Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Python has descended into chaos

At my employer, Python is not our primary language; the main system was built in Perl and is now a Perl/PHP hybrid. The surrounding systems have been built/replaced with PHP, but the core code is resistant to change. Management doesn't want to mess with the part where the actual money flows in.

For seamless session handling—local memcached on dev machines, but shared storage in production—we have memcache-dynamo. It started life in Perl. I rewrote it in Python, as part of the quest to replace all Perl with something more popular in modern times. (I figured async/await syntax would be easier for future developers than React-PHP.) It's been working fine on Ubuntu 18.04 for some time, but then I wanted to update to Ubuntu 20.04.

It quickly turned irritating. The Python 3.6 dependencies didn't work on 3.8. It turns out that the updated dependencies for 3.8 don't work on 3.6, either. I guess this explains why pipenv is so insistent that "requires 3.6" means "exactly 3.6".

Python 3 isn't just a version with some backward-incompatible changes; it's fundamentally a new culture with new values. And honestly, that probably means less Python in my future. I don't want to promote another language into the main systems, and Python no longer seems to be suitable for fire-and-forget background services.

(In the end, I wrote a new layer on our installer that checks the Python version, then copies e.g. Pipfile-3.8 and Pipfile.lock-3.8 into their standard location before starting pipenv. It's a horrible mess and I hate it so much. Please, don't start a Python 3 transition every year!)

Saturday, August 15, 2020

Black Lives Matter

This is a very focused blog.  One of the few comments I received on my old s9y blog was, “The technical content is great, but it could use fewer political and religious diatribes.”

We don’t exist outside of these social, political, or economic systems, though.  We are not separate from our own unconscious and its biases.  At the end of the day, if I truly believe in equality, in liberty and justice for all, then I must be willing to work for that.

The other crucial problem is that my silence will be interpreted as assent, which is a serious problem when my silence is interpreted as supporting something I deeply oppose.

Black lives matter.  Black quality of life matters.

Defunding and demilitarizing the police is an excellent first step.  But actions speak louder than words, and we really have to change those actions as a society; we have to start believing that petty crime does not justify lethal force, and genuinely prosecute those who act otherwise.  We should find it normal for police to de-escalate a situation.

And police reform (at a level that genuinely impacts the statistics and improves the lives of actual people) itself is only the first step.  Defunding the prison system and releasing non-violent offenders who were swept up in the war on drugs is overdue as well.  This is a problem we made ourselves, and our cultural narrative about it drives it toward being a self-fulfilling prophecy.

What’s next after that?  I don’t know.  That’s where listening to other people is important.  All I can guarantee is that we will accomplish nothing if we deflect or ignore the topic entirely.

Further food for thought:

Saturday, August 8, 2020

On "Perl 7"

Previous history:

  1. SawyerX: Announcing Perl 7.
  2. Grinnz: Perl 7: A Risk-Benefit Analysis.
  3. RJBS: On Perl 7 and the Perl Steering Comittee.

My comments at this point:

Hey #perl core. Is there anywhere I can upload a cpanfile, so you can know what's important in production? Like Debian's popularity-contest, but specialized. (We install most everything via Ubuntu repositories, so you don't get downloads/test feedback.)

The perl7 thing is probably accelerating our plans to phase Perl out entirely. I'm not sure what we'll do if Ubuntu 22.04 ships a "Perl 7" that can't run Perl 5 code.

To be honest, ~20% of hits to our client-facing site are served by CGI.pm because of some failures on my part (should have used CGI::Emulate::PSGI?) and on management (50% time savings is great, but let's work on features... forever.)

Anyway, it's going to be real hard to sell "work on Perl7 support" to a management team who have been ramping up the priority on "rewrite the application."

(Lightly edited from my twitter thread.)

Now, I realize I'm nobody, and nobody has to listen to me, but I think the popularity-ranking thing is kind of important, and maybe even a "State of Perl" survey to find out what's even broken. All I know from my vantage point is that Perl looks fairly dead already, despite how much I loved it. The Perl 7 crisis has so far been more anxiety-inducing than inspiring.

Updated 2022-03-19: Perl 7 is basically dead? Business as usual? I still can't help illuminate the DarkPAN for them, and management is inching closer to sunsetting our own Perl code. RIP.