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Ted Leung on the air: Open Source, Java, Python, and ...
Sat, 23 Aug 2003
FeedDemon 1.0B4 is out
The latest FeedDemon Beta is 1.0B4. Release notes are here.
[13:17] | [computers/internet/microcontent] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
Syntax Matters
Like many of us Kim is dreaming of a new language. Here are the last three paragraphs, which kind of summarize the thinking of the rest of the post:
What's the big deal about using isomorphisms as opposed to transforms? I think they help you avoid indirection. And I think indirection is the root of all complexity.

It's interesting that programming-language afficionados, especially the elite ones (i.e. the ones that like functional languages) tend to love adding new features to their languages, but that they do this by increasing indirection and abstraction. Parameterized types, virtual methods, function pointers, closures, continuations, etc. All of these things make programs harder to understand. Yes, they add a lot of power, but I think we should focus on making programs more powerful without having to resort to more abstractions to do it. We should be gaining power by removing layers of abstraction, rather than by adding more layers to cope with the inadequacies of the existing layers.

Amusingly, a lot of programmers hate lisp-style macros because they think they make programs harder to read. I completely disagree. I think macros decrease the level of abstraction in a program. They make the syntax more directly-meaningful, closer to the problem domain. Which brings us back to the quote by Graydon I started this post with.

Now you'll have to go back for the quote...

But the quote aside, there's a controversial (at least to me) idea in here, either that or I'm confused on terminology. Most of computer science is about applying indirection. The commonly held wisdom in language design is that we help people build bigger systems by finding new ways to hide the details from them. That's called abstraction, and has gotten us functions/procedures, objects, frameworks, etc. And I would put macros in the same category. When I use a macro, I don't have to know how its implemented (and its probably implemented with some of the aforementioned goop). So for me, macros increase the level of abstraction in a program...

[01:19] | [computers/programming] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
Python and Ruby compared and contrasted
Lots of Python and Ruby comparisons out there:

Jim Weirich observes that Pythonistas and Rubyists bring different assumptions to the table:

Python follows C++ and Java in using "." as a structure selector operation, while Ruby is more closely attuned to Smalltalk's message sending paradigm. Both approaches work and are interally consistent, but be prepared for surprises if you try to interpret one using the assumptions of the other.
He also shows the result of his line noise calculator, which computes the number of line noise characters is a file. He ran this over equivalent C++, Java, Perl, Python, and Ruby code. It's instructive to see the programs laid out all in a row and see how much shorter the Python and Ruby programs are. I would like to see larger samples though, because I think that in larger Ruby programs, the line noise ratio increases.

Jeffrey Shell blogs on Python's philisophy of simplicity and then references a comp.lang.python post that goes over his assessment of Ruby vs Python in great detail. In the blog post, he extols the Python module system and quotes Tim Peters' "The Zen of Python". The newsgroup post goes over the stuff in Ruby that is matched by Python 2.2.

Hans Nowak has a series of 3 (so far) comparison posts. Here's some things I picked up:

first post
He sort of likes creative use of punctuation in Ruby. I'm the same. The use of ? and ! seem good to me.
second post
Ruby yield works on closures.
Ruby can define methods on instances.
He's not sure what the big deal is about procedure objects (closures). First classness.
[01:04] | [computers/programming/python] | # | TB | F | G | 2 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post
The dynamic language meme is accelerating
Jon Udell picked up the dynamic languages meme in the context of virtual machines and web service networks. The virtual machines part is an update on the state of dynamic languages on the JVM vs CLR. The web services network part came in his closing sentence, so there wasn't much more there. Web services networks are networks of loosely coupled services. Part of the flexiblity of dynamic languages results in looser coupling in programs. Is this what Jon was after?

Over at Fog Creek, they're having a comment fest on Dynamic Languages and Enterprise Applications. There are some interesting posts by Jim S. and Phillip J. Eby that are worth your reading time. They're too big to post in here, and the comments don't have anchors so I can't link directly.

[00:39] | [computers/programming] | # | TB | F | G | 0 Comments | Other blogs commenting on this post

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Ted Leung FOAF Explorer

I work at the Open Source Applications Foundation (OSAF).
The opinions expressed here are entirely my own, not those of my employer.

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