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Moving from Perl to Java for real...

Zarf (5735) writes | more than 5 years ago

User Journal 10

... looks like I'll be packing up my bags and leaving the Perl kingdom for the lands of Java. Forever this time. Not entirely from choice but from pragmatic concern over my career. All the cool vibe has rubbed off the Perl kingdom. Most of it dribbled onto the Rails zealots. I'm beginning to think the Django fans may have gotten some of it too. But, I'll be making money by day doing huge scale Java applications for medical, clinical, and biotech applications from now on.

... looks like I'll be packing up my bags and leaving the Perl kingdom for the lands of Java. Forever this time. Not entirely from choice but from pragmatic concern over my career. All the cool vibe has rubbed off the Perl kingdom. Most of it dribbled onto the Rails zealots. I'm beginning to think the Django fans may have gotten some of it too. But, I'll be making money by day doing huge scale Java applications for medical, clinical, and biotech applications from now on.

My only hope is that the lands of Java will be invaded by the "cool vibe" again ... somehow ... I don't think there will be a Perl rebirth anymore. It seems more likely that there will be a turbulent season of integration efforts between a new incarnation of Java born from open source, some language redesign, and a smattering of Linux distributions. There is a very good shot at Groovy, JRuby, or Jython becoming the "new Java" on the Java platform. I also sense the inkling of a Red Hat, JBoss, Java, Jython integration story happening at Red Hat over the next few years.

For reasons that are just becoming apparent Groovy/Grails is not as popular in my region. There is no technical reason in fact if you are running in a Java environment you'd be myopic to not pickup Groovy... and you would be well served to at least build a demo app in Grails. This region however is a Python/Jython stronghold. I didn't know why, but, I just learned that a major Jython contributor is a member of my Jug. That explains a lot. I know RedHat is primarily a Python shop so Java to Jython in the region surrounding the Red Hat campus makes perfect sense. I suspect that Java running Jython code would be the main way Red Hatters will use Java going forward. They are big on Python. And so too are some parts of Google apparently...

I'm beginning to learn that political forces more than technical merit can shape the technological landscape. It's a sad thing to learn because we techies want to believe we're more like mathematicians and only proof and merit rule our decisions. It's not true. For example, Slashdot is among the last strongholds of the Perl kingdom. Outside these hallowed walls the PerlBe are under constant threat.

Each of the major technologies have their own little world they live in and very few technologists actually have a realistic view of the whole technical landscape. I've found that http://www.indeed.com/ is an invaluable tool for looking into the reality of what the tech landscape was. The fact is companies hire for the technologies that they were using three to five years ago. Most do not hire for what they will use or what they are going to use. The hiring managers simply don't know where tech is going tomorrow. If the job is on a job board it's probably a legacy application that's being supported and that means it's a few years old.

You start to bundle these technologies into sets. Perl and C go together better than Perl and Java for example. Python, Perl, C and C++ all roll together for example. So to me it looks like if you were after sheer job security you should learn C really well. In fact from this data C is the unassailable emperor of computing languages. And even though I'm packing my bags for Java land that's the truth of the tech landscape ... Java land is firmly in second place. It's shocking that the whole of the kingdoms of Pythonistas, Rubyists, and the PerlBe are all half of what the C++ers get.

Truth hurts. I'm going to have to go and play with some open source C again at some point. I figure if I can cross between Java and C I'll be a sight better off than someone trapped on either island. Both of these are pretty big islands now though.

cancel ×

10 comments

I don't think C will help you with job security,.. (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 5 years ago | (#24390939)

...unless where you work there's a need to do some JNI stuff, which is a C API. Which would scare the pants off any Java-only dev. Bare nekkid pointers?!??!? Manual memory managements?!?!? Awwwghhh! Esp. a younger dev who graduated from a "Java school", and didn't receive the classical Computer Science foundation.

I would bet straight C is used mainly in embedded work these days, and if you don't already have a background in hardware and real-time OS's and optimizations for space, one can't get those jobs, so C skills do not help me for example stay employable. But it does tell the at least semi-savy employer that whatever they're hiring for, that you're not afraid of low-level, more technical, harder stuff. I think it shows range, and stamina.

On technology bundling, and what I'll call common progressions, my (finite) experience has been that the chief language is largely determined by company size, and whether it's historically been a Microsoft shop or not. I've been at big companies that had been (not me, tho) doing C on Sun boxes, and when they migrated they stayed with Sun and went to Java. And I've been at smallish MS shops that had been doing "C/C++" and MFC, and when they migrated they stayed with MS and went to C# and .NET. The big companies augmented their C and then Java with some shell scripts. And the small companies had some GUI's in VB. I've never been at a place where a scripting language (well, other than JavaScript, at a web dev shop) has been a player of any significance.

