Perl is used extensively at UNH in both research and operational settings, as either the proverbial ‘glue’ between systems, or as a platform for full-blown applications… and anything in between. That is, Perl 5 is used almost everywhere here… the version first released in 1994 and steadily improved upon ever since. The latest release of Perl 5 is version 5.10.0 from late 2007.
The next major iteration of Perl is version 6, a complete rethinking of the language with many syntax changes, design improvements and new features. Perl developers worldwide have been anticipating the new version for nearly a decade now, and finally we can start to play with this new and intriguing animal.
I’ve installed a Perl 6 compiler (“Rakudo“) on connie.unh.edu and have begun playing around a bit. Rakudo runs on the Parrot virtual machine. For several years now, I have been stalking the Perl 6 and Parrot development teams (at YAPC::NA 2007 in Houston, at OSCON 2008 in Portland, OR… and this year again at YAPC::NA 2009 in Pittsburgh next month) and have attended numerous exciting talks on Perl 6/Parrot by the minds who are making it all happen. I can tell you first hand that these folks are a mighty impressive bunch, and I have no problem continuing to bet my career and good name on the work that this wing of the open source community is doing.
I’ll be keeping the Rakudo and Parrot releases in sync as development continues on both… the perl6 executable is linked to from a common location for convenience:
delgreco@connie[~]: which perl6
Perl 6 is very different from Perl 5 but also very much the same from a design philosophy perspective. Take “Hello, World!” for an example:
say “Hello, World!”;
As opposed to the more familiar Perl 5 way:
print “Hello, World!\n”;
Not many language revisions actually change the way you’d write a “Hello, World!”, but clearly Larry Wall, creator of Perl and leader of the Perl 6 designers, still values terse expression in Perl.
If you’d like to join me in getting my feet wet with Perl 6, drop me a line and I’ll setup a shell account for you on ‘connie’. It’s also quite easy to install Perl 6 yourself on a UNIX-like system, although it does require both git (to pull the latest Rakudo) and svn (to update from the Parrot repository).
Perl 6 may not yet be ready for use with production systems, but it’s close enough to start getting cozy with.