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January 2018 News

January 2018 News Archive

Mon Jan 1 00:00:00 2018

This is the shadowcat news archive for January 2018.

Burns Night

On each January 25th there is the celebration known as Burns’ Night where many people attend a Burns’ Supper. This celebration is a praise and homage to Scotland’s most famous poet, Robert Burns.

At Shadowcat we have some love and affinity for the unofficial Scottish National Poet, not least because our company secretary is Scottish, but also because the MD had one of his poems read out at his wedding.1

SO tonight raise a glass, or eat some haggis neeps and tatties, or even say a poem or two from the great man’s repertoire.

Address to a Haggis

Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o' the puddin-race!
Aboon them a' ye tak your place,
Painch, tripe, or thairm:
Weel are ye wordy o' a grace
As lang's my airm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Your pin wad help to mend a mill
In time o' need,
While thro' your pores the dews distil
Like amber bead.

His knife see rustic Labour dicht,
An' cut you up wi' ready slicht,
Trenching your gushing entrails bricht,
Like ony ditch;
And then, O what a glorious sicht,
Warm-reekin, rich!

Then, horn for horn, they stretch an' strive:
Deil tak the hindmaist! on they drive,
Till a' their weel-swall'd kytes belyve,
Are bent like drums;
Then auld Guidman, maist like to rive,
"Bethankit" hums.

Is there that o're his French ragout
Or olio that wad staw a sow,
Or fricassee wad mak her spew
Wi' perfect scunner,
Looks down wi' sneering, scornfu' view
On sic a dinner?

Poor devil! see him ower his trash,
As feckless as a wither'd rash,
His spindle shank, a guid whip-lash,
His nieve a nit;
Thro' bloody flood or field to dash,
O how unfit!

But mark the Rustic, haggis fed,
The trembling earth resounds his tread.
Clap in his wallie nieve a blade,
He'll mak it whistle;
An' legs an' arms, an' heads will sned,
Like taps o' thristle.

Ye Pow'rs wha mak mankind your care,
And dish them out their bill o' fare,
Auld Scotland wants nae skinkin ware
That jaups in luggies;
But, if ye wish her gratefu' prayer,
Gie her a haggis!

  1. Just so you know it was ‘my love is like a red, red rose’ and not a ‘timourous wee beastie,’ ‘pudding’ or any plots by rodents and hominids. ↩



It's that time of year where the wind is still bitingly cold from the Arctic that the Shadowcatters decamp and head to FOSDEM. Once again the Shadowcat crew will be making there way down, across, back up a bit to Brussels1 for the event. This is the 4th year in succession that the SC team have attended.

What is FOSDEM?

FOSDEM, for those not in the know, is probably the largest Open Source Developers conference in the Western World, if not the whole world, and is attended by upwards of eight thousand attendees, presenters and stalls. It is one of the most important events for any open source language, project or initiative.

What Will You Be Doing?

As always the Shadowcat team will not be slacking while they are there. Mark will once again be on the Perl booth where he will be tempting people with badges, stickers, books, toys and the other groovy giveaways along with some other Perl personalities (Wendy who organises the booth for the Perl 6 community each year will be away but she has still managed to do all the organising and will be leaving us with instructions and orders).

Perl also has a DevRoom on the Sunday where there will be a number of great talks on the schedule. You can view the full schedule for the Perl devroom by going here.

If you are going to FOSDEM then give us a shout or try to meet up at the event, we will likely be on the Perl booth, in the Perl Dev. room, supporting a bar to help it stand upright, or in one of the many hallway tracks.

  1. So that sounds a little odd as a description but lets look at it. We are travelling down to London from Lancaster for the train across the channel (well under it) to France and then up to Brussels which is still down from Lancaster which is further north than Brussels. :P ↩

Donald Knuth

Today1 is the anniversary of the birth of [Donald Knuth][dkwikie]. If you work in technology, mathematics or any of the sciences then you are likely to either know him or be using things that he created.

[Donald][dkwikie] is the author of the hugely influential and much copied Art of Programming, creator of a number of programming languages amongst which there is TeX the parent of LaTexX the default standard language for formatting scientific and mathematical books due to its flexibility in displaying formulae.

Donald Knuth Header

The header featuring Donald Knuth to be shown yearly on 10th January

[Donald][dkwikie] also created the family of Computer Modern typefaces and the METAFONT definition. He is a man who is synonymous with writing and setting standards for good performance and behaviour.

For Shadowcat we also like that [Donald][dkwikie] is vehemently opposed to granting software patents for frivolous, or obvious, things. He has composed letters to patent offices to explain why they are an issue. He doesn’t disagree with all patents, just that they should only be awarded for complex creations that are not an obvious addition.2

Go and read the wiki pages linked in this article and learn more about this fascinating individual.

  1. If you think these things are similar to the Google Doodle then you’d be right. It isn’t that we are trying to make ourselves a competitor it is that the Admin Boss really likes the idea of being able to change the heading of the page and to do funky things.

    They were inspired by the Google Doodle and that is enough of a reason to have them ourselves. ↩

  2. Do I hear a ‘one click’ from anyone? ↩

Work Related Experience

This year at Shadowcat seems to be continuing the theme concerning students. As mentioned in a previous news last year item we will have two more MSc students working on a project placement from Lancaster University in the office until April.

Both of these are controlled by senior developers at Shadowcat who will be on hand to help them and guide them. We don’t expect trouble-free implementations, this is a learning experience and we thought it should be challenging and rewarding, it is better to experience real world work problems.

For us at Shadowcat it will give our jaded developers a fresh pair of faces filled with enthusiasm1 to shake up the working week and inject some variety. On a serious note it is a great opportunity for both the students on placement and us at Shadowcat and we are looking forward to the next few weeks.


  1. And as we noted last year in a suspiciously similar manner, to grouch at as well as is proper and expected. ↩