Mark Damon Hughes Topic: News [Parental Advisory: Explicit Lyrics] [about]
The Past Sucked
Wed, 2006Apr26 14:52:52 PDT
in Society by kamikaze

THE OVERWORKED AMERICAN (via jwz)


Luddite, reactionary, "the past was better" crap like this creeps me out. Obviously, there's the whole "those who can, do; those who can't, teach and complain about those who can" thing going on with this professor, and teaching a non-subject like "Women's Studies" is just pathetic, but that's not all of it.

According to the CIA World Fact Book, Americans are currently 4.5% of the world population, and 21% of the world GDP. We do get something for that hard work.

Personally, I like what I do for a living, and how hard I work. In between software contracts I get a "vacation" of a few weeks (usually; the dot-bomb thing kinda sucked for me), and then I go back to work at 40 hour work weeks (one virtue of doing Extreme Programming projects is that overtime is seen as counterproductive).

Yes, I could work less and live in mid-20th C. squalor, or I could work harder and live like a 21st C. American with my beautiful iMac and lots of sexy industrial music and alcohol that won't make me blind. I choose modern civilization. Anyone who wants to live in the 1940s Reservation (see Transmetropolitan) is free to move to Oklahoma and do so.

I think people forget how bad things were back then, even for relatively prosperous Americans of that primitive age: Black and white TVs and radio, and maybe seeing a movie once every couple weeks. Refrigerators you had to defrost by hand. Giant vacuum cleaners you had to drag around instead of little autonomous Roomba robots (or worse, no vacuum at all--hardwood floors and dragging the throw rugs outside to beat the dirt out). Phones that just dialed through to a number, with no rapid dialing list, no voice mail, no conference calling, no cell phones. No Internet. No email. Music had to be played on scratchy vinyl with mono speakers and no amplifier. No portable music of any kind, let alone an iPod. It goes on forever. Everything in the past was low-tech dark ages crap that took more effort and gave inferior results.

(Hear Ernie Cline's "When I Was a Kid"... And wait for the punchline).

These are not just material objects, they're all things that free up your personal time to read or learn or play or go out or listen to music or whatever. They all make your life better. What kind of idiot is going to give them up?

The past SUCKED. Most of this planet still SUCKS. Only by working hard and building new stuff are we going to make things better, and most of the lazy bastards on this planet aren't helping. Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan seem to get it. Hong Kong did, before Red China ate it. The French, on the other hand, are the perfect laboratory example of what happens when people stop working; their economy is a disaster heading down the crapper fast, and a majority of them live in what we'd consider intolerable conditions, and that's from just a couple decades of slacking off.

Read "Next Winters" in Warren Ellis's The New Scum:

"You're probably wondering what the point of all this ugly rambling bullshit is.
It's this:
THE FUTURE IS INHERENTLY A GOOD THING.
and we move into it one winter at a time."
← Previous: Please Help Save Palladium from Going Under (Roleplaying) Next: Nintendo Wii (Toys) →

Please Help Save Palladium from Going Under


Just what it says.

I've been playing Palladium's games since 1983. They have a fast, simple system, produce detailed characters, have interesting settings that carefully walk the line between enough detail to play with and leaving open spaces for you to build your own campaign in, horrific monsters, sinister plots, and a bleak Lovecraftian cosmology... The books are inexpensive softcovers, every main book is a complete game with a setting, they have readable plain text on white background without any fancy "layout" obscuring the text, and have high-quality bindings; I have only one Palladium book that's ever cracked and had loose pages in 23 years. They've had some truly excellent game writers. Of all the games I've played in this long gaming hobby, Palladium's the one I cannot imagine doing without.

So, if you like Palladium and their books even a tenth as much as I do (I own over 50 Palladium books, so I guess 1/10th is 5 books...), buy one of these prints, or buy those extra books from the online store that you've been drooling over.

If you aren't familiar with Palladium, now's a great time to go pick up Rifts (post-apocalyptic science-fiction/fantasy/horror), Palladium Fantasy (heroic fantasy), Nightbane (dark fantasy with monstrous heroes), Heroes Unlimited (4-color superheroes), or any of their other games.

Addendum 2006Apr27: You can follow updates on Palladium's Murmurs from the Megaverse blog/forum.

