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Finding a module to work on

by johnlawrence (Monk)
on Oct 18, 2007 at 13:33 UTC ( #645713=perlmeditation: print w/ replies, xml ) Need Help??

Since (re)starting to learn perl I've been on the lookout for a small project to work on to give me some reason to learn new aspects and stretch my learning. I was particularly taken by dragonchild 's comment "You want my recommendation? Take over PDF::Template and PDF::Writer and show me what you can do with it" in response to a question about perl certification.

I like the idea of being able to give something back as well as consolidating my perl learning. However, the modules mentioned don't fit with my interest or skill level. I've had a look around but as far as I can tell, there doesn't seem to be a list of "modules in need of help" and so my question is whether anyone knows of such a list or a way to find this out?

I tried looking at the date modules were last updated, but it's hard to tell whether an older module is not being maintained, or just doesn't need changes making!

Alternatively I have been thinking about writing a module from scratch, but most ideas I've had have already got some coverage. (For example I've been involved in agent oriented programming and thought of that, but no) Curse you CPAN for being too comprehensive! ;)

I know that whenever I've thought 'I wish there was a module to do that...' there usually has been, but I'm sure that can't always be the case, so if anyone has suggestions for something not overly complex or knows of a 'module wish list' somewhere that would also be appreciated.

John

I thought for a while about whether this belonged in SoPW or Meditations, hopefully I got it right, though please move if not!

Update: Thanks to everyone who has replied here and msg'd me, you've certainly given me a good bit to consider. I don't want to rush into anything but to those who've offered, I may well be in touch shortly. Thanks again!

Comment on Finding a module to work on
Re: Finding a module to work on
by moritz (Cardinal) on Oct 18, 2007 at 13:52 UTC
    So what are your interests? Networking? Parsing? Math? Cryptography? Databases? ...?

    It's hard to recommend something without knowing more about your preferences

    And finally: would you like to be the only maintainer of module, or would you prefer teamwork?

      I'd not mentioned a specific topic because I find it hard to answer. To be honest I can be interested, or not, in all the topics you suggested.

      I'm not trying to be difficult (honestly!) I just find that some things catch my imagination regardless of the broader topic that they fall under. That was why I'd been looking for a list of options (either of new ideas or unmaintained options) until I had an 'Aha!' moment.

      As far as working with a team or not, I'd be happy with either, in fact as I'm looking at this as much for learning as anything else a team may be helpful, then again I am also used to learning by myself. So, yeah, either :)

        I'll try to present a module I'm working on in my free time, and if you (or another monk) are interested in it, I'll set up a repository where you can get the code.

        My inspiration comes from a simulation software called stella which I used in school, but which is closed source and, iirc, rather expensive.

        The idea is that you can create objects and specify their relation, which means that you can either say things like "acceleration = force / mass", or things like "velocity gains/looses by "acceleration"" (which is, mathematically, a derivation).

        A simple example for a falling stone might be something like this:

        mass: 1 # in kg force: -9.81 # in N acceleration: force / mass velocity: gains by: acceleration initial: 2.5 height: gains by: velocity inital: 0

        This will output a parabolic curve for height, and an linear for velocity. This is trivial to calculate manually as well, but if you want to add things like air resistance it's very hard to do manually.

        That means that you can model physical relations (and other things, but being a physicist I tend to forget them...) with only very little physical knowledge, and without knowing it you are actually writing down a differential equation.

        Solving that isn't hard (my prototype does that with Math::RungeKutta), the real work is manage the objects, ensure that values aren't calculated multiple times (to boost efficiency), and to create a usable API.

        Further along the way I see a serialization format (based on yaml, json, xml or the like), plotting of the results and perhaps a GUI.

        And I'm targeting the "everything is a library" approach, in Perl term "everything is a Module", so that large parts of the application (especially the modelling backend) can easily be used by other programs.

        Am working on this occasionally, and plan to release the first modules to cpan as soons they have a stable API (and are not too buggy).

        Interesting that you say that. I'm slightly digressing here, but I was looking at a creative writing forum recently where a student said they couldn't think what or who to write about.

