and virtually everyone else knew Python as something they wanted to learn more about. I think we'll see that reflected in an even bigger and more intense PyOhio next year.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Ohio LinuxFest 2008 - talk materials

Thanks to my Ohio LinuxFest audience for learning some Python with me! The talk materials are here.

Here's the "Resources for Python Learners" handout.

I had a great time at OLF, particularly in the "hallway track"; we have a really fun and growing open-source community in Ohio. Go, us!