From: Steve Kinzler
To: Víctor A. Rodríguez
Date: Sat, 25 Feb 2006 13:50:01 -0500
Subject: Re: A tiny interview for Argentina's Perl Monger Group

Sent 16Feb06 from victor to kinzler
+--------- Re: A tiny interview for Argentina's Perl Monger Group ---------
| - Please Steve, introduce yourself to the group

Thank you, it's my honor and pleasure to do so.

I've been programming Perl as a central part of my job for about 17
years now, first for system administration at Indiana University,
and now for Web/Internet applications at the University of Michigan.
I also taught it as part of a course I developed at IU in 1996.

Perl is, in short, as a colleague once called it, the "language of the
gods".  No other language I know of can bring us closer to the creative
joy and cognitive alchemy inherent in computer programming.

I also have a bit of notoriety in certain circles for creating and
running the Internet Oracle <> and some other
projects dating back to my younger days <>.  In fact,
a Spanish-language Oracle was established in Argentina after I visited
there, though I'm not sure about its current status.

| - Which one was your motivation to build "vshnu" ??

This goes way back.  I started on Unix in 1982 with Bell Labs Version 7.
One day we got a tape of cool software from Berkeley to add on.  There,
along with a new shell called "csh", was a screen-oriented shell called
"vsh".  I switched from "sh" to these two.  Fast forward 18 years ...
"csh" has prospered and evolved into "tcsh", but "vsh" is lost and
forgotten by all except by me.  I didn't want to give it up, but the
source code was so obsolete it wasn't possible for me to keep porting
it to modern systems.  Also, I'd collected many improvements to the
ideas of "vsh".  So I set aside my laziness and tackled a completely new
reimplementation.  After some preliminary experiments, I knew Perl would
suite the task very well, even though it would be rather unconventional.
I decided to try to make this project my Perl masterpiece (the success
of which I'll leave to others to judge).

| - Did you get some help from other Open Source projects ?? (code,
|   advice, manpower, etc.)

Of course -- no open source project is created in a vacuum.  But the
vshnu project is trying to reclaim some lost territory and expand and
reintroduce it, so the help was more in terms of tools, environment and
borrowed ideas than code, advice or manpower.

| - What skills (Perl related or not) did you gain while you build "vshnu" ??

Having learned Perl with Perl 3 and 4, I was very late to adapt to the
new styles and conventions of Perl 5.  With vshnu, I really tried to
write it the Perl 5 way, though I expect plenty of the old styles linger.

| - What advice will you give to the wanna be designers and hobbists
|   facing a new project ??

That depends a lot on one's personality.  For me, the vision of the
project is what drives me and gets me into and through the project despite
its scope and standards being daunting.  I imagine for some others just
diving in and working a lot with others and letting it evolve dynamically
would be another approach.  Of course, keep it fun and rewarding.

| - In which parts of the code you will advice to the novice Perl coder to
|   look at, in order to have a very pleasant learning experience ?

No particular part comes to mind.  I'd suggest skimming both of the
two source files (vshnu and and finding whatever catches
curiosity or interest.  My Perl style gives a lot of attention to creative
code layout and vertical alignment, which I find helps in creating correct
code and providing aesthetic satisfaction, although it can often break
"best practices" rules.

| - How can anyone colaborate with "vshnu" ??

Contributions and collaborations in any form are welcome, of course.
There are areas underattended just because I personally don't encounter
them, such as integrations with other command-line shells, and command
actions on file types that I don't work with.  There's opportunity
for improved design in the keys and commands.  Also, since mouse event
recognition is now present, the whole area of mouse commands and actions
is open for design and implementation.  More documentation would be very
useful, too.

| - What features you think are missed, and which ones will you add soon ??

Besides the mouse support just mentioned, I'm working on improving the
help system -- grouping and titling the commands by related function, and
generating a reference guide (including one's personal customizations).
I'm also considering per-directory options and listing subsorts, as well
as some other miscellaneous ideas.

| - What similitudes/differences do you find with similar projects ??

While I suppose vshnu could be compared with Midnight Commander, Emacs'
dired or some others, I think of it as different enough in design and
approach as to be in a category by itself so far.  Vshnu's integration
with a regular command line shell like bash or tcsh is important, since
you don't want to have to lose anything by using vshnu -- it should just
add on power to what you're already doing.  I still do as much in tcsh as
I do in vshnu, and work with them as two modes of one shell environment.

| - What limits did Perl impose to the project ??

Limits?  Perl?  Does not compute.

| - Any opinion or advice regarding Perl 6 ??

Those who love Perl can now love it magnitudes more.
Those who hate Perl can now hate it magnitudes more.
About those working on it -- let them take all the time they need,
and bless their souls.

| - Any favorite CPAN module ?

Hmmm, I'd be in trouble without Mail::Audit to filter my email.

| - Any favorite Perl programmer, advocate or community member ??

Larry Wall, of course.  Randal Schwartz for writing the Internet Oracle
email vote parsing script for me over lunch, the study of which got me
over the hump of Perl's learning curve and onto the Perl path ever since.
Damian Conway for genius lunacy and showing us there are no limits.

| - Do you have a Perl Group in your location ?? (if yes, please provide
|   an URL to their site)

<>, though I don't know if it's currently active.

| - Do you participate in any Perl Group ??

I made it to OSCON in Portland last year, where Perl is still a
central topic.  Highly recommended -- both the convention and the city.
(O'Reilly's annual Perl convention has evolved into its annual Open
Source convention (OSCON)).

| - Anything else that you want to tell us and we haven't asked you ??

I would reiterate my thanks to Víctor and for letting me share
these comments about Perl and vshnu.  My best wishes for the success of
your group and all your Perl projects.

                                                Steve Kinzler

from the brain of Steve Kinzler    /o)\
an organ with a mind of its own    \(o/
Crookneck Polaris / theretofore imitative / prudential Beguine.