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John Pusatera wrote to me with this question, "I am not a professional programmer, but I always wondered how the professional community viewed Visual Basic compared to Java."

A "professional developer" has one rule that overrides all the others: "Do what the boss wants done." If the boss needs Java development, that's what you do. If the boss needs VB, do that instead. The most significant project I ever managed used a technology that I knew, in advance, was going nowhere. (At the time, it was branded PacBase. It's been absorbed by IBM now and doesn't really exist anymore.) We used PacBase because people who were in authority before I got the project responsibility had committed the company. I didn't have any real choice. I hated it. I almost went insane. But we finished the project. That's what "professionalism" is all about.

But if you're talking about just having fun, it's VB all the way for me. I think the syntax is much easier to understand and you can "get on with the show" and think about the programming problem instead of the language. .NET has made the "power" of all the .NET languages equal now so it's mainly a choice about what you like.

The comparison of .NET to Java, however, is more one of guessing about what the future may bring. Microsoft charges a lot of money for .NET technology and Java is less expensive to acquire. Microsoft pretty much just runs on Windows and Java runs on everything. (Although the Mono project is bringing .NET to the non-Windows environments right now. That's an interesting trend that bears watching.)

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