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Programming

Open Source Languages Rumble At OSCON 197

Posted by kdawson
from the fairest-of-them-all dept.
blackbearnh writes "Everybody knows what the best programming language is, it's whatever one you like the most. But is there a best language overall? Or even a best language for a given purpose? This question has been debated since the first time there were two languages to choose from. The argument is still going on, of course, but maybe a little light will be shed on the issue this week at OSCON. On Wednesday night at 7PM Pacific, representatives of the 5 major open source languages (perl, PHP, Python, Java and Ruby), as arbitrarily decided by O'Reilly, will meet to debate the merits of their various languages. If you're not going to be at OSCON, you can watch it live on a webcast and pose questions or comments to the participants. The representatives are: Python: Alex Martelli, Google; Ruby: Brian Ford, Engine Yard; PHP: Laura Thomson, Mozilla; Perl: Jim Brandt, Perl Foundation; Java: Rod Johnson, SpringSource."
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Open Source Languages Rumble At OSCON

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  • by Lord Ender (156273) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:18PM (#28774161) Homepage

    OSCON organizers have stated that the language debate won't be considered finished until at least one of the languages is compared to Hitler and/or the Nazis.

  • by at10u8 (179705) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:18PM (#28774165)
    When did C lose its status as an open source language? or do we mean languages for web apps?
    • by Rockoon (1252108)
      When did it get that status?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Lord Ender (156273)

      It looks to me like they mean "high level" languages... the sort that allow you to deal with arbitrarily complex datastructures without burdening the programmer with the manual management of memory allocation and pointers.

      Perl barely qualifies for this category (no pointers, but "references"), yet it was one of the first high level languages, so it should get some respect.

      • by hardburn (141468) <hardburn@@@wumpus-cave...net> on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:33PM (#28774383)

        . . . yet it was one of the first high level languages . . .

        Missed it by a few decades. LISP was arguably the first high level language. You could also make a case for COBOL.

        • I don't know too much about LISP. Why do you think it failed to catch on the way these other languages did? If it has modern data structure capabilities, it must be lacking in some other way...

          • I don't know too much about LISP. Why do you think it failed to catch on the way these other languages did? If it has modern data structure capabilities, it must be lacking in some other way...

            Thinking in doubly recursive execution paths is a rare skill/ability.

            • Personally I think people just got tired of counting parentheses...

            • by hardburn (141468)

              I'm not convinced of that. It's just that most programmers start with a language the lends itself to iteration rather than recursion. Since most languages in common use also prefer iteration, any given programmer rarely has an incentive to learn to think in terms of recursion.

              I don't think that's necessarily intellectually lazy, either. Almost any major language has enough little niches that you can spend a lifetime learning them all. It just depends on if you want to be generalist or a specialist.

            • i think there's a lot of truth in what you say.

              i'd personally like to add that lisp doesn't work the way i imagine computers work. you look at C code and you think "on this means put this in that register and then save that to the stack" or whatever. but with lisp, unless you've seen an interpreter and worked out how it works (which is actually a lot easier than a C compiler because of things like RP notation), you're swimming. as gerald jay sussmann said, "lisp is the fixed point of the solution of the
          • by hardburn (141468)

            Partially because it was too early for its time (particularly the speed for convenience tradeoff), partially because of infighting between different LISP camps, and finally because once those two issues were resolved, other languages had emerged that took the same ideas further (like OCaml and Haskell).

          • by jbolden (176878)

            For almost sixty years it has been driving computer science and language design. There have been literally dozen of Lisps ranging from the Lisp machines of the 70s, to the major software of the 80's: Autolisp, Emacs. Logo is still taught to millions. Many of the idea of LISP are in Ruby, Haskell which is arguably the big "next idea" is a ML / Lisp half breed.

            I'd say it has been successful.

        • by gr8_phk (621180)
          LISP has much higher-level capability than C, but the syntax looks like a super-duper low level piece of crap to me. When it comes to math, RPN is about as low level as you can get.
      • It looks to me like they mean "high level" languages... the sort that allow you to deal with arbitrarily complex datastructures without burdening the programmer with the manual management of memory allocation and pointers.

        Okay, I'll grant you that criticism against C, but then why wasn't C++/Boost invited to the table? Only interpreted/VM languages? Then why wasn't C++/Boost/LLVM invited? Almost any paradigm you care to program can be realized in C++, the only difference is the bookeeping is hidden in the libraries instead of in the interpreter. It can be hidden, though with syntactic sugar as easy as anything else in the wild. The only thing missing is perfect function forwarding, which is expected in the next major sp

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by derGoldstein (1494129)

          I'm assuming that they meant "dynamic languages", which is relatively difficult to define as well. Is Java technically "dynamic"? (I honestly don't know how to answer that, BTW)

          Java is definitely the exception, however: static-typing, and the requirement to compile to bytecode. Also, Java is the only language here that's suitable for math-oriented programming, the rest of the languages are primarily used to handle text and/or manage data-structures that contain strings as their edge(leaf?) nodes.

