Update your copies of DateTime::TimeZone

Liz Cortell writes in with important updates to your time modules:

Whether travelling, calling overseas or maintaining software, time zones are always a headache. DateTime::TimeZone has seen a couple of changes this month.

0.70, released December 3, was changed to incorporate Hugo Chavez’s declaration of a new time zone for Venezuela.

0.71, released today, “Fixes a major bug in the generation of time zone data. This bug affected any time
zone that has more than one rule (most of them) and currently has no DST changes (many of them). An example would be America/Caracas. The symptom would either be mistakes about the current time zone or bogus exceptions when trying to create a local date.”

Stop worrying and learn to love Perl 6

Andy Armstrong graciously provides his take on Perl 6. I’ve even left those crazy Brit spellings. — Andy

Perl needs Perl 6 and the wider Perl community needs to understand why.

When I first got into computers I worried, briefly, that everything I learnt would inevitably be outmoded. I don’t want to scare anyone unduly but there will come a time when Perl 5 is outdated. Slow, ugly, verbose, arbitrary: it will become all of those and worse.

That is the fate of all languages. At least I hope that’s the fate of all current languages. These days if I really want to scare myself I need only imagine that the current state of the art is is a good as it ever gets. If that doesn’t worry you try to imagine a parallel universe in which our understanding of computers hit a glass ceiling any time in the past fifty years. Imagine COBOL as pinnacle of language design, 64k as a generous helping of memory, punched cards baby! Happy days, certainly, but I’m glad we were able to leave them behind.

As more of the world depends on computers there’s a growing force that slows change. The enemy of evolution in language design is the installed user base. In the case of a successful language like Perl millions of people may now be affected by an incompatible language change. The Perl 5 Porters must always balance the needs of the future with those of the past and that places an upper limit of the rate at which Perl 5 can mutate.

What to do? How do you move forward if you’re constantly looking over your shoulder? You take advantage of a fortunate property of software: that it is possible to simultaneously care for and conservatively develop the current active branch of a language and forge into the future with a clean new version. Two siblings: the elder healthy, but constrained by responsibilities, the younger relatively free and able to learn from the elder’s mistakes without repeating them. Perl 5 and Perl 6.

“But Perl 6 is taking too long…”

But Perl 6 is taking too long to mature. More than seven years is embarrassing, right? Not really. Perl wasn’t really the Perl we know and love until Perl 5. For the first ten or so years Perl was a lesser language. Sure, the step from Perl 5 to Perl 6 will be bigger than the step from 4 to 5. The jump from 4 to 5 was in its time the biggest seismic shift the Perl world had seen. There’s a trend there; the steps are getting bigger all the time. There was no significant dynamic language movement when Perl 1 entered the world. Perl 6 is gestating in a rather different environment.

Perl 5 is not yet decrepit. Rumours of its death greatly exaggerated (or imagined). Perl 6 doesn’t yet need to come of age so it makes sense for it to continue to mature in a relatively protected environment. As long as Perl 5 remains viable it’s sensible to give Perl 6 the space it needs to grow because when its time comes it’s going to face stiff competition from its elder and from Ruby, Python and others.

Rather than impatient foot tapping, Perl 6 needs the help and nurture of the Perl community. The Perl 6 development process is transparent and open. Anyone with something useful to contribute will be welcomed. If you self-identify as a Perl person then Perl 6 is in part your responsibility. And if you can’t usefully contribute then, please, quietly reflect on the debt of gratitude you owe to those who do. They’re working to guarantee your future.

Perl 6 is not a liability

Perl 6 is not a liability. There’s no need to be defensive about it. Paul Cory would like to rebrand Perl 6 into the shadows. That’s the kind of Stalinist revisionism favoured by corporations that realise that their “next big thing” has become an embarrassing albatross. It’s a response to Perl 6 that the circumstances do not require.

Here are his reasons:

1) It emphasises the “inadequacies” of Perl 5.

