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Name: Steve Purcell
Member since: 2000-06-03 09:20:49
Last Login: 2008-09-03 14:38:39

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Homepage: http://www.sanityinc.com/

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Multi-disciplinary coding addict and itchy-footed globe-trotting UK ex-pat.

Since hacking BASIC on a Sinclair ZX81 at eight years of age, I've worked on all kinds of fun and crazy stuff from point-of-sale software to clearing and settlement systems. In recent years I did the 'start-up thing' three times, then a spell consulting with ThoughtWorks, home of Martin Fowler and others. Having moved on, I am currently consulting independently in Munich.

My one-man company has recently launched two commercial web sites; a baby blog site called "Sproglogs" and a celebrity charity news site.

Time for open-source development is limited, so I tend to write and release 'small' software. Best known is PyUnit, my Python unit testing framework (part of the Python standard library as module 'unittest').

Other assorted mad scientist projects are a Velocity-compatible Python template engine called Airspeed, a web testing framework called WebUnit, a Java command line option parser called Jargs, a DB schema documentation generator. and learning Erlang.

My usual email address is steve, care of sanityinc.com.

My professional activities are divided between software development and black and white photography.

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In April I am co-hosting a German-language Ruby on Rails workshop in Munich, Germany. If you're interested in coming along, now's your chance to book a place before it's too late.

In keeping with my tradition of posting here approximately once per year, I'm going to note for posterity what I've been up to in recent months.

In the last year I have divided my time between lucrative consulting clients and unpaid work on my own business. My clients often hire me to help out on projects built primarily in Java; my theory is that rates for Java-related work outstrip those for other languages because they include "mental health danger money" that is required to compensate for loss of brain cells and pulled-out hair.

The greatest danger to a highly pragmatic consultant is the presence of Enterprise-minded "Architect" types. The cult of Deep Knowledge surrounding - and cultivated by - these over-serious individuals hinders the consultant's goal of just doing what is most appropriate. These types are characterised by the monotonically increasing complexity of their codebases, and their stressed response to requests for business-driven changes.

In contrast, bootstrapping my own business pays poorly but affords me the luxury of freely choosing and optimising my toolset, along with the satisfaction of moving faster and getting feedback sooner. Powered by a heady cocktail of Darcs, Rails, PostgreSQL, Debian, Trac and coffee, I have single-handedly built and launched a commercial baby web log site in a matter of months.

I expect to soon be blogging on my own site about what has worked for me, in the hope that other enterprising programmers will be encouraged to step up to their obligation to maximise their creative output.

13 Jan 2005 (updated 13 Jan 2005 at 01:25 UTC) »

I have now moved on from ThoughtWorks, after making a great many wonderful friends. In recent months I have experienced a vigorously renewed interest in small projects built on open source and common sense, presumably in a reaction to a cumulative overdose of enterprise projects built on Java and waffle.

A state of acute fatherhood has turned my mailbox into a black hole for communication about existing projects (PyUnit in particular), but a good friend and I have still managed to write some useful open-source code. As yet unreleased and unlicenced, Airspeed is an uncomplicated template library whose templates are compatible with those written for Velocity.

(Oh, and I also recently fixed up dbdoc to generate Oracle schema documentation with Jython + zxJDBC -- this plugs nicely into Ant builds. Column comments are read directly from the schema when they are available. Code available on request, until I get time to cut a release.)

A colleague pointed me at Thinlets, and I'm thoroughly impressed. Looks like a nice technology for those that can't decide between a web application and a 'traditional' GUI app. Compare heavyweight Swing and middleweight SWT with this demo.

Today I tip my hat to Jonathan Ribbens, whose jonpy project is a breath of fresh air for Python web programming.

I found Zope to be overblown, and the likes of Quixote to be too focused on page templating. Jon's work gives me what I need; servlet-style building blocks for crafting my own MVC web applications. He defines a common Request object that encapsulates the request/response data and logic, conveniently presenting query parameters, uploaded files and cookies. Adaptors for the disparate deployment models of FCGI, straight CGI and mod_python present the exact same Request interface to the developer's code. Wonderful.

As if that weren't enough, Jon throws in a web templating solution and an ingenious database connection pooling module.

The appearance of such a necessary and well-executed package in such a low-key form is typical of the no-nonsense Python world, though I can't help thinking that more of a song and dance is warranted in this case.

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