          • Sounds almost like cross platform is really the goal here. C++ is cross platform but the pitfalls in moving from platform to platform are much larger.

      • It looks to me like they mean "high level" languages... the sort that allow you to deal with arbitrarily complex datastructures without burdening the programmer with the manual management of memory allocation and pointers.

        Like awk, for example. Since gawk implemented direct socket I/O a few years ago it's been one of the best high level languages around.

        Perl barely qualifies for this category (no pointers, but "references"), yet it was one of the first high level languages, so it should get some respect.

        I

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        It looks to me like they mean "high level" languages... the sort that allow you to deal with arbitrarily complex datastructures without burdening the programmer with the manual management of memory allocation and pointers.

        Uh, what?

        The terms high-level and low-level are inherently relative. Some decades ago, the C language, and similar languages, was most often considered "high-level", as it supported concepts such as expression evaluation, parameterised recursive functions, and data types and structures, while assembly language was considered "low-level". Many programmers today might refer to C as low-level, as it lacks a large runtime-system (no garbage collection etc), basically supports only scalar operations, and provide

        • If you will read my post, you will see that I explained which definition of "high-level" I was referring to.

    • by Draek (916851)

      I believe it depends on the public's perception of them. If there's a new implementation of the language out there, is it instantly compared to:

      - The language's standard? if so, its an "open language", or "standardized language". Examples are C, Common Lisp, and Javascript.
      - A reference open-source implementation? if so, its an "open-source language". Examples are Python, Ruby and Perl.
      - A reference closed-source implementation? if so, its a "propietary language" or "closed language". Examples are C#, Visua

      • Javascript going back and forth between "standardized" and "open-source" depending on the ratio between the "its a published standard" and the "the standard is irrelevant, how it works in Gecko and Webkit is what matters" camps

        The difference in implementation of JavaScript in browsers is actually minimal. It's the DOM, events, and CSS-related issues that mess things up. If you stick to *just* JavaScript, the worst that could happen is that IE won't have all of the Array methods (which can be filled in using the language). When it comes to implementing ECMAScript, the different browsers conform quite well.

    • by six11 (579)

      When did C lose its status as an open source language? or do we mean languages for web apps?

      O'Reilly picked the languages. My guess is it is because these langs are closely associated with their book sales and attendant web sites/blogs.

      As for the contest itself... I am glad I don't actually have to endure it. It's just like those old Budweiser ads (tastes great/less filling) modulo the scantily clad women duking it out in a swimming pool.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by Deanalator (806515)

      C is not a major programming language.

      Nothing interesting has been done in C since the early 90's, when many of today's top programmers were just learning to walk.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Toonol (1057698)
        I disagree. C is still the major language used in embedded electronics. In addition, ideologically, it's importance is crucial since c syntax now lies at the core of nearly every major language.

        Just checked: 33,242 C projects on Sourceforge, compared to 44,784 C++, 58,559 Java, 15,562 Python, and 10,871 Perl. (My shock there is Java... sourceforge projects are voluntary... people actually CHOOSE Java?) I'd also claim Javascript as an important, open-source language. You don't see a lot of full apps
    • by Jartan (219704)

      It's probably a mistake of the submitter. Calling those five "the 5 major" is most likely his own personal bias (ie he's wrong). For the panel it was probably excluded because it's too different than the others.

  • My favorite language was Z80 ASM. That would be as useful now as a kick stand on a bass boat.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Back in college I was working the summer on a forest firefighting crew ("Hotshots") when one evening back at camp two
    guys got into an argument over whether Stihl or Husquvarna chainsaws were best. Punches were thrown and the two had to be wrestled apart.

    That's what these L1 vs L2 vs Ln arguments all remind me of. Use a for loop or a list comprehension, call free() or let the compiler do it for you,
    use '{' or not, does it really matter? - your manager probably wanted the functionality implemented yesterday

    • by gardyloo (512791)

      Back in college I was working the summer on a forest firefighting crew ("Hotshots") when one evening back at camp two
      guys got into an argument over whether Stihl or Husquvarna chainsaws were best. Punches were thrown and the two had to be wrestled apart.

      That's what these L1 vs L2 vs Ln arguments all remind me of.

      If you worked so much with chainsaws, why don't you write L1 vs L2 vs Log?

    • You can always tell the tourists apart from the pros.

