Programming news roundup: Google feature may kill apps, Microsoft covers IronRuby, and more

Justin James offers highlights and commentary about programming stories, which include Google's feature that may kill thousands of apps, Chip Camden's intro to functional programming, and information about Microsoft's "tags." Take the quick poll to let us know whether you like this new weekly roundup.


Welcome to the first installment of a new feature for TechRepublic's Programming and Development blog: my weekly snapshot of some of the news, rumors, and other flotsam and jetsam geared specifically to developers.

This is a trial balloon as it were, so please let us know what you think of this new content by taking the poll at the end of this post. If you have something you want to pass on for a future installment, send me an e-mail, and I'll consider it. Also, I am still considering whether to call this weekly installment a "news roundup"; I am open to suggestions, so e-mail me if you have ideas.

Google tries out new feature that potentially kills thousands of apps

Let's face it, Google's influence on the Web is quickly approaching that of Microsoft's on the desktop. This means that, just as Microsoft can't make major changes to the Windows API without breaking thousands of apps, when Google makes a major change, it breaks thousands of apps too.

From Search Engine Land comes news that Google is toying with a new, AJAX-ified search result system. Good for the user, right? Maybe. But in the process, it changes the format of the referrer header that the destination Web site will be sent. This means that anyone parsing those referrer strings from Google trying to do analysis of their keywords... well, they will need to rewrite their software to parse the new strings. Is it an easy rewrite? Sure, probably one line of code for most applications, and three or so if you want to include the old and the new referrer strings.

A simple explanation of functional programming

Functional programming slips more and more into everyday, mainstream usage. Between the increasing prominence of Ruby (which is highly influenced by functional programming) and the new lambdas in .NET (especially LINQ), good developers will want to go beyond knowing the basics (such as how to write LINQ statements) and learn the details of these techniques, especially since they can be leveraged in many useful ways. TechRepublic blogger Chip Camden has written a short and simple explanation of functional programming on [Geeks are Sexy] in a way that highlights its good points while not spending too much time on the specifics. If you want a good, quickie "what is functional programming?" explanation, it's a good place to start.

Is Microsoft gearing up to push IronRuby?

The latest issue of MSDN Magazine has an article about IronRuby. Maybe Microsoft has published articles about IronRuby in the past, but I don't recall seeing them. Is it possible that Microsoft is getting ready to start giving IronRuby a big push? IronPython had Silverlight to propel it (I think more people used IronPython for Silverlight than for any other reason), but what will IronRuby have to hook people in? Short of a .NET implementation of Rails/Merb (the two are merging), I can't see it. Ruby, while interesting at a technical level, didn't really start rising to fame until Rails. From what I know, I think Ruby is a great language, but I don't see it gaining super mainstream acceptance without a major kick (like Ruby + Rails + .NET) or unless it starts pushing PHP out of the way. I could be wrong, of course, and I hope I am. Regardless, Microsoft giving Ruby any kind of attention (even if IronRuby isn't ready yet) is a good thing.

Google explains how it makes UI changes

Don't like the changes that Google has made to its search results? Blame eye-tracking studies. It's no surprise that Google uses eye tracking to help determine the most usable way to present data. Funny enough, Microsoft does too. Yet, every time there are changes to either of these companies' products, users howl with rage -- never mind the fact that the usability is provably improved. I wonder if traditional usability theorists have ever taken into account the "who moved my cheese?" factor into their formulas? I suspect not, but maybe they should.

"Tags" are becoming mainstream?

Jeff Blankenburg has an interesting (though much of it is far-fetched) post on Microsoft's "tag" technology. Honestly, when I first saw this technology discussed by Microsoft Research, I didn't see the point. Now I do, and it is actually pretty cool. Why cobble together an app that relies on UPC symbol Web sites, when all of the information can be conveyed within the "tag" itself? Makes sense to me.

Newegg's selling specialized computer glasses

Ever since I switched to my new computer with two super high-quality LCDs attached to it, I stopped wearing my glasses. (My prescription was designed to help me only for using the computer; otherwise, my eyesight is considered "genetic freak" category.) Even still, I spend 10 - 16 hours per day (most days) in front of the PC, and by the end, I still feel a little bit of eyestrain. Newegg is selling eyewear that promises to help relieve this eyestrain. It looks pretty cool; I may very well give these a try. If so, I will let you know what I think.

I'm speaking in Florence, SC on February 10th

Time for some shameless self-promotion. I'll be giving my presentation about the Parallel Extensions Library on Tuesday, February 10th at PDANUG (a .NET developers' group) in Florence, SC. Food will offered beginning at 6:00 P.M. (which is good because I will be hungry). If you are interested in learning more about multithreaded code and parallel processing on the .NET platform, it's definitely something you'll want to check out. If you want an excuse to not go straight home that night, it is a good reason for that too. It's also a great way to meet your peers in the area, network, and meet some recruiters (all good things in the current economic climate).

Good news for Embarcadero/CodeGear developers

This is a teaser for (hopefully) next week's roundup. No details at the moment, but there is some pretty good news brewing for developers using Embarcadero/CodeGear products. What little information I currently have is under embargo, but I will be learning more from them this week.


Disclosure of Justin's industry affiliations: Justin James has a working arrangement with Microsoft to write an article for MSDN Magazine. He also has a contract with Spiceworks to write product buying guides. --------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Get weekly development tips in your inbox Keep your developer skills sharp by signing up for TechRepublic's free Web Developer newsletter, delivered each Tuesday. Automatically subscribe today!