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All the Perl that's Practical to Extract and Report

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  • I still have it in my browser though, and here's the content of it:

    Developer's Dilemma: Perl vs. PHP

    By Mike Martin
    NewsFactor Network
    October 18, 2002

    PHP development tools -- optimizers, debuggers, code frameworks and class libraries -- are freely available, and PHP interfaces well with other enterprise programs, according to executives.

    Perl -- the programmer's putty that helps paste together disparate Web technologies -- may be in a jam, threatened by obsolescence and an eager replacement patiently waiting to pounce: PHP.

    "Perl is a language that originated from a specific need, namely processing log files and reports," said Bret Levy, chief technology officer of Third Millennium On-Line Products, Stanford University computer science professor John Koza's online gaming company. "Like most other languages, the needs Perl addresses are very specific, and therefore the language took a form that best suited those needs."

    PHP, on the other hand, creates "dynamic, personalized home pages on the Web," Levy told NewsFactor. "PHP is generally chosen when a wide range of features are needed, including database access, form submission, file management and graphics applications."

    Different Niches

    Many factors play a role in any programming language choice. They include language applicability; available technical staff; existing code base compatibility; time-to-market; project size and scope; and cost compared with budgeted resources.

    Some say the Perl-versus-PHP choice is easy. "There should be no dilemma in a good developer's mind when it comes to Perl and PHP, as each has a particular niche it occupies," Raj Goel, chief technology officer of technical services firm Brainlink, told NewsFactor. "Perl tends to be better suited to longer-term efforts, core enterprise projects and in environments where the application may expand beyond the Web, while PHP is generally more appropriate for prototyping and should also be used in low-cost, low-resource or time-constrained environments."

    Is Perl Dead?
    Contrary to Goel's view, size, scope and staffing issues render Perl a hopeless contender, according to Scott Testa, chief operating officer of intranet software firm MindBridge Software. "Perl is dead," he told NewsFactor. "It is slow, it does not scale, and programmers coming out of school do not know it."

    But burying Perl may be premature. "While Perl is 'older' than PHP, it has been updated to maintain a certain level of modern object-oriented programming," Levy noted.

    Jon Lorenzo, president and founder of Internet service provider Incom, agreed. "Perl is outdated, and, yes, it is being replaced by other computer languages," he told NewsFactor. "But no, it is not obsolete, and probably will not be for many years to come."

    Hard-core programmers "will always use Perl and Java," Lorenzo added. "But for the everyday Web processor, both Perl and PHP are necessary."

    Easy as PHP?

    PHP, which is similar in structure and syntax to C++, seems "designed for the staff that must adopt a new language," Levy said. "It would be very inappropriate to have a development group learn Perl in order to implement a project, whereas learning PHP is typically very easy and fun."

    In addition, having the right tools always makes the job easier, and development tools such as optimizers, debuggers, code frameworks and class libraries that complement PHP "are notably absent or far less mature for Perl," Levy said. "For PHP, some of the more refined development tools are also available as freeware and shareware, while the availability of Perl tools is very sparse."

    PHP also interfaces with "commercial databases, such as Oracle (Nasdaq: ORCL) Latest News about Oracle, Informix and DB2, and [gets] along exceptionally well with free and open source Latest News about open source databases such as MySQL and PostGreSQL," Goel noted.

    Spurring Sloth?

    Ease can cause malaise, however, and PHP may indirectly encourage programmers to skip crafty coding in favor of tempting templates. "PHP can lead to poor coding practices, sloppy application design and an increase in debugging time," Goel said. "Additionally, PHP's template libraries are inconsistent and can exact significant performance penalties."

    That ability to enable programmers to slack off may cost the programming language fans in corporate boardrooms and executive suites. "PHP has very poor corporate acceptance," Goel noted.

    Polished Perl

    Meanwhile, Perl -- the mature standard for CGI applications -- boasts a well-developed community with "learning tools and modules available for coders of all proficiency levels," Goel added. Professional coders and corporations give Perl "nearly universal support. Oracle ships Oracle 9i with Perl support; all Linux distributions ship with Perl; and Microsoft (Nasdaq: MSFT) Latest News about Microsoft funds the ActiveState Perl for Windows."

    Perl has proliferated within the systems operations community, Levy explained, making it the language of choice "when a 'quick-and-dirty' one-time solution is required. Perl's strength is its rich-text processing features and filtering capabilities."

    "It isn't visual," Lorenzo added. "Perl is a line-by-line type of programming language that the true programmer can move through to do low-level things."

    Lack of visual clarity is Perl's primary weakness, Levy noted. For instance, because Perl contains "cryptic symbols from its Unix origins, programmers coming to Perl from other languages find it difficult to learn," Goel said.

    To PHP or Not To PHP?

    Object orientation -- the combination of computer data and codes -- will make PHP the long-run survivor in the battle of development languages, Levy predicted.

    "PHP is a much stronger general-purpose language that affords programming style, structure and even syntax that is very close to what modern programmers are used to," he said. "PHP is very easy to learn, easy to program in, performs well on all platforms and is very portable. Programmers that learn PHP are very satisfied and tend to continue to use PHP for future projects."

    Although still popular, Perl "is not winning any new converts," he concluded. "The pool of Perl talent will shrink over time, while the PHP pool will continue to grow."

    • Why the heck did he ask the CTO of a Stanford professor's gaming company?
    • So it's a "general purpose" language that "dynamic, personalized home pages on the Web". That's wonderful. I suppose if I want to write, say, a Point of Sale application in PHP with a graphical interface and that talks to a serial printer and a card reader, I can do it with a home page! hooray!

      (I'm aware of command line PHP. I just like seeing apparent cognitive dissonance from interviewees.)

    • the needs Perl addresses are very specific

      PHP, on the other hand, creates "dynamic, personalized home pages on the Web,"

      What planet are you from? Perl is very specific, and PHP counters that by ... making web pages?

      Perl -- the programmer's putty that helps paste together disparate Web technologies

      Ah, now I see where you're coming from. You don't really have a clue at all as to what I use Perl for, do you?

      J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers