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IOS Perl Programming

Ask Slashdot: Best Approach To Reenergize an Old Programmer? 360

StonyCreekBare writes "I started out programming in Z80 assembler in the 1970s. Then I programmed in Pascal. Then x86 Assembler in the early '90s. Over time I did a smattering of C, Basic, Visual C++, Visual Basic, and even played at Smalltalk. Most recently I settled on Perl, and Perl/Tk as the favorite 'Swiss army Chainsaw' tool set, and modestly consider myself reasonably competent with that. But suddenly, in this tight financial environment I need to find a way to get paid for programming, and perl seems so 'yesterday.' The two hot areas I see are iOS programming and Python, perhaps to a lesser extent, Java. I need to modernize my skill-set and make myself attractive to employers. I recently started the CS193P Stanford course on iTunesU to learn iPad programming, but am finding it tough going. I think I can crack it, but it will take some time, and I need a paycheck sooner rather than later. What does the Slashdot crowd see as the best path to fame, wealth and full employment for gray-haired old coots who love to program?"
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Ask Slashdot: Best Approach To Reenergize an Old Programmer?

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  • Modern Stack (Score:5, Interesting)

    by watanabe ( 27967 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @12:56AM (#41627337)

    I think you just need to add a modern stack to your resume and put out an example project on github, you'll be ready to find work. The stacks that people are hiring for right now:

    • Python -- tornado -- mysql / nosql (mongo or redis experience)
    • Ruby -- Rails -- mysql / nosql
    • Haskell/Erlang/Functional Insanity -- I have no idea how these people deal with data
    • Javascript/ Nodejs -- mongo probably
    • IOS Development

    A solid web application based on bootstrap.js in any of the first four frameworks will get you an interview. A sample application for IOS should as well, at probably any one of your local agencies / design firms / app shops.

    If I were in your shoes, I'd skip the big enterprise languages, like Java / C# -- if you like Perl, you're going to hate working in those languages, and much of the work in those languages sucks, to be honest.

    My money-shot idea: learn kdb+ and q and go pull in $250k a year working for a hedge fund / investment bank. Also, it's fun and brain-bending.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:02AM (#41627379)

    I find myself in a somewhat similar situation, except that I started with IBM 650 machine language, then the SOAP assembler, back in the later fifties, then for a while was a wiz in FORTRAN, so have been programming for 54 years now. I found that same natural evolutionary path through Perl a pleasant adventure. Forget the money. Forget the fame. Take that early retirement at 60 to collect the government pension, minimize the lifestyle if you have to, and just enjoy programming as a recreation. Then help others.

    Always wanted to learn Python, but never really had the compelling need for it. Now amusing myself taking the introductory course in Python. I'm at the stage of wondering if as a language, it starts out trying too hard to be easy, and ends up being just as complex and un-intuitive as brain teasers in C or Perl except a bit less possibility of really dense code. Even Cobol used to get that way. Anyway since the EDx course is graded, it gives one a nice challenge to test oneself against. 'Course it's easy for me to learn one more language, after the first 49, another one isn't hard. I feel for the kids trying it for their first introduction to programming. Some of them stumble so badly, and maybe forget that Google is their friend, so they find it even a bit scary. In the old days we never had Google. Ah for the days of McKracken, or Kernahan and Ritchie, when explanations were so crystal clear. Good luck!

  • You have mixed goals (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Weaselmancer ( 533834 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:05AM (#41627399)

    Not necessarily conflicting, but definitely mixed. I picture a 2 circle Venn diagram. One is "enjoy my job", and the other is "get paid". You'd like to be in the middle overlapping bit.

    I have no idea how to tell you how to enjoy your job. Only you know what you like. As for the language? Completely irrelevant. Any decent coder can learn a new language. If you've gone from Z80 to Perl, then you already know this and you are most likely the right sort.

    But only you can know what you would enjoy. What would energize you and make you happy. So here is a strategy for you to find jobs in that middle area.

    Look at job postings like you are looking for a job. Check the job resources you like in the way that you normally would. Now print out and save the jobs you think you would enjoy. Look at their requirements. If you do this for a few months you'll see patterns emerging. I want to be a _____________, and every job posted for those kinds of positions has __________ as a requirement.

    Keep notes. Eventually you'll see what you need to learn. Then go learn it.

    Then if you can, hook up with a temp agency. Tell them you are looking for temporary work doing _________. Do that for a while and do it well. Be sure you impress at least one person at each assignment. Get their names and numbers. When you are done ask them if they would not mind being a reference for you.

    Then when you are ready for your salaried position above, mark that time on your resume as consulting (because temp agencies on your resume aren't desirable). Then send out those resumes.

    And from one greybeard to another, best of luck!

  • Re:Coldfusion (Score:5, Interesting)

    by thejuggler ( 610249 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:10AM (#41627427) Homepage Journal
    I do very well ($$$) programming web based application with ColdFusion. Using other technologies like Javascript (JQuery) for the front end. With the launch of CF 10 this year the language is fully scriptable for those that like script and tags for that that feel better working with tags. While it does not force OO style of programming it does allow OO programming. Because the CF server is built on Java and runs in a JVM you have direct access to Java. CF is designed to be a very strong and robust RAD platform. And it is robust. ColdFusion server is free for developers but it is a commercial product and it has a price tag. Companies are willing to pay for a reliable server platform. They do it all the time. Additionally there are a couple open source ColdFusion engines that are free. Like the OP I too started out programming a long time ago. I started in the 80's and did many languages prior to ColdFusion including assembler, CNC, BASIC, FORTRAN, ASP, PHP, C/C++, SQL, Perl etc.

    ColdFusion is a viable language and there is room for more developers.
  • ARM assembly (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:10AM (#41627431)

    Seriously. Learn ARM assembly, practice hitting the bare metal in an Android phone, and get a job working for someone like Nvidia, Qualcomm, Broadcom, Samsung, HTC, or someone comparable. You have a skill almost nobody does anymore, and you know how much more fun assembly is. Screw Java and boring corporate productivity apps. You can have more fun with assembly writing drivers, and make more money while you're at it. :-)

  • the good news... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday October 12, 2012 @01:21AM (#41627495)

    (bah, rick, you beat me to it. ; ) )
    For mentioning TK, Visual C++ & Visual Basic, the basic assumption is that you look for something related to GUI applications.
    In this case, IMHO:

    • Current hot topics: "Big Data", Map/Reduce, "Scalability", "Cloud", mobility, Web 2.0 (aka, the services-web [and to a lesser extent, "the internet of things"]) AmI, AOSE (agents, not aspects)... If you look at (least at the abstracts of) current research (e.g. through, you can get a better understanding of the technical meaning of those terms as opposed to the more marketing-departmental meaning, one can usually find on blogs.
    • Check out the "Gartner Hype Cycle for (emerging) IT" featuring a pretty thorough list of upcoming topics.
    • Current practical hot topics include: node.js & REST API development + Message Queue + I/O [DBs, file/service access, etc.].
    • Since, iOS/Android/tablets ~> apps with a HTML5 based view are (more than) enough for many cases.
    • node fits nicely for this, because of JavaScript's (almost complete) isomorphism and lack of (native) I/O calls. It looks like this stack is replacing RoR!

    In any case, the (formerly future, now) present is still the web. Whereas the future is difficult to predict.

    Good luck!

  • by lyuden ( 2009390 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @02:58AM (#41627937)

    Is Ruby *actually* used for anything outside of math/academia?

    Is there something on a scale of SciPy for Ruby ? I am not even begin talking about something like BLAS or LAPACK. I see some python jobs for academia, ruby jobs almost all belong to rails jobs in "new social media startup" space. Yes there is some mysterious oriental island in the Pacific where ruby may be used in academia. Somewhere else? I don't think so. But I would like to be proved wrong, however.

  • Why? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Psychotria ( 953670 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @03:56AM (#41628213)
    Why is everyone (or nearly everyone) assuming that the person in question is already a paid programmer? Most of the answers are along the lines of "you're a paid programmer, learning a new syntax is easy". But, that's not how I read the summary. This statement jumps out at me:

    But suddenly, in this tight financial environment I need to find a way to get paid for programming, and perl seems so "yesterday".

    To me this suggests that the poster has NOT been working as a programmer for the last 50 years, but has been working doing something else. Does this change or influence what helpful answers might be?

  • by hughbar ( 579555 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:20AM (#41628329) Homepage
    Yes, agree, I'm 61 in the UK and make good money from Perl. I'm freelance and I keep up with it [Catalyst, Mojolicious, Class:DBIx etc]. It's a great niche to be in. Besides I really -like- Perl. Yes there's plenty of C# and Java but they usually ask for experience, thus you're in the trap of 'no experience without job' and 'no job without experience'.

