Thread: POSIX C Programming sub-board?

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    POSIX C Programming sub-board?

    I've mentioned in a few threads that I'd believe a separate sub-board for POSIX.1 C99 programming here would be useful, and avoid newcomer frustration and confusion.

    For those who are not familiar with POSIX.1, also known as IEEE standard 1003.1, I'd recommend taking a look at the Wikipedia POSIX article, and the POSIX.1-2008 specification at the Open Group web site.

    In this forum, discussions involving POSIX.1 C have occurred in either the C programming sub-board or the Linux programming sub-board, but both are somewhat odd and incorrect. For one, POSIX.1 is a separate standard to C standards, and for another, POSIX.1 C99 works not only in Linux, but also in *BSDs (FreeBSD, OpenBSD, NetBSD, and so on), as well as in Mac OS X. The key point is that it is portable across several operating systems, and not just among free/libre ones. Furthermore, GNU tools are not the only implementation in Linux, either; even Intel provides a Linux C compiler suite that is widely used (in scientific computing in particular, which often leverages POSIX.1 plus MPI libraries, in my experience).

    I am not aware of any discussion forum that has a dedicated sub-board for POSIX.1 C99.

    The reasons why I think a separate sub-board would be useful, is that many tasks that beginner programmers start with, are both easier to solve, and solved in a more robust manner, when using the POSIX.1 interfaces. A few example cases:

    1. Reading standard input or a file line by line
      Using getline() there are no line length limitations (other than available memory).
    2. Traversing directory trees, finding files, matching files using glob patterns
      nftw(), glob(), fnmatch(), scandir()
    3. Searching for specific text in input
      POSIX has regex built-in to the C library (no external libraries needed) that provides POSIX basic regular expressions, which are commonly used and very powerful, and very easy to implement.
    4. Basic TCP/IP networking and name resolution
      POSIX sockets are extremely similar to BSD sockets (send(), recv(), but add functions like getaddrinfo() and getnameinfo() for easy name resolution for IPv4 and IPv6 addresses (basically letting the user handle both protocols with the same code).


    Of course, POSIX provides other, more advanced stuff too, like signals and threads (although threads do have minor behavioural differences in e.g. Linux). Memory mapping techniques (mmap() et al) are only minimally described in POSIX.1-2008, but current implementations (across Linux, *BSDs, and Mac OS X at least) have already converged to a mostly compatible set, indicating likely standardization in future POSIX versions.

    I've also emphasized C99 above, because it provides further features that make efficient portable code possible (in particular, standard integer types, variable argument lists, and flexible array members), compared to earlier C standards.

    The reason these are useful, is that they are already widely used in practice. Many new developers learn the standard C I/O first, but then, in real life, they need to re-learn a better way when they start writing code used and/or developed by/with others, too. In my experience, they also express dismay at having had to learn "an archaic way of doing things", when an easier, more robust, and more efficient way was already at their fingertips, except that nobody talked about them -- or talked of them only as "GNU extensions" or "Linux stuff", which they aren't.

    Although Microsoft did at one point provide a POSIX implementation, and cygwin does provide most of POSIX even on Windows, Microsoft Windows is the one OS that does not by default provide the POSIX.1 interfaces. Others do, however; and the situation might change at some point even on Windows, at least up to a point. In 2015, we know that C99 and POSIX.1-2008 is portable to basically all other widely-used desktop and server operating systems.

    What I do not know, and would like to know, are the downsides of having such a board.

    Because I do not personally use Windows, I obviously lack the view of a large fraction of desktop users. I don't even know the fraction of developers that work exclusively on the Windows platform, but as there is already a Windows programming forum, I don't think it should be an issue. I do not want to exclude anyone, or create an appearance of such; but as things stand, many programmers learn only inefficient ways to solve problems, using tools we already have (mostly) improved on.

    I am personally afraid that some of the heated discussions I have had about these, in particular with members who do not use the interfaces, are actually lessening the value of the discussions to other members. That is wasteful, undesirable. I've already limited my participation for a duration once for that exact reason -- I am not here to cause discomfort/dissonance/conflict; my only reason for participating is helping others learn.

    I'd also like to know if the experiences I've observed from new C developers using POSIX-y OSes are common in general, or for some reason limited to my narrow experience only. It is entirely possible that in the larger picture, not many of those developing on POSIX-y plaforms feel a separate POSIX C forum would even be useful here.

    Finally, if there are extrinsic reasons why another sub-board is not feasible at this time, please let me know, webmaster, and I won't take it up again. Even so, I'd be interested to hear others' experiences and opinions.

