PyCon 2008 (Chicago) – Day 3

My last day at PyCon was Sunday, March 16th 2008. I was one of the unlucky who had work the following morning. This day just seemed rushed to me, which is probably why I learned the least.

The first Plenary was Making Client-Side Python Suck Less with Aza Raskin. It was about Mozilla to some degree, but Raskin focused more on making Python into an easy-to-update program. It was a call to arms to make “freezing” your Python applications easier and the whole update and pluggability of said programs easier. His main idea can be summed up in this quote “Python needs to be a platform”. He didn’t really give any ideas on how to accomplish this though. You can read more about it here:

I was really looking forward to Hammond’s talk about Python and Firefox and he didn’t disappoint. I hadn’t realized Hammond was an Aussie. He was very informative about how he’s worked with Python, XPCOM and Mozilla over the years and gave a history of XPCOM / Mozilla over the years.  His main points about the Python XPCOM bindings follow:

  • Problems with XPCOM bindings:
    • Not enough docs
    • Too hard on Mac
    • No binary distros (but that is changing)
    • Seen as experimental (but it’s not – just a lack of community)
    • Performance issues with DOM work
  • Why no community (for XPCOM bindings)?
    • High barrier to entry
    • Used by very large projects
    • Mozilla community thinks it’s owned by Python and vice-versa
    • Even Mozilla struggles

Finally, the OLPC representative, Ivan Krstic,  got up and gave his talk. He was supposed to be before Hammond, but Ivan’s laptop quit working the night before and he was frantically working on his slides up until his talk. It was interesting to see how the OLPC initiative is doing. I didn’t really know much about it beyond the generalities. I am still taking a “wait and see” attitude about the project since the USA has been throwing money at education for years and it’s mostly stagnated. Hopefully the OLPC will actually help the children learn. Ivan’s talk was certainly positive.

After the break, I went to my last 3 talks: What Zope did wrong (and how it’s being fixed), nose: testing for the lazy coder, and IronPython: The Road Ahead.

The Zope talk was given Lennart Regebro. As every other Zope / Plone talk I went to, Regebro emphasized the need to move to Zope3 and Plone 3 for the latest and greatest. While it would be great to take advantage of new technology, my company just can’t do it at this time. So I kind of zoned out. Sorry, Lennart! You’re welcome to check out his blog though:

The nose talk was very well attended. In fact, it may have been better than the pyglet talk the night before. It was given by the author of nose, Jason Pellerin. However, it had more to do with Test Driven Development (TDD) and how nose fits into that mindset rather than just a talk about nose in general. The idea behind TDD is excellent and is something I want to adopt for myself, so this presentation was encouraging. Hopefully I can use some or all of what Pellerin had to say in my own work.

Finally, we got to the IronPython show. It was hosted by two Microsoft employees. The main speaker was Jim Hugunin along with a coder named Dino (I think). I saw Micheal Foord in the back too. They showed off a fancy poll-taking site designed using Python and Silverlight. It had little videos that would run in the background for each question; each item in the list of questions would enlarge slightly when moused over; and it had a neat transition effect between questions. There was also a nice graph of how the poll was going that could be displayed. The talk was very slick, but I had to leave right before they finished to try to beat traffic on the way home.

They also showed how they could run Django within IronPython. That was pretty cool, although I’m not sure what extra functionality that gives the developer…well, beyond being able to add Silverlight pizazz to the Django site.

I had hoped they’d post their code, but I still don’t see anything on the PyCon site.

And that was my highlights of PyCon.  I’ll post some more about my observances and general comments about what else I saw though.