Re:I don't think C will help you with job security (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 5 years ago | (#24391647)

Which would scare the pants off any Java-only dev. Bare nekkid pointers?!??!? Manual memory managements?!?!? Awwwghhh!

Ehm, I'm a /computer scientist/... While I've been doing pretty much Java for the last 10 years, switching to an unmanaged environment isn't a problem. Heck, my last project was pure C99 and I got it because nobody else had the "qualification" to do it. Meaning, I know what pointers are.

Give a real computer scientist a problem in any programming language and he'll do it.... Sorry to disappoint you.

Alas employers do not know what "computer scientist" means and only look at qualifications. That's why I keep getting Java offers even though I'd love to get C on Unix.

Re:I don't think C will help you with job security (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 5 years ago | (#24396221)

By "Java-only dev" I meant someone who's done nothing more and knows nothing else. (My previous employer had A LOT of these.) You apparently have a background in C, so it doesn't refer to you.

Re:I don't think C will help you with job security (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 5 years ago | (#24408461)

I don't have a background in C. When I was kid I programmed in Pascal, I did my computer science thesis in C++ and I don't consider people that know only one computer language to be real developpers.

Re:I don't think C will help you with job security (1)

Zarf (5735) | more than 5 years ago | (#24414643)

I don't consider people that know only one computer language to be real developpers.

In Jawtheshark's world there are so few real developers.

BTW: May I quote you? That's a good quote.

Re:I don't think C will help you with job security (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 5 years ago | (#24420505)

I hereby license that quote under the BSD license ;-)

(In other words: feel free...)

Re:I don't think C will help you with job security (1)

Bill Dog (726542) | more than 5 years ago | (#24424369)

...and I don't consider people that know only one computer language to be real developpers.

It might not be the number of languages, per se, but the number of different kinds of languages, or levels of languages, that separates a weenie from a multi-functional developer. For example to maximize employability as a software dev one should probably know some x86 asm, a medium- or high-level native compiled language like C or C++, a high-level managed OOP language like Java or C#, a scripting language for one's platform, ANSI SQL, um.... XSLT's different... I'm sure I'm forgetting something crucial, but you get the idea. Academic and other obscure languages that Slashdotter's like to talk about so much, like I believe all of the functional languages, don't matter a hill'o'beans in employability because no one uses them. (And to pre-empt your potentially taking things too literally again, by "no one" I more technically mean "nowhere near enough to matter".)

Re:I don't think C will help you with job security (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 5 years ago | (#24424793)

Yes ;-)

Re:I don't think C will help you with job security (1)

Zarf (5735) | more than 5 years ago | (#24414799)

Actually Jaw, IIRC you are over across the pond where you guys get titles like Informatician and such. I asked for the title "Computer Scientist" or Informatician a few years ago they didn't go for it. I think both Bill Dog and I are state side. Over here we get titles like "Perl Programmer" and "Java Programmer" and if something gets done in "C" they hire a "C Programmer" ... so the term Programmer refers to a guy who fills a niche and the term Engineer or Developer talks about the guy who is like you suggest... can solve any problem.

It's unfortunate by state-side there is a very distinct trend that tries to box up people into neat skill-set based packages. You know Perl? You're a Perl Programmer. You know Java you are a Java Programmer. You know C? You are a C Programmer. You know all of them? What are you a schizophrenic?

Re:I don't think C will help you with job security (1)

jawtheshark (198669) | more than 5 years ago | (#24420619)

Yes, my degree indeed says that I am a "Licentiaat in de Informatica". Well, I actually have to dig it up to be 100% sure ;-) I do prefer the term "Computer Scientist" and in Dutch it is exactly called that: "Computerwetenschappen".

However, don't think we are spared from the one-technology-wonders. Heck, what I do these days is debugging code made by others. They can't even get a ternary operator right, I tell you. As for jobs, there are often job descriptions like "Java Developer", alas.... I don't understand why they don't look for well-rounded Computer Scientists. I just don't get it. With my experience (10 years Java), there is no way in hell I can apply for a system programmer job in C or even a system administration job. My resume gets filed vertically just in function of my experience. It is infuriating, but has mainly to do with the fact that people don't understand what "computer scientist" means.

It's infuriating, but then what can I do, eh? ;-)

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