Dan Langille

Tags:   postgresql    pgcon    freebsd    bsdcan   
Category:   Interviews   
Interviewed by: Andreas Scherbaum

PostgreSQL is the World’s most advanced Open Source Relational Database. The interview series “PostgreSQL Person of the Week” presents the people who make the project what it is today. Read all interviews here.

Please tell us about yourself, and where you are from.

I am Canadian. Born in Nova Scotia and attended high school and university in Ottawa. I moved to New Zealand shortly after graduation. After 16 years in Wellington, NZ, where I got into Open Souce via FreeBSD, I moved back to Ottawa. I lived there for 6 years, then moved to USA. I now live in a small town outside Philadelphia.

Dan Langille

Dan Langille

How do you spend your free time? What are your hobbies?

I wish I spent more time cycling (mostly mountain biking), but that has fallen to the wayside lately. Instead, I do a lot of blogging and working on my websites. At one time, I would see 4-5 movies a month. Lately, I’ve been reading every day.

Any Social Media channels of yours we should be aware of?

Last book you read? Or a book you want to recommend to readers?

I just finished Steven King’s ‘The Stand’.

I recommend anything by Tom Clancey, where he is the only author.

White Fragility by Dr. Robin DiAngelo.

Any favorite movie, or show?

Shawshank Redemption - but that’s the only one I can think of now.

How would your ideal weekend look like?

Pizza Friday night. Mountain bike ride on Saturday morning. Indian food for dinner. Brunch on Sunday. Working on blogs entries in between. There are others involved with these activity, but that may not be obvious from this list.

What’s still on your bucket list?

Buy a house. It’s been about 15 years since I’ve been a home owner.

What is the best advice you ever got?

Show up early. Don’t arrive just in time to grab the levers. From my grandfather.

When did you start using PostgreSQL, and why?

It was 2000 and I’d been working with databases for about 15 years. I was developing the initial stages of what is now freshports.org - I came to the realization that I wanted stored procedures & functions and relational integrity. I had started the work under MySQL, but once I was shown PostgreSQL it had all the features I was used to seeing. I came from the Sybase, SQLAnywhere, Oracle, and DB2 world. PostgreSQL felt so much more like a grown-up database. It is now my database of choice for 20 years.

Do you remember which version of PostgreSQL you started with?

Based on freebsddiary.org, it was PostgreSQL 7. According to freshports.org it must have been 7.0.2

Yes, I studied Computer Science at Carleton University in Ottawa. I’ve used it every day since. My main area of study was software development. I became involved with Open Source in 1995 and since then my system administration skills have developed. I moved from development into full-time systems administration in 2014.

What other databases are you using? Which one is your favorite?

I use MySQL when I have to. I like SQLite because it is so fantastic for single users applications. Instead of file-open, use SQLite if you’re going to be reading and writing data.

I am modifying FreshPorts to work with git-based commits. It stated with cvs, is now subversion based.

How do you contribute to PostgreSQL?

My main contribution is PGCon. I was approached by Josh Berkus and asked if I wanted to run a PostgreSQL conference. After checking I wouldn’t be stepping on any toes, I started PGCon.org, which just held its 14th annual conference.

Any contributions to PostgreSQL which do not involve writing code?

PGCon, blogging.

What is your favorite PostgreSQL extension?

I make heavy used of plpgsql, and some pgcrypto but really, plperl has does some amazing stuff for FreshPorts, but only in very nice areas.

What is the most annoying PostgreSQL thing you can think of? And any chance to fix it?

This is mostly a FreeBSD package issue - multiple versions on the same host.

What is the feature you like most in the latest PostgreSQL version?

Stored generated columns, although I am not using them

Could you describe your PostgreSQL development toolbox?

I use a command line editor for coding, sometimes the Sublime editor. Often psql and sometimes pgAdmin. I usually work on perl or PHP for the websites.

Which skills are a must have for a PostgreSQL developer/user?

Knowing how to design a database for the data you are using. Being able to modify that design as new information comes or, or new tasks arrive.

Do you use any git best practices, which makes working with PostgreSQL easier?

When it’s working, or you hit a good save point, commit it.

Which PostgreSQL conferences do you visit? Do you submit talks?

I am biased, PGCon.

Do you think Postgres has a high entry barrier?

No, I don’t.

What is your advice for people who want to start PostgreSQL developing - as in, contributing to the project. Where and how should they start?

You don’t have to code. You can triage bugs, verify the situation. You can blog about what you’re doing. You can submit talks to a conference. Answer questions on the mailing list. Help at conferences. You definitely don’t need to code.

Do you think PostgreSQL will be here for many years in the future?

Yes, I can’t see it going away any time soon.

Would you recommend Postgres for business, or for side projects?

Yes, all of the above.

Are you reading the -hackers mailinglist? Any other list?

I am subscribe to -hackers, -advocacy, -general, and -performance. I read them rarely.

What other places do you hang out?

Mostly IRC. I’ve been on IRC for about 25 years. I see no reason to leave. Undernet, Efnet, Freenode, OFTC.

Which other Open Source projects are you involved or interested in?

I am a ports committer with the FreeBSD project. I run BSDCan and PGCon. I run FreshPorts. I give FreeBSD and ZFS talks at various conferences.

Here is an interesting set of software I think you should look into:

Anything else you like to add?

If you have a good idea, don’t want for others to confirm that you should or should not do it. Investigate, create a proof of concept, see if it works. Then decide how to proceed. Never let others say it’s not worth doing.