General

Java and coolness, a discussion

Jack Shirazi posted this somewhat amusing discussion.

"I guess we just move in very different circles.". Bingo... the people you know and trust think Java is 'cool,' whereas the people I know and trust think its 'uncool.' Therefore, I see people leaving in droves, whereas you see people coming. So the question boils down to, which group is more reliable in making that judgement? Probably neither... but I'm still going to rant a bit more.

I guess this is related to Graham's Hackers meme. It was almost impossible to argue against Java a couple of years ago, now it is 'officially' uncool...

Which goes to show you that language coolness is much more about community and buzzwords than it is about real language features, right?

Programming Language Popularity

Mind as well complete the daily trifecta and post the article on Programming Language Popularity. The author combines search, advertizing and job data to try and draw a measurement on various aspects of popularity. Open to criticism, but the results are somewhat non-surprising given the weights applied, and coming up with a truly objective measurement is probably impossible.

In conclusion, if we look at the data available to us, especially as presented in the final, normalized chart below, we can see that there are broad patterns in language usage. Beyond the overall ranking, it is also possible to see whether a language is more used (jobs) or promoted (ads), and also whether it is used for open source projects, where presumably the participants have chosen a language because they feel it is truly the best choice, rather than dictated by management or commercial needs.

The Language of Biology

Probably goes against Dijkstra's advice of modeling real world objects, but Luca Cardelli is exploring Programming Languages for Biology.

If you want to go to another country, it would behoove you to learn the language of the land. Luca Cardelli, an Italian researcher working in England, knows this lesson well. He wants to help scientists travel to an unknown country — the membranes and cells of our bodies — and feel right at home. To do this, he is developing a computer language to model the processes of biology.

More from Udell on typing

In this clip from an IT Conversations interview Jon Udell tries to explain what dynamic languages are.

I think this clip makes it clear that (a) the situation as regards the terminology used to describe type system issues is beyond hope and (b) the issues Jon tries to deal with are quite real.

As we noted many times in the past, "strong" typing is not the same as "explicit typing" and most of the goals Jon talks about are achievable with statically typed languages.

In fact, dynamic - or scripting - languages encourage a development process in which programs are modified and translated iteratively, so having the compiler check the "morphed" data structures and infer their type shouldn't really be a problem, and in fact can help the developer. Naturally, since not all the code is changed at once a language that would appeal to Jon would allow the programmer to restrict the scope of type checking to specific parts of the program (e.g., only routines that may in fact be invoked).

Whatever your opinions regrading typing, I think it is very clear that we should move the debate away from having Pscal and Java as the only examples of strong typing, and C as the only example of weak typing. I hope LtU would set a good example for the rest of the community...

Schematics Scheme Cookbook

The Schematics Scheme Cookbook is a collaborative effort to produce practical documentation for using the Scheme language, particularly in commercial environments. It is focused on PLT Scheme, although other Scheme dialects are supported as far as possible.

A nice attempt by several of lambda's friends to provide practical help for people trying to solve real problems using Scheme.

I think the community around any non-mainstream language must encourage and support such efforts for the language to have any chance of gaining momentum.

This is somewhat related to our discussion of real life programming using Haskell, and about the success of so-called scripting languages.

I must admit that I use Python for my scripting work. Tried to use Scheme but it was too much of a bother. Guess it's time to try again.

SRFI 40: A Library of Streams

The SRFI 40 document (now in "final" status) includes a very nice discussion of streams, especially as regards implementing them in strict languages (i.e, "even" vs. "odd" streams).

The code is in Scheme, of course, this being an SRFI, but basic knowledge of Scheme should be enough in order to read the highly readable SRFI document. Do check it out if you are interested in streams.

Demonic Nondeterminacy: A Tribute to Edsger Wybe Dijkstra

Jayadev Misra's tribute to EWD at Europar-2003.

A short essay that may be relevant to the question whether language designers should make their languages more forgiving as regards programmer errors, or more stringent.

New result re "linguistic determinism"

Hunter-gatherers from the Piraha tribe, whose language only contains words for the numbers one and two, were unable to reliably tell the difference between four objects placed in a row and five in the same configuration, revealed the study.

A new study may provide the strongest support yet for the controversial hypothesis that the language available to humans defines our thoughts.

The result is controversial enough that I withhold judgement until I read the journal paper.

Preliminary call for participation to MOZ 2004

MOZ 2004 is devoted to bringing together people interested
in the Oz language and the Mozart development platform.
MOZ 2004 will take place in Charleroi, Belgium on October
7-8, 2004. Early registration is possible until August 22.

MOZ 2004 will have two invited speakers (Gert Smolka, the
father of Oz, and Mark Miller, the father of the E secure
distributed language) technical sessions (see the list of
all 23 accepted papers), five tutorials (general overview,
constraint programming, distributed programming, teaching
programming, and tips on practical deployment), and a
panel on the future of Oz. Last but not least, MOZ 2004 is
an excellent opportunity to meet and discuss with the
Mozart designers and other users.

Udell: A strategic vision for dynamic languages

We're going to need a fabric of pervasive intermediation, and the TCP/IP of Web services -- that is, SOAP -- will enable that. But we're also going to need a whole lot of agility woven into that fabric. I want middleware that works like Indigo, but I want to program it in a language that works like Python.

Jon Udell is one of the champions of so-called dynamic languages. This item is yet another attempt to explain the importance of dynamic languages and the central role they should play in building complex networked applications.

I am sure all you guys debating static typing in the forum are going to find this worth reading (and worth debating).

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