Addendum 2006May12: Pin yourself on the PalladiumBooksFans frappr map.

← Previous: Zombie Jesus Day (Atheism) Next: The Past Sucked (Society) →
Zombie Jesus Day
Sun, 2006Apr16 21:30:07 PDT
in Atheism by kamikaze

I'm going to tell you a seasonal story.


Two thousand years ago (why is it always "X thousand years" in these things? Why not "1378 years ago", or "last week"? No imagination in these storytellers...). Ahem. Two thousand years ago, in the far-off kingdom of Judea, there was a Jewish carpenter's kid, named Yeshua.

Yeshua may have been a bastard--his supposed father Joseph claimed he hadn't fucked Yeshua's mother, but that might have just been to get out of a statutory rape charge, since she was a "young woman" (the "virgin" word being a mistranslation). And Yeshua was a lazy little boy, so he ditched the hard work of a carpenter for an easier way through life: cult leader.

By claiming to be the son of God ("no, really, his mom says so, and she wouldn't lie!"), pulling a few illusionist tricks Penn and Teller would think too ghetto, and feeding hungry people (hungry people not being notable for their powers of perception, this is not particularly hard), he quickly attracted a dozen hard-core cultists, a bunch of followers, and some sexy groupies, like the whore Mary Magdalene, and the chick who offered to "anoint" Jesus with oil (yeah, messiahs need a good rubdown with a happy ending sometimes...), and when one of the cultists protested that they could sell it and donate the money to the poor, Jesus replied "Fuck the poor! For ye have the poor always with you; but me ye have not always." (Matthew 26:11).

Blasphemy like this was bad enough, but when he started attacking moneylenders and other pillars of the community, something had to be done. One of his cultists got disgusted with the drinking ("water into wine", anyone?) and womanizing, and turned him in (okay, the reward of 30 silver coins was pretty good, too, this being before inflation), and soon he was up for execution.

He was tied to a crucifix with leather cords, and then nailed: you can't just nail someone to a cross, they'd fall off or bleed out prematurely (the author clearly didn't do his historical research). After several excruciating days of suffering, he died, like all other common thieves and traitors should.

In reality, his body would have been left on the cross for some time as a warning to others, and eventually thrown into a ditch for wild dogs to eat. Scum like this didn't get a burial. But allegedly some rich, crazy worshipper risks getting executed as a fellow traitor and has his body buried respectfully in a cave. Incidentally, where is this cave? Shouldn't this be the holiest site in all Christianity? Where's one shred of archeological evidence for it? Where's one shred of documentation from the Romans or Jewish authorities (neither of whom were careless about their records)?

And 3 days later, Yeshua rises from his grave, pushes the stone away from the cave entrance, and shambles out to find his cultists. BRAINS! BRAINS FOR YESHUA!

...

Wait, what the fuck was that? This was going along perfectly plausible until now. When did this become a zombie story? All the previous stuff is just people being shitty to each other, which is nothing new. And then there's this ridiculous "resurrection" stuff, obviously tacked on at the last moment.

So anyway, that's why two thousand years later, his followers practice ritual cannibalism: "Take, drink, this is my blood, take, eat, this is my flesh". Eating people just like their zombie messiah.

If only someone had had the foresight to be waiting by that cave and just kill the zombie as he'd emerged: camping for Jesus.

Addendum 2006Apr25: Schaffer The Dark Lord's "Night of the Living Christ"

← Previous: The Day I Killed Angel and Buffy (Roleplaying) Next: Please Help Save Palladium from Going Under (Roleplaying) →
The Day I Killed Angel and Buffy
Sun, 2006Apr16 20:12:00 PDT
in Roleplaying by kamikaze

Today, I made a new character for a Witchcraft game. MC Xevious is a wererat, and a shaman of King Rat. Since I've been playing Witchcraft since the original Myrmidon edition in 1996, I know how to whore out every last point of efficiency. By the time I'm done, I have an obscene character at physical combat, and weak but with potential at magick through my spirit patron. The word "munchkin" has been heard, but the GM is insane, he could easily wipe us out no matter how powerful we are.