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    Unregistered User Yarin's Avatar
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    I imagine Nominal in a dungeon somewhere with his dominatrix watching him write up posts, just as he's about to finish, she says "Write it longer!", and when he writes it longer, she says still "Longer!".

    Anyway, the forums would probably be better served to just rename the Linux board to be the POSIX/Linux/BSD board.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yarin View Post
    I imagine Nominal in a dungeon somewhere with his dominatrix watching him write up posts, just as he's about to finish, she says "Write it longer!", and when he writes it longer, she says still "Longer!".
    Hmph. My inability to restrict the verbosity of my literary output is a character flaw, not externally enforced. Besides, aint no lady evolved yet who could handle my recalcitrance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yarin View Post
    Anyway, the forums would probably be better served to just rename the Linux board to be the POSIX/Linux/BSD board.
    A viable option that I too would support.

    Do you -- or others -- have any experience that might support or oppose my observations (on the value on learning POSIX.1 interfaces from the get go, as opposed to plain C)?

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    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    I'd also like to know if the experiences I've observed from new C developers using POSIX-y OSes are common in general, or for some reason limited to my narrow experience only.
    O_o

    If you are talking about the complaints, I don't see a complaints about learning language standard components before other components as being meaningful. I certainly don't see such complaints as being in any way related to specific libraries or environments.

    In my experience, they also express dismay at having had to learn "an archaic way of doing things", when an easier, more robust, and more efficient way was already at their fingertips, except that nobody talked about them -- or talked of them only as "GNU extensions" or "Linux stuff", which they aren't.
    A newbie complaining about learning "an archaic way of doing things" with respect to the standard components isn't worth the investment of explaining other libraries.

    I'm not trying to be rude. I'm simply asking. Why do you care, even tangentially, about a newbie's complaints?

    *shrug*

    I think you started the discussion because of an argument related, loosely, to the "POSIX" `getline` interface. With that in mind, would you tell a newbie complaining about the difficulty of correctly using `fgets` to just use the `getline` interface? If so, why? Learning programming is much more about the task of solving problems than the sins of any one library. Why would you simply not offer guidance in correctly using the `fgets` interface? (No. I see no problem with recommending other tools when a given tool can't really be made safe.) Why not help the newbie learn to make the tools they have available more palatable?

    You also drew attention the difference between extensions and standards; would you still worry about such complains if the alternative was a vendor limited extension? Let's pretend that I thought the C++ extensions available to Microsoft compilers made C++ easier to learn. Actually, we don't have to pretend; the C++ extensions available to Microsoft compilers can remove some of the complexity of templates. What would you think of a newbie who stopped learning standard C++ because the rigidity of the standard grammar is "archaic"? What would you think of me for suggesting that a newbie stop learning standard C++ in favor of the Microsoft flavor? What would you think of starting a board specifically for the Microsoft flavor?

    Of course, the reality isn't so nice a division. A lot of components become widely available long before any standards body considers any extensions for a revision. Let's instead pretend that the relevant Microsoft extensions became some standard not directly related to the official language standard. (I don't care which body. You can call IEEE in if you like.) Sure. The wider availability makes the flavor more suitable as a target for learning, new boards, and similar. However, I'll still have to ask the same sort of questions.

    Now, I don't have anything against POSIX or just other libraries in general. I'm saying that the official and undecorated standard still has an advantage. The advantage is the larger support available. You "speak" the POSIX standard. I "speak" some of the POSIX standard. A lot of platforms "speak" the POSIX standard. How many people though only know the language standard components? (Rather, how many don't know the POSIX standard because they learned some other libraries?) How many environments don't support the POSIX standard? For a newbie, I think being able to go almost anywhere to receive help practicing problem solving with programming which works almost anywhere is far more important that any time which might be claimed as lost because of "archaic" components.

    Yes. I have seen idiots complain about wasting time because they felt that a different library made some programming task so much easier to learn. I don't care about such newbies in the slightest. I've lost count of how much time I've spent in repeated failures trying to solve the same problems in "better" ways. When it comes to it, I don't see programming as a good fit for people who make such complaints.

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Nominal Animal View Post
    A viable option that I too would support.

    Do you -- or others -- have any experience that might support or oppose my observations (on the value on learning POSIX.1 interfaces from the get go, as opposed to plain C)?
    I'm neither opposed or against. I'm contradicted.

    I don't think there's any intrinsic value to learn POSIX from the get go, as opposed to plain C. You just have two learn the two anyways. So, yeah... you take your pick. Programming isn't some activity that needs pampering. If someone is annoyed because they are learning raw material they will rarely use, then tell them to choose another profession. Programming is clearly not for them. It's a bit like mathematics, you know. It takes effort and learning stuff that just builds knowledge vertically and horizontally. "Programming is easy" is for $15 self-help books (which I'm sure you have no desire to ever author). It's not for real life. Much less when coding in C.

