Older blog entries for jmcnamara (starting at number 7)

31 Oct 2001 (updated 31 Oct 2001 at 23:38 UTC) »

It's hard to find time to write code and write about writing code.


Spreadsheet::WriteExcel

Version 0.34 of Spreadsheet::WriteExcel took a lot of work due to the addition of a module of helper functions and the implementation of images in Excel. However, it clears the way for work on the Excel 97+ format which is now the dominant theme of feature request emails.

I also set up a project page at Freshmeat. This was mainly to provide an announcement service for people interested in new releases of the module. A lot of people subscribed to the project. It is nice to get this kind of feedback.

The Perl Journal is back on-line and so is the article that I wrote last year about Spreadsheet::WriteExcel.


YAPC::Europe

I attended YAPC::Europe in Amsterdam in August. In the absence of any other event this functions as the European Perl Conference. It was very well organised and I met nice people.

The best talks that I attended were Mail::Box by Mark Overmeer and Mutagenic modules by Robin Houston. Michael Schwern's talks were also very good as was his idea for CPANTS.

The lack of preparation of some of the speakers was disheartening. Although YAPC is a grass-roots event I felt that some people were too lackadaisical.

I also felt that there were too many joke modules and in-jokes. Perl has a light hearted feel about it but jokes can wear thin. London.pm has to take some responsibility for this. It seems to have detached into an alternative reality, perhaps even one where Perl doesn't exist. :-)


Inline::AWK

Unfortunately, I am also responsible for a joke module: Inline::PERL.

Partially as an atonement for this I decided to resurrect my original idea for Inline::AWK. I discussed this at YAPC with Brian Ingerson, the author of Inline, and posted the initial release to the Inline mailing list.

Since then I've refined the module and built a test framework based on all of the code from The AWK Programming Language. I still need to do a bit more work with it before I take it back to the mailing list and then to CPAN.

Where I come from every young boy dreams of one day writing an awk compiler. :-)

15 Jun 2001 (updated 31 Oct 2001 at 12:39 UTC) »
Spreadsheet::WriteExcel

Version 0.32 of Spreadsheet::WriteExcel was released on May 18th with new features to allow setup of the printed page. Features such as page orientation, paper type, headers and footers. These had been the most requested features for a long time but I had managed to get bogged down in the implementation of Excel's formulas and functions. The formula module burned me out a little and it took a long time to add the relatively simpler page set-up options. In order to get it finished I had to stop reading c.l.p.m and PerlMonks and I had to stop playing Golf.

I also had to stop reading module related email at the beginning of my working night when a stray problem might divert me from coding. This meant that my end of the night email responses were pithier but it did increase my productivity.

Acme::Inline::PERL

I also released Acme::Inline::PERL at Brian Ingerson's request.

Inline::PERL: Bring the power of PERL programming to your Perl programs. ;-)

Life (and how to live it)

Two weeks holidays in Italy from tomorrow. Non vedo l'ora.

18 Apr 2001 (updated 19 Apr 2001 at 14:28 UTC) »
Spreadsheet::WriteExcel

I released version 0.31 of Spreadsheet::WriteExcel on April 12th. This release fixes the show-staller bug and implements other important functionality.

This is what ActiveState had to say about the module "Writes into Excel spreadsheet files. Somewhat limited, but fairly valuable." I guess that this is an example of damning somebody with faint praise.

As part of the testing I had to verify each of the 225 Excel functions. This took one week of something close to drudgery. Programming shouldn't be drudgery for two reasons. The first reason is that if you have to do a mundane repetitive task then you should be able to write a program to help you. The second reason is that if programming becomes a drudge then you should be doing something else.

As for the first reason: I did write several small programs to help with the testing but the cross checking still required an unavoidable amount of manual effort. I think that the avoidance of a certain type of hard work is what defines me as a programmer. In much the same way Perl espouses laziness as a virtue: "Laziness: The quality that makes you go to great effort to reduce overall energy expenditure. It makes you write labor-saving programs that other people will find useful, and document what you wrote so you don't have to answer so many question about it."

As for the second reason: Eric Steven Raymond puts this better in How to Become a Hacker.

Spreadsheet::WriteExcel

I received a bug report that looked like a showstopper. The nature of the project means that this is always a possibility. short(long(*story)): found the bug, the show goes on, albeit with a few minor script changes.
Spreadsheet::WriteExcel

I have been adding support to Spreadsheet::WriteExcel for Excel's function names in other European languages.

The longest function name is in French, LOI.NORMALE.STANDARD.INVERSE (29 chars), followed by Finnish, NORM.JAKAUMA.NORMIT.KÄÄNT (25 chars). The shortest function name in all languages is T.

Here is the same function name in nine languages: TIME, ZEIT, TEMPS, NSHORA, TEMPO, TIJD, AIKA, ORARIO, KLOCKSLAG.

Waylaid myself in an implementation of Excel's comments. Represented by a small red triangle in the upper right hand corner of the cell. Which way does madness lie? This way.

Spreadsheet::WriteExcel

Version 0.30 of Spreadsheet::WriteExcel was released on time. It now includes the facility to write formulas and functions. Despite the fact that this had been one of the most requested features I received only one email in relation to it. A bug report.

The author of the email said that with the inclusion of formulas the module had gone from interesting to useful. A fair observation.

Life (and how to live it)

Blood Simple was on T.V. The Coen brothers first feature. It doesn't contain the humourous undertone of their later films. I haven't seen it in a number of year. It is still really good.

Spreadsheet::WriteExcel

I am updating the documentation in preparation for version 0.30 which will include access to formulas and functions. The target release date is the 28th of February.

The documentation, testing and distro preparation take at least half the development time of each new release.

Work (the most important thing is)

Went to the UK for a course on VoIP. "All your IP traffics are belong to us."

If it had been a week later I could have made it to London.pm to hear Damian Conway's talk.

Life (and how to live it)

Spent an evening in Oxford. The colleges were already closed. It is a nice town. Not as pretty as Urbino but more realistic. Ate a pizza at Quod.

16 Feb 2001 (updated 16 Feb 2001 at 20:53 UTC) »
Spreadsheet::WriteExcel

Received a report of a subtle bug. The format string '00000' should pad leading zeros to a zip code in Excel but nothing was happening. It turned out that '00000' was matching as a number and evaluating to zero. Nice.

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