So for our first session, we just finished up characters, talked about setting, and then did a quick one-shot ass-kicking in a graveyard to playtest our abilities; everything that happens is discarded, but we get experience.

My friends well know by now my feelings about Z-grade "people who appear on film" (I refuse to call them "actors", because that would imply acting ability) Sarah Michelle Geller and David Boreanaz: I would have liked both Buffy and Angel so much better without Buffy or Angel, just the supporting cast, who were all fun and well-acted. So the antagonists chosen for us: Angel, Buffy, and about 10 normal vampires. We don't know who they are, we just act on our knowledge that all vampires are evil, and since the blonde chick is associating with a vampire, she must be his Renfield.

The other two players are hack-and-slashing and telekinetically throwing stakes through vampires, doing fine. I take on the "master vampire". Round one: I bite Angel just barely, and dodge his punch. Round two: I bite Angel in half, he explodes, the streetlights blow out, and he settles into dust. YEAH! Take that, David Boringanus!

Round three: Now this vampire-loving blonde bitch comes charging at me with her big fucking sword, screaming about me killing her boyfriend (filthy necrophiliac), easily hits me despite my insanely high dodge skill, but luckily rolls pathetic damage and it bounces off my equally pathetic Shielding spell. She turns and runs, probably to go get Willow to nuke my ass. I whip the shotgun off my back and fire (yes, from behind: rats don't do honor or dignity, they're survivors). Cha-Chick. BOOM. Headless Buffy falls to the ground. I walk over and make sure she's dead. Cha-Chick. BOOM.

Whole table applauds me. I have single-handedly eliminated my two least favorite "people who appear on film". Sunnydale is saved. Justice is served.

← Previous: Comedy Central vs. South Park (Media) Next: Zombie Jesus Day (Atheism) →
Comedy Central vs. South Park
Sat, 2006Apr15 01:56:54 PDT
in Media by kamikaze

In December, after the Alcoholics Anonymous/Catholic miracle episode "Bloody Mary" was cut from the rerun schedule, I sent Comedy Central some email as a concerned and enthusiastic user of the First Amendment:


Name: Mark Hughes

Message: I'm appalled that you're allowing bigoted religious extremists
to dictate programming on South Park by pulling the Bloody Mary episode.

Devout catholics are not watching South Park to begin with--they're
going to be offended by every other word and every episode.  This is a
show with a talking turd, not exactly their kind of thing.  Their only
interest in the series is to prevent anyone else from finding humor in
their weird religious doctrines.  Laughing at other people's weird
behaviors is what South Park is about.

In this case, it's especially troubling since the episode is only
incidentally about catholic miracles--it's pointing a harsh light on the
Alcoholics Anonymous cult.

Let Stone and Parker write what they want, and stop worrying about the
interests of people who are not in your audience, never will be, and
will never buy anything from your advertisers.

Comedy Central's response (emphasis mine):

On 2006 Jan 09, at 08:20, Viewer Services @ Comedy Central wrote:

Dear Viewer:

Thank you for your letter regarding the "South Park" episode entitled
"Bloody Mary."  We appreciate your concerns about the potential
influences of outside special interest groups on the media and
enterainment industries and particularly Comedy Central.  Though Comedy
Central did not include the "Bloody Mary" episode in a special year-end
marathon of "South Park" episodes in deference to the Holidays, "Bloody
Mary" did in fact air in every one of "South Park's" normally scheduled
repeat timeslots.   As satirists, we believe that it is our First
Amendment right to poke fun at any and all people, groups, organizations
and religions and we will continue to defend that right.  Our goal is to
make people laugh, and perhaps if we're lucky, even make them think in
the process.   Despite misleading claims from those who would like to
claim victory, we have not permantly shelved the "Bloody Mary" episode
from future airings due to outside pressure nor will we exclude it from
future DVD releases.

Sincerely,
Comedy Central Viewer Services 
To Reply: http://www.comedycentral.com/help/questionsCC.jhtml 

Since then, Comedy Central has refused to re-air the Scientology episode "Trapped in the Closet", and in "Cartoon Wars I" and "Cartoon Wars II", Comedy Central censored images of Muhammed.

Where is your commitment to the First Amendment now, Comedy Central? Doug Herzog, president of Comedy Central, your people are liars, and you are a coward, a traitor to the founding principles of this country, and not funny.

← Previous: What I'm Reading (Future division) (Media) Next: The Day I Killed Angel and Buffy (Roleplaying) →
What I'm Reading (Future division)
Mon, 2006Apr03 13:26:44 PDT
in Media by kamikaze

...


Dead Girls, Dead Boys, Dead Things, by Richard Calder
Sado-necro-pygmalion-bondage-fetish cyberpunk. Rereading it because I picked up a bunch of his newer books, and I barely remember the last two books. Moral: Love is death. Death is love.
The Engineer ReConditioned, by Neal Asher
I read every book Neal Asher writes, and so should you. Weird transhumanist space opera action-adventure with Lovecraftian overtones. Moral: If you find a technology from a dead species, you have to consider the very real possibility that the technology is why they are dead.
Different Kinds of Darkness, by David Langford
Poisonous information patterns. Moral: [SPOILER, select to view]

Don't record the brainpattern of a dead person and play it back. What, didn't you see Brainstorm?

← Previous: What I'm Reading (Technical division) (Software) Next: Comedy Central vs. South Park (Media) →
What I'm Reading (Technical division)
Mon, 2006Apr03 12:12:41 PDT
in Software by kamikaze

Even I need to learn new stuff sometimes.


Head First Design Patterns, by Elisabeth Freeman, Eric Freeman, Bert Bates, Kathy Sierra
Yes, I already know design patterns, but their take on it is very entertaining, and it's a good refresher. For anyone who doesn't know patterns, this is absolutely the first book you should read.
Head First HTML with CSS & XHTML, by Eric Freeman, Elisabeth Freeman
I know a lot about HTML--I've been doing web development since 1993--but even I need to catch up on things sometimes. I'm not very far in it, but as always for the Head First books it's an entertaining read.
Thinking in Java, 4th Ed., by Bruce Eckel
Astoundingly huge, and obsessively detailed. I'm just skimming through the sections on familiar technologies, but then I spend serious time reading up on the newer features. Bruce Eckel's explanation of Java 5 generics is essential reading.

If you don't know what Atom and RSS are, just ignore this.


I'm not going to link to anyone, because they don't deserve the attention (yes, pun intended). But the supporters of Atom are yet again whining about how terrible RSS 2.0 is, that it doesn't clearly define which elements are HTML and plain text, and how great Atom is.

Part of the problem is that they're lying. The RSS 2.0 spec strongly implies which elements take HTML and which do not, and 90% of the feed and reader implementations agree on this, which IMO is extremely good interoperability by real-world standards. The Atom spec is unclear about all but one kind of tag, and real-world interoperability with it is not noticeably better.

And that's why I use RSS 2.0: The creators of Atom are a bunch of whiny, sanctimonious, lying fuckwits, and I believe it is a moral imperative not to support things created by whiny, sanctimonious, lying fuckwits.

RSS 2.0's revised spec, whenever that happens, will almost certainly be more precise, which would be nice. For the most part, it already just works.

I think it's very unlikely that the Atom people will pull their heads out and behave like civilized human beings.

Properties props = System.getProperties();
for (String key : (Set<String>)((Set)props.keySet())) {
    System.out.println(key+": "+props.getProperty(key));
}

Isn't that charming and easily understood? Map.keySet() returns a Set<Object>, but you can't cast that to the more specific Set< String> without stripping off the subtype information first.

Sun, what the hell were you doing when you "designed" this stuff? Great Cthulhu, this is a wretched thing. Java's a very dynamic language, and it's easy to generate classes at runtime. There's no reason you couldn't have done "C++ templates, only intelligently designed". Instead you came up with something that sucks just as hard as C++ templates, but in a totally different way, by THROWING OUT useful type information.

All languages suck, but you didn't have to go out of your way to prove it here.

Shiny LEGO Robots
Sun, 2006Mar19 14:44:03 PST
in Toys by kamikaze

LEGO has finally got some new information about the upcoming Mindstorms NXT. An article in Wired, Geeks in Toyland, covers the development, and the Mindstorms NXT FAQ answers more questions.


What I don't know yet is: 1) How much memory will it have? "Much more" is not useful information.

