Ahead of the Curve: Broaden your options: Don't fear native code

I have prepared an account of the history of .Net and Java that's intended to balance more fanciful post-mortem accounts (of .Net and Java, not of me). It reads thus: Sun created Java to cash in on the success of Visual Basic and to convince development managers that C++ coders are all slobbering toddlers playing with nail guns. Sun did grant C++ dispensation for "performance-sensitive applications," a category that covered most of Sun's software catalog. Microsoft created .Net to keep Java from gaining traction and to put that cross-platform nonsense to rest once and for all. One OS, one run-time, many languages was the best way to go. C#, the Microsoft alternative to Java with the honesty to use "C" in its name, still kept the pencils and paper clips away from the inmates, except, of course, for those developers working on performance-sensitive applications, a category that covered most of Microsoft's software catalog.

Java and .Net turned all existing native software into ticking time bombs, infinitely exploitable by shadowy figures, impossible to hand from the fired to the hired, and rife with blue screens, kernel panics, and divisions by zero. Developers scurried off for retraining, new languages, new tools, new books, new friends, and new employers.

To the dismay of Sun and the temporary frustration of Microsoft, C++ survived efforts to render it extinct. Microsoft's frustration gave way to its self-preservation instinct when its own developers demanded that C++ be restored as a first-class language for in-house commercial projects. Bless the lot of them.

Where do things stand now? Fearless C, C++, and Objective-C developers have tools of their dreams that let them dig deeper than ever before into system, OS, and CPU internals. Optimization, at which .Net and Java can only play, is hot as compilers -- including the free GNU Compiler Collection -- evolve from heuristic to automated empirical optimization. Development tools watch your application run and then retune it based on observed behavior.

As for the reputed dangers of using unmanaged/unsafe code, the responsibility for safety has been returned to its rightful place: in the CPU, the OS, and application frameworks. Users deserve protection from errant code, regardless of its origin.

Here's a native code prediction that's way under your radar: We'll see more use of assembly language. When developers dare to handcraft architecture-dependent code, the performance of an application or a tweaked open-source OS can take off. Mac users know how far a simple change can take you; a lot of applications you wouldn't think of as math-intensive go stratospheric when they're enhanced for PowerPC's AltiVec vector math accelerator. Developers coding for new, controlled deployments can afford to set high requirements that include a 64-bit CPU, OS, and drivers. And if you know you're coding for Opteron and you're ready to write to that architecture, baby, life is a highway.

I'm not preaching a wholesale move away from entrenched Java and .Net, nor do I attribute their success to skullduggery or ignorance. But it's time for developers and IT buyers of software and development services to drop the presumption that Java's and .Net's training wheels are essential equipment. Java is no longer the only path to writing once and running everywhere, and .Net is no longer the only path to stable and secure Windows applications.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.
Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Tom Yager

InfoWorld
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Laura Johnston

MSI GS65 Stealth Thin

If you can afford the price tag, it is well worth the money. It out performs any other laptop I have tried for gaming, and the transportable design and incredible display also make it ideal for work.

Andrew Teoh

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

Touch screen visibility and operation was great and easy to navigate. Each menu and sub-menu was in an understandable order and category

Louise Coady

Brother MFC-L9570CDW Multifunction Printer

The printer was convenient, produced clear and vibrant images and was very easy to use

Edwina Hargreaves

WD My Cloud Home

I would recommend this device for families and small businesses who want one safe place to store all their important digital content and a way to easily share it with friends, family, business partners, or customers.

Walid Mikhael

Brother QL-820NWB Professional Label Printer

It’s easy to set up, it’s compact and quiet when printing and to top if off, the print quality is excellent. This is hands down the best printer I’ve used for printing labels.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?