"We're now seeing the critical mass along with the technical maturity," said Wall, Senior Software Developer with O'Reilly & Associates. "Last year, at the first Perl Conference, there was a sense of raw excitement. This year we've added to that a sense of confidence that Perl is getting the recognition it deserves."
Most of the conference presentations were technical in nature. However, one session, "Championing Perl," discussed the issues that management has with using Perl in corporate settings where the perceived "safe" choice is packaged, proprietary software. The panel covered such topics as technical support for Perl, licensing issues, and "name dropping," that is, the mention of companies like IBM, Yahoo and Netscape, all of whom are using Perl, to convince managers of Perl's practicality. Dick Hardt, Chief Technology Officer of ActiveState Tool Corp., a leading developer of Perl for Windows systems, was moderator of the panel. "A number of Perl developers have had difficulty getting Perl officially accepted by their managers," Hardt said. "In some cases the developers have used Perl anyway because it was the best tool for the job. In other cases people had been successful in getting Perl accepted, and many developers found it encouraging to hear how this was accomplished."
At the Perl Conference, Tim O'Reilly, Founder and CEO of O'Reilly & Associates, awarded six prizes of $1,000 each to winners of a contest for Best User Applications. "Developers continue to push the boundaries of what you can accomplish with Perl," O'Reilly explained. "These awards clearly exemplify the growing reach of Perl. For example, Carlos de la Guardia and Javier Rodriguez won Best End-Use Application for putting together an entire online banking service for a large bank in Perl, on a very accelerated timeframe, and on budget." Other winners were: Best Software Development Tool, Ken Fox; Best New Module, Gisle Aas; Best System Administration Tool, Marty Cudmore and Richard Jetton; Best Web Application Tool, Jon Udell; and the Larry Wall Award for Practical Utility, Damian Conway.
At the Perl Conference, Netscape Communications' Tim Howes, Vice-President and Chief Technology Officer for the Server Products Division, announced that Netscape will release PerLDAP, combining Perl with Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP), as open source software. The new software lets developers quickly create directory capabilities for extranet applications. PerLDAP integrates LDAP into Perl, assisting in information exchanged (using both LDAP and non-LDAP protocols) between computers, from mainframes to PCs.
Several additional announcements were made in conjunction with the Perl Conference. The new Perl, version 5.005, was recently released, including dozens of significant new features including the integration of Win32 into Perl's core. O'Reilly's Perl Resource Kit-Win32 Edition was released at the conference, featuring more than 1800 pages of documentation and the first comprehensive collection of Win32 modules for Perl.
Perl Conference 2.0 was followed by Open Source Developers Day, a full day of presentations on the practical aspects of developing open source software businesses, and the Open Source Town Meeting, attended by more than 300 participants.
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