New tools for morphological data management

Douglas Trainor trainor at UIC.EDU
Thu Sep 20 22:56:01 CEST 2001


Okay, I must weigh in on this platform discussion and hence lose my 
lurker status. I am a professional programmer who has taken a liking to 
taxonomy and here are some opinions/biases/comments:

I have two small unfunded projects in the works, and I hope to get a 
little funding for one of them once I get more demo code written. I am 
hedging as to the result: it could be something that stands on its own 
or it could be grafted onto existing taxonomy software.

My bias is for fast math, and that is why I have been reluctant to go 
down the Java path. However, the Java path is very attractive, but get 
your feet wet before you commit major resources. There is a big 
difference between Java in the web browser and Java applications not in 
the browser, and you could have a mix of both. I personally despise C++, 
but I am willing to graft to it, or have code called from it, but I will 
admit that C++ has produced some nice products.

I ended up honing in on the language Python ( http://www.python.org ).

Python has some very nice features. Like: you don't have to pay license 
fees in order to develop or deploy. You can connect to open-source 
database systems (for persistent storage) without license fees in order 
to develop or deploy. But more importantly, if you want to graft 
together new code with some of the great applications y'all have 
written, Python makes for great application glue. Python can call 
C/C++/Java/FORTRAN code!

Here is a terse position paper on Python "glue" and using Python for 
rapid development: 
http://www.python.org/doc/essays/omg-darpa-mcc-position.html And here 
are some other essays: http://www.python.org/doc/essays

    douglas

P.S. If you are on a Mac, you can run Windows applications. It's not cut 
and dry like the old days, and you do not need a companion card. The new 
processors are fast enough to provide a virtual Windows environment for 
the Mac. You just want to have plenty of memory, which is cheap now. 
Likewise, if you are on Linux, you can run Windows applications, you 
just want to have plenty of memory. These are novel solutions for legacy 
applications that are not being developed further [but have a few nice 
features].

Regarding 4D and FileMaker. FileMaker is now relational and it is 
useable without being a database administrator. I use it to help with 
data input tasks for people with laptops and who may not be always 
connected to the web. As for 4D, a company sent me to their advanced 
programming class. I was dismayed to be told that they would not fix the 
bugs I found. That was some years ago, but was a bad sign for me. I 
would still go with SQL-based database system a more modern object 
database system.

XML might save you too -- or at least it looks like Microsoft is hoping 
it will save their legacy code/standards. XML has some nice properties 
that HTML does not have.



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