    As for the boards, the Linux Programming board is already a strong giveaway there will be a lot of POSIX talking in there. And yet look at how empty and neglected it is. Adding POSIX to the title wouldn't hurt, I guess. But I think it will have no effect. Least effort and maximum exposure will always make C people want to post on the C board. Creating a new board just for POSIX programming isn't a viable option either. There's been an historical resistance to the creation of new boards at CBoard. To be frank, I quite never understood why. But I never cared much.
    Last edited by Mario F.; 08-15-2015 at 05:28 PM.
    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    Registered User MutantJohn's Avatar
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    Tbh, I'm kind of surprised there isn't an Objective-C sub-board, considering there's a C# one.

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    Master Apprentice phantomotap's Avatar
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    "Programming is easy" is for $15 self-help books.
    O_o

    I realize I'm going off, and I'm sorry, but I pretty much have to ask for thoughts with such a posted comment.

    What is it with seemingly everyone regurgitating "Everyone should learn to program." these days? Why? How did we get the point? If the sentiment was honest, I'd be on board. The sentiment is really, at least seems to be, "Science is super popular you guys!". Why does so many people seem to be on board with making science a ........ing popularity contest?

    Okay. I know I started this tangent myself, but I'm going to stop. I would like to hear the thoughts of the people in the thread, but I'm likely to rant forever so I'll just keep my mouth shut.

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    tl;dr

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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap View Post
    What is it with seemingly everyone regurgitating "Everyone should learn to program." these days? Why? How did we get the point?
    I'll be damned if I understand it myself. I've been with the software development industry for close to 30 years. And the only explanation I can find is the one you gave; somehow the geek culture was moved to stardom. Maybe the exceeding popularity of computer games helped in creating this notion that programming is cool, I don't know. The only thing I know for sure is that this has had an impact on the general quality of the code being produced, as more and more wannabe programmers make it to paying jobs. When before we had a programming culture centered on principles of code correctness and quality, today bugs are ok and expected. It does not matter that everyone is selling their snake oil of programming languages that are safer and easy to use. Bugs are still ok and expected. It does not matter if a project code today benefits from a larger number of programmers, more powerful analytical tools and code development and review processes and tools. Bugs are ok and expected. Because stardom really impacts on the way people grade quality. It's not without a reason why Pop music sprouts so much so-called artists that are a complete fake, when say Blues seems to only call in for the greatest among the best.

    Besides the reducing of the quality of code produced, I think it also had a negative impact on the job market. Back when I was starting, when programming was a highly payed niche profession, you just wouldn't hear of unemployed programmers. Today so many people enter this career, completely unprepared and so full of false messages of hope. You have junior programmers being payed the salary of an help desk and a competitive environment that will guarantee on most cases you won't have many changes of climbing the hierarchical tree inside the company. Meanwhile, the job market is so saturated, chances are you will be employed for the duration of a project and make the unemployment masses once it is finished. Some quality individuals will escape the slaughter and secure rewarding careers, of course. But for the vast majority of programmers who were mislead into this career by such things as "programming is easy" and "everyone can learn how to program", their future is bleak and uncertain.

    This is precisely why I insist so much in being severe and exigent towards newbies. There's no hypocrisy in it when I say I rather see a newbie that tackles the real challenges and frustrations of programming, showing promise as a future quality programmer, than another pampered child waiting the day he will join the unemployment lines.

    This has all a bit to do with a post that I have sort of being thinking in my head lately. Been with CBoard for 12 or 13 years, so this is the place I would like to announce my full retirement from my programming career. Not that anyone should care. But I do care about announcing it here. Seems the right thing to do. But that's for another thread. However, for reasons I shall make clear, over the years I have become less capable as a programmer. Also increasingly less interested. For maybe 5 years now I have been trying to find a way out. It's not easy when your whole formal education is centered around it. Fortunately through some blood and tears, I managed it. The story of how and why, I will let you know. But it touches on some of the things discussed here.


