The STAMAN Project: Phase IV,

Having thought of tasks and storage formats, it’s now time to figure out an implementation language, i.e. what programming langauge am I going to write the task manager in.

O.K. based on what we’ve got so far, it is easy to infer the following is worth having:

  • Portable between systems—a must for me 😉
  • Easy access to SQLite—usually trivial.
  • Better tools than gmtime().
That means this page is rather useful, for what languages can be ruled out. In my répertoire this means Go (aww), Scheme, AWK, and shell languages can be skipped. Reason being the portability of Scheme bindings in general, and the others lacking sufficient portability (for my taste) at this time. That still leaves about 13 languages, lol. PHP, Java, Lua, JavaScript, and X86 assembly are easy for me to rule out. Reasons for that can all be easily guessed; at least if you remember how much I enjoy Suns Java tools. JS/Lua are great choices but I don’t want to screw with the bindings and stuff.

I’m not very interested in compiling SQLite in C/C++ on Windows, or the CLI binding everywhere. So this effectively makes the choice Perl, Python, or Ruby. Out of those three, none is perfect either: perl doesn’t come with the required database code, it just has the definitive interface for databases everybody mimics. Python and Ruby on the other hand, come with SQLite bindings—which many distributions separate out into separate packages. It’s just a lose, lose situation when you think about dependencies, but it does beat writing your own everything for every program. Sometimes. Setup with these three dynamic languages would be easy though, in so far as we’ve gotten with the above.

Time handling is another issue. Perl has fairly minimalist handling of time built in, but on the upside, if you need it, it’s probably three abreast on CPAN. Time::Format and the core Time::Piece module each come to mind. What isn’t built into Perl, often comes with it or can be added to it. Ruby provides a simple but effective Time class, that makes for more natural code than you may expect. More complex operations will require Googling for a Ruby gem, or hand coding it on demand. Python on the other hand provides a comprehensive datetime module, and supporting time and calendar modules, all out of the box! I would say Python takes the lead here.

Rule one of getting work done: know how to leverage libraries.

In terms of programming languages, Perl, Ruby, and Python are generally equal enough for most tasks, so long as you don’t shoot yourself in the foot. Some subtle differences that personally irk me:

  • Perls autovivification can be almost as much a miss-feature as it can be a convenience. You’ve just got to learn the damn language :-P.
  • Ruby functions are not first class objects! Some things can also be weird if you’re not used to Ruby.
  • Python doesn’t always stand up well to typos, especially if they involve indentation o/.

Because of how many lines of code I’ve done in Python over the years, I am more familiar with it’s set of “Irks” than Ruby’s, like wise I know Sh, C, and Perl more intimately than other languages, so I really know their irks. For perl, it’s mostly thin things that get in inconvenient when combing the warnings pragmata with the nature of perl syntax. They spiritually conflict at times. Under Ruby, I mostly find gripes that have a bigger place in programmer culture. My issues with Python generally have to do with trade-offs that I disagree with as a matter of my convenience, even if it usually results in a Good Thing overall. It comes from a C-oriented background meshed with a love for the Perl programming language.

This is a fact: you will always be irked by your programming language, if you use it enough. What can I say, nothing is perfect. Shoot!

For this particular application, there’s some things worth noting also: language portability. If the machine doesn’t run perl, it’s not a real computer. Most systems you’re likely to care about will run Ruby and Python, and there’s probably a crusty old version of Python for those you don’t (nor directly should). In contrast however, Perl is often a lower level of “Cross platform” behaviour than Ruby/Python. You’ll find this highlighted well in the Camel book. One reason I use Python frequently, it always behaves as expected without so many subtle hiccups.

How much this pertains to the current matter, i.e. implementing STAMAN. Perl is the most universally available language, and I’m more prone to need such a feature than most people. A plus over Ruby is no crappy 1.8.x/1.9.x porting issues…! Of course however, I have a camel to ask about minor details, hehe. In my experience the Python 2k/3k thing is less issue than Ruby’s for writing code yourself, more of an issue in leveraging existing code.

So I reckon, that means Perl or Ruby is best called for here. I exclude Python, because I just use the frick’n thing to often.