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Re: Usability: Technical details in package descriptions?

On Thu, 21 Jul 2005, Thaddeus H. Black wrote:

I see another side to it, however.  At least seven reasons occur to me
why a user might care what language a program is written in.

1.  Compiled programs (C, C++, Fortran 77, Ada, ...) usually run leaner
and faster than do interpreted ones (Perl, Python, Ruby, ...).
This could be expressed by caracterizing the runtime behaviour verbal (if
necessary - I guess no package description will contain: this program runs
slowly because it is written in an interpreted language).  Moreover the
users we talk about in this thread might not have the necessary knowledge
to draw these conclusions.

2.  Programs written in obscure languages may prove unmaintainable if
the original developer disappears.  Besides threatening obsolescence,
this can be a security issue.
Security issues should be sorted out by the maintainer / security team and
not by users who need a certain knowledge about a programming language.

3.  Programs written in widely used languages (C, C++, Perl,
Python, ...) may work better simply because the programmer had adequate
access during development to high-quality modules and library bindings.
If there are competing packages with same functionality this might be
a minor point.  In the end the decision pro or contra is done on the
usability side, not based upon the programming language.

4.  With a language come a mindset, an aesthetic and a development
culture.  Although one cannot speak in absolutes, generally speaking,
which program would you expect to be more focused and reliable: a
program written in C++ or an alternative written in Perl?  (On the other
hand, which of the two programs would you expect to be available
Our target users will probably not do such consideratione.

5.  Some languages are inherently more debuggable (or less bug-prone)
than others.  C++ is more debuggable than C, which itself is more
debuggable than Fortran 77.  Python is more debuggable than Perl.
Programs written in the more debuggable languages may rationally be
expected to suffer fewer bugs.
Also more a developers consideration.

6.  Some languages enjoy not only free compilers or interpreters, but
also well written, complete free documentation.  It may not seem like
much, but a limited ideological motive may exist to promote programs
written in such languages.

7.  Some users may want to be able to read parts of the source of the
programs they use---even if they have no intention of contributing to
development.  This is Debian, after all.  Programs written in obscure
languages may be vaguely deprecated for this reason.
They might find it out from Debtags.

Kind regards



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