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Arjun Krishna Babu

Python. Machine Learning. Systems. Open source.

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The upcoming assignments for my networks class require fair amounts of socket programming. C is a double edged sword. Java is too verbose for my tastes. Python, despite all its beauty, is slow. And Haskell is not allowed for the networks assignments.

It was time to pick up a new language.

After contemplating on many alternatives, I finally settled on Go (aka golang). It is

  • Simple to learn
  • Statically typed
  • Compiled
  • Faster than most other languages
  • Almost purpose-built for systems and networks programming
  • Has excellent support for concurrency

Go is a winner for my purposes.

Resources Used for Learning Go

In addition to numerous webpages, these are the two primary resources I used:

  1. An Introduction To Programming in Go by Caleb Doxsey.
  2. The Go Programming Language by Brian W. Kernighan, and Alan A. A. Donovan (aka “K&D”)

The first book was immensely useful to quickly get upto speed with the language. It is short, and would take only a day to read competely. However, the book is targeted at beginner programmers and lacks depth.

The second book above is the one to pick. The authors need no introduction for those in the know. Clear and crisp, K&D provides detailed explanations of langage features and its design decisions, and is a reference for idiomatic usage of the language. There is a fair amount of non-trivial examples – a welcome feature as most other programming language books feature only trivial examples – which when worked through gives you more insight. K&D is a classic!

First Project Using Go: Dependency Setter for TaskWarrior

As a learning exercise, I created a simple tool using Go that can handle dependencies in taskwarrior.

Taskwarrior is an excellent command-line utility for managing your tasks and to-do lists. Capable of handling complicated workflows, it’s the only to-do list that has worked really well for me. As this is not a post about taskwarrior, I recommed you check out this excellent intro to taskwarrior to find out more about it.

Taskwarrior has this feature where you can specify dependencies between multiple tasks.

Let’s say you have 4 tasks:

21 Download homework question
22 Do homework
23 Prepare report
24 Submit report

You wish to encode the fact that task 24 should be done only after 23, which inturn should be done only after 22, which inturn should be done only after 21. Taskwarrior allows you to set up this dependency follows:

$ task 24 modify depends:23
$ task 23 modify depends:22
$ task 22 modify depends:21

It can get cumbersome to set dependencies this way if you have a lot of tasks. And I’m not aware of any one-liner to set the dependencies.

And so, I wrote tw_set_deps, a simple Go script to set up the dependencies based on the command-line arguments passed into it. For instance, the following command does what the series of task commands do above:

$ ./tw_set_deps 21 22 23 24

You can obtain the script from here.

Of course, it is not the most idiomatic code out there, and I could probably improve the code further once I learn more, but it was a good learning experience nevertheless.

Overall, I’m impressed with the Go programming language. Like most other creations at Google, Go is simple to pick up, and by design avoids many of the mistakes programmers typically make. It is statically typed, compiled, and runs faster than Python. Go also has an interesting take on concurrency.