Just A Summary

Piers Cawley Practices Punditry


Lightning Lightning talks

This year’s EuroOSCON had no lightning talks scheduled. Then, late on Wednesday night, I noticed that a talk had been cancelled. Aha! I thought. I asked around a few people I knew who normally go for the lightning thing, got a critical mass of interested parties, went and found Nat and we were good to go.

And it was good. Even if we hadn’t organized the session at less than 12 hours notice it would have been good.

I gave a talk on having your photograph taken that I’d delivered at EuroFOO; Russ Nelson showed us his prototype Bluetooth chording keyboard, BooK had a fabulous series of sensationalist magazine covers showing what really goes on at YAPC::Europe; Gerv Markham gave a 45 minute talk on Phishing: Conning the Unwary For Fun and Profit in 5 minutes; Ewan Spence gave out some Podcasting tips (and recorded the whole thing); Suw Charman of the Open Rights Group talked about the ORG; Damian Conway managed (just) to get through the 101 things he loves about Perl 6; Jesse Vincent did a talk he’d written that morning about a script he’d written two days before. And… I probably missed someone out.

Excellent talks all. Thank you people, we’ll have to do it again some time.

Looking at James Duncan’s photos from the session, it seems I missed out Dennis Kaarsemaker, but for the life of me, I can’t remember what he talked about.

Published on Sat, 23 Sep 2006 16:16:14 GMT by Piers Cawley under , .

EuroOSCON on a shoestring, ctd.

Mmm… Priceline doesn’t suck does it? I’m now booked into a 4 star hotel about a mile from the conference and it’s costing me £33 + tax a night. Which is rather better than the best price I found anywhere else (including in the rather splendid sounding Chao Chow Palace on the outskirts of the red light district.

I quite liked the idea of starting my day with noodles and a bowl of Congee.

Published on Wed, 23 Aug 2006 11:09:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under . Tags

Snakes on a... oh, who cares?

As usual, substitute nails it.

Published on Mon, 21 Aug 2006 18:24:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under .

Small world syndrome

We’re in the process of doing up our house. Which means that there’s a bunch of stuff that we need to get rid of that’s not really good enough to ebay, but a wee bit too good/big to chuck in the bin.

So, we joined our local Freecycle group. It’s great, we offer stuff that we can’t use and people come and take it away for us. Occasionally, someone else offers something that we can’t resist. Spiffy.

Today, we freecycled a fireplace and some wooden CD racks and had them immediately taken by a Brenda, a Flickr friend of mine, and Cath Tyler, who is involved with NEOG – suppliers of our weekly veg box – and is a fine singer and a regular at the Cumberland Arms singing sessions.

Published on Tue, 15 Aug 2006 12:40:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under . Tags ,

Dear LazyWeb

I was just about to start writing a multimethod system for ruby when I realised how much I miss Perl tools like Module::Starter. CPAN has a whole suite of tools which make it at least as easy to do the Right Thing when setting up your project than it is to succumb to ad hockery. Start your project using Module::Starter, and you get a sensibly laid out that works well with standard Perl build/installation tools, a stub of your module, with the various boilerplate bits of the documentation filled in, a test directory, README, etc…

It shouldn’t be impossible to do the same thing for Ruby. Most of the tools are already here. Just use the Rails generator to build a standard stub directory layout, complete with gemspec, readme, license, tests, etc. To a certain extent, the only real issue is deciding on what a sensible project template should be.

Or maybe this already exists and I just haven’t found it.

Published on Fri, 11 Aug 2006 13:32:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , , . Tags

That time of year again...

I’m still in two minds about going to EuroOSCON this year. That’s not quite true. I want to go, but I can’t afford to go. I certainly can’t afford to pay for my own ticket, and if I could I would probably have put it towards a Macbook Pro.

Looking at Eurostar prices, it looks like it’d cost me at least £285 + food and taxis to do the ‘hallway track’, which is arguably the most interesting part of these conferences.

Still, at least one of my photos will be there. I just got mail from Fotango asking if they could use my photo of Simon Wardley at last year’s EuroOSCON for his attendee photo.

Which is flattering. There’s a whole set of photos from last year’s conference. Here’s a few of my favourites.

So, now the trick is to find someone who’ll stand me to a conference ticket and possibly a hotel room in exchange for more photos like these.

By the way, if you are pictured in any of the photos in my flickr stream and want to use the image for the same sort of reason as Simon (which isn’t quite compatible with the non commercial part of the OpenContent license they’re released under), please drop me a line or comment here. I shall be happy to grant such permission. If you want to use ’em in print or advertising or what have you, we need to talk.

Published on Fri, 11 Aug 2006 10:28:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , .

A weekend in August

If you were to ask me what my current preoccupations were, the top three would probably be breadmaking, ruby and folk music. This last week has been a pretty decent week on all three fronts.

On Friday, I drove down to Shipton Mill near Tetbury, one of the finest millers in the country, and picked up around 40 kilos of interesting flour at splendidly wholesale prices (substantially cheaper than I was paying at my local suppliers and with far greater variety). I expect to have fun experimenting with a few new bread formulae as I work through that lot. After that, I took a quick trip to the VSCC’s Prescott meeting, where my brother was selling tyres

Prescott’s really lovely, a beautiful site, some spectacular cars and a great atmosphere on the campsite. There were that many family members and Longstone staff on the site there was a virtual Longstone compound. I was sorry I couldn’t stay for the barbecued legs of lamb but I was spending the night with friends in Bath.

