Re: "Perl is the duct tape of the Internet" and other musings

Nelson Minar (
Thu, 9 Jul 1998 14:28:28 -0400

(Hi, FoRK!)

Damn nice post, Ron, it made me feel all excited and tingly again
about networking. Your earlier Clueful Mountain post is also nice and
exciting, even if you disagree with some of it now.

For some reason, I feel like this is the right moment to tell the
world I just got cable modem. $40/month for a 24 hour, T1 speed
Internet connection. It's absolutely wonderful, terrific access. As
MediaOne's logo says, "This is broadband. This is the way."

All this reminds me that the metaphor I keep coming back to when
talking about computer systems is "environment". Computers are places,
homes, spaces where things happen. With my cable modem, I now have my
own place online, my own space. I can run my dorky family photos web
server or some funky encrypting tunnel router or build my own Black
Sun if I want. And it's all mine.

And it'll be glued together with bash, and perl, and Java. HTTP is
clearly the right way to ship stuff around that's stateless, and HTML
will do as a page markup language. Heck, if XML ever actually becomes
real it might even be a nice data representation language.

And in the background my happy mobile agents will be running around
coordinating things.

OK, enough of that..

>Perl is neat to code in, after being sunk in Java for the last
>longest while.

Perl is fun because it gives you the chance to be all-out hacking, to
write relaly ugly messy code that's elegant and beautiful. There's no
such thing as a properly architected, easily maintainable Perl
program. Instead, there's all sorts of pretty little hacks and things
you do. Perl is a liberating language to hack in.

There's a big push in the Perl community to make Perl be very good at
doing XML. I've been following some of the discussion about turning
Perl into a Unicode processing language (instead of a 'text'
processing language). It's quite interesting..

>Perl helps sets my mind at ease about web+code.

I think something like Java is still more appropriate for web+code.
But then, I'm a mobile-code head, and Java is just so good at that! I
also do believe ultimately in building clean, easily maintainable
code, and Java is easier for that. (Flamewar bait!)

>And I've been spending lots of thought on the role of open source
>tools vs. commercial license software in the future of the Big
>Bitspace (BB).

Open source is related, not a non-sequitor at all. One of the best
things about Perl is that there's no (commonly used) bytecode format.
Giving someone a Perl program means giving them the source to that
Perl program. Information is free.

>- OS? Well, that's pretty obvious. Linux or FreeBSD.
>- web server? Apache, or, perhaps Jigsaw, if you're of a Java
>frame of mind.

One weakness - Java + Linux is still not so great. Java 1.1 is now
pretty stable, and the TYA JIT works OK, but it's nothing like the
performance you see on Windows. Microsoft is owning Java.

>(Does anyone know if Gnu or others are working on something like a
>gnu java compiler?)

Yes, there is a Java front-end for gcc in the works at Cygnus, so it
compiles Java to machine code. There's guavac, a free
Java-to-bytecodes compiler. There are various attempts at building
free VMs - kaffe and Japhar are the main ones. But there's a big
glaring hole in free Java implementations.

My own pet idea is to build something like the Universal Virtual
Machine that someone at IBM was working on awhile ago. Generic
bytecode interpreter, then you can load a Java VM bytecode set into it
if you want, or some other thing. Naturally, bytecode sets are
described in XML.

>So what does that leave? Well, there's still one glaring hole. Database.

MySQL. Never used it, but it comes highly recommended. There's an
article about it at
Also see
which is an article about web databasing that might be useful.

(I only know about this because I read slashdot, "News for Nerds.
Stuff that matters." Essential daily reading to stay on top of the
Internet world. Ideal for FoRKers, probably for
most dist-objers too.)

It is curious, though, that free databases are less common than, say,
free web servers. I think it's because most hackers think databases
are kind of boring - who'd want to spend so much time creating a
database program?

>much as MS is quaking in the face of Linux? (Ha ha, now there's a laugh.)

Bill Gates said "Linux" for the first time in public a few weeks ago.
(Another slashdot reference). Mind you, he said that Linux didn't
matter and none of his customers ever asked for it. Well, duh.

>How does Linux+Apache+Perl+PostgreSQL sound as a middle & backend
>tiered server combo?

It's done all the time, although I only know about mySQL.

>The other alternative I can think of
>would be Linux+Jigsaw+Java servlets+PostgreSQL.

This is much cooler. Not just because it's Java (which is
intrinsically hip :-) but because servlets are potentially very
powerful. It's the beginning of letting in Java mobile agents.

>Oh, I get it. The correct answer is NT+IIS+SQLServer, right ;-)?

Yep, and a tech to reboot the NT box twice a week.