Step Away From The Perl Script And Nobody Gets Hurt

Fake News written by James Baughn on Monday, March 19, 2001

from the license-to-kill-9 dept.

In the wake of last week's story about a student who misused Perl's scalar context on his website, a group of concerned programmers have proposed a scheme to require Perl programming licenses for anyone doing work on the Web.

"There's about three billions ways you can shoot yourself in the foot with Perl," explained Eric Ericson, the head zealot for Perl Control, Inc., the organization backing the idea. "It's obvious we need to take a stand and require licenses to protect people from this dangerous language, and to prevent accidents in the future."

According to the proposal, any programmer designing a website front-end, back-end, middle-end, between-front-and-middle-end, or not-quite-front-but-not-back-end using Perl must first pass a Perl safety course to obtain a mandatory developer's license.

"This isn't about establishing a bureaucratic organization that will grow fat from license fees and maintain a vice-like grip on the computer industry," explained Mr. Ericson. "This initiative is designed to give developers sufficient safety training before going out into a production environment. It's for their own protection; we don't want another incident where someone gets a police record because of a misplaced ASCII character or two."

The proposed licensing test would require Perl hackers to answer questions like:

  • Will the following snippet of code: (a) immediately coredump, (b) enter into an infinite loop, or (c) run correctly?

  • The following ASCII characters represent (a) line noise or (b) Perl code?

  • The following program will crash if the user presses the C, V, and F6 keys simultaneously at 5:12 P.M. on a Tuesday during a month that begins with the letter 'J'. How can the code be patched to eliminate this bug?

  • The following piece of code, taken from the Slashdot codebase, contains at least 32 known bugs. If you were CmdrTaco and wanted to deal with these bugs, which would be the most prudent option? (a) start from scratch, (b) start from scratch in Python, (c) pray for a miracle to occur, (d) apply the Microsoft world-view and pretend the bugs don't exist, or (e) junk the whole thing, sell what's left of your VA Linux stock, and move to Bermuda.

  • According to the not-so-best-selling book, "Perl For Fscking Dummies", "the difference between scalar and list context is that scalar context involves scalar quantities, and list context involves lists" (page 156). Explain in a brief paragraph what the heck that's supposed to mean.

It's not clear how Perl Control, Inc. will enforce a Perl licensing policy, or whether anybody will actually care. "Well we haven't figured out that aspect just yet," explained Mr. Ericson. "We'll need to acquire a Congressmen or two... but with the economy going South, I hear that many Senators can be bought on sale for 50% off. Don't worry, we'll find a way."

Humorix's official legal counsel, Mr. Noah Morals, Esq., seems highly upset over the proposal. "This is a direct attack on lawyers! Just imagine what would happen if McDonalds required 'hot beverage safety' courses and 'hot beverage licenses' before people could buy hot coffee. Us lawyers would be out of business! This proposal is just one more way in which attorneys are being cut out of the loop. This injustice must stop!"

The idea has drawn fire from other groups as well. One Anonymous Coward ranted, "We can't trade music. We can't post copyrighted documents from cults. We can't link to sites that link to sites that link to prime numbers that decompress into programs that decrypt DVDs. We can't design sites that use 'one-click shopping'. And now The Man is telling us that we can't program in Perl without some kind of license and registration?!? This injustice must stop!"

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