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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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  • by modmans2ndcoming ( 929661 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:29PM (#26111151)

    who the fuck thought they would be dropping Regex in any way shape or form?

  • Re:Christmas? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:40PM (#26111219)

    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.

  • 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?

  • Re:Christmas? (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:50PM (#26111287)

    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..

  • by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @12:55PM (#26111335) Journal

    "Perl or Python?" is like "awk or sed?". They solve different problems. They're suited to different tasks. For the parts where they overlap, though, there are various arguments either way. There's a reason why there are flamewars about this stuff. You get flamewars when the arguments on both sides are evenly matched, and the choice therefore becomes a religious issue.

    Perl has some advantages. It has anonymous functions that aren't crippled. It has predictable lexical scoping. It has (optional) variable declarations. It has more libraries, and a very convenient standard way of installing them. It's available on any Unix system, whereas Python programmers are frequently reduced to begging sysadmins to install their favourite language. (And sysadmins frequently prefer Perl...)

    Perl also has disadvantages: cryptic syntax, too much magic DWIM stuff, no standard way of doing OOP, etc. Note that these are all areas where Python is strong; if you care about consistency, Python is going to be a better choice for you personally.

    Neither is a clear winner on performance; Perl is faster for some things, Python for others.

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

    A talk on why Perl 5 is Alive [] 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 berend botje ( 1401731 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @01:12PM (#26111457)
    CPAN. 'nuff said.
  • by maxume ( 22995 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @01:35PM (#26111591)

    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).

  • by wilder_card ( 774631 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @01:41PM (#26111643)
    <bias>If you want to make sure no one else can read and/or understand your code, by all means use Perl. Use as many expert "tricks" as you can to make it indecipherable. On the other hand, if you want to produce reliable, working code, and still understand it years later, go with Python.</bias>
  • by Daniel Dvorkin ( 106857 ) * on Sunday December 14, 2008 @01:44PM (#26111665) Homepage Journal

    No, "Perl or Python?" is more like "C++ or Java?" In other words, they are indeed different languages with different strengths, but the area of overlap is pretty damned large -- you can write programs that do the exact same thing in either language and it really won't make any difference to the end result. Since I switched over from Perl to Python ~6 years ago, I've never found a task for which I would have used Perl that I couldn't do in Python. I'm not saying that there aren't any such tasks, you understand, but I honestly don't think there are many of them.

  • by ThePhilips ( 752041 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @02:04PM (#26111779) Homepage Journal

    Besides CPAN, Perl was one of the first languages to integrate advanced data structures - lists and hashes - directly into language itself. And not some half-assed implementation - e.g. C++'s STL or Lisp' lists - but really really good implementation, supported by many standard functions and (most importantly) internal optimizer.

    Last, but not least, Perl is quite well performing. Compromise fitting most tasks: scripts are loaded relatively fast (e.g. compared to Python), yet if you use structures intelligently, it will run very fast.

    All that together, with Perl's pragmatical approach, you have a tool which easily scales from irreplaceable "perl -pe" one-liners to relatively huge projects. And in many cases, huge projects start as one liner scripts. That's where I'm addicted to Perl: if you know what you do, you can write short but powerful scripts in few seconds. And if you need, you can easily improve the one liner into some good tool, usable by other too.

    As noted by many Perl fans (like I am) you do not write in Perl - you think in Perl. It is language without any artificial barriers between you and resources you need to accomplish your task. That's why it is so hard to get off the Perl.

    P.S. Can't compare to Ruby, since I haven't used it. Few examples I have seen before hadn't stroke me as anything radically new or more useful/practical than Perl.

  • 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.
  • Re:Christmas? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kent Recal ( 714863 ) on Sunday December 14, 2008 @02:48PM (#26112041)

    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:3, Insightful)

    by bzipitidoo ( 647217 ) <> on Sunday December 14, 2008 @06:11PM (#26113551) Journal

    Modules have to be rewritten? No they won't. More like, abandoned as unnecessary. But still usable as is if you want. Many so-called modules are just wrappers for C libraries, where someone else has gone to all the pain of figuring out the XS. If I've understood it correctly, Perl 6 will be able to call library functions directly, without a lot of fuss. No more messing around with XS, or SWIG and the 100K extra verbose code it is wont to generate per function, or whatever, wondering if it's failing because you screwed up the stack or misunderstood a parameter, or the system's linker does something oddball with the parameter order. Or even, the coder used that long forgotten C keyword, "pascal". The Camel book itself said of this problem "here be dragons".

    For me, that's huge. I've been waiting for Perl 6 for this feature alone. Call any library function I want! Just call it, no more digging around CPAN to find that wrapper module that's half finished. No more dragons!

  • Re:Christmas? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by PiSkyHi ( 1049584 ) on Monday December 15, 2008 @04:43AM (#26117605)

    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 understand and object oriented is only more practical when writing GUI apps.

    Grow your code, use other's code, write it in way to be re-usable, don't rely on someone elses syntax issues to take of it for you.

    I just don't care if Perl is fashionable or not, I like it, it works for me and as a hacker not a programmer, I just don't care if its not documented, when I read Perl, I think in Perl.

    The only reason I learned Python is to use others code who felt the need to switch.

  • 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.

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers