changing tactics

Posted on March 25, 2013

Most of my friends (and some of my family) know I’m into this “functional programming” thing. While not a lot of them truly understand what it means, (and I’m still learning) I know that I prefer functional programming. At a very basic level it appeals to the fact that I find math very beautiful. Also, there are a lot of cool things & side benefits (and headaches) when it comes to functional programming. My favorite language in that space (so far) is Haskell and while it is a very cool language, for a few projects I am looking to work on it will be impractical to use Haskell.

As a prime example, I’m going to be building a work order system for my employer. Currently they use Quickbooks for all their billing & will probably keep on using it until the end of time. In order to work with it I need to either:

  1. use Java
  2. use .NET

What is nice, is there are languages that lay on top of these technologies so I can use all the spiffy functional stuff & still leverage the advantage of those platforms. (Did I really just say that? Woah! That was like, straight Enterprise Software speak) For .NET they have F# which looks pretty cool & is on the list of things to learn. In Java-land (and Javascript & .NET) there’s Clojure which is a Lisp derivative.

So my choices are: learn F#, learn Clojure, or write a wrapper for QBXML…

I’m not writing a wrapper… that will take way too long & too much time.

F# is nice, but it’s kind of hard to run on a *nix box, and thus may be impractical for development on my main machine (I’m currently running Archlinux).

Clojure… Clojure seems to be the language that I’m going to focus most of my learning energies on. I say most because I’m also reading Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs, and Land of Lisp, so, in a sense, I’m learning 3 variations of the same language (Scheme is used in SICP, which is a minimalist dialect of Lisp). In a sense, that means I’m going to be able to learn more while studying less (or not as hard anyway). I’ve already started on the Clojure Koans and I need to start running through some tutorials but I think, overall this is the best way for me to go!

…and I can focus on learning practical stuff instead of learning mind-bendy cool stuff. While mind-bendy stuff is very cool, it’s not always the best thing if you’re just trying to make some $$$!