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In Other News: Free Windows for CPAN Authors

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CPAN, or the Comprehensive Perl Archive Network, is the central repository for Perl modules and scripts. Unlike other languages, which tend to form small islands of information, almost anything you could need for Perl can be found in one centralized place. In its 13 years of existence it has accumulated 14,760 modules representing the work of 7,015 known authors.

Most of these modules were written with UNIX or Linux in mind, but for the last two years the Windows distribution known as Strawberry Perl has been working with CPAN authors to achieve full compatibility on the Windows platform. While many of the major libraries have been ported with full fidelity, the effort is starting to run into road blocks. Adam Kennedy explains,

Unfortunately, we are now reaching the end of the large important modules that have big teams and are relatively well resourced. For smaller modules, and many individual CPAN authors, problems accessing legal licenses or the hardware to run it on, is now becoming a critical limiting factor. Some authors have simply never used Windows before, and don't want the hassle of learning how to set it up.

In an unprecedented deal worked out between the Adam Kennedy, Microsoft Open Source Software Lab, and Microsoft Australia, the inability to get Windows licenses and hardware has been completely removed.

Commencing this month, Microsoft will be providing every CPAN author with free access to a centrally-hosted virtual machine environment containing every major version of Windows.

The result is now practically the entire Perl community has a zero-cost and zero-setup way to doing light development, problem replication, debugging, and ad-hoc testing on every version of Windows.

This arrangement is particularly amazing because it is, to my knowledge, several orders of magnitude larger than anything of this nature ever attempted before with the Open Source community.

Neither the Microsoft guys nor I know quite what is going to happen once we turn this baby on. With 7,000 potential users and endless possible use cases, I expect at the very least something of an adventure. :)

So as a result, we are treating the initial implementation as completely experimental. Within Microsoft, the partnership is being lead directly by the locals in Microsoft Australia.

The hardware to host the virtual machines have already been installed by a third-party hosting company in Australia. Once the final paper is completed later this week, Adam Kennedy will receive the admin passwords on behalf of CPAN. You can learn more about this on Use Perl.

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