2) What real languages can you program it in? NQC was a decent language for the old Mindstorms RIS, but the RCX was so massively limited as a computer it was hard to do much of anything.

pbForth for the RCX was more powerful, but Forth in code again to I refuse. Programming languages should make life easier for the developer, not harder, and Forth gets this in reverse (<- pun for Forth programmers).

The Java environment for the RCX was cheating: the processing happened on your desktop machine, and it just commanded the RCX by IR remote. I want an autonomous robot, not a remote-controlled toy.

LEGO includes point-and-drool "programming" environments in the Mindstorms sets because they delusionally believe they're selling to non-programmers, even though their own sales numbers show otherwise. I really wish they'd just wise up and base it on Java 2 Micro Edition.

Since LEGO wising up seems unlikely, are there any alternatives? A nice J2ME controller, uses USB 2.0 for loading programs rather than burning ROM chips, some kind of mechanical assembly system that doesn't suck?

There's the Radio Shack VEX, but A) I really dislike buying low-quality/high-price parts from RatShack, and B) I don't want yet another custom language, which is what they're using.

There's the Javelin stamp, but A) it's a real electronics and mechanical engineering system, and I'm just an amateur at that stuff, and B) 32K RAM for a Java system is less than useless, it's just cruel mockery. They have a BASIC stamp, too. Eew.

The Daily Show on iTunes
Wed, 2006Mar15 08:46:09 PST
in Mac by kamikaze

It looks like Apple finally caught on to people like me bitching about iTunes video prices; The Daily Show is now available on a "multi-pass" (Fifth Element: "MOOOOOLTI-pass. MOOOLTIPASS!" "Yes, she knows it's a multipass."), 16 episodes for $10.


Good job, Apple. The Daily Show is the only cable program I care about--the only TV news worth watching anymore--and finding it on BitTorrent and leeching it every day was a pain in the ass. Cable would cost $35/month, minimum, I'd have to either watch it at the right time each day or find blank tapes for the obsolete "VCR" device, and ultimately I don't want cable in my house, poisoning my mind; I haven't watched live TV in months, and may never do so again. $20/month for a constant dose of The Daily Show on the iPod, automatically updated, is about the best deal I'm going to find...

← Previous: Walter Cronkite (Society) Next: Shiny LEGO Robots (Toys) →
Walter Cronkite
Tue, 2006Mar14 12:02:34 PST
in Society by kamikaze
← Previous: Utility.py 1.1 (Software) Next: The Daily Show on iTunes (Mac) →
Utility.py 1.1
Mon, 2006Mar06 11:24:32 PST
in Software by kamikaze

I've released a new version of Utility.py, which is a tiny little framework for building utility programs in Python. It's BSD-licensed, so use it where you need it!

← Previous: Perilar 0.4 (Software) Next: Walter Cronkite (Society) →
Perilar 0.4
Mon, 2006Feb27 00:05:02 PST
in Software by kamikaze

I've released Perilar version 0.4, a new beta to test remaining gameplay issues before I start working on the graphics, sound, and music.


[Perilar 0.4 screenshot]

One person wrote in with serious keyboard focus problems in 0.3, which hopefully are fixed by 0.4. If you find any problems at all, let me know.

← Previous: President's Day (Society) Next: Utility.py 1.1 (Software) →
President's Day
Mon, 2006Feb20 14:45:18 PST
in Society by kamikaze

President's Day is my second-favorite holiday: the day when we celebrate the ability to vote the bums out.

Politicians are exactly like hookers. You don't pay them to fuck you; you can get fucked for free. You pay them to leave.

← Previous: Why Are You Uninstalling NetBeans? (Software) Next: Perilar 0.4 (Software) →
Why Are You Uninstalling NetBeans?
Tue, 2006Feb14 15:32:56 PST
in Software by kamikaze

Malcolm Davis asks: Why Are You Uninstalling NetBeans?, and lately I've been giving Gregg Sporar, Sun's NetBeans evangelist, a hard time about his filthy marketing lies.


And aside from the crappy fonts, which I'd forgotten about, Malcolm hadn't even got to the parts that really annoy me before he gave up. The bugs. The weak feature set. The slow, unbelievably slow, sluggish, bound-in-molasses-frozen-into-amber, not at all fast GUI. Did I mention it's slow? The lack of plugins (at last count of the main sites, 34 plugins for NetBeans vs. 1094 plugins for Eclipse!). Also, the speed, it is not high.

Sun, please stop with the astroturf marketing for NetBeans. Nobody believes you anymore, because they can try NetBeans and see how inferior it is, and it's starting to rub off on your other products, which are generally much better. If your IDE was good, you wouldn't have to astroturf for it.

Here's an opportunity for you, Sun: Borland is selling its IDE division. Buy JBuilder. Replace NetBeans with JBuilder, maybe add whatever little bit of unique value is in NetBeans into JBuilder (do not do this the other way around... NetBeans is not salvageable). You will be loved for this. JBuilder needs a home. You need a good IDE. If you were looking for a match made in heaven for Valentine's Day, THIS IS IT.

← Previous: V.D. (Society) Next: President's Day (Society) →
V.D.
Tue, 2006Feb14 00:16:46 PST
in Society by kamikaze

I'm told that some people like poetry on Valentine's Day. So without further ado, some haiku to celebrate V.D.:

She: "I want to give
you my love". Venereal
diseases aren't love.

Your heart weighs heavy
in my hand. I take a bite
and spit it out BLEH!

Alas, only Al Capone truly understood how to celebrate Valentine's Day.

← Previous: ThoughtPad 0.2 (Software) Next: Why Are You Uninstalling NetBeans? (Software) →
ThoughtPad 0.2
Fri, 2006Feb10 08:26:50 PST
in Software by kamikaze

I have an early, early, early pre-alpha, not at all ready for real use, test version of my note-taking software ThoughtPad available.

I'd appreciate it if people would pound on it and complain about the lack of features, and about my plans for future features.

← Previous: My Debugging Prowess is Mighty! (Software) Next: V.D. (Society) →
My Debugging Prowess is Mighty!
Mon, 2006Feb06 17:10:04 PST
in Software by kamikaze

Developers working on a baffling problem come to me on bended knee, asking for help. A component isn't displaying the first time a page is viewed, but is on refresh.

I check the log... The value is being set, just like it's supposed to.

So I take a second look at the browser. 50% of the page is scrolled off to the right. Scroll over, and there the component is.

I can debug by using the scrollbar. :)

They will never live this down. "Have you scrolled over?" is now going to be my standard response to all bug reports.

← Previous: Progamming Language Winners, Losers, and Farm Animals (Software) Next: ThoughtPad 0.2 (Software) →

Joey deVilla asks What Languages Should The Farm Cover?. This is how things have worked out for me at present.


The Winners:

Java, of course. If you haven't used Java recently, try it again (pick up a recent book and relearn it, if necessary). Java 5.0 of 2006 is nothing much like Java 1.0 of 1996, or even Java 1.2 of 2000, what with the additions of generics, for loops that don't suck, concurrent programming libraries, decent native Swing look-and-feels, declarative object-relational database mapping systems, scripting language plugins, and so on. The Java web frameworks are astoundingly powerful, and pretty easy to use.

Client-side programming in Java is so much better than it used to be. I still mostly write games in raw AWT, both for speed (yeah, I know, turn-based RPGs need *SO MUCH SPEED*, but those fractions of a second make a big difference in the feel of the game), and because all my components are custom, and I'll be switching to some kind of OpenGL layer over AWT at some point. But I'd never write a business/productivity app in AWT, that's what Swing is designed for. If you're skilled with Swing, you can make great native-appearing applications in no time flat.

Eclipse has also made an enormous difference in how Java programming works. Java + Eclipse makes every other development environment I've tried in my career look like Tinker Toys.

If you're at all interested in Mac and Linux users using your software (as well as Windows peons if you insist on being so retro), it's the only serious choice. Whether you program in Java, NetRexx, Jython, or some other language, if you can't compile to the JVM and use the infinite variety of Java libraries, you're missing out.

