Archive | January, 2009

Notes from Python SIG, 22-Jan-2009

The twenty-second of the month was the fourth Thursday, the usual night for the Python Special Interest Group to meet at the Amoskeag Business Incubator in Manchester, New Hampshire. Thirteen attendees made it to the January meeting, making PySIG one of the more popular regional/topical meetings of the Greater New Hampshire Linux User Group.

As usual, coordinator Bill Sconce had a printed agenda with lots of news to go over. We had a round of introductions, though it was mostly a gathering of the regulars. We talked about Gotchas! — those little surprises that pop up while working through the day — and “reverse-gotchas!” — the ah-ha moments that bring enlightenment.

Kent Johnson presented his regular Kent’s Korner presentation on context managers and the ‘with’ statement. Kent’s notes for this and all past Kent’s Korners can be found on his web site. The with statement, along with decorators and generators (see how the KK sessions build upon each other!) can make a very powerful and very pythonic addition to writing Python code.

Arc Riley made the main presentation, on writing extensions in C. Arc was apparently one of the very first programmers to actually attempt to build an extension from scratch in Python 3.0, as he found that some of the key documentation was missing and some of the most important declaration about structures can only be found by reading the source code of Python itself. Arc documented his adventures for us, found a bug report to the Python folks, and provided the group with a very useful document of where the gotchas are, and some very useful bookmarks. The last link includes Arc’s notes as well as the C and Python code for the sample extension.

Thanks to Arc and Kent for great presentations, to Janet for the cookies and Ray for bringing the milk. Thanks, as always to Bill for running the meetings and to all for attending and participating!

Ideas worth repeating

“We reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.”

President Barack Obama, 20 Jan 2009

“They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security.”

Benjamin Franklin, 1775

Notes from NH Ruby Group, 15-Jan-2009: Jonathan Linowes

Jonathan Linowes was kind enough to drive from “the other side of the Notch” all the way down to the seacoast to present to the New Hampshire Ruby Group on the 15th of January (note that the NH Ruby group has moved their regularly scheduled meetings to the third Thursday of the month). Fourteen members attended the meeting, which started with a round of introductions. Pizza, soda and T-shirts were provided courtesy of EngineYard — thanks!

A typical scene at a Linux user group meeting for the first ten minutes of a meeting to be consumed with the speaker struggling to get his X windows display to sync up with the projector. I’m beginning to suspect that the Ruby group equivalent is for the speaker to discover he’s packed the wrong DVI-mini-DVI-HDMI-Video-VGA adapter and no one else has the right video adaptor for his MacBook despite a half-dozen machines present. I wonder if Apple made a mistake by changing this adaptor in every model.
ReviewRamp is Jonathan’s project – a SaaS web site for a group to bring in documents, route them through their own defined process, and approve/disapprove/select documents. Jonathan offered examples such as business plan reviews, marketing plans and job applications. Designed to look as much like a desktop application as possible, ReviewRamp has a simple GUI, with templates and wizards to make it a couple of clicks to process. Under the hood, Jonathan talked about the architecture, which includes RESTful protocols, and a design intended to scale to thousands of projects, hundreds of submissions and a handful of reviewers per project. Unlike many JavaScript-only sites, RevewRamp works well with JavaScript disabled; sweetened with JavaScript enabled. ReviewRamp is publicly in beta. Jonathan presented some slides of the models: reviewers, projects, pages, subpages, fieldsets. This last was a segue into the 3rd presentation: fields are generated via metadata for each project, but the database tables don’t change for each project, so each project has virtual tables vis Jonathan’s DynamicTable design.

Next, Jonathan had a presentation on “Cucumber: How I Slice It” Jonathan had worked PHP and other languages before, was very attracted by Ruby as a new language and the philosophy of testing, testing and more testing. Unit-testing, test-driven-design, behaviour-driven-design. Jonathan also pointed us to Brandon Keepers presentation as an excellent starting point.

Jonathan showed us some of his Cucumber scripts, which include a lot of pretty cool extensions to the base, like {show me} to actually end a test by launching a browser so he could visually verify a result. It was apparent that Jonathan really took to the testing regime, adding extensions like “He” or “She” instead of always including “The current logged in user” or “the current project”

Should you use RSpec or Cucumber? Both, according to Jonathan: each has strengths and weaknesses. RSpec is more tuned to unit-test individual functions where Cucumber is more tuned to describing behavior and outcomes.
Check out

cap deploy:features

to run Cucumber on the deployed app (typically, you’d do this on a staging server, not a production server)
Shows some example Cucumber scripts. They describe in English the point of the test, and use keywords (“GIVEN” “WHEN” “{actorname}”), an action and an expected result. This is actually parsable Ruby code that defines fixtures and features and processes defined within the story runner. It’s not just a requirement, it’s actually the test as well!

Finally, running out of time, Jonathan jumped into his DynamicRecord presentation, where he had developed a method that was ActiveRecord compatible so that it could be integrated in the rest of a standard rails app, but actually queried against virtual tables that were created on the fly rather than actual tables on disk. Interesting stuff, and I’m looking forward to seeing this code pushed into OpenSource, Jonathan’s eventual goal.

Thanks to Jonathan for the great presentations, to Nick for running the presentation, to Tim for hosting the facilities and attempting to webcast the presentation, to Engine Yard for the pizza and T-shirts, and to all the members who made it to the meeting!

You can download the 3 presentations from the NHRuby site here: ReviewRamp, Cucumber, DynamicRecord, or view them online (Flash/JavaScript required) here.

GNHLUG in 2008, a retrospective by the numbers

I’ve added a link to the GNHLUG PastEvents page that provides a comma-separated file listing all the events from calendar year 2008. Some interesting highlights:

  • Despite under-counting or -reporting of many events, we recorded attendance of 589 people, total, at GNHLUG events. This looks to be down a bit from last year, but I know I didn’t post as many numbers as last year. And it’s almost the same as 2006. Worth watching.
  • The best attended event of the year (30) was the GNHLUG cookout. Thanks to Bruce Dawson and Carole Soule for hosting the event!
  • Tied for second (at 22) were:
  • The bronze medal goes to Máirí­n Duffy’s Photographic Prowess (MerriLUG ,20)
  • Honorable Mentions:

In terms of cumulative attendance, MerriLUG was on top as usual:

This is certainly a measuring issue, too: I record CentraLUG’s numbers every time, but many groups only infrequently post their numbers. Finally, by average attendance, a few numbers change, pointing out the many unreported ??? posted to the web page, and also reflected the varied numbers of times each group met:

  • DLSLUG: 16.25
  • MerriLUG: 14
  • PySIG: 10
  • SLUG: 7.67
  • MonadLUG: 7.13
  • CentraLUG: 6.92
  • RubySIG: 5.33

If anyone would like to work with the data, you’ll find the CSV linked here (below the heading for each year, a link labeled “CSV format”) or linked directly off the bottom of individual year’s pages: 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005. And if anyone is really into it, I’ve got an spreadsheet I’d be glad to share.

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This work by Ted Roche is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 United States.