Perl and IDEs

From about 1987 to about 4 or 5 years ago, I did all my software development using vi (and later gvim), ctags, and all the Unix command line tools. But towards the end of my time at Kodak, I got the Eclipse religion, at least as far as doing Java. Sure, I dislike having to move my hands away from the keys to move the cursor around all the time, but the code completion, integrated debugging and all that other good stuff won me over. The ability to click on an existing method call and see the javadoc for the method and to hit F3 and be taken to the actual code was a game changer for me. So much better than ctags. But for non-Java, whether shell scripts at work or perl at home, I still relied on gvim and the other command line tools.

But I’m about to start a huge and long term perl project, a large part of which is trying to learn all I can about an existing open source code base. So I wanted to see if an IDE would give me an advantage in terms of moving around the code I’m trying to learn. I installed the EPIC plugin for Eclipse, and also a dedicated perl IDE called “Padre”, and noodled around on both, and so far I’m forced to conclude that neither of them are as useful in perl as Eclipse is in Java. The biggest missing feature seems to be that F3 gets me the wrong function or method declaration most of the time. I don’t know why, possibly the typing system in perl is too weak for the sort of analysis and introspection that Eclipse does in Java.

So I think I’m going to be back to doing gvim and ctags and find and grep and perldoc and all the other fun stuff.

Moving on, moving up…

I was a little bit annoyed at work this week – they had me rush rush rush to finish something, and when I did they didn’t seem to have anything more for me to do. Ok, if I’m honest with myself, this new subproject they put me on has annoyed me because nobody seemed to want to communicate, and so maybe I wasn’t making the effort I should have to go find something to work on when they didn’t give me something. But still, I was mildly annoyed.

And then out of the blue, an on-line friend popped up on Facebook and said “hey, do you know any perl programmers looking for a job?” Well, I’ve done a fair amount of perl coding for my site as well as scripts here and there at Global Crossing and Kodak, although I’m not one what you’d call a “perlmonger” or “perl monk”. As a matter of fact, I’ve been seriously telling people on StackOverflow that if I weren’t so proficient in perl already and didn’t have so much working code written in perl, I would seriously be trying to forget everything I knew about it and learning python instead. So I asked him for more details. But he quoted me an hourly rate that was more than double what I’m currently making. I suddenly remembered that I’m a perl God.

The contract involves learning all there is to know about their business process, and all there is to know about an open source project called “Request Tracker” (aka RT), and seeing how much of their business process I can shoe-horn into RT (using its built in customization hooks and APIs) and how much would require custom coding of separate apps that maybe talk to RT for some parts, and doing the customizing of RT and the custom app coding.

In some ways this job looks like enormous fun and quite a growth experience, but “growth experience” also means “opportunity to fail” so I’m also somewhat scared of this. Not only do I have to become proficient in RT and in corners of the perl world that I’ve never touched before (Mason, anybody), but I’ve got to do my own requirements gathering, project plan, and every other aspect. I’ve got nobody else to blame if things don’t go right. But looking at the sunny side, if I do this right, I’ve got a major successful project on my resume and a happy customer to vouch for me for the next thing that comes along. It’s going to be great!

Anyway, long story short, I just turned in my notice at my current job. No more 3.5 hour return drives to Ithaca every week or two. (I just spent over $1000 on flights, hotels and rental car for a week down at their site for the project kick-off one week info dump, though.)