Meet The Champion: February 2020

Sunday, Mar 29, 2020| Tags: Perl

Welcome to the monthly series “Meet The Champion”.

Last month we spoke to Wanderdoc, the winner of January 2020.

Today we are talking to Saif Ahmed, the winner of February 2020 of “Perl Weekly Challenge”. I hope you are going to enjoy the interview.

Mohammad: Hi Saif, welcome to Meet the Champion. Can you tell us a bit about yourself?

Saif Ahmed: Hi Mo, nice talking to you. I am a doctor (an orthopaedic surgeon), a father, a grandfather, a hobby programmer and a tissue engineering scientist. I was always interested in computers but coding, like many folk of my generation, was mainly in Z80 assembly and BASIC as a teenager on a ZX Spectrum. This was lost for a while whilst working as an increasingly disillusioned medic. Eventually a book in charity shop claiming teach me everything about HTML, Javascript and Perl for 50p and a persistent cold caller from Liverpool University suggesting that I enrol for a distance learning course in Computer Science, was followed by a Masters in IT and an interest in AI. If I was to describe my character, I am fuzzy brained, forgetful, and my mind rarely stays in one area; having a dozen projects on the go at any one time, I have yet to complete any. By the way, I am feeling a bit peckish….got any food?

Mohammad: Hmm, no. Fuzzy-brained I can well believe, but what brought you into Perl/Raku?

Saif Ahmed: I used Perl, initially just borrowing from places like Matt’s script archive, mainly to produce simple websites. I then developed an ultra-simple content management system for CAOS UK (The British Association of Computer Assisted Orthopaedic Surgeons), but later to develop mini applications for rota management, and some electronic projects on a Raspberry Pi. As time has gone on, the Perl community has declined, I felt it was time to give back so I attempted to produce GUIDeFATE, and later SIMPLE. As for Raku, the leap from Sinclair Basic and Z80 assembly to Perl was a huge one for me; I doubt that I can survive the vault from Perl 5 to Raku. (nudges Mo who has fallen asleep).

Mohammad: ZZZZZ, oh hullo, where was I? Oh yeah, what brought you to the “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Saif Ahmed: Came across it on Reddit, and met you at a couple of London Perl Workshops. Was intrigued.

Mohammad: So (big yawn) what do you like the most about “Perl Weekly Challenge”?

Saif Ahmed: I like the prospect of learning, juggling of ideas. I am however, a rather rubbish coder. I do feel that there needs to be some practical yield from this apart from merely an intellectual exercise. I reckon that you could compile these into a quarterly paper magazine, including all the reviews and the most interesting coding interpretations. Along with the news, gossip, advice section, a lonely hearts column and a splattering of blood and gore from Perl 5 vs Raku fist fights, this should make for a wholesome read, what do you think?

Mohammad: Saif, that is a interesting idea (looks totally uninterested, brings out a large paper bag), Maybe I will chat to Gabor about it. Now running PWC is enormously time consuming. How much time do you dedicate every week to “Perl Weekly Challenge”? (takes out large cheese sandwich)

Saif Ahmed: Mo, I know that you can manage with two hours of sleep a day. It is very rare that I can sit and code for a couple of hours at a time. I read the tasks for each and imagine a solution usually on the drive from home to work or in between one patient and the next and try them out on Errr… can I have bite of that sandwich?

Mohammad: (nom, nom, GULP!) No, Saif, we need to keep a social distance, mate. Do you checkout others’ solutions? No no no, I am not suggesting you “cheat” or anything, calm down Saif. I mean just for observation; who is your favourite?

Saif Ahmed: Absolutely I check solutions, but only after reading the reviews. I have multiple favourites,(strange rumbling sound from Saif’s tummy) including Ryan, echoroba, Laurent and others. BUT the most interesting ones are the ones that make me think “I wish I thought of that!", and they can come from anywhere.

Mohammad: You do have an eclectic approach to the tasks, what would you suggest to someone just starting the weekly challenge?

Saif Ahmed: I guess we all have skills that we are not able to expose to the wider world or ones that we want to develop. PWC allows you to do both of these in a fun, slightly competitive way without taking too much of the time. As for being a strange coder, I do feel that completing any task is actually only of secondary issue. One must try, if possible, to a greater return from that investment, extend the task, make what one learns usable in other scenarios etc. The value is not the prospect of recognition or reward, but the development of $self.

Mohammad: Thank you for boring us…I mean giving us an insight into your personality. Is there anything else you would like to share with us?

Saif Ahmed: My next project is to create an API for terminal games with moving multi-pixel sprites, collision detection, animation etc (Let’s call it the Perl-ayStation Games Console). But these difficult times means my attention is turned elsewhere. I would just like to ask everyone out there to stay healthy, take care of each other and come safely out of these (cliche alert) difficult times we are all going through. (make a desperate lunge for Mo’s sandwich, as Mo leaps gracefully out of the way, finishing the last bite)

That brings the end of my sandwich and our conversation with Saif Ahmed. Please do let us know your views. We will come back next month with another champion.


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