On Saturday morning it was off to the Sidmouth Folk Week. Sidmouth is one of the great institutions of British folk music – a week long festival that’s been running for over 50 years. These last couple of years have been run by a new set of organizers and things have been scaled back a little. It’s still Sidmouth though. I last went in 1998 (I think), so it’s been a while, but it still felt just like I remembered. I was crashing with a friend of mine who’s a Sidmouth virgin and acted as a semi-native guide. I think she might be hooked on it too.

I spent a fair amount of time with the Anchor Middle Bar Singers, a festival fringe institution that, whilst not quite as old as the festival, has been running for some time (they recently retired from competing in the “who can raise the most money for festival funds” stakes having been undefeated in this respect since about 1981). The Middle Bar is a twice daily singaround concentrating exclusively on unaccompanied singing, preferably with a chorus. It’s hot, loud, and has its own set of traditions for How Things Are Done.

For Instance, some songs have a ‘standing chorus’; when the singing reaches the chorus of, say, Thousands or More everyone stands for the choruses so, if you’re not completely au fait with which songs have standing choruses, it pays to keep your eyes open.

Monday night was my last night in Sidmouth and when it looked like the twig wasn’t going to make it around the room more than once (a twig is passed around the room to signify who’s singing next) I mentioned that I would really appreciate getting a second song to one of the people on the bench (the people who run the session and who start and finish the singing) and, bless him, he swapped places with me at the end of the night so I was one of the last three singers.

I sang Si Kahn’s song Here is my home, a secular hymn about the fellowship of singing in harmony. It’s a great song with plenty of opportunity for the chorus to join in (it doesn’t just have a chorus between verses, it has them within the verses too) and the singers in the bar were on top form that night, they were sounding wonderful. What nearly stopped me singing though was when the last chorus came around. I’d closed my eyes as I went into it and when I opened them again the whole bar was on its feet belting it out with me. Not something I’ll forget in a hurry.

So, that’s bread making and folk music attended to

On Tuesday I spent the morning in another singaround in the theatre bar before heading off to London for the London Ruby Users’ Group meeting at Skills Matter. A couple of cracking talks (about Domain Specific Languages and tips on working well with front end types) both excellent, one of which was very much last minute after Geoffrey Grossenbach had to cancel when a proposed London workshop he was planning to give fell through. Once the technical stuff was out of the way (I might write more about them when I’ve mulled them over a bit more) we retired to the pub and spent the rest of the evening talking about Ruby, Rails, Smalltalk, Perl 6 and probably a bunch of other stuff. I shall have to make it down to London more often.

Estimating driving time from Devon to London is never going to be an exact science, so I arrived in Clerkenwell about an hour before the meeting and, not being one for sitting in a pub by myself, I repaired to a nice shady bench, pulled out my powerbook and did a bit of light hacking on stuff. I was just starting to get a bit of flow going when someone came into the park and recognized me. Which is just weird. This is the first time I’ve ever been recognized by a stranger. Admittedly, I was wearing the same shirt as I’m wearing in the photo in the sidebar, but still. Embarrassingly, I’ve forgotten the chap’s name – with any luck he’ll comment here and jog my memory.

So, in all a jolly good extended weekend. Flour, songs, and my first microfame moment. Now, if I could just work out how to do that for a living…

Published on Thu, 10 Aug 2006 02:09:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , , , , .

How do you find me?

Are you reading Mark Dominus’s Universe of Discourse? and if not, why not?

Mark’s one of the cleverest and most entertaining guys I’ve ever met; if you get a chance to attend one of his courses, you really should do it. Your mind will be expanded. Which is by the by, but hey.

The reason I bring this up is that Mark started an occasional series of articles discussing some of the ‘interesting’ queries that show up in his server logs, and he gets some pretty spiffy queries – if I ever get a query as interesting as “if n + 1 are put inside n boxes, then at least one box will contain more than one ball. prove this principle by induction” I think I’ll print out the log report and frame it. And how can you not love a blog that somebody found by searching for “consciousness torus photon core”?

Which is a roundabout way of saying I’m about to pinch Mark’s idea and attempt a pale imitation of it here.

Published on Wed, 02 Aug 2006 19:01:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , . Tags


Once upon a time, when the world was young, Apple announced their 17 inch G4 Powerbook with a huge screen and blisteringly quick 1GHz G4 PowerPC processor.

“It must be mine!” I thought, and so it came to pass.

It was lovely. It was built to my scale. It was the best computer I had ever owned.

Of course, Apple kept rejigging it with faster processors and graphics cards and other goodies, but I never felt the upgrade itch; so what if there’s faster stuff out there, most of the stuff I do is still blocked on network latency and typing speed.

Then, a couple of weeks ago, I typed rake on a colleagues new 15 inch Macbook Pro and watched a Rails test suite go from 0 to all tests passing in what seemed like the blink of an eye.

“Right!” I thought, “When the 17 inch version gets launched, I’m going to get one.”

And then my contract came to an end, so now I’m not getting one. Yet.

I wish I’d not seen how quick the tests ran on that other machine. Now, when I run the Typo tests and it goes away for the best part of 3 minutes, I get cross. Before I just used it as thinking time.

Published on Fri, 12 May 2006 12:47:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under , .

Not so Copious Free Time

So, I’m now working 2 days a week as a Ruby on Rails programmer for Bluefountain and, whilst it’s great fun to be back working again, it doesn’t half eat into my free time.

I had intended to get a Perl 6 Summary written on Monday or Tuesday, but I spent most of Monday in bed with a stinking cold and most of Tuesday doing a bunch of House Stuff, and before I know it I’m off to Liverpool…

So, if you’ve been waiting on a summary, I’m really sorry; it shouldn’t happen again.

Published on Thu, 19 Jan 2006 02:22:00 GMT by Piers Cawley under .

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