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by Steampunk (Scribe)
on Oct 02, 2000 at 18:11 UTC ( #34904=perlquestion: print w/replies, xml ) Need Help??
Steampunk has asked for the wisdom of the Perl Monks concerning the following question:

I'm just now "getting into" Perl. I come from a background of computers as a hobby, more or less. Although my job consists of user support, administration (NT -- hey, don't shoot me!), and web-master (design, not server admin), I don't have any jobs for programming, per se. I'm fairly new into Perl (read the Llama and did exercises, the Camel, and working on CGI programming with Perl), but I don't have access to a *nix site to administer, an apache server to tweak, or anything cool like that.

That little diatribe said:

What's "cool", aka interesting, for someone coming up through the newbie ranks to work on?

Yes, I know it's a stretch to tell someone what THEY would find interesting. But the majority of posts/books deal with:

  • Very newbie issues
  • Very specific issues related to a very certain database or system
  • Very technical expert issues - like contributing to CPAN

While I would like to progress to the point where I feel I could contribute something back to the 'Net, I need something to 'cut my teeth on' to get to that stage.

I think I just asked for homework! Hey, someone send some nitroglycerine pills to my high-school teachers ASAP -- I think they might have a heart-attack!

Thank you all.

-- Just another Perl slacker

Replies are listed 'Best First'.
(jcwren) RE: Ideas
by jcwren (Prior) on Oct 02, 2000 at 18:48 UTC
    Gotta go with BlaisePascal on this one.

    Most of the things I've done were itches that needed to be scratched. As an idea list, here's a few of the things I've done in Perl:
    • Weather station to mySQL database, cgi-bin script that reads the database, displays weather as a web page. Also uses Festival/MBROLA to generate the weather in a spoken format.
    • I designed a small PC board that connects to my amateur radio. The board decodes DTMF, sends it to the serial port on the Linux box. The Perl script takes those digits, looks for specific patterns, and when found, puts the radio in transmit mode, and plays the weather file from the previous item out the radio.
    • Another cgi-bin script allows the frequency to be changed on another of my amateur radios. Assuming that the audio encoder was running on my NT machine (which it isn't at the moment), you could listen to various HF frequencies over the 'net (Voice of America, BBC News, amateur tranmissions, etc).
    • A cgi-bin script that is a web interface to the Festival/MBROLA text-to-speech software. You type in a sentence, it will play it back to you as a .WAV or .AIFF file.
    • Perl script that goes and gets various statistics from this site, stores them in a mySQL database. Any changes in reputations of my articles are noted, and sent to me in e-mail. (Source is here on the site, at
    • A Perl script that gets additional site statistics for Perlmonks, stores them in a mySQL database. Uses PHP to display them, however.
    • Script that goes out to the Army Corp of Engineers website, retrieves the statistics for lake Sidney Lanier, in Buford, GA, and writes it to a mySQL database. A cgi-bin script then displays those in a tableized format (and, if the ACoE doesn't screw up *their* data, mine is actually correct, also... sigh.)
    • I've let it go to hell, but some of my earlier Perl stuff scanned a database of PC peripherials I was interested in, from PriceWatch, posted them to a mySQL database. A cgi-bin script then would display the contents of the database, and allow graphs to be generated of price changes in these items. It also sent e-mail to a list of people about items they were specifically interested in.
    • Igor, a small Perl mail handling script that acts as a query agent. You send him mail asking what the weather is (put the word 'weather' in the body), he'll report back the current state of my weather station. He also handles propogation forecasts for the solar flux, A & K indices. On my friends machine, you can get satellite prediction passes. (Source is here on the site, at K-Mart Blue Light E-mail Auto-responder)
    As you can see, with a little ingenuity, and a few things you want to accomplish, you should be able to come with plenty of practical ideas.

    And it's OK to re-invent certain wheels. Don't try to write your own version of, but if someone has already written a web-based CD cataloger, write another. Especially if you don't like theirs. Automate mundane tasks. Stuff like that.


    e-mail jcwren
RE: Ideas
by chromatic (Archbishop) on Oct 02, 2000 at 20:09 UTC
    I've recently decided it would be fascinating to pick one or two modules out of the New CPAN Modules list every week, and build something small (a couple of hundred lines) around both of them.

    If you did that for a year, you'd become quite an adept programmer. You'd also have a good feel for what's on CPAN. merlyn uses this technique fairly well...

    That said, there are dozens of modules and programs and projects that run perfectly well on Unix but don't quite make it on NT. If you're itching for some porting arcana, you could start by seeing what errors you get on your machine, and trying to fix them. Initially, you might have to settle for writing bug reports, but eventually you'll be able to submit patches.

    (If you're feeling really generous, Jellybean would benefit immensely from that sort of testing.)

What itch do you need to scratch?
by BlaisePascal (Monk) on Oct 02, 2000 at 18:31 UTC
    Look around you... What itch do you have? What task is a pain, but you have to do it anyway?

    You'd probably get more enjoyment out of using perl to fix some problem you have to deal with everyday than doing some homework assignment we give to you.

    If you still want an assignment, tell us what your goals are. I'd be tempted to tell you something like:

    Write a program that will read in a file from a disk, sort it (without using the sort() function), and write it back out under a different filename. Now rewrite it using OO-style programming techniques. Now rewrite it in a functional style.
    if I thought you wanted to learn how to program (see the Tom Christiansen quote in at Why I like functional programming). But that may be inappropriate if that's not what you want to do.

    So, what do you want to do?

by Steampunk (Scribe) on Oct 03, 2000 at 14:27 UTC

    Thanks for some great pointers. After looking at a couple of your web pages and seeing some of the interesting projects that you are working on, I found a little "motivation". I can see where the Ham arena can have quite a few projects. Unfortunately, my hobbies are reading, pipe smoking (yes, the legal kind), astronomy, and R/C airplanes. Although, now that I mention it, with my computer controlled telescope...

    Anyway, I just wanted to say thanks for the input. Through chromatic's web site I hopped on over to SourceForge and that looks appealling.

    Again, thanks everyone and I look forward to getting more out of Perl Monks.

    -- Just another Perl slacker

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