The power of convenient information

I’ve been using PHP off and on as a language since sometime in the late 90’s when it was just PHP ( and not even PHP3 ). To be fair, the language has come a long way and beaten out some well financed rivals ( ASP & Coldfusion for example ) but it has also suffered along the way in the quality of it’s source code.

For the last 5 years, I’ve occasionally stared at PHP’s C macro-soup and soon after promptly stopped. My first real programming language was C when I was eleven years old, I know C like an old friend, but PHP’s source code is not C. It’s the dark side of C, a meta-language built on top of C via a fairly deep interdependent network of macro’s, defines, typedef’s, linked structs, and shit I didn’t know you could do with C.

Oh yeah and most of that crap is extremely terse, not documented, and inconsistently arranged. If I had a client who asked me to maintain PHP, I’d probably smile and every so carefully walked backwards out of the room. Really I must say I am impressed with PHP’s dedicated staff and volunteer engineering team. I don’t know how the hell they do it.

That said, I’ve been trying out various c/c++ IDE’s for linux and continually dissappointed. Code Lite seemed nice but its unworkable workspace idealogy pissed me off, Kdevelop is good but lacking in features, and etc etc. Recently I’ve had to do some Java code ( I’ve got a borderline irrational hatred towards the language since the 90’s ) and after trying IntelliJ for a day or two, I went back to the IDE I first used to learn Java… NetBeans. I’ve got to say, Netbeans has gotten a lot better since I last used it 12 years ago. And one of the things it has gotten really good at, is being a c/c++ IDE.

The IDE’s macro resolution and code intelligence features probably helped me jump years of effort into the future for understanding PHP by providing a macro resolution feature that visually converts the PHP meta language source code back into C. Whole sections of the languages design, construction, and its philosophy all became self-evident to me in the space of three hours.

Which leads to the end of this post, information maybe power… but only if it can be recognized as information and not noise… or in the case of PHP, a code base written by an infinite number of PCP snorting monkeys.