Developers buckle down to learn .NET

Watching a badly dubbed movie can be amusing, but anyone who has travelled in a place where most of the population does not speak the same language that you do knows that mistranslation can be frustrating and even dangerous. Keeping this in mind, the consequences of a “mistranslation” in a computer language can be very serious.

With the recent release of Microsoft’s much anticipated .NET architecture, many developers are faced with the task of moving their applications from the Visual Basic world to that of .NET.

According to Toronto-based John Fisher, president of Borland Canada, this means that there’s a lot of work ahead for developers.

“The things they are going to be faced over the next 12 months are steep. What’s got to happen is that people developing using Microsoft tools – Visual Basic or Visual J++ or any of those tools – are going to have to make a decision on their future. In many cases, they’ll move into the .NET world with C# where Microsoft wants them to be, but others will choose to work in Java,” he predicted.

Fisher determined that the movement from one language to another is far more complicated than translating text from English to French.

“It’s not just the language, it’s also the background. It’s an entire way of doing things that’s different,” he said. “It’s like moving from old English to modern English. You may be able to get the same message out, but it’s not as easily understood and it may take 20 words to get a three word meaning across.”

Part of the challenge will be for coders to move from developing in procedural code to an object oriented style, which Fisher pointed out, is a very different way of organizing things. He likened the process to moving the contents from one chest of drawers to another, where one chest has large drawers and the other has small ones.

“It increases the complexity considerably,” Fisher said.

Rob Windsor, an independent consultant with G6 Consulting in Toronto and a member of the Toronto Visual Basic Users Group considers translation less of a problem than simply grasping the features of the new .NET world.

“People are daunted with .NET. They think ‘I want to do this task, but I have to learn a whole new thing to do it,'” Windsor said. “The thing is, .NET is new to everybody, and once you’ve crossed the hurdle of learning how to do new things in the .NET world, it’s not a huge issue.”

In fact, Windsor said, language is becoming less important than ever.

“A lot of the syntax is so common now,” he said.

Nickolas Landry, chief software architect for Montreal-based dotBlox, which specializes in consulting for .NET mobility solutions, agrees with Windsor.

“The old language war’s over,” he said. “The beauty thing is that you don’t have to learn everything anymore. With .NET you have both power and simplicity, which before was always a trade-off.”

Despite this simplicity, there is no easy way of getting around the old-fashioned work required to simply learn the new framework.

“Unfortunately there’s not an easy solution,” Landry said. “You just have to learn about .NET.”

Fisher agreed.

“There is going to be a learning curve – there’s no way it can be as easy as everyone would have hoped,” Fisher said.

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