Randal Schwartz is known to many programmers and Open Source advocates as one of the leading Perl authors, trainers, and consultants -- some sources describe him as one of the "Holy Trinity of Perl," along with Larry Wall and Tom Christiansen. As the founder and operator of Stonehenge Consulting Services for 18 years, Randal is (in)famous for the heavily-attended and over-the-top parties which Stonehenge sponsors at conferences and conventions. He is also infamous for a 1995 conviction under Oregon's Computer Crime Law for activities performed while working for Intel.
Randal Schwartz was born November 11, 1961, in Oregon. Today he still lives in Beaverton, Oregon, just outside of Portland. However, he spends little time there, as he travels extensively -- to teach, consult, or attend industry events. Much of his teaching these days takes place on Geek Cruises (www.geekcruises.com).
Randal was involved with Perl from its earliest days. On the day of its release (December 18, 1987) he even left a rendition of Happy Birthday on Larry Wall's answering machine. Since then, he has been the author or co-author of some of the "must-have" books for Perl programmers -- commonly known as the Camel Book and the Llama Book.
Randal also contributes to (and moderates) Perl newsgroups, and was a founding member of both The Perl Institute and Perl Mongers. He regularly writes (or has written) columns for Linux Magazine, Unix Review, and Web Techniques.
Tom Christiansen (derisively) named the Schwartzian Transform after Randal (and later recommended it be named the "Black Transform" because he considered it so sinister). This is a technique Randal made popular, for speedily sorting a list of items by a function of the items (such as a database lookup) rather than an immediately known property of the items (such as an alphabetical sort).
In late 1995, Randal Schwartz was convicted of three felony counts under Oregon's Computer Crime Law. During and after the trial, much discussion has raged as to whether his actions were appropriate (most, including Randal himself, agree that he "made mistakes"), and whether Intel (and the state's) response to his actions were appropriate (many believe it was not). The two primary issues he was called on were creating a hole in Intel's firewall to more easily access the outside, and running cracking tools on the passwd files of various machines at Intel.
There is little doubt that Randal violated some rules of employee conduct at Intel, although most do believe that he did so with the best intentions. However, it is hard to justify a criminal conviction for his mistakes, except for a desire by Intel to find a scapegoat for the costs of the security investigation, or to "send a message" to any actual wrong-doers to "not mess with Intel." The longest-lasting result of his ordeal was to make very visible the issue of criminal charges being a possibility for employees' mistakes in the area of computer security, at least as far as the greater computing community is concerned.
As far as Randal himself, he lived through 480 hours of community service (later commuted to 240 hours and a "fine", and much of it served by writing perl code for the local school system) and five years of probation, as well as fines and legal bill, but fortunately avoided actually serving any jail time (except for the obligatory one-hour stay while being booked on charges). At least now that his probation is over, he can travel on all of those Geek Cruises.
The Personal Randal
Randal is somewhat well known for singing karaoke (his best known piece is a rendition of Kermit the Frog's "The Rainbow Connection"), as well as skiing and snowboarding. He also has a great love for comedy -- both watching it (such as at Harvey's Comedy Club in Portland) and including it in his lectures and training classes.
In recent years I have also seen Randal develop a liking for Mexican things. He loves the aztec bowl at Tilly's on 5th in Tijuana, the burritos at Pancho's Taco Stand, and even quesadillas from a street vendor we know. He's also shown himself to like live "Norteño" music, as I've found it hard to drag him out of some of the little dive bars we go to in Mexico when there's live music playing.
His strangest habit is that of taking digital pictures of just about every meal he eats while travelling.
- Learning Perl
- "The Llama Book" was written with Tom Phoenix, and is now in its 3rd edition.
- Programming Perl
- ("The Camel Book") -- Randal was a co-author on the first two editions, but for various reasons internal to O'Reilly, is no longer listed as an author as of the 3rd.
- Learning Perl Objects, References, and Modules
- "The Alpaca Book" (written with Tom Phoenix) is the latest of Randal's releases, as of June, 2003.
- Effective Perl Programming
- Written with Joseph N. Hall
- Learning Perl on Win32 Systems
- "The Gecko Book" was written with Tom Christiansen and Erik Olsen.
Randal's own web page (http://www.stonehenge.com/merlyn), as well as having known Randal for several years.