PyCon 2010

PyCon was in Atlanta this year, which got me away from the record snow in the DC area.  Yay for winter conferences being in warm places.  (Nothing against Chicago, but Chicago conferences should be in the summer.)

Attendance was about 1100, a little more than last year, but nothing like the crazy growth PyCon saw when the economy was strong. I think that Python is still growing but travel and recruiting budgets are down.

The best talk I attended was Raymond Hettinger's.  It was about using the right container classes to solve computationally expensive problems.  He pointed out that every ordered dict implementation except the one he just added to Python 3.1 had O(n) deletes due to using a list for storing the order, while his had O(1) deletes because he used a linked list with a dict index.  I hung my head in shame because I've written odict twice (once at a former employer, again from scratch for Slugathon) and done it "wrong" both times.

The most useful thing I attended was the Twisted Open Space.   Because my employer really wants IPv6 in Twisted, and I've submitted a patch but not had it accepted because of reverse compatibility concerns.  Actually talking to most of the core Twisted team at once in person really helped clarify what we need to do to break the logjam and get the patch moving forward again.  That ten minutes probably justified the cost of sending me to PyCon this year.  (And I wish I could go to the sprints and maybe actually get this change into Twisted this week, but I can't.  Next year I really want to go to at least a couple of sprint days.)

Rackspace Cloud was there as a sponsor with a booth, which reminded me that I should have blogged about my experience using Rackspace Cloud.  Basically, they stood up a virtual small Ubuntu (they have other choices too) server for me in about 5 minutes, for about $12 per month (plus bandwidth, more money for more memory), and it just stinking worked.  I've since turned it off because Slugathon isn't done yet so I don't really need a dedicated game server yet, but I'll definitely be back when it is.  The only negative is that there's no way to setup a cap at which the server turns itself off, so if you get Slashdotted or DOS attacked you may get a high bandwidth bill.


Airline travel sucks.  You already know this.

Guido's keynote was just taking questions via Twitter, and the signal-to-noise ratio was awful.  (Yes, I'm an old Angry Unix Guy.  Get off my lawn and take your Twitter and your Facebook and your iPhone with you.)  If Guido doesn't want to do a real keynote, that's fine; why not let someone else have the slot?

I'm no longer in favor of invited talks, because one of them was just content-free pattern metababble that never would have been accepted if the speaker had had to do a proposal.  (But, in fairness, all the other invited talks I attended were excellent.)

There were several talks that I really enjoyed and thought were great fun, but where I didn't really learn anything.  So they validated my existing opinions but didn't stretch my brain at all.  (Larry Hastings actually pointed out before his talk about micro-optimizations that it was just nerd porn and that it would be entertaining but nobody would learn much.  I applaud him for his honesty.)  I guess that's natural when you've been doing something for a long time and have attended the same conference a bunch of times.  I need to attend fewer talks and spend more time just talking to people.

The board game social wasn't as awesome as last year because there wasn't a huge pile of games to pick from.  (I think last year a game store donated some games, and you can't expect that to happen every year.)  So I will bring at least one game next year.

My 7-year-old laptop lost its WiFi connection whenever things got crowded.  The networking people do their best, but 1000 laptops crammed into a small area means the newer stronger ruder WiFi cards will crowd out the older weaker more-polite ones, no matter how many access points there are.  I plugged into a switch when I could, and lived without WiFi when I couldn't.  My laptop is heavy and has poor battery life anyway, so I think it's time to retire it in favor of a netbook.