Easy form building for terminal windows: jsonwidget-python

I’ve been working on a project to make building forms really simple. My latest work is “jsonwidget-python” for terminal-based applications (like you would use via SSH or local terminal on Linux and Mac). It’s all very retro, but terminal windows are still very much in use for buzzword-compliant activities like configuring virtual machines for cloud computing, in addition to being the preferred user interface for a lot of people out there (*cough* nerds *cough*).

This new project builds on some earlier work that I’ve retroactively renamed “jsonwidget-javascript“. jsonwidget-javascript is AJAX-y generation of forms inside a browser based on a JSON schema. jsonwidget-python is intended for terminal users at first, but will extend to other contexts as well.

Here’s a simple screenshot to show what’s going on:

Simple Address Entry in jsonwidget-python
Simple Address Entry in jsonwidget-python

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Sorry about the NASCAR-looking comment area

As you may have noticed if you visited blog.robla.net directly, the comment area is handled via Intense Debate. I did that to get myself out of the account management business while still maintaining a modicum of control over my site. Other than then weird blue flaming logo and the name “intense debate” on a blog that I don’t anticipate intense debate on, it’s rather nice.

One new feature that I just enabled is the ability to comment using Facebook or Twitter login. It appears as though if you use it via Facebook, you’ll get the “allow to automatically post to your wall”, which is something that I don’t intend to exploit. If anyone with Facebook Developer-fu knows how to tweak it so it doesn’t ask for that permission, I’d be grateful if you clued me in.

The downside, of course, is that now there is 15 different logos down in the comment area now, not counting the additional 9 or so that pop up when you hover over the little orange RSS icon. Who knows, given the lack of color in the plain-jane theme I’ve recently switched to, maybe that’s a feature.

Python’s simpleparse module

I’m working on a project that required a bit more from the JSON parser than the stock JSON parser with Python allowed for. After doing some hunting around, I came to the unfortunate conclusion that I’d probably need to write my own.

Thankfully, Python’s simpleparse module lived up to its billing (thanks in large part to JSON having such trivial syntax) Here’s the working BNF suitable for passing to simpleparse:
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Matthew Yglesias » Who’s “Ideological” in the Health Care Debate?

Great insight from Matthew Yglesias:

The habit of insisting that only the right and the left have “ideologies” and that people in the center don’t is one of the absolute most frustrating elements of conventional political discussion in the United States. The fact of the matter is that “centrist” ideological taboos have been the big story of the Obama administration. That starts with the imposition of an arbitrary cap on the size of the stimulus bill, it continues to the utterly merciless and fanatical centrist opposition to the existence of any public option, to the Fed’s refusal to undertake further monetary easing, to the unwillingness to contemplate really stern measures against bailed-out banks and their executives, and on and on and on.

The idea of a “centrist” ideology is easiest to apply to the “left-right” political spectrum in the U.S., but it holds true in other areas as well (e.g. proprietary versus open). While the “correct” answer is often between two extremes, that’s not always the case. People who tend to favor shades of grey are not necessarily more reasonable, just more prone to picking shades of grey.

Moving on

I’ve decided to leave my current job at Linden Lab. Those of you interested in the ins-and-outs of Second Life may want to look at my post to “sldev” (our open source development mailing list). It was a tough decision to leave, and even tougher to make without having my next move totally nailed down, but so far it feels like the right decision. Ask me in a couple months how I feel 🙂

Without going into too much detail about what I’m working on, suffice it to say that it involves open source in a pretty big way. Even if this immediate opportunity doesn’t pan out, the scope of stuff I’ll be looking at is going to be pretty narrowly focused on facilitating the creation of open source software. I’ll write more here as things get clearer.

Brutal honesty in open source development

There’s a bit of a flamewar going on right now between the main PulseAudio developer, and another Linux desktop developer who grew frustrated by some very real problems caused directly and indirectly by it. PulseAudio is the latest of many savior technologies that promise to make audio on Linux not suck. I’m actually pretty optimistic that the fifth(?) time’s a charm here; there’s a lot of very sensible things about the design.

Anyway, Jeffrey Stedfast wrote a series of blog posts culminating in “PulseAudio: I told you so“. In these, he documents his frustration with being given the runaround when trying to point out PA problems that he ends up debugging to the point of finding and/or filing several bugs/patches in various bug trackers. PulseAudio creator Lennart Poettering had enough, and posted to his blog with a long rebuttal, claiming that Stedfast’s blog post “flamed my software and hence me”. It’s a pretty run of the mill developer flamewar, which only caught my eye because I’ve had a few frustrating problems with PA myself and was hoping to learn more.
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