Why Java is stupid (and should be deprecated, haha..)

12 02 2009

If Java and a language like Python got in a fight, Python would eat the eyeballs of Java, and then spit them out at jobless teenie-bopper Java coders.

Blinded by the magical cross-platform abilities Java presents to its audience, Java coders are hard at work being hard at work.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Python coders are producing things that perform actual tasks.

(Keep in mind that in the first few comments below, people have bashed on the idea that I’m comparing APIs.  But in fact, I’m stating that Java is conceptually flawed and thus its API is inferior, because it doesn’t have a JAVA api.  It only has its PACKAGE apis, which only invokes more inefficient java byte codes, which STILL must be put through the JVM.  If Java itself had an API for internal tasks, this post would have no relevence.)

A comparison is in order:

The Java philosophy states rather boldly that “less is more”, in the sense that programming shorthand creates troubles for programmers, because they can’t say for sure what is happening behind the scenes, and thus creates confusion.

The Python philosophy is radically the opposite: Shorthand improves readability (so long as the shorthand is intelligently founded on useful concepts) and thus boosts productivity.  This allows you to simply get mundane tasks out of the way, so that you can quickly accomplish your task.  Others who look at the code can easily understand what the shorthand does, so long as they have an interest in understanding the language.

A simple universal illustration should easily demonstrate the concept.  Here is an agreeably poorly coded loop, followed by the revolutionary shorthand:

int ctr = 0;
int anotherVar = 100;
while (true) {
   // doingStuff
   if (ctr == anotherVar)
for (int i = 0; i < max; i++) {
// doingStuff

The reason why this is poorly coded is merely derived from the fact that you can’t tell what is happening by glancing at it.  This is a fact.  The author of the code may know what it does, but the rest of us need to read it. This is why the for loop came into existance.

Nobody will take the stance that the for loop intrudes on namespace and creates confusion.  It helps make code easier to read.  If you don’t agree, you need emotional help.

Now, by sharp contrast, consider this bit of Java code, which demonstrates how to count how many times a substring appears in a String object.  I’ve written it out in three (very) different ways, neither of which is a productive use of my time to write:
// 1
int count = 0;
for (int fromIndex = 0; fromIndex > -1; count++)
   fromIndex = text.indexOf(search, fromIndex + ((count>0) ? 1: 0));
count -= 1;

// 2
import java.util.regex.*;
Matcher m = Pattern.compile(search).matcher(text);
int count;
for (count = 0; m.find(); count++);

// 3
int count = text.split(search).length

#1 is pretty ghetto, because it has a for statement which mixes meanings, and doesn’t really illustrate the traditional use of the for statement.  It’s effective, but burdened by the fact that Java won’t cast boolean values into integers (hence the ternary operator in there).

#2 is more concise, but requires the regex package, just to count flipping substrings.  The very non-traditional for statement is easier to read than that in #1, but still kind of goofy.

The only method that comes CLOSE to being efficient is #3.  As a bonus, #3 can use regex without having to import the blasted regex package.  But the fact still remains that it doesn’t scream at you that it’s counting a substring.  I haven’t benchmarked, so I don’t know how efficient it is with resources.  The split method on the String class is specific to the String class itself, and thus can’t be used with other String variants, like StringBuffer or StringBuilder.

Now let’s consider some Python code.  But first, if you didn’t know the Python language, what would you guess the name of the function is?  An intuitive guess would include the possibility of it having the word “count” in it somewhere.
# Python
count = text.count(search)

What?  We’re already done?  Example concluded.  Nobody can argue that this is hard to understand, or that it pollutes namespace, since the “count” method is one that is called on the string object itself.  Naming a variable “count” (as I in fact did in the example) does not create any confusion or ambiguity for the rest of the code.


If you want to multiply a String in Java, you can’t do it effectively.  You much make a for loop to iterate X number of times, appending the source string to a new StringBuilder until you’re done.  What would possess me to do that?  That oozes with inefficiency, and begs a newbie to do it poorly.

Python (and many other interpreted languages) have simply overloaded the multipication operator, so that “x” * 5 simply equals “xxxxx”.  This isn’t a terribly frequented piece of code, but the mere fact that Java can’t do it as effectively as most other languages suggests something.  For a Django admin application I have written, the web page renders a tree-structure in a table form.  In other words, table rows are indented five spaces per nested level, to give the traditional file-tree effect.  If I had written this in Java, my best mustered attempt would be an inefficient static utility method to do the same.  Heaven knows I don’t want to subclass every String in my project, so so that I can multiply my Strings!

No, the solution lies in simply multipication overloading.  Indenting my table rows is as simple as five spaces multiplied by the nested level:
indent = "     " * nested_level() 

Good. Clean. Code.

So then, how would a novice go about creating something like the PHP ‘implode’ function, which takes an array of strings, and turns it into one big string with a specific delimiter between each array position?  (Quick example:  )

{“1″,”2″,”3”} imploded with “, ”    ==    “1, 2, 3”

Note that the 3 is not followed by another “, “.  That is the purpose of the function, and it is amazing easy to understand. Observe the primitive method that Java must resort to, while Python laughs at the sideline:

// Java
import java.lang.StringBuilder;
StringBuilder result = new StringBuilder();
String[] myArray = {"1", "2", "3"};
for (int i = 0; i < myArray.length; i++) {
   result.append(", ");
String implodedString = result.toString();
# Python
implodedString = ", ".join(["1", "2", "3"])

Java needs to go to its room.

There is nothing effective about forcing (7 + 4*myArray.length) java commands into the Java Virtual Machine.  That’s each static statement, plus the two lines inside the for statement per iteration, the ‘i++’ part of the for statement each iteration, plus the condition evaluation each iteration.  This is horrendous.

Python understands that things are simply easier and faster if it stays on the internal side of the code; if Python can keep its tasks inside of its C-coded backend, things are going to be much faster, and easier to read.  If Java could do the same, it would be a better language.  But the fact is that it *can’t* do that, because the code you are writing is just as deep as the set of packages you import.  Everything has to pass through the Java Virtual Machine.  The Java Virtual Machine has no functions/methods of its own in order to speed things up (in terms of clocked speed and productivity).

Java’s motto is effectively:  Java Can’t.  And it’s that simple.  It’s founded on a design flaw, which bases the language off of pseudo-low level code.  This is a silly notion, since Java is interpretted.  If there is an effective way of doing things, and it’s oppositely ineffective way, Java leaves you in the middle of the ocean to try your luck.  And if you show your code to someone else, they’ll inevitably have a better, faster, harder to read solution.

On the other hand, Python provides you with the effective solution.  You don’t have to know the exact algorithm to Python’s “join” function (but if you wanted to know how it does it, you could open up the source and look).  Python has witnessed Java’s blunder, and has improved upon the design.  Python’s equivalent to Java’s Virtual Machine is actually intelligent, by comparison.  The Python interpretter is code written in C.  The C code is where the power of the built-in functions lies.  Python can then execute your scripts at far better efficiency, and look good doing it,

and Java Can’t.

Python, MySQL, and a dictionary

19 12 2008

Here is a line in python that should be recorded for posterity…

Some background.  I have a multilingual database where several tables exist.  Each table is named after a particular “vocabulary” for my website.  For instance, there’s a “forums” table for all the terms that are used for pages related to the forums.  The purpose of having this table is so that I have all the needed terms very isolated into a nice hierarchy.  The SELECT * sql would look like this.. (pardon the fake spanish translations)

mysql> SELECT * FROM forum;
| ID                  | enUS                       | es                           |
| Audio Review        | Audio Review               | [Audio Review]               |
| by                  | by                         | [by]                         |
| complete            | completed                  | [completed]                  |
| current             | current                    | [current projects]           |
| dropped             | abandoned                  | [dropped]                    |
| loading             | Loading...                 | [Loading...]                 |
| no                  | no                         | no                           |

As you can see, there is a column “ID”, which is what I use site-wide to access a term, and I select only one other column, according to the language code the user has his/her preference set for.  Thus, a general select for such a thing is …

mysql> SELECT ID,enUS FROM forum;
| ID                  | enUS                       |
| Audio Review        | Audio Review               |
| by                  | by                         |

… etc, etc.  Then, I just used PHP to fetch these results into an associative array.  I would then have to loop through each record, saving whatever is in the $row[‘ID’] spot as a key to this array, and whatever is in the $row[currentLanguage] spot as the value to said key.

So anyway..  I was trying to achive this effect in python; a Dictionary-type object where I can simply index into it with the term that I want, in order to get the language-translated value represented by the term.  I knew there had to be a way to do a famous python one-liner, and since those one-liners typically clock much faster than manual loops..

resultSet = (map(None, row.values()) for row in rows)

Seems simple, but it’s a hassle to work it out when your data is a tuple of dictionaries 😛

Java: Array Slices

14 11 2008

First off, let me start by saying that I don’t really like Java.  We’re working from that assumption, understand? 🙂 

That being said, I have to work in it every day at ekiwi while we develope web “scrapes” for clients.  Our screen-scraper software can utilize Interpreted Java (via Beanshell), Python, JavaScript, VBscript, Jscript, and probably a few more that I’m forgetting to mention.  However, to maintain a standard, we write our scraping scripts in Java.

Given the fact that I think Java is rediculously too verbose, I was happy to find a way to at least partially get the effect of PHP or Python array slices.  Here it goes. Since the JDK 1.2, you can use the following code.

The senario is that we have one array, and we want to cut it into 2 halves. Theoretically, you could just copy the first half, or the second half, or any segment in the middle, so long as you have indexes to the array.

// Interpreted Java
String[] myArray = new String[ 11 ];

// Get the sizes for the arrays.
int firstHalfSize = myArray.length / 2;
int secondHalfSize = myArray.length - firstHalfSize;

String[] firstHalf = new String[ firstHalfSize ];
String[] secondHalf = new String[ secondHalfSize ];

// Arguments are: sourceArray, sourceStartIndex, destinationArray, destinationStartIndex, numElementsToCopy
System.arraycopy( myArray, 0, firstHalf, 0, firstHalfSize );
System.arraycopy( myArray, firstHalfSize, secondHalf, 0, secondHalfSize );

The “System.arraycopy” method is very efficient; it’ll beat any loop you can write in your own code.  (This is precisely why forward-thinking sripting languages like Python build this functionality into arrays from the start with a syntax like “myArray[ startIndex : length ]” (the colon is literal).)

So what does this mean?  Use it.  Bring happiness to those people who wind up using Java by speeding up an overly-verbose interpreted language.