All languages have inadequacies, imperfections, miss-features, cruft. Perl 5 is no different. Fortunately, instead of brushing them under the rug, the Perl 6 team is actively seeking to right those wrongs. A question: would you rather use a language that’s maintained by people who are a) in denial about its inadequacies or b) actively developing a new language based on recognised shortcomings? I hope that’s a rhetorical question.

2) It makes the development community look unorganized, at best. People comparing at the development pace of Python, Ruby and PHP to Perl 6 are likely to come to harsher conclusions about the community’s focus, viability and competence, based on Perl 6’s seven-year, and counting, gestation period.

Those hypothetical people are wrong and I don’t want to be part of a community that panders to their views. The Perl 5 Porters are doing a great job of continuously improving Perl 5 within the constraints that popularity brings. The Perl 6 team are laying the foundations for the next generation of Perl. Perl 5 and Perl 6 have a mutually beneficial relationship: features, tools and ideas are traded freely between the two groups. It’s healthy, responsible and creative.

Python and Ruby have, to their credit, somewhat similar splits between far sighted strategic development and tactical improvements to the current language generation. PHP is a bizarre bazaar that does not provide a model other language communities should emulate.

3) It creates uncertainty: what happens to Perl 5 when Perl 6 finally drops? How much new stuff will I have to learn? How will my existing code work, or not, if I upgrade? Why should I invest time in Perl 5 if Perl 6 is just around the corner, and will be far superior?

Learning to deal with an uncertain future comes with the territory of computing. Continual improvement necessarily means that things will change.

Perl 6 is visible proof that we have vision. Perl 5 is visible proof that we can maintain an extremely high quality programming language. These facts combined should give observers confidence about the health of Perl. As a community we certainly need to work to allay fears and calibrate expectations. But let’s not start by hiding one of our greatest assets, ok?

4) It creates frustration inside the community. Perl 6 has been “coming soon” for 7.5 years now. It’s hard to remain excited about something that long with no payoff.

Welcome to the world of free software. Instead of waiting for Godot we can go and meet him half way; help him carry his load. Let’s be explicit here: if Perl is part of your life or career and you’re tired of waiting for Perl 6 help make it happen.

You don’t have to contribute code to help. Learn more about Perl 6 so you can explain it to others. If you find it hard to learn make it easier for others: write an article that explains some of the important points, give talks, learn so you can teach.

5) The story is confusing: Pugs? Haskell? Parrot? Two development tracks? I thought this was about Perl? Yes, I have an idea of what those things are, but most folks outside the community (and a fair few inside, I’d wager) don’t know, don’t care, and shouldn’t have to.

If the story is confusing we need to tell it more clearly. That doesn’t justify changing the underlying technical narrative.

In a commodified world criticism and spending discretion are the consumer’s only levers. We crave influence over the things we consume. In the absence of direct influence over a product’s design we use criticism as a proxy for control. We hope that they’ll make the next version better as a result.

Criticism is still valid in the free software world but it’s importance is de-emphasised. You can criticise or you can help. In fact you can criticise and help.

It’s important that Perl 6 is not immune from scrutiny but if you’re frustrated that it’s taking a while then volunteer. The Perl 6 team is small at the moment; small enough that a few well placed contributions can make a real difference. Let’s not default to bitching about it when we have the opportunity of contributing to its success.

Why not make 2008 the year you do something for Perl 6?

Andy Armstrong has been developing Perl programs and following the language’s progress since Perl 4.036. He has released more than thirty CPAN modules and is currently working to help both the Perl 5 and the Perl 6 teams to implement parallelised execution of their test suites

One view of “here’s what we’ve done” in Perl 6

Patrick Michaud provides us with this brief recap of Perl 6. Patrick and I are going to be working on the Perl 6 development dashboard in the next few days to try to get a “what’s done” and “what’s needed to release” story to tell. — Andy

Andy Lester asked:

Is there any way we can say “Here’s what we’ve done
and here’s what’s left?” At least that’s a story I can tell. At
least that kind of leaves us with “See, you can see the shape of
the house and the roof is on, and we’re working on the wiring
and the plumbing.”

I probably can’t tell the full story of “Here’s what we’ve done”, but I
think I can give an outline for one. Apologies in advance for any
factual errors or omissions here — many parts of the “story” occurred
before I became an active participant of Perl 6 development.
Also, this shouldn’t be taken as an official story of the Perl 6
community or development team, it’s just my answer to the question
that Andy posed.

First, we have a Perl 6 language specification, as given by the
synopses.
People who have looked and played with the language given
by that specification seem to really like it. We can’t say that
the specification is complete or frozen, because as we work on
implementing the language we’re finding places where the spec
needs improvement. Some people express that the answer is to
freeze the specification so we can get at least one implementation
working; I entirely disagree with that. It’s important that we retain
flexibility to continue to improve the specification in response
to things learned from the implementation(s).

We have at least one substantial Perl 6 implementation, known as
Pugs. In fact, it’s the experience of writing and using Pugs that
has prompted important changes to the language specification. Pugs
is available from pugscode.org.

There’s is another implementation of Perl 6 being done for Parrot,
called “perl6”. Parrot is a virtual machine intended to support
Perl 6 and other dynamic languages, such as Python,
Ruby, PHP, and
the like. Some people may feel that Parrot is an unnecessary
distraction from Perl 6, but it’s clear that Perl 6 will need
some sort of virtual machine under it, just like Perl 5 has.
Early in the Perl 6 development, the available virtual machine
options were basically: reuse the Perl 5 VM somehow, try to use
another VM, or build a new one. Early efforts at writing Perl 6 on
top of Perl 5 didn’t appear to be working out so well, thus when
I started development in 2004 I was advised by the design team to
start afresh with Parrot, and that’s the approach that perl6 has
taken.

Having a virtual machine isn’t sufficient — we also need tools
for building programs for that virtual machine. For a couple of years
we’ve had a grammar engine to build parsers in Parrot, and that seems
to be working well. Within the past few months we’ve also completed
a code generator for abstract syntax trees (part of the “Parrot
Compiler Toolkit”) and a simple transformation language (“Not Quite
Perl”). The completion of these tools appears to have boosted
development speed on Parrot languages, including Perl 6, PHP, Python,
etc., by at least an order of magnitude. The tools are also dramatically
widening the scope of people who can productively participate in
compiler development. We still need work on documentation and
tutorials for the new tools so that we can increase the pace of
development even further, and that’s a primary focus for me at
the moment.

We have an implementation of Perl 6 on Parrot called “perl6”.
There has been an implementation of Perl 6 on Parrot for over a year
now, but progress on it had stalled because we needed improvements
to Parrot and to the compiler tools. As of mid-December those
improvements are now complete, and within the past two weeks the
perl6 compiler has been completely rewritten to make use of the
new Parrot compiler tools. Even though the new implementation
is only a couple of weeks old, we already see huge gains in
the quality and extensibility of the compiler, and in the ability
for others to participate in its development. Because the current
implementation is so new, I’m reluctant to hazard a guess as to
an anticipated pace of development going forward, other than to
say it should be much faster than what has been. I do tend to
think that we’ll be reaching the “workable implementation” stage
in a matter of weeks instead of months or years.

Lastly, there is a substantial suite of tests written for Perl 6
language features, currently held in the Pugs repository. These
tests are about to undergo substantial review and revision for
correctness, completeness, and cross-compatibility among the
implementations that are in various stages of development.

Looking to the future

Looking to the future and what I expect to see happen in January 2008:

  • some sort of working (perhaps primitive) perl6 installation where a person can download a tarball, build perl6, and type something like “perl6 foo.pl” to execute a Perl 6 program.
  • documents and publications describing the architecture of the perl6 compiler and how the various Parrot compiler tools fit together
  • substantial progress on reorganization and development of the official test suite
  • implementation of more Perl 6 language features

As for me, my primary focus has always been on getting a working
Perl 6 implementation on Parrot. To me, Perl 6 is not just an
interesting research project — it has a clear deliverable. If
we complete a usable implementation of Perl 6, we succeed; if we
don’t, we fail. It’s that straightforward to me.