Python is the clear #1 language for tools and system scripting. It's an easy language to use, it lets me write complex thoughts in a clear manner, and has all the libraries I need for most purposes. Writing a large application (over a few thousand lines) in Python is a nightmare. Never ever ever EVER do this. No amount of testing will make up for the lack of static type-checking. The GUI libraries for it are so so poorly-integrated, ugly, incomplete, and slow that it might as well not have any. The web frameworks other than Zope are all pretty experimental, and I wouldn't put a one of them into production, even if I could find a cheap hosting service that ran Python. Now that Guido's pushing back on the web frameworks, I expect that something good will happen on that front by next year.

I do a lot of text tools and tinkering in NetRexx, but I don't really expect it to conquer the world at this point. Great language, not a lot of public traction. Still, I advise every programmer, expert or novice, to try out NetRexx and ObjectRexx.

PHP is the fast, cheap, dirty way to make dynamic websites, and everyone supports it. If you don't mind fooling around with bare wires, and can memorize the hundreds of badly-named functions in one huge namespace that they use, it's okay. I wrote this blog software in PHP and used PEAR::DB to hook into PostgreSQL, and it doesn't suck much. That doesn't mean I love it, just that it works. PHP5 sucks a lot less than PHP3 or PHP4, but good luck finding a system with it. I would have preferred for PHP5 to be totally incompatible with PHP4 and just fix everything, much like the jump from Python 1.5 to 2.0. As it is, we're still living with a lot of bad decisions and forward-ported code that isn't really correct anymore.

All four of these are totally compatible cross-platform, all four are totally free. At this point if you're paying someone to develop for their platform, you have done something tragically wrong and need to reevaluate your life. They are using you. Independent software vendors do OS companies a favor by writing for their platforms. If a compiler vendor sells me a better tool (for instance, before Eclipse 3, I really liked Borland's JBuilder and IBM's Visual Age for Java, neither of which were cheap), that's fine. If the OS vendor is trying to gouge me on the only viable tool for a platform, I give them the middle finger and stomp away.

The Losers:

C, C++, C#, Visual Basic, Objective C, and Delphi/Kylix are totally useless to me. C and C++ have no automatic garbage collection and no bounds checking (yes, there are add-on libraries that do at least a half-assed job of these; but no C/C++ programmer I've ever met uses them), so they're just trash for anything except writing device drivers. If you use C/C++ for writing applications, you are an enemy of humanity and a facilitator of spammers and virus writers. No, I will not say that nicer. Die, you evil, polluting, syphilitic, pustulating anal sores.

Delphi has partial GC, their Pascal variant's quite nice, and the IDE and GUI library rocks, but it doesn't work on Mac, which makes it irrelevant to me. Eh. I wouldn't object to more software being written in Delphi/Kylix, though.

Objective C has partial GC, but the syntax is ugly, and it's only really used on Mac anymore. The Mac is rich in libraries for it, everyone else is back to the stone age, coding on bare metal again. Nice language, but not worth it.

C# and VB are Windows-only, how quaint, how very 20th Century. Why do people make single-platform software? I use Mac OS X, Linux, and FreeBSD every day, and read work mail off Outlook on a Windoze box (eew). Crippling myself with single-platform software would just be stupid. Even if I used Windoze, I wouldn't use C# to make apps, because I might want to move to a real platform someday, and other people might not want to use Windoze.

Perl and Ruby are much the same kind of unreadable gibberish. It doesn't matter how good a language is if you can't come back to your programs 6 months later and figure out what they did. I'm of the opinion that Perl was an April Fool's joke that got out of hand:

"Awk without the implicit loop and BEGIN/END blocks! Hah! And functions that don't name their parameters! Ha hah! Nobody'll ever use this crap!"
-Larry Wall

"Oh, fuck, the stupid bastards are using it!"
-Larry Wall, 6 months later

Haskell, Dylan, OCaml, and other functional or semi-functional (heh) languages are interesting. It's hard to write real software in them, but they're fun to play with and solve problems in. But the joy is in figuring out the language, not in actually accomplishing your tasks, so I couldn't recommend them for real work. If you want to just fool around and have fun learning something, you cannot go wrong with any of those three.

As I've mentioned before, aside from the hideous, eye-searing syntax and lack of portable libraries for the free versions, Lisp and Scheme are fine languages. But since syntax makes programmers happy, and libraries make programmers productive, Lisp and Scheme are worthless in the real world, which is why nobody writes code in them.

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