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Perl Programming IT Technology

Larry Wall Talks Perl, Culture, and Community 123

LostDiver writes "Computerworld Australia caught up recently with Larry Wall of Patch and Perl fame. He talks about the development of Perl as 'scratching an itch,' a release date for Perl 6 (Christmas day, year unknown) and beauty versus practicality. Computerworld also has some more information on the upcoming Perl 6. A while back they interviewed Bjarne Stroustrup of C++ fame as well." jamie pointed out a interesting, related video of a presentation by Clay Shirky from last year's Supernova conference in which he discusses why the Perl community (or any web community) drives progress and innovation.
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Larry Wall Talks Perl, Culture, and Community

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  • Christmas? (Score:2, Interesting)

    by MikeRT ( 947531 )

    It sounds almost like they're hoping that Santa will drop it down the chimney on a flash drive for them. In the time it has taken Perl 6 to get where it is now--fairly close to release--Mono has gone from being scraps of C and C# code, to being a fairly complete and compatible .NET development environment that has a fairly active developer base on Linux. I'm not going to say that Perl 6 is irrelevant, but if it is not out, in a final release within 6 months to a year, it probably will be since even PHP will

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by maxume ( 22995 )

      Actually, it doesn't matter. In a world where millions of people are providing software for hundreds of millions of other people, being a niche player is perfectly viable.

      • Actually, it doesn't matter. In a world where millions of people are providing software for hundreds of millions of other people, being a niche player is perfectly viable.

        If that's your goal, then fine. However, nothing I have ever heard from the Perl developers has suggested that they are trying to target just a niche.

        As someone who works on Movable Type, a perfect example of what Perl can do, I want to see Perl 6 succeed and eventually have Perl 5 modules and apps ported to it. I would love to be able to

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by maxume ( 22995 )

          It depends on what you call a niche. "People looking for an improved Perl" is arguably a niche. I'm not trying to quibble, I see what you are saying, that the current Perl community is looking elsewhere (or entrenching on 5).

          I guess I was trying to point out that the base community will probably be big enough to sustain Perl 6, so the size relative to other communities isn't something to be concerned about (which is somewhat different than being concerned that the community won't be big enough to provide X)

        • these guys aren't working on the same timeframe that the rest of us are

          Good point. Personally, I'm limited to the length of a human lifespan, but at the pace they're going, they must think they're immortal. More evidence of Larry's arrogance ;-)

        • Actually, Parrot (the VM) will probably be released as 1.0 well before Perl 6. Rakudo, the official Perl 6 on Parrot implementation, can't really be ready for release until Parrot is anyway. There are a few other Perl 6 implementations in the works, the other most notable one being Pugs.

          I've heard that 1.0 of Parrot will be out as early as spring of 2009. If that puts Rakudo out at Christmas 2009 or Christmas 2010, then I think that's a great specification, design, and development effort by such a small tea

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      we are comparing programming languages by how fast their version numbers increase?

      that is even worse than video game fanboys comparing stock quotes of Nintendo and Sony...

      i remember when i would visit slashdot in 2001 (before the attacks and the new politics section which was an invitation to filth no nerd cared about) without being insulted by such retarded BS..

    • Re:Christmas? (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jheiss ( 10829 ) * on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:52PM (#26111305) Homepage

      It appears within the system administration community that Ruby is well on its way to replacing Perl as the de facto language for major tools. Well over half of the new tools introduced at the LISA (Large Installation System Administration) conference this year were written in Ruby. I've been developing in Perl for about 15 years, but have recently switched nearly all of my development to Ruby. I know I'm tired of hearing about how great Perl 6 will be. I've been hearing that promise for half a decade now. The biggest drawback to Ruby right now is that the availability of 3rd party libraries is nowhere near the level of what's in CPAN.

      Apple is also putting a significant amount of effort into improving and integrating Ruby with Mac OS X. MacRuby and HotCocoa both look really interesting, particularly if you want to develop GUI apps.

      • by Opyros ( 1153335 )
        Haven't quite a few Ruby versions been released around Christmas? Maybe Larry is imitating Matz!
        • Haven't quite a few Ruby versions been released around Christmas?

          Yeah, though Ruby 1.9.1 is only getting a release candidate on Christmas, with the final release planned for January 25.

      • Re:Christmas? (Score:4, Interesting)

        by r7 ( 409657 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @02:09PM (#26111825)

        It appears within the system administration community that Ruby is well on its way to replacing Perl

        Interesting observation but not what I'm seeing here in Silicon Valley. Perl is far less popular than in years past, but Ruby is not that popular among systems admins either. Instead Python is all the rage. I believe this is because Ruby is better suited to those who spend a majority of their time writing code whereas Python can be learned and used more easily without such frequent use. So sysadmins here, who don't spend the majority of their time writing code, are using mainly Python (and shell).