However, it’s also important to have Perl 6 in a reasonable timeframe,
and I agree with others that we’re certainly pushing our luck there.
Many people say that the long development time for Perl 6 has
caused it to miss its window of opportunity. Time will tell if
this is true, but personally I don’t think this will be the case.
Yes, Perl 6 has taken far longer than any of us imagined, but
Perl 6 and Parrot are also poised to do things that many of us
hadn’t even dreamed about when we first started. And that’s
what keeps me working on Perl 6 even when it seems to be taking
so long to get to the goal. I find Perl 6 to be such a profound
and fundamental improvement in programming that I think the
extra time we’re all spending at the front end will have an
impact and reap rewards measured in terms of decades. So while
the delays are hard to take, the end result is worth it to me.

Patrick Michaud is the pumpking for the Perl 6 compiler. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science and was formerly a Professor of Computer Science at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi. He is currently a software developer and consultant focused on open source development and applications, including Perl, PmWiki, and Linux.

Why Perl 6 needs to be deemphasized and renamed

Paul Cory has contributed what I hope is the first of many guest editorials on Perlbuzz. — Andy

Recently, Andy Lester wrote about the zombie question that haunts
Perl: Where
is Perl 6?
One of the questions he posed was:


“And to everyone else, who is willing to help in this task, to help keep the fires of anticipation burning in the public?”

My advice would be to not keep the fires of anticipation burning in the public. For the good of the language, Perl 6 needs to be deemphasized in public, and, in addition, renamed.

How Keeping Perl 6 Front-of-Mind Hurts

1) It emphasizes the “inadequacies” of Perl 5.

2) It makes the development community look unorganized, at best. People comparing at the development pace of Python, Ruby and PHP to Perl 6 are likely to come to harsher conclusions about the community’s focus, viability and competence, based on Perl 6’s seven-year, and counting, gestation period.

3) It creates uncertainty: what happens to Perl 5 when Perl 6 finally drops? How much new stuff will I have to learn? How will my existing code work, or not, if I upgrade? Why should I invest time in Perl 5 if Perl 6 is just around the corner, and will be far superior?

4) It creates frustration inside the community. Perl 6 has been “coming soon” for 7.5 years now. It’s hard to remain excited about something that long with no payoff.

5) The story is confusing: Pugs? Haskell? Parrot? Two development tracks? I thought this was about Perl? Yes, I have an idea of what those things are, but most folks outside the community (and a fair few inside, I’d wager) don’t know, don’t care, and shouldn’t have to.

Basically, the more we push Perl 6, the more we Osborne ourselves.

How Keeping Perl 6 Front of Mind Helps

I got nothing. Honestly, I can’t think of a single positive for trying to keep public anticipation burning.

How Deemphasizing Perl 6/Changing its Name Helps

1) Allows us to focus on the strengths and successes of Perl 5.

2) Allows us to tell the development and improvement success story of Perl 5, which is as good as that of any other scripting language.

3) Removes uncertainty that can be used against Perl when companies and developers make decisions about which language to use.

4) Finally, by changing Perl 6’s name, to something like PerlNG or PerlFG, we can get away from the “It’s just a 1 point upgrade,” problem and have a basis for which to talk about it as a “research project.” That allows us to both avoid talking about delivery dates, and allows to talk about how cool stuff from PerlNG is finding its way back into Perl 5.

5) Gets us away from all the negatives listed above.

How Deemphasizing Perl 6/Changing its Name Hurts

1) It might be harder to get folks to work on PerlNG if it’s not “just around the corner.” I happen to think that can be overcome with inside-the-community marketing.

For the record, I greatly appreciate all the work that folks have put into Perl 5 and Perl 6. Nothing here should be taken as a criticism of how the actual development gets done, nor of the talent or the commitment of the developers.

I don’t question the desirability of Perl 6 either. I can see how, when it’s finally finished, it will be an improvement over any language available.

However, from a Communications standpoint, it’s obvious that there are significant problems in communicating about perl to the world at large.
Perl 6 has been a Public Relations disaster, one that has made it harder to attract developers, other contributors, users and companies.