    Incidentally at 61 I don't think anyone would want me for a permanent job, but I prefer freelance and [frankly] permanent job security is pretty bad anyway.

    Good luck and may the force be with you!
  • Re:C/C++ (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Viol8 ( 599362 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @04:41AM (#41628405) Homepage

    ""C/C++" is frowned upon."

    Not where I come from it isn't. If someone puts it on their CV we test them on their C knowledge, not just C++.

    "And attempting to write in the common syntactical subset of C and C++ makes as much sense as doing it for C and Perl."

    Don't be a total fucking ass. Sometimes you need flexibility about where your code can be compiled and a common subset gives you that. Anyway , its a pretty damn large subset, virtually all of C.

    "But in any event modern C and C++ have diverged drastically"

    If by modern C you mean C99 and beyond ITYF almost no one uses it outside of academia and a few specialist areas. Almost invariable C90 or ANSI C is the global standard which plays nicely with C++.

    "When a resume crosses my desk with "C/C++" on it, I know exactly where to put it---in the dumpster."

    Then you're a moron who'll miss out on hiring a lot of good staff. However I must admit that if I ever came across your CV then it would probably head for the dumpster pretty quick.

  • Re:Old standbys (Score:4, Interesting)

    by YttriumOxide ( 837412 ) <> on Friday October 12, 2012 @08:18AM (#41629435) Homepage Journal

    And no, Mono is not .NET the same way Wine is not Windows.

    I hear this kind of statement a lot; but I'm still waiting for someone to explain to me a real world programming task they've done in C# where mono couldn't be used.

    C# is my day job (mostly - there's a little C++, Java, and Python from time to time) and I've never run across any problems using mono with production code (primarily Linux server environments (not web stuff either))

  • by BrokenHalo ( 565198 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @08:32AM (#41629521)

    Switch to hardware. Do chip design.

    Sounds like a plan. A change of discipline is as good as a rest...

    What I did in 1990 after 20 years in programming (Fortran, assembly, COBOL and C on assorted "big iron" mainframes) was a complete change. Management was not an option, since that's a job for someone who doesn't have the skills for anything more worthwhile. So I went back to school and did a double degree in biochemistry and biotechnology, which for a tired old fart like me was fucking hard work, but it's way out there enough on the geek scale to be interesting, even if the pay isn't always quite as good as in IT.

    If I were doing it all over again, I would possibly choose analytical chemistry or mathematics, but no regrets...

  • by hackula ( 2596247 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @09:26AM (#41630051)
    Read a .Net Unleashed book and you are already more qualified than 70% of the crap C#ers out there. Companies will be fighting over you if you can solve a few Fizzbuzz problems in C# at the interview, which should be trivial for you with that sort of experience. No, it will not be sexy, but that is what allows you to get your foot in the door. .Net is pretty nice too. The downsides to C# and .Net have all to do with the mostly lackluster community and almost nothing to do with the tech. I got out of .Net for that reason (working in node.js now), but C# still is actually my favorite language I have ever worked with. Linq alone is one of the best language features out there. Seriously though, most .Net developers just write CRUD apps hooking up forms with SQL and Crystal Reports, so the barrier to entry is extremely low.
  • Consider moving? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by gr8_phk ( 621180 ) on Friday October 12, 2012 @09:42AM (#41630259)
    If you come to Detroit (don't knock it 'till you've been here - and Michigan is beautiful) you can use your existing C and Perl skills in-or-near the auto industry. Having used a micro controller or two is a big plus (makes a job almost a sure thing). You will probably need to do some contract work for a year because you lack the "automotive background". Once you understand how the CAN bus and associated tools are used in cars, you can get work for the rest of your life. C, Perl, CAN - you're in. Experience debugging vehicle level issues - your an expert.

    Another way in with PC programming skills is to work for the tool vendors (CAN tools, or micros) which have a path to lower level stuff if you want to go there..

    At least do the job search and see what's available. Unfortunately job postings have become buzzword mania and companies will "require" everything from driver development to CEO. Obviously a given position doesn't require all that. C and Perl together will likely get you a job somewhere here - there are several people with that pair of skills down the aisle from me who are gaining other experience on the job.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from a rigged demo.