        Not a statistic, just an observation across a dozen or so large and small Linux and Unix using organizations.

        • I don't do much on the sysadmin side, but I too was under the impression that Python was the most popular language for writing tools with.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Kent Recal ( 714863 )

            Yup, python is more popular than ruby in the sysadmin arena in my area, too. I guess for the reasons that GP mentioned - it's easier to learn the basics and the syntax generally makes it harder to write stuff that you don't want to maintain later than that of Perl or Ruby.

            Unscientific sample from my box here:

            $ grep "/python" /usr/bin/* | wc -l

            $ grep "/ruby" /usr/bin/* | wc -l

            And from a fairly vanilla debian box:

            $ grep "/python" /usr/bin/* | wc -l

            $ grep "/ruby" /usr/bin/* | wc -l

            • Re:Christmas? (Score:5, Informative)

              by cxreg ( 44671 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @06:35PM (#26113805) Homepage Journal

              Interesting omission:

              $ grep "/python" /usr/bin/* | wc -l

              $ grep "/ruby" /usr/bin/* | wc -l

              $ grep "/perl" /usr/bin/* | wc -l

              • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

                by Kent Recal ( 714863 )

                Well, I didn't bother to include Perl because everybody knows it's the 800 pound gorilla. 20 years of script hacking don't just go away, whereas python and ruby only started gaining traction in the last 5ish years.

                • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

                  by PiSkyHi ( 1049584 )

                  Ahh, the things I've hacked together with good old Perl - hacking Perl maybe unfashionable and considered unmaintainable by other - maybe even other Perl programmers.

                  But to a hacker who believes most generic code has been written, that only tailored code remains to be written, Perl will remain to glue and re-use other code with ease.

                  Replacing it is a fantasy by people who would like to re-invent the wheel with a different color-scheme annually.

                  Re-usable code ? modules are easy to write, easy to unders

                  • by doom ( 14564 )

                    Re-usable code ? modules are easy to write, easy to understand and object oriented is only more practical when writing GUI apps.

                    Obviously, one can code in OO perl if one wants, and it's actually useful for other things besides GUI... myself I just think of it as a scoping compromise between global variables and the pure-functional style.

                    But yeah, I tend to agree that the main drive that pushes some people to switch away from perl has more to do with snob appeal.

              • by Ant P. ( 974313 )

                Just for completeness...

                $ grep "/ruby" {/usr,}/sbin/* 2> /dev/null | wc -l
                $ grep "/python" {/usr,}/sbin/* 2> /dev/null | wc -l
                $ grep "/perl" {/usr,}/sbin/* 2> /dev/null | wc -l

                (although I blame Gentoo for there being so many python scripts there)

            • Here are the results for my small Debian web/mail/dns/databse/etc server.

              Not very readable :-), but Perl helped to show that it's quite popular indeed, ranking third after ELF executables and shell scripts.

              $ find /usr/bin /usr/sbin -type f | xargs file | perl -MData::Dumper -ne '($l)=/:\s+(.*?(script|executable))/; $h{$l}++; END {print Dumper(\%h)}'
              $VAR1 = {
              'setuid perl script' => 1,

    • OK, but does Mono or C# have its very own Slashdot icon? No?
    • by sasdrtx ( 914842 )

      Perl6 has been the absolute worst thing that ever happened to Perl. All the drawbacks of vaporware, and none of the benefits. Everyone thinks Perl 5 is obsolescent because Perl 6 is supposedly coming out ...someday. Frankly, Larry and them should have announced they were developing a new language (say "Emerald"), and not trashed the Perl brand for so far, nothing.

      Seems like I've said this a million times, but it seems like this has been going on for a thousand years.

      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by chromatic ( 9471 )

        Perl 6 is supposedly coming out ...someday.

        The next stable release of Rakudo [rakudo.org] (Perl 6 in Parrot) comes out next Tuesday. This will be the 24th stable monthly release of Perl 6 on Parrot in a row. You can also see daily Rakudo spectest progress [rakudo.de], if you like.

      • Usually I hear this old saw from the same Pythonistas who seem to believe that Python 2.x is effectively dead now that P3K has been released.

        I've been watching the development of Perl for a while now and I am certain that Perl5 isn't going anywhere any time soon, and it will continue to evolve and be developed for many years after Perl6 is finally released.

        I recently tried making a bet with a Python hacker that we will probably see perl 5.14 before Python 2.9. He declined on grounds that we may *never* see

    • even PHP will be grown up with 5.3 and 6.0

      But grown up into what? :)

      5.3 is an interesting release. IMHO they've saved it from being yet another mundane bridge release that's a small step down the path to Java by paying attention to a lot of the excitement surrounding the other dynamic languages. But it's been clear for a while that Java was originally what they planned to grow up into with 6, and 5 being the bridge between it and 4, and the PHP community has always been by and large a bit... pedestrian... i

  • by David Gerard ( 12369 ) <slashdot&davidgerard,co,uk> on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:32PM (#26111185) Homepage

    The quality and intelligence of graffiti is inversely proportional to the difficulty in putting it wherever it is. Dangerous spots on train lines? Misspelt tags. Quiet abandoned swimming pools? Computer scientists with spray cans. [today.com] Now, that's Perl in Popular Culture!

  • by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:43PM (#26111243) Journal

    "Signals" for "sigils", describing ClearCase as a "rear-vision control system"... was this article dictated over a noisy phone line to someone who knows nothing about computers?

    • Having used ClearCase*, I'm not sure that one's a typo.

      * Mind you, it was a badly architected usage of ClearCase, and even the ClearCase folks told us at the time, "you're doing it wrong". Our company knew better of course, resulting in a lot of suck.

  • by burris ( 122191 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:51PM (#26111299)

    Some important changes had to be made to support the developers of Duke Nukem Forever, who are rewriting the project from scratch in Perl 6. The good news is that means Perl 6 is right around the corner!

  • by poet ( 8021 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @01:07PM (#26111419) Homepage

    A talk on why Perl 5 is Alive [postgresqlconference.org] was given at PostgreSQL Conference West 08. What I found most interesting is how vibrant the current perl 5 community is. There are even non profits popping up to support it and forgo worrying about 6...

    • by diegocgteleline.es ( 653730 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @01:27PM (#26111549)

      Take a look at the November 2008 TIOBE index top ten:

                  Position Position Programming Ratings Delta Nov
                  Nov 2008 Nov 2007 Language Nov 2008 2007
                  1 1 Java 20.299% -0.24%
                  2 2 C 15.276% +1.31%
                  3 4 C++ 10.357% +1.61%
                  4 3 (Visual) Basic 9.270% -0.96%
                  5 5 PHP 8.940% +0.25%
                  6 7 Python 5.140% +0.91%
                  7 8 C# 4.026% +0.11%
                  8 11 Delphi 4.006% +1.55%
                  9 6 Perl 3.876% -0.86%
                  10 10 JavaScript 2.925% 0.00%

      You can read the rest of the article [perl.org] here...

  • Perl (Score:3, Insightful)

    by scsizor ( 1380671 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @02:45PM (#26112021)
    When they take perl out of slackware ill stop using it. Until then its real handy.
  • by CuteSteveJobs ( 1343851 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @06:44AM (#26118215)

    I'm a C++head and I've a friend who is a Perlhead. One thing I really envy about Perl is the sense of community; you get the feeling they're all in it together, and CSPAN gives them a massive library of contributor functions. Stuff I have to write in C+++, he can just reach into CSPAN and find a module, well documented, all ready to go.

    Now compare that with C++. We've finally got BOOST.ORG which is supposed to be C++'s answer to CSPAN, but its too little too late. Well, maybe not too little, but it's tiny. There's just too much function it doesn't have. So what can you do? If you need some function you can google around to find a library someone else has done, but since C++ never dictated things like geometry or template libraries (STL was an unpopular pig at first, so many codeshops rolled their own instead). Everything is different. The standard of documentation for open libraries isn't great; you're lucky if you get any doc at all, and usually you'll have a few poorly strung together test programs you need to reverse engineer. Despite POSIX, portability is still a problem. Microsoft C++ doesn't like GNU C++, and this affects packages which you wouldn't think would have any OS dependent code at all (e.g. NOVA).

    But worst of all, what C/C++ code there is out there was smithed in the days of "I will get rich off this hundred line program ha ha royalty holidays forever". Nearly everything has a non-commercial clause. Even the most piddling things or everyday stuff like triangulation. Where does that leave you? Well you can get a payware library like Alan Murthra's Polygon Clipper library for which he charges a whopping $2K a license. Prices most of us out of the market (an educational, no-profit exemption is useless). ie. GTFO. So in C++, almost always, you'll find yourself rolling your own code. And when people roll libraries, they're seldom open-sourced. There are a few honourable exceptions; LIBPNG, LIBJPEG, LIBZIP, FFTW. But these are few and far between.

    I truly envy Perl. I'd like to blame the C++ Community for not doing an equivalent of CSPAN sooner, but there is no community to blame. I welcome Boost, but it has such a long way to go. Really what C++ misses is community.

  • Larry has announced Perl6 will be released on Christmas day on some year in the near future. I obtained insider information that the release date is Christmas Day 2012, probably with a 3-day early release because so much progress has been made on the Parrot interpreter recently -- for a final release date of Dec 21, 2012. Here are the leaked media files and documents: [link 1] [apple.com] [link 2] [survive2012.com]. It is finally clear why Larry calls his update posts "Apocalypses" [perl.org]. For more info see this link [google.com].

God helps them that themselves. -- Benjamin Franklin, "Poor Richard's Almanac"