Amiralul writes: "I start coding on a Sinclair Spectrum clone, using BASIC (what else?), 11 years ago. As years passed, I used MS-DOS, Windows 3.11, 95, 98 and XP, along with Linux, I learned Pascal and C, but never got used to C++, Java or, more recently, C#. I wrote my first serious application in Delphi and it was/still is used by a handful of people from a department of the faculty where I studied. The problem is that my programming skills are way back in the 70-80s (though I was born in 1983) and I want to force an update, but I don't know what direction to follow with all this new languages and buzzwords arround. What I need is probably an idiot-friendly, free environment (Delphi is the best one I used, but it's not free and though I know about Turbo Delphi, I found it a little outdated and Lazarus is not very mature project) to write my programs, because I don't have the time to write the code for placing every button on a form. Also, the applications must run on ordinary PCs (by ordinary people), and should not be complicated (I'm thinking about a customized Periodic Table, some text processing with easy-to-use interface and some "applicationized" Excel macros).
So, my initial thoughts are split between start learning Java for NetBeans (being able to code from Windows, Linux, Solaris or FreeBSD will be great since I play with various OS very often) or C++ for Visual Studio Express (I found C# to be way to exotic). Which is more productive and easy to use, Visual Studio 2008 IDE or NetBeans?
What do you, Slashdotters, advice me to do to get a fresh update on my programming skills? I'm also opened to suggestions about languages (maybe Python, Perl, Ruby or even Visual Basic.NET?)"