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Re: advice for the undergrad (OL)

On Sat, Jul 5, 2008 at 4:06 PM,  <dinosaur@gilvary.net> wrote:
>> Phew! Having dabbled for a few hours in Visual Basic, I am relieved to
>> hear it is not as easy as Keesy indicates. Although Bill could make it MUCH
>> easier to self-teach, imo.

I personally hate Visual Basic. JScript or C# seem like much better
alternatives to me, although I have never used them.

>> If you have a moment, what one language would you recommend?
> For a career in paleontology? I would defer to Mr. Keesey (or anyone with
> more knowledge than I have of computation in modern paleontology work) on
> that. My response in general to "which language to learn?" is "what do you
> want to do with it?"

I think the best way to go about it is to learn one programming
language, any programming language, and then that'll make learning
others much, much easier.

Well, okay, not *any* language -- one of the more current C-based ones
would be preferable. Either PHP (with a prerequisite of HTML) or Java
would be good ones to start with, I think. (NOT C++! Too hard, as
already mentioned.) I may be a bit biased, but I think ActionScript is
a fantastic starter language, although admittedly it is not used in
science very much (yet).

As for what people actually use: PHP, Java, JavaScript (confusingly
named and not the same as Java, although similar in some ways),
Python, Perl (once extremely widespread, but less and less popular
nowadays), Ruby (increasingly popular), C, C++. I think the Microsoft
languages (Visual Basic, JScript, C#, etc.) are probably less popular
in science, since Windows IIS Servers are more expensive, but they
might be worth looking into as well. (JScript, JavaScript, and
ActionScript are pretty much all the same thing, based on the
ECMAScript standard.)

Also very important in science are other types of computer languages,
like query languages (SQL and variants thereof, XQuery, etc.), markup
languages (XML, HTML, etc.), data languages (XML again, HTML
microformats, YAML, weird little specialized languages like DOT and
NEXUS, etc.),  etc. It's not all programming.
T. Michael Keesey
Director of Technology
Exopolis, Inc.
2894 Rowena Avenue Ste. B
Los Angeles, California 90039