    EDIT: And lets not talk on the impact the saturated job market has had on senior programmers >35 years old. It's sad beyond measure seeing some of my friends struggling to find a location. Some of them having to move the family with them, when they finally get a position too far away.
    Last edited by Mario F.; 08-15-2015 at 06:32 PM.
    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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    Registered User Alpo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap
    Okay. I know I started this tangent myself, but I'm going to stop.
    I'm sorry, but that level of foresight isn't allowed, you must be at least this reactionary to ride the internet:

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    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap
    What is it with seemingly everyone regurgitating "Everyone should learn to program." these days? Why? How did we get the point? If the sentiment was honest, I'd be on board. The sentiment is really, at least seems to be, "Science is super popular you guys!". Why does so many people seem to be on board with making science a ........ing popularity contest?
    I'm not sure I know exactly what you are talking about, but I've seen similar things. Consider this, when books were first being printed, reading for fun was considered a sort of idle fantasy that would rot your brain. Most people would have considered the ability to read to be a habit of eccentric wealthy people, or weirdos. As time went on it's value was seen, and now parents encourage their kids to read even fiction books, and reading books is perceived completely different.

    Now when you are being dumb, some pedant is likely to say "You should try reading a book sometime!", as if the activity of reading is inherently educational. There are also now many people walking around who have had life/perspective changing experiences from things read in books, so they might spread the idea that reading books is 'good' ('good' in a presuppositional way, the same way A = A).

    My opinion (of these other people's opinions) is that it's a good thing, but also I remember hearing once that the quickest way to devalue something is to praise it's irrelevant attributes (like when I compliment a girl on how pretty her earlobes are, and it turns out she's a physics professor :P). Every time I see an example of the latter thing happening with one of my hobbies I cringe a bit...

    Quote Originally Posted by yarin
    I imagine Nominal in a dungeon somewhere with his dominatrix watching him write up posts, just as he's about to finish, she says "Write it longer!", and when he writes it longer, she says still "Longer!".
    Well that explains it, the only mystery left is... when you imagine this, what are you wearing?




    For the new sub-board, I don't think it would be a horrible idea, just a little redundant. It would probably be good enough to just add Posix tags to related threads. I don't know if moderators have that power, but if so it might be possible to run a script that automatically tag all the threads containing certain keywords retro-actively (wild speculation on my part :P).
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    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap View Post

    What is it with seemingly everyone regurgitating "Everyone should learn to program." these days? Why?
    I've struggled with the question myself. There were reasons at one point that everyone should learn to program, but I would agree that the sentiment isn't sincere. To me the whole thing comes off as just a way to market worse versions of Khan Academy, because for some reason the people responsible targeted those who cared remotely about computing once in their lives, instead of people who cared about education generally by teaching programming and other things.

    Just to prove that I thought about it I think I'll go into my process for a couple paragraphs.

    I think at one point - largely before the invention and advent of GUI - it would have been true that everyone should learn to program. Programmers have been compared to scribes before, and I think, in the multitude of universes, there is one where everyone is using the shell effectively like everyone uses word processing. We don't live in that universe mind you, and I don't think it's probable that we will become that universe, with the way that interfaces are appealing more and more to casual users. Not that I in any way really regret the choice being made.

    It's not like people who flirt with JavaScript are going to suddenly going to be better at their jobs, or necessarily any easier to communicate with on technical matters, either. At the same time, I didn't want to be exclusive, because I know of people who at least say they learned to program for self-improvement, which I don't have a problem with.

    So, I came away thinking "Everyone should learn to program" is just a marketing statement. I also believe that this marketing statement will not be the prime mover in a generation of bad programmers who flirted with coding and decided it was for them. I think most people would discard it, since they probably have other hobbies or dreams in their lives.

    Something dumb inspiring bad programming seems to happen anyway. When I was 15, I wanted a Web site and started learning. Now, I'm a terrible programmer.

    "Everyone should learn to program" could also just be a meme, and memes are stupid.
    Last edited by whiteflags; 08-15-2015 at 11:38 PM.

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    Unregistered User Yarin's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alpo View Post
    Well that explains it, the only mystery left is... when you imagine this, what are you wearing?
    Triggered! Your misogynistic joke has been reported to the CBoard police; I look forward to seeing your banning.


    Quote Originally Posted by phantomotap View Post
    What is it with seemingly everyone regurgitating "Everyone should learn to program." these days? Why?
    The most influential entities pushing this message are large software companies; and the sectors of press and government that worship these companies. You know, the very same companies that stand to profit from an oversaturated job market.


