Simon Willison’s Weblog

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cinder: Instagram’s performance oriented fork of CPython (via) Instagram forked CPython to add some performance-oriented features they wanted, including a method-at-a-time JIT compiler and a mechanism for eagerly evaluating coroutines (avoiding the overhead of creating a coroutine if an awaited function returns a value without itself needing to await). They’re open sourcing the code to help start conversations about implementing some of these features in CPython itself. I particularly enjoyed the warning that accompanies the repo: this is not intended to be a supported release, and if you decide to run it in production you are on your own! # 4th May 2021, 10:13 pm

Observable Plot (via) This is huge: a brand new high-level JavaScript visualization library from Mike Bostock, the author of D3—partially inspired by Vega-Lite which I’ve used enthusiastically in the past. First impressions are that this is a big step forward for quickly building high-quality visualizations. It’s released under the ISC license which is “functionally equivalent to the BSD 2-Clause and MIT licenses”. # 4th May 2021, 4:28 pm

When building a tool, it’s easy to forget how much you’ve internalized: how much knowledge and context you’ve assumed. Your tool can feel familiar or even obvious to you while being utterly foreign to everyone else. If your goal is for other people to use the darn thing — meaning you’re not just building for yourself, or tinkering for its own sake (which are totally valid reasons) — you gotta help people use it! It doesn’t matter what’s possible or what you intended; all that matters is whether people actually succeed in practice.

Mike Bostock # 23rd February 2021, 10:55 pm

Open source projects: consider running office hours

Back in December I decided to try something new for my Datasette open source project: Datasette Office Hours. The idea is simple: anyone can book a 25 minute conversation with me on a Friday to talk about the project. I’m interested in talking to people who are using Datasette, or who are considering using it, or who just want to have a chat.

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Datasette: A Developer, a Shower and a Data-Inspired Moment (via) Matt Asay interviewed me over Zoom last month. This captures a lot of my thinking around open source really well: “Datasette is aggressively open source for a bunch of reasons. Most of them are very selfish reasons.” # 18th June 2020, 11:32 pm

New governance model for the Django project. This has been under discussion for a long time: I’m really excited to see it put into action. It’s difficult to summarize, but they key effect should be a much more vibrant, active set of people involved in making decisions about the framework. # 12th March 2020, 5:27 pm

Weeknotes: PG&E outages, and Open Source works!

My big focus this week was the PG&E outages project. I’m really pleased with how this turned out: the San Francisco Chronicle used data from it for their excellent PG&E outage interactive (mixing in data on wind conditions) and it earned a bunch of interest on Twitter and some discussion on Hacker News.

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My JSK Fellowship: Building an open source ecosystem of tools for data journalism

I started a new chapter of my career last week: I began a year long fellowship with the John S. Knight Journalism Fellowships program at Stanford.

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Monaco Editor. VS Code is MIT licensed and built on top of Electron. I thought “huh, I wonder if I could run the editor component embedded in a web app”—and it turns out Microsoft have already extracted out the code editor component into an open source JavaScript package called Monaco. Looks very slick, though sadly it’s not supported in mobile browsers. # 21st May 2019, 8:47 pm

Datasette 0.28—and why master should always be releasable

It’s been quite a while since the last substantial release of Datasette. Datasette 0.27 came out all the way back in January.

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The Cloud and Open Source Powder Keg (via) Stephen O’Grady’s analysis of the Elastic v.s. AWS situation, where Elastic started mixing their open source and non-open source code together and Amazon responded by releasing their own forked “open distribution for Elasticsearch”. World War One analogies included! # 17th March 2019, 7:08 pm

sqlite-utils: a Python library and CLI tool for building SQLite databases

sqlite-utils is a combination Python library and command-line tool I’ve been building over the past six months which aims to make creating new SQLite databases as quick and easy as possible.

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PEP 8016 -- The Steering Council Model (via) The votes are in and Python has a new governance model, partly inspired by the model used by the Django Software Foundation. A core elected council of five people (with a maximum of two employees from any individual company) will oversee the project. # 17th December 2018, 4:02 pm

for those open source companies that still harbor magical beliefs, let me put this to you as directly as possible: cloud services providers are emphatically not going to license your proprietary software. I mean, you knew that, right? The whole premise with your proprietary license is that you are finding that there is no way to compete with the operational dominance of the cloud services providers; did you really believe that those same dominant cloud services providers can’t simply reimplement your LDAP integration or whatever? The cloud services providers are currently reproprietarizing all of computing — they are making their own CPUs for crying out loud! — reimplementing the bits of your software that they need in the name of the service that their customers want (and will pay for!) won’t even move the needle in terms of their effort.

Bryan Cantrill # 15th December 2018, 5:02 pm

11 barriers to coding in the open and how to overcome them (via) “Terence Eden, open standards lead at GDS, also gave a talk about overcoming barriers to coding in the open”—an intriguing recap of that talk revealing exactly how the UK government have been encouraging a culture of coding in the open and going open source first. # 5th November 2018, 8:53 pm

The (broken) economics of OSS (via) ‪This is worth reading: a very well thought-out summary of the challenges of financially supporting open source infrastructure projects in a world of cloud providers‬. Matt Klein is the creator of the Envoy proxy at Lyft. One of his conclusions is that the open source fellowship model (where foundations provide a full time salary to key maintainers) deserves more attention. # 2nd September 2018, 9:10 am

lemongraph. An open-source “log-based transactional graph engine”. Written by the NSA. In Python. It runs on top of LMDB, which is the fast memory-mapped transactional key-value store that was developed by the OpenLDAP project as a replacement for BerkeleyDB. # 22nd June 2018, 9:15 pm

Open Source gives engineers the power to collaborate across legal entities (companies) without involving bizdev. The benefits of this workaround are extraordinary and underappreciated.

Yehuda Katz # 6th June 2018, 9:52 pm

Django #8936: Add view (read-only) permission to admin (closed). Opened 10 years ago. Closed 15 hours ago. I apparently filed this issue during the first DjangoCon back in September 2008, when Adrian and Jacob mentioned on-stage that they would like to see a read-only permission for the Django Admin. Thanks to Olivier Dalang from Fiji and Petr Dlouhý from Prague it’s going to be a feature shipping in Django 2.1. Open source is a beautiful thing. # 17th May 2018, 1:40 pm

Datasette 0.18: units (via) This release features the first Datasette feature that was entirely designed and implemented by someone else (yay open source)—Russ Garrett wanted unit support (Hz, ft etc) for his Wireless Telegraphy Register project. It’s a really neat implementation: you can tell Datasette what units are in use for a particular database column and it will display the correct SI symbols on the page. Specifying units also enables unit-aware filtering: if Datasette knows that a column is measured in meters you can now query it for all rows that are less than 50 feet for example. # 14th April 2018, 3:56 pm

Typesense (via) A new (to me) open source search engine, with a focus on being “typo-tolerant” and offering great, fast autocomplete—incredibly important now that most searches take place using a mobile phone keyboard. Similar to Elasticsearch or Solr in that it runs as an HTTP server that you serve JSON via POST and GET—and it offers read-only replicas for scaling and high availability. And since it’s 2018, if you have Docker running (I use Docker for Mac) you can start up a test instance with a one-line shell command. # 6th April 2018, 5:07 pm

Pull request #4120 · python/cpython. I just had my first ever change merged into Python! It was a one sentence documentation improvement (on how to cancel SQLite operations) but it was fascinating seeing how Python’s GitHub flow is set up—clever use of labels, plus a bot that automatically checks that you have signed a copy of their CLA. # 7th November 2017, 2:06 pm

The only thing that would have been nice is that after the project had been finished and the chip deployed, that someone from Intel would have told me, just as a courtesy, that MINIX 3 was now probably the most widely used operating system in the world on x86 computers. That certainly wasn’t required in any way, but I think it would have been polite to give me a heads up, that’s all.

Andrew S. Tanenbaum # 7th November 2017, 11:50 am

What are some good open source projects that VMware is directly part of?

To my knowledge they fund almost all of the development work on RabbitMQ, Redis and the Spring Java framework.

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What are the most commonly used or most interesting open-source packages and software?

I’d say the open source browser engines, Gecko (Firefox) and WebKit (Safari, Chrome, iOS, Android) are probably some of the most important and widely used pieces of open source code these days.

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To become a better developer ? To read more OR to create/contribute to open source projects?

Contribute to an existing project, rather than starting one yourself. There are a bunch of benefits:

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Is there a free/open-source software source code search engine?

If you want to search through actual code in open source projects, GitHub search is fantastic https://github.com/search—e.g. here’s a search for all Ruby code that mentions oauth https://github.com/search?q=oaut...

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How can a new developer get involved in open-source projects?

I was going to say the same thing. Find a useful project in GitHub (preferably one that clearly has an active maintainer), fork it, fix a bug (look at the project’s issue tracker) then make a pull request.

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What is the typical time overhead in using an open source package vs. an equivalent commercial package?

It totally depends on the software in question. If you are moving to popular, well maintained open source packages (things like nginx, solr, MySQL) you can often expect a large improvement in developer productivity due to the increased amount of tutorials, forums, mailing lists, irc channels and stackoverflow/quora posts you’ll have access to.

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Why Facebook open-sourced its datacenters. Jon Stokes speculates that Facebook plan to use open source hardware to compete with Google at datacenter efficiency . This isn’t a new pattern. Years ago when I worked at Yahoo! I was furiously jealous of the secret sauce technologies that allowed Google to build big applications faster than anyone else, such as BigTable and map/reduce. Today, the open source world has created better, free alternatives—sponsored in part by Facebook, Yahoo! and other Google competitors. # 9th April 2011, 7:54 am