this just in brain eats ruby now wants functional

Fri, Aug 14, 2009

To stay fresh in software development you need to fill in the gaps where you don’t get CPD. Do you get CPD? Should you get CPD? Or should your intellectual progression be solely up to you? That’s a debate for another day I think.

Anyway as part of keeping the old grey matter in the goo state, I’ve been using Ruby here and there, mainly for small things like data export in Oddbod, stats generation from IdP logs and toys like Flikbak and one thing I’ve noticed is the pattern I’ve fallen into of naturally creating ORM classes to match XML I’m working with. The language is so easy to use you can concentrate on the design more of the time. Is there a place for Ruby in what I do though? I doubt it at the moment. I have no use for Rails. If I was going to use a Ruby backend I’d use Passenger + Rack. It’s far more lightweight and I’d more than likely use GWT for the front end. Rails is too “multi-function-product” for me. I prefer to mix ‘n match. GWT for the frontend, perhaps Java or PHP on the backend and use an ORM package to suit if I need to work with databases.

Why Java, PHP etc? Well, there seems to be a shift towards Microsoft at $WORK, hence my getting back into C++/COM with GADfly, plus there’s Sharepoint on the way apparently which requires C# and if the wiki ever appears it will be C# too. Add to that Elgg (PHP), Shibboleth (Java), Blackboard (Java), there’s no room for mainstream Ruby development at the moment. All the existing applications provide authentication/authorisation frameworks. Using Ruby would mean developing standalone apps duplicating that functionality. Just can’t justify that maintenance overhead. So I suspect Ruby will stay as a curiosity until a framework comes along that we can use as part of the core systems portfolio.

Mr. Brain had been tapping away at his hard shell for something to keep him agile so I gave him Ruby. Now he’s saying, “ok, that was interesting, now give me something hard!”.  So to keep the old grey matter ticking over, what better way to exercise it than learning Functional Programming! and as Haskell has the GHC, the Glasgow Haskell Compiler, how can I possibly resist?

My brain is like Mr. Creosote. It wanders into Amazon or PragProg and eats the lot. It’s a hungry little monster so it is and it gets pretty narked if it doesn’t get fed. So, time to get yer bib on pal, yer goin tae the restaurant to meet the Functional Weegie!

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