The title of this post may have been more accurate if I had chosen what DavidA posted “ActiveState to spin out!” on http://blogs.activestate.com. However, the point here isn’t to re-iterate the sale but more the notion of open source software and the use of dynamic languages. Back to what I had to say…

ActiveState – my old stomping grounds – has been getting some attention (and they should!) lately over the news that Sophos has sold them to a local VC group – Pender Financial.

As expected, there is a Slashdot thread on this.

It amazes me just how many IT/Dev folks out there just don’t get the dynamic languages or quite simple have never heard of them. Both are a shame, the latter is just silly.

AWG @ Slashdot has contributed:

what makes ActiveState great is basically just the fact that they are ActiveState

Later, AWG also mentions:

If it weren’t for ActiveState, I would be forced to write in VC++ or VBA. Thanks to them, I’m using perl and python for my job every day. And that is pretty awesome.

Not so long ago I was chatting with a fellow Software Engineer – who had known of ActiveState through my aquaintance – about Perl and Python. A regular C++ developer, hHe finally took the plunge to dynamic languages and was quite impressed. He still called them ‘scripting languages’ but he did manage to see ‘the light’ and did notice – among many other benefits – development is many mutiples faster. Yes; faster, easier, more convenient… those are all attributes of the languages I consider ‘staples’ in my average developing day. What others may not see is the community behind these languages; both an awesome asset and an unfortunate ill-perceived liability of open source.

Again, AWG writes:

Saying I’m using ActivePython goes over much better than saying I downloaded something from community-based python.org. And no, I’m not saying any of this makes sense, but it has been my experience for the past five years

Perhaps that hits it on the nose. Could it be that the perception of Open Source and Community-based technologies are still plaqued by this assumption that proprietary and commercially funded technology is superior? Or is it simply there isn’t as much funding and promotion for those to learn these infinitely powerful dynamic languages.

And back to the notion that technology needs a corporate sponsor, again at Slashdot, typical writes:

I’ve been suggesting perl for producing test harnesses for ages (writing them in C is just a waste of time), but the folks running things just don’t *trust* perl. Until someone discovered ActiveState. I walked in one day and found them using the commercial Komodo, happy as a clam, and talking about how great perl was.

Confused the hell out of me.

Silly isn’t it?

Just the other day I was approached by a co-worker (who coincidentally graduated in the same class as me); he had heard through a project manager that I had a “fast” way of parsing/editing a significant number of files. We’re talking thousands, to some that’s huge, to others it’s ‘nothing’ but to most it’s pretty significant. Essentially, I had used a combination of ActiveState’s Filter Builder and my own Perl development experience to put together a handy tool that let me parse and update using a collection of regular expressions. I had used this in my last project for Nintendo which saved me a huge amount of time. My point… I used both Perl Dev Kit (Filter Builder) from ActiveState and a dozen or so lines of perl to accomplish a task that seemingly was going to take days or even weeks. It took me an afternoon.

Granted, most of the folks I work with don’t actually have a developer background, this co-worker, and former classmate does. The reality is, he learned perl in school but never needed to apply it in a corporate environment and ultimately lost his ‘touch’ with the language.

Why is it? Why is it that so many that have either learned it in school, or quite simply never learned a community-based dynamic language such as Perl, PHP, Python, Tcl, Javascript, or Ruby?

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