Friday, February 24, 2006

PyCon 2006 - Day 1

Here are the highlights of the pycon sessions that I attended today:

Keynote: Plone - It aint about the software

Don't get me wrong when I say this, as I am a fan of Plone and think it is a great CMS, but the keynote was a bit dry. It mostly focused on some of the past wins of Plone, and was a little light when they talked about future plans.

As I thought about it more though, there were two pearls to be gleaned from the session:

  1. "Middle class software" is where all the money and cool projects are.

  2. It is easy to build frameworks in Python but the only re-useable pieces are libraries and apps.

These two ideas got me to thinking quite a bit, and it seemed that the themes seemed to keep popping up in other talks as well. Both of these statements need some further explanation and I hope to further expand on some of these thoughts in a later post... stay tuned!

I also can't finish without sharing this great quote from the session:

Plone is a gateway drug to Python

Python in Your Pocket: Python for Series 60

It is very cool to see how far Python has come on the Series 60 phones in just a year. I have installed Python on my phone, but still haven't had the time to play with it. Perhaps I will need to make some time now. Some noteable points were:

  • Great UI integration with the appuifw module

  • Tons of extra libraries to access different parts of the phone like system info, the camera, graphics, inbox, contacts, or the calendar

  • Some cool apps are starting to surface, and more are to be expected

  • He mentioned something about Nokia developers having ported Apache and mod_python as well which could lead to some very intersting applications

  • There is still no word though as to when the version will get updated (still Python 2.2.2)

Python Can Survive in the Enterprise

This was a great session by two guys from American Greetings Interactive. If you have recieved an email card lately, it was most likely from one of their services. They send over 200 million greetings per year, and peak at 90+ million page views a day. And they do all of this from Python!

I thought it was great to hear about a another major company that uses Python as a "secret weapon."

pysense: Humanoid Robots, a Wearable System, and Python

This talk was a little over my head, but was really interesting. Basically they have been working on a wearable system that "learns" as it follows what a person does. It tracks things like hand positions and how they interact with objects, your posture as you perform acts, etc. This information is then analyzed and used with humaniod robots to perform very complex tasks. Such as being able to pick up an object such as a pencil and being able to tell which end is the point, or putting a ring around a pole, all with only vision sensors.

Most of this code is first prototyped in Python, and then if it needs to be faster, it is ported to C++ and wrapped in SWIG.

I was excited at first as I was hoping that some of this could be transfered to the new Lego Mindstorms sets coming out, but I soon found out that the processing requirements were quite high. Oh well, maybe in another couple of years...

Using Django to Supercharge Web Development

I was a little disappointed in this presentation as it was the same old marketing song and dance that many have seen several times before. Perhaps I just wasn't the intended audience for this talk and I will get more of what I am looking for in Jacob's talk on Sunday.

He did mention his latest project at the Washing Post and how it wowed the Java guys that currently work there. Evidently they are now looking more closely at Python and Django. Way to go Adrian!

TurboGears How-To

So I stayed for the TurboGears presentation right after the Django presentation. This was a bit more informative, showcasing some of the latest improvements. The online editing of model data was very impressive, and I liked the look of the new widgets. I really wished he would have spent a little more time showing off the new widget system. There were also talks of possibilities of using other ORMS with the systems (like SQLAlchemy). These are exciting times for Python web development!

Bazaar-ng Distributed Version Control

This was the final talk of the evening for me. I was really interested at seeing how this project was coming along. At work we have recently switched from Bit Keeper to Subversion. While subversion has worked very well for us, I miss the destributed nature of BK and some of the advantages it gives such as managing branching. Hopefully I can get some of my co-workers to take a look at this.

Canonical (the cool guys that brought us Ubuntu) support and use this project extensivly for creating their distribution and have built several tools around it. The biggest selling point is how well it handles branching and merging even when the base file is not immediatly identifiable.

Closing Thoughts

Two things have really stood out so far.

This seems like the year for web development in Python. A great deal of the talks this year are about various aspects of web programming. I'm very excited to hear what Guido has to say in his key note tomorrow, and if he will reveal his findings in the web world. I am also looking forward to hearing Ian Bicking's talk about web development.

A lot of companies are using Python for web development, and even enterprise development. I was amazed at how many flyers were being handed out saying "We're hiring Python Hackers!" from various companies (don't worry John... I'm not going anywhere :) ). It's also good to hear how other companies are successfully using python in their products.

Lots to look forward to tomorrow...

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