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Newsletter Section 4

Across the Pond

O'Reilly's Perl Conference

“Perl Conference attracts more than 1,000 attendees. Significant Developments for Perl NT and Apache Expected To Expand Perl's Popularity”

(Ellen Elias)

The popularity and impact of freeware continues to expand, spurred on by its quality, constant innovation, and spirit of co-operation among developers. That's the conclusion reached by O'Reilly & Associates, organizers of the world's first Perl conference, where 1,047 Perl devotees joined together in August 1997 to discuss the widely-used freeware programming language.

At the conference, the world's top Perl developers committed to a high level of co-operation, which has resulted in powerful features to be added or integrated into Perl version 5.005, to be released in November. [Ed. This has now been delayed until 1998] O'Reilly has announced significant developments in Perl for Apache, Windows NT and Macintosh platforms, along with O'Reilly's previously-announced Perl Resource Kit – UNIX Edition and the revised www.perl.com site. (For conference announcements, see below).

Created by Larry Wall nearly ten years ago, Perl has become extremely popular with Web developers, as well as the system administrators for whom it was originally created. At the conference, it was easy to see the excitement this unassuming language causes: before Larry Wall could begin to speak, he received a standing ovation from his fellow Perl hackers. Later, long lines waited to receive his autograph, and those of Perl luminaries such as Tom Christiansen, for books like Learning Perl, Advanced Perl Programming, and the legendary Programming Perl, (also known as “the Camel book”), all published by O'Reilly.

Part of the strength of Perl is its range. It's used on everything from small, innovative sites to large, mission-critical projects. At the Perl conference, presentations by Perl users working at Netscape, Amazon, British Telecom, Boeing, and Mitre all demonstrated the power, reliability, and flexibility of the language.

Perl is just one freeware software product gaining in popularity, with wide-reaching ramifications. According to Netcraft UK, which tracks the web server market, Apache's 43.23% market share far surpasses Microsoft's (17.69%) and Netscape's (11.76%), combined. And Apache's share continues to increase, despite massive marketing efforts by Microsoft and Netscape. But there is a profitable side to freeware, as witnessed by O'Reilly's books – the company has long made a name for itself by publishing UNIX books – and its recent successful conference.

Conference Announcements

The Apache/Perl integration project, developed by Douglas MacEachern, brings together the full power of the Perl programming language and the most

popular web server on the market, the Apache HTTP server. MacEachern has glued Perl and Apache together with the mod_perl server plugin, which links the Perl run-time library into the Apache server and provides a sophisticated, object-oriented Perl interface to the server's C language Advanced Programming Interface (API). This makes it possible to write Apache modules entirely in Perl. In addition, the persistent interpreter embedded in the server avoids the overhead of starting an external program and the additional Perl start-up (compile) time. With the recent release of version 1.00, mod_perl also now offers support for Win32 systems.

A new ODBC driver for Perl/Windows NT is being created by developer David Roth. Known as Win32::ODBC , the driver provides an interface that is quick to learn, rich in features, and consistent with the ODBC API, making it easy to do such tasks as quick prototyping proof-of-concept applications. This enriches the Perl/NT driver set, which includes multi-platform DBI and DBD::ODBC .

Larry Wall, creator of Perl, is developing a tool that will let developers create Java bytecode with Perl, enabling specially-prepared Perl programs to run on Java-enabled browsers. This allows programmers to use Perl for the things that it does well and Java is weak at, such as string processing, while exploiting Java's wide availability on the browser.

Larry Wall and a small number of Perl developers known as the Perl 5 Porters have agreed to continue expanding multi- platform support within core Perl. The current focus is a more complete integration of the functionality of Win32 Perl with core Perl in version 5.005, due in November 1997. Beyond 5.005, the group also plans to integrate support for Macintosh Perl within the core.

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