    Quote Originally Posted by Mario F. View Post
    However, for reasons I shall make clear, over the years I have become less capable as a programmer. Also increasingly less interested. ... The story of how and why, I will let you know.
    I look forward to reading it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Yarin View Post

    The most influential entities pushing this message are large software companies; and the sectors of press and government that worship these companies. You know, the very same companies that stand to profit from an oversaturated job market.
    O.o

    You mean saturation of good programmers ? I don't think that's going to happen soon,... at least not that soon

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    Registered User Alpo's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by whiteflags
    I think at one point - largely before the invention and advent of GUI - it would have been true that everyone should learn to program. Programmers have been compared to scribes before, and I think, in the multitude of universes, there is one where everyone is using the shell effectively like everyone uses word processing
    I was actually thinking about something like this earlier. I've been working on this game engine for a long time, and I've slowly come to see it less as a game engine and more as an "XML based renderering engine". At first I wouldn't have considered hand editing the XML to be programming, but as it's taken on complexity I have begun to see how it could be that.

    Then my final thought, if I made another program whose job was to present a graphical interface for changing the XML files, would doing so be 'programming' as well? It seems like it would have to be (I mean it definitely is in the technical sense, but a lot of people take a more exclusionary view I think, so I don't know if it would be considered such).

    So it could be when people say "everyone should know programming", they could simply mean it in more a technically correct sense that you benefit from knowing how to instruct a computer to do different things. I haven't actually seen it myself though, so it could also be marketing.

    When I first got out of school (7 years ago I think), I remember one of my classmates telling me he had failed an interview because the employer had asked him to change the IP of the computer on his desk. We were in school for instrumentation, which only goes as far as a bit of digital electronics needed to program a PLC or calibrate a measuring or controlling device through several interfaces. Yet still my interviews almost all had some computer questions as well.

    Also I hear more and more of previously isolated systems being interfaced with IP and other protocols to do remote management and other things with regular computers acting as clients. So I expect the knowledge I've picked up while studying programming will actually help me at some point. If nothing else I can at least take part in those conversations, which is beneficial from a getting noticed standpoint.
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    (?<!re)tired Mario F.'s Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Alpo View Post
    Then my final thought, if I made another program whose job was to present a graphical interface for changing the XML files, would doing so be 'programming' as well? It seems like it would have to be (I mean it definitely is in the technical sense, but a lot of people take a more exclusionary view I think, so I don't know if it would be considered such).
    Programming is well defined. There is nothing exclusionary about saying that dragging pretty little boxes around a GUI to generate an XML file is not programming. Similarly, creating a XML file in a raw editor isn't programming either. For one, XML files are descriptive, not instructional. They are nouns, not verbs. "Mary Johnes, Age 12, Dark Skin, Female" is not an instruction. (And neither are XML schemas, btw).

    But more than that, creating a well defined XML file is part of the process of Software Development, not programming. Programming is a subset task of Software Development and is the process that directly originates executable code. This is also why HTML, CSS or SQL are not considered programming languages.

    This is a somewhat new debate. And a debate that underlines some of the problems we are discussing here. "Everyone can program" invariably results in a lack of formal training in computer sciences. And from that, a lack of proper understanding of the terms and their meanings. I don't mean to say this in a pejorative sense. It is just the realization of a fact; that without a proper understanding of the underlying concepts, people tend to relativize and downplay their meaning, while scoffing at anyone trying to keep things in their places.

    Quote Originally Posted by Alpo View Post
    So it could be when people say "everyone should know programming", they could simply mean it in more a technically correct sense that you benefit from knowing how to instruct a computer to do different things. I haven't actually seen it myself though, so it could also be marketing.
    People mean "Everyone should learn how to program" in the same sense they would say "everyone should learn carpentry". But not everyone is really good at carpentry no matter how much they try. The necessary skills are tied to their genetic predisposition. And while anyone can in fact learn carpentry (just like most anyone can in fact learn how to program), many will be lousy carpenters. Only a few will have it in them to make beautiful and functional objects and be recognized as Carpenters.

    The problem is that I see a growing trend where "everybody should learn programming" is a career statement. It precedes the even more fallacious statement that "programming is easy". But if we stopped for a moment and replaced programming with carpentry, maybe we would realize how unreasonable that statement is and how dangerous it can be for someone's future. It goes without saying that no one in here is concerned with someone learning how to program as a means of self-improvement. That's beside the point. But there is undeniably a strong lure to use the programming skill set as a career. That lure has been unjustly magnified by statements like those, often coming from the very software development industry. But the reality is much more different. Programming is hard. Learning how to program is easy, solving computing problems is not. The skills necessary for applied computer science are much harder to come by and can take a decade or two to master, not to mention the need to constantly remain updated on this still young and ever changing technology. Likewise, the job market is today not what it used to be. It is much more competitive and it takes true skill to climb up the pay ladder.
    Last edited by Mario F.; 08-16-2015 at 12:00 PM.
    Originally Posted by brewbuck:
    Reimplementing a large system in another language to get a 25% performance boost is nonsense. It would be cheaper to just get a computer which is 25% faster.

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