        A fairly well-known writer (trying to be blunt and calling a spade a spade, etc) responded to this by saying 'there's not an awful lot of point wanting to be a writer if you can't think of anything to write about.' (I'm paraphrasing here, I think the sense was: ..if you haven't got anything you *want* to write about)

        I suppose you don't always know till you get there, how much you'll enjoy a project. But if I have a need to work on (or interest in) something it certainly helps motivation

        That really was less than 0.02 from me. Excellent meditation subject, though. ++

Re: Finding a module to work on
by syphilis (Canon) on Oct 18, 2007 at 14:18 UTC
    Hi johnlawrence,

    There was a recent question on comp.lang.perl.modules (I think) regarding a perl module that wraps ALSA. Lack of response would indicate that such a beast does not exist.

    Last time I checked, the GSL modules had not been updated in quite some time - so it's likely they're up for grabs. And I know that Neil Watkiss is prepared to farm out Inline::CPP (and possibly other of his modules - see http://search.cpan.org/~neilw/).

    Then, on the PDL mailing list there was some talk of wrapping s2plot (http://astronomy.swin.edu.au/s2plot/).

    These are just what comes to mind off the top of my head. I'm sure there are many others. It's really just a matter of finding something that interests you.

    Cheers,
    Rob
Re: Finding a module to work on
by dragonchild (Archbishop) on Oct 18, 2007 at 14:19 UTC
    An alternate approach is to find someone with more modules than time and learn the craft of maintaining CPAN modules from them. I'm sure that most CPAN authors would be more than willing to have someone under their wing who's willing to do some of the less appealing bits in order to learn more about the craft. You might find that there are some tasks you might be more interested in than you realize.

    My criteria for good software:
    1. Does it work?
    2. Can someone else come in, make a change, and be reasonably certain no bugs were introduced?
Re: Finding a module to work on
by grinder (Bishop) on Oct 18, 2007 at 16:02 UTC

    Take Dave Cantrell's CPAN Dependency checker for a spin. Give it a couple of big packages like Plagger, Catalyst, Jifty, Mail::SpamAssassin or POE and see what it thinks of them.

    Look for the usual suspects (modules that come up repeatedly with lots of failure), and that deal with problem domains you're interested in.

    Check out the corresponding CPAN RT queue and see if there are two hundred new bug reports filed. There's a fair chance that the author has gone AWOL. Download the package, fix the bugs, while trying to contact the author in parallel.

    After three months is up, and you've fixed all the bugs, and the author hasn't acknowledged your polite queries as to whether they still wish to maintain the module, or want a co-maint, or whatever, you should then drop a line to module-authors@perl.org detailing your attempts to fix the module and track down the author.

    Depending on a number of factors, you might just wind up as the proud maintainer of any number of crucial CPAN modules. And I would buy you a beer if we ever meet up at a YAPC.

    • another intruder with the mooring in the heart of the Perl

Re: Finding a module to work on
by w-ber (Hermit) on Oct 18, 2007 at 16:11 UTC

    Ask yourself: Do you have an itch to scratch? Do you have some particular problem you need to solve?

    If you don't, chances are that whatever particular cool module you start making or maintaining, you'll quickly lose all interest in it and it becomes a burden -- unless you really have that much extra time in your hands. It's symptomatic that you can't put a name on any topic that would interest you. Usually (of course not always) this means that you are raring to do something, but once you have that something to work on, it's not what you want. (Case in point: PDF::Writer.)

    On the other hand, if you accept requests, I could use Perl bindings to libogg and libvorbis -- mind you, something more Perlish than converted C interface. The goal: being able to effetively manipulate audio data in Perl, the first step being able to decode audio data and then, after processing, encode it again. This is relatively simple and you would gain some XS and C experience in the meantime.

    (I had some ready code for this, but my harddrive had a mechanical failure, and since then I've noticed that there's no burning need to have it after all. But it would be nice to have. If the module even supported loading data directly into piddles, the more the better!)

    --
    print "Just Another Perl Adept\n";

Re: Finding a module to work on
by hossman (Prior) on Oct 18, 2007 at 17:32 UTC

    Don't dive off the deep end, it's easy to overestimate your time/effort/ambition ... wade in.

    The best way to learn about coding, stretch your skills, and help the community is to find something that can use more tests or fixes to existing bugs -- the merit of new features may be disputed, but few people can argue with a bug fix or better test coverage.

    go through the phalanx ... look for modules you use that have little problems you think you can fix easily. no matter how trivial they may be, fixing them will involve becoming more familiar with the code involved, which will give you more breadth of perl knowledge. submitting the patches will give you more exposure to the world of "open development" and pave the way for more ambitious projects.

Re: Finding a module to work on
by cmv (Chaplain) on Oct 18, 2007 at 17:53 UTC
    John-

    Not being an author yet myself, I'm becoming enlightened on what it means to be an author and just how much of a jerk module users can be CPAN Author Struggle: Am I a jerk? (unter-jerk).

    I've been using Net::SSH::Perl for a long time now, not only because it's practical for what I'm trying to do, but the idea of someone re-implementing the SSH protocol using just perl alone, was just, well...neat!

    Being a heavy user, I ran into a bug that I was able to hack up a fix for (I still don't believe it's fixed, but that is another story).

    Recently, I found myself needing to connect to a far end machine via SOCKS proxy, and first asked here on what to do Using SSH via SOCKS5 Proxy (Solution Posted). What I really wanted was for Net::SSH::Perl to use Net::SOCKS to get the job done, so I went ahead and modified it myself. Well, hacked it with a ball-peen hammer is probably more accurate however it did work fine. Then, before sending it I stopped to think about the stuff I learned from my unter-jerk experience, and realized that my hacks would probably not be viewed as usable by the author. After some internal debate, I sent them anyway, just in case the author didn't think they're as bad as I do.

    After additional research, I found a much more elegant way in the form of the Net::SSH::W32Perl module, and so hacked that up to do the SOCKS stuff. Much better result!

    Now I'm torn on what I think the right solution should be. Ideally, both the SOCKS and W32 functionality should be in the Net::SSH::Perl module, but again there are probably reasons why W32 was created. Hmmm..., I'm learning all the time.

    The upshot of this long story is that if you're interested in teaming up with me (and hopefully the author) with Net::SSH::Perl, I'm game!

    -Craig

Re: Finding a module to work on
by samtregar (Abbot) on Oct 18, 2007 at 19:19 UTC
    You might enjoy working on XML::Validator::Schema. It has a few nice properties as a learning project:

    • It was coded originally using test-driven development, so there's lots of good tests and a decent harness for adding more. If you break it, you'll know.
    • It's meant to implement a published, stable spec. You won't need any creativity to find more stuff to do and you'll have a great source of test cases.
    • People are begging for more features and will shower you with praise when you deliver them.
    • You'll get to put some buzz-words on your resume - hot ones like XML, XML Schema, SAX, etc.

    -sam

      i wouldn't mind working on this myself. :-) Where do you suggest i begin?
        Great! I'd start by picking a small feature from the spec that XML::Validator::Schema doesn't support - some detail in the simple type system perhaps. First write a test case that fails, then implement the code necessary to get the test passing.

        -sam

Re: Finding a module to work on
by Tux (Monsignor) on Oct 19, 2007 at 09:04 UTC

    A module that needs attention, as the original author might not have any interrest anymore, but the rest of the world has, might be Spreadsheet::ReadSXC, which is a XML task.


    Enjoy, Have FUN! H.Merijn
Re: Finding a module to work on
by mr_mischief (Prior) on Oct 19, 2007 at 19:12 UTC
    Don't forget Perlmonks. CPAN modules that need a hand are a great place to help. Some other places that might inspire you if all of CPAN doesn't are Cool Uses For Perl, Code Catacombs, and Snippets Section. They hold many ideas and partial to nearly-complete implementations of those ideas. Many of the nodes say things such as, "I might just get around to polishing this up and putting on CPAN someday".

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