Again, from a Communications/PR standpoint, our goal should be to stop shooting ourselves. And that means taking the public focus off Perl 6 as much as possible.

Paul Cory is the Webmaster for the Wake County Public School System in
Raleigh, North Carolina. He started using Perl nine years ago to
automate some particularly tedious Website updates, and has progressed
to the point where Perl glues the entire system website together.

Make vim support Perl 5.10

The new say function isn’t supported by the perl.vim file that ships with vim. Nick Hibma, the maintainer, tells me it will be updated in the next version of vim. In the meantime, you can hack your local vim files by adding the following line to your ~/.vim/syntax/perl.vim file:

syn keyword perlStatementFiledesc
 binmode close closedir eof fileno getc
 lstat print printf readdir readline readpipe rewinddir
 say select stat tell telldir write
 nextgroup=perlFiledescStatementNocomma skipwhite

Even if you haven’t upgraded to Perl 5.10, you can use Jim Keenan’s Perl6::Say module to add the say function.

Where is Perl 6? The question that won’t die

Every so often I get asked that dreaded question “When is Perl 6 coming out?” Sometimes it’s a local Perl Mongers meeting, and sometimes it’s an email like below, from a reporter at cnet.com, in response to my Perl 5.10 announcement:

What’s up with Perl 6/Parrot? I’ve never covered the issue terribly
closely, but it seemed that there was one school of thought that argued
for some universal virtual machine and another that wanted to keep Perl
more with its duct-tape-of-the-Internet roots. Please feel free to set
me straight in this area–I have only passing familiarity.

Is Perl going to stay on a dual 5.x and 6.x track? When is 6 due? How
about 5.12?

Stephen Shankland
reporter, CNET News.com
blog: http://www.news.com/underexposed

This is not at all uncommon as a perception. People just don’t know about Perl 6, don’t know about Parrot, and certainly have never heard of Pugs. Here’s what I replied:

Perl 6 is a rewrite of the Perl language. It will feel Perly, and yet become more modern as it pulls in influences from languages like Ruby and Haskell.

Technically, Perl 6 is just a language specification, and there are at least two implementations underway. One of the Perl 6 implementations is named Pugs, and is written in Haskell, on a project led by Audrey Tang. The other Perl 6 implementation is being written to run on top of Parrot. Parrot is a virtual machine for running modern dynamic languages like Perl, PHP and Ruby, among others. The intent is to have Parrot bytecode generated by one system, say, Perl 6, easily interact with any other language’s Parrot bytecode.

Yes, Perl 5 and Perl 6 will stay in dual development. Perl 5 has such a huge installed base, it won’t be going away any time soon after Perl 6 exists.

There is no due date on Perl 6, and never has been. At this point it’s still sort of a big research project. Fortunately, some of the development in Perl 6 has found its way into Perl 5.10, such as the “say” keyword and some regular expression improvements.

I don’t think the Perl 5 Porters have even started thinking about a timeline or feature set for 5.12 yet, since 5.10 has only been out for eight days now. From my monitoring of the perl5-porters list, we’re just trying to make sure that problems people are reporting with 5.10 are not actually problems with 5.10 itself.

Let me know if you have any other questions.

I’ve published this open response for two reasons. First, I wanted the core Perl community to get an idea of what outside perception of us is like. People know bits and pieces of what we here in the Perl core echo chamber know.

Second, I wanted to raise the flag again of how outsiders want to know more about Perl 6, and that the first, and in many cases only, thing that they want to know is “Where is it and when will it be out.” I’ve never felt that the Perl 6 development team has ever been interested in addressing the concerns of those who ask.

Note that I’m not talking about giving a timeline, or a schedule, because of course Perl 6 is being created by volunteers, and there’s no point in giving a schedule if the project can’t realistically hit it. What I did say was “address the concerns.” Maybe the project can’t give the people want they want, but is there something they can give to help satisfy the hunger, and keep people interested?

For that matter, I’ve never felt that anyone on the Perl 6 development team even saw it as a reasonable question to ask. I’ve always seen the question answered with angry, defensive replies. Such a problem to have! People clamoring to use your project!

