Peter Mellett

Stylised cartoon of me with glasses on.
Articles tagged with 'programming'.

Having a Go at Go[lang]

I've been intrigued by Golang for a little while now. I used to enjoy concurrency and parallelism in Java many moons ago during my student days. I've never had enough motivation to pick up C++ or brush up on Java again, so those skills are something that had, until recently, fallen by the wayside.

Seeing that Go has a simple language specification and a powerful standard library made it a prime candidate for some 'C-like' programming.

Web development focuses on single-threaded request-response type interactions and all the languages I've used in the past few years have been dynamically typed. With this in mind, Go provides two things of interest:

  • Static typing
  • Concurrency

I like static typing, a lot. Type safety allows me to concentrate on the functional code I wish to write instead of the defensive programming and duck typing tactics that I don't. Even though contrary to that statement, duck typing is a very flexible and valid form of writing Go using interfaces to great effect. That aforementioned safety doesn't stop me from littering my code with log.Println calls though - I like verbose console output.

I also like that concurrency is baked in to the language. When I was writing Java a lot during University, multi-threaded code was my favourite to work with, it felt the most like 'proper programming'* in a way. Goroutines make for a very convenient and easy concurrency API, with channels providing safe communication between them. Channels are a first-class type in Go, which allows for even very simple programs to make full use of the powerful features on offer without resorting to standard or third-party libraries.

I've been somewhat hoovering up Go talks and resources, mostly introductory material and documentation, although I enjoyed Rob Pike's talk asserting that Concurrency is not Parallelism which has been a refresher for some of the terminology and approaches of concurrent programming. There's also an excellent episode of The Changelog with Rob and Andrew Gerran talking about a lot of the design choices and origins of the Go language.

I like to try out new languages and aspire to be a polyglot where I can. It's fun to have certain accepted standards challenged plus lessons learned from one language can strengthen the design decisions made during application development in any other.

So speaking of which, I wrote a little status monitor application in Go. It uses a dynamically-configured number of concurrent workers to test and update sets of services read from a JSON config file. The application serves a (totally unstyled) status page or a JSON response if the correct headers are sent. It features mostly the log.Println statements I alluded to earlier, but it was fun to write and taught me a lot about the language idioms along the way.

* Whatever that means.