Our dynamic language quandary

September 8, 2006

The Murray-Rust group is a Java shop, for Java people. We’re aware, at the same time, that Java isn’t an ideal language for doing data conversion (nails for the sed/awk hammer), or for those one-off jobs where it would be really useful to have a python style programming shell to explore in.

Given our investment in Java, we should really confine ourselves to a dynamic language that can run on the JVM, except that isn’t really so confined any more, with JPython on the march and the news that Sun taking the lead on JRuby. Richard Apodaca is already posting examples hacking chemoinformatics in Ruby, but I don’t think that there’s any single standard dynamic language for chemoinformatics yet.
There’s another entrant to consider, though. We’re coding more and more javascript in the group, mainly bits of scripts in web interfaces, driver scripts for JMol. I enjoy worrying Peter by prophesying that javascript will become a dominant language on the server. Peter, like myself, has had his fingers burnt by the browser war DOM trainwreck and javascript gets despised (perhaps unfairly) by association. Perhaps we should just give in and go with the flow?

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