It’s amazing to me that we have any goodwill left, any interest, that Perl 6 hasn’t been written off as permanent vaporware. To the Perl 6 community, I ask, what can we as the rest of the community do to help keep people interested in Perl 6? Do you see that as a reasonable goal? And to everyone else, who is willing to help in this task, to help keep the fires of anticipation burning in the public?

What people are saying about Perl 5.10

Here’s a collection of articles about the release of Perl 5.10.

First, since I’m still wearing the PR hat for the Perl Foundation, I mailed off notifications to many different big news sources. Both Dr. Dobbs Journal and Infoworld published articles about the release. Alas, the Infoworld article has some inaccuracies, but I’m glad to have Perl’s name on such a widely-read site.

macnn, a big Mac news site, has good coverage of ActivePerl’s release of both Perl 5.10 and ActiveTcl.

Kai ‘Oswald’ Seidler at apachefriends.org declares “we didn’t update Perl because the new 5.10.0 seems to be a development version, and in XAMPP we only support ‘stable’ versions.” Apparently XAMPP is an all-in-one bundle of web tools that you can slap onto your machine. If anyone has more info on Seidler’s perceptions of 5.10 as being a development version, which it most certainly isn’t, I’d be interested.

LinuxDevices.com has a nice write-up and summary. I wonder how many Linux devices Perl lives in.

HiveMinds Magazine mentions Perl 5.10, and then asks about Perl 6. “I just wish someone would write some insider info on Perl 6 before the new year,” says author ahamilton. Hey, I’m working on it. (Also interesting that it’s HiveMinds magazine, similar to Hiveminder, a web application run by Jesse Vincent, the Perl 6 project manager.)

The announcement at osnews.com spawned a 20+ message thread about Perl’s continued relevance and where Perl 6 is. Thanks to Juerd for fighting some FUD.

That’s the roundup of Perl 5.10 postings that I’ve seen so far. One downside of releasing Perl 5.10 a week before Christmas is that people are interested in other things than talking about programming. I’m hoping news outlets notice the articles I’ve sent after the holiday break. Please let me know about other Perl 5.10 postings you may find.

Updated distribution meta-information available at search.cpan.org

Graham Barr has put out some new features on search.cpan.org, both related to the META.yml file that comes with most distributions. The META.yml provides information in an easy-to-handle format on things like the author, version, license, what modules a distribution requires, and so on.

First, a few weeks ago, Graham added the ability to specify project home pages, source code repositories and alternate bug queues via the META.yml file. Now, if you go look at ack’s page on search.cpan.org, you’ll see that there are links for all of those. Note that the bug queue would normally point to rt.cpan.org, but since I’m using the Google Code issue tracker for ack, I need to point users to it.

Second, today Michael Schwern worked with Graham to make the META.yml more accessible by creating a JSON format, and to create META.yml files on-the-fly for distributions that don’t ship with one. JSON is a very common format for structured information distribution, so JSON support at search.cpan.org will make it easy for applications that may not know YAML to work with CPAN meta-information.

Thanks to Graham for some important updates to the site that is effectively the face of CPAN, and for his work on what is often a thankless job.

Strawberry Perl 5.10.0 now available

Adam Kennedy has released his Strawberry Perl for Perl 5.10.0. Strawberry Perl is the Windows Perl distribution that’s an alternative to ActiveState‘s distribution, and it includes tools for building CPAN modules natively, so you’re not tied to ActiveState’s PPM repository, which may not include the module you want to install, or may be behind a few versions.

Reminiscences of Perl

chromatic is looking for stories of Perl over the last 20 years

As you may know, Perl is now 20 years old. In lieu of buying her a beer and waiting around for a year, I’m looking for interesting stories and memories to collect and post on a Perl-related website with a very nice and short domain name in the next couple of days. Please send them to chromatic@oreilly.com, along with a one sentence biography.

I don’t have any that come to mind, but I do remember getting turned on to Awk and its associative arrays, now called hashes in Perl. To a C programmer in the late 80s, the ability to index an array BY A STRING blew my mind.