      The tourists (i.e. out-of-state vacation cabin owners) all have those orange hard hats with the built-in hearing protectors with "Husqvarna" across the front.

    • by belmolis (702863)

      Heh, what a bunch of sissies. Real woodsmen use an axe. :)

      • Heh, what a bunch of sissies. Real woodsmen use an axe. :)

        REAL woodsmen set the universal constants at the start such that the universe evolves to fell the tree they want.

    • ... an argument over whether Stihl or Husquvarna chainsaws were best.

      That's just silly; everyone knows Victorinox chainsaws are best.

  • little indeed. (Score:4, Insightful)

    by N!NJA (1437175) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:45PM (#28774573)
    from TFS (emphasis mine):

    The argument is still going on, of course, but maybe a little light will be shed on the issue this week at OSCON. On Wednesday night at 7PM Pacific, representatives of the 5 major open source languages [...]

    5 geeks.... 90 minutes.... that will be a very dim light to be shed on such unanimously-agreed subject.

  • by hugerobot (634548) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @04:56PM (#28774741)
    Rod Johnson?? Really?! Rod Johnson is easily one of the top 5 names of all time. Rod Johnson wins by name alone!!!! It's settled. Java is the best language. Suck it, other languages and your weakly named representatives! I'm a PHP programmer more than anything... but I must concede to Rod Johnson. You can't make that name any better! Maybe if his middle name was 'Motherf***ing'.
  • by Duncan3 (10537)

    Why are people listed by where they work their day job, as if that has anything to do with it?

  • by buddyglass (925859) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:04PM (#28774857)

    Programming languages do not have source code, and thus cannot be "open source". Unless perhaps you're referring to languages whose specifications are updated by means of some community driven process, e.g. Sun's JCP. Interpreters, virtual machines and run-time environments do have source code and can be open source. They're just not the same thing as "the programming language" itself, which is essentially just a specification.

    • by jhol13 (1087781)

      Programming languages [...] cannot be "open source"

      For the last decade or so the major complaint of Java has been exactly that, "it is not open source".

      So I call your statement as a semantics-nitpicking-bullshit.

    • by guruevi (827432)

      They probably mean 'open' languages. It's similar to open source. There are programming languages whose specifications are not fully published or not fully implementable by others for whatever reason (licensing, patents), only the publisher knows about all the language details (like say RealBasic, some instructional languages, the Visual series (Basic, J++) and Java-knockoff C#).

  • by bigsexyjoe (581721) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:16PM (#28775057)
    I love this "Highlander" attitude towards programming. That there will be one language that is the best and I guess will defeat all the other languages. If anything there might have a been a few best languages decades ago, but as time goes on there will just be more and more languages used for different purposes. Should we also debate what's the best tool. A hammer, a screwdriver, or a wrench?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      To be fair, the summary presents this as a debate of "the merits of their various languages", not an attempt to cast one as the "best".

      Its kind of ironic that you are projecting this "Highlander" attitude that you deride.

    • I had my windows replaced a while ago. If the question is "which is the best tool for window removal?" And you could think of handsaws, sawsalls, wrecking bars or other prybars, etc, they had a clear answer:

      Hammers. All hammers. Nothing else is needed, though a screwdriver also seems to come in handy, though not for screws, more for poking things.

      Oh, and if you're putting in a replacement, you'll also need a caulking gun.

    • Should we also debate what's the best tool. A hammer, a screwdriver, or a wrench?

      I would go for a Swiss Army Chainsaw

  • by Tetsujin (103070) on Tuesday July 21, 2009 @05:45PM (#28775415) Homepage Journal

    For the Java team, the summary only mentions Rod Johnson - it should be noted that Rod will be joined by other veteran developers advocating Java: Long Wang, Peter Cox (and his wife Anita), and, of course, notable Java developer Dick Manmeat.

  • Seriously, all of this stuff is really old and tired. All of the cool kids are elsewhere.

  • They should invite McCarthy as well. He will all clobber them with LISP fragments.

  • It says:

    Date: Wednesday, July 22, 2009
    Time: 7pm PT, San Francisco

    Ok, so 7pm PT today - but then it says:

    Thu, Jul 23th at 3am - London | 10pm - New York | Thu, Jul 23th at 12pm - Sydney | Thu, Jul 23th at 11am - Tokyo | Thu, Jul 23th at 10am - Beijing | Thu, Jul 23th at 7:30am - Mumbai

    So 7pm tomorrow? WTF?

  • by syntap (242090) on Wednesday July 22, 2009 @12:48PM (#28783565)

    Then again what is Pascal without Borland anymore?

"One Architecture, One OS" also translates as "One Egg, One Basket".

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