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Why Python?

P: n/a
I am looking at learning Python, but I would like to know what its
strengths and weaknesses are before I invest much time in learning it. My
first thought is what is it good for programming, however I expect an
answer from the python newsgroup to be something like "everything". So
maybe a better question is what type of programming projects is Python a
bad choice?

What makes it better or worse than languages like perl, php, delphi, or
c++?

Thanks for your opinions.

Todd.
Jul 18 '05 #1
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20 Replies


P: n/a
On Mon, 01 Mar 2004 02:11:46 GMT, Todd7 wrote:
I am looking at learning Python, but I would like to know what its
strengths and weaknesses are before I invest much time in learning it.


A Google search that should be helpful:

<http://www.google.com/search?q=%22why+python%22>

--
\ "A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet |
`\ keep both ears to the ground." -- Henry L. Mencken |
_o__) |
Ben Finney <http://bignose.squidly.org/>
Jul 18 '05 #2

P: n/a
>>>>> "Todd7" == Todd7 <No****@please.com> writes:

Todd7> What makes it better or worse than languages like perl,
Todd7> php, delphi, or c++?

perl - both python and perl have many, many external modules written
for them. perl *may* have more. Some people like that perl has CPAN,
a central repository for modules. In my opinion, this is not so
important now that we have google. python is object oriented in its
bones; with perl, OO is a hack. python favors a clean, simple,
obvious syntax, perl embraces "there is more that one way to do it."
For this reason, most python coders feel that python code is easier to
read and maintain.

php - widely used for web development and has a lot of nice packages
in this niche - bulletin boards, database interfaces, and so on.
python will have packages for each of these areas, but they are not as
widely used and are not industry standard, in the way for example that
phymyadmin is. php is not as powerful a programming language as
python is and is not widely used outside the sphere of web
development. See the recent thread
http://groups.google.com/groups?hl=e...%26scoring%3Dd

c++ - a big, powerful, complex language. Good for designing complex
software packages and code where performance is important. Makes
things like file IO, dbase and web connectivity harder than they need
to be. Many who use python favor a mixed language programming style:
use python for most everything, and write (or reuse) C/C++/FORTRAN
extensions for processor/performance intensive parts. There are many
good tools (SWIG, F2Py, boost::python, etc) for automating the process
of creating python extensions of code from these other languages. If
you need high performance code, it's good to know how to write code in
at least one of these compiled languages.

My advice: learn python first. The community is very friendly and
receptive to newcomers (you won't find this on perl or C++
newsgroups). You'll get advice from world experts on coding and
style. python coders value elegant, readable, efficient, well written
code and will give you lots of advice along these lines.

JDH

Jul 18 '05 #3

P: n/a
Qp
Well, I'm new at it (started about 2 months ago in preparation for senior
design project), and the one thing I've seen that could be better is overall
documentation; sometimes it is hard to find what you're looking for
(especially in libraries like Tkinter for GUI programming and Twisted for
network programming). It's possible, just hard.

The good things I've noticed? Well, to do what I've done so far in Java
would have taken at least 5 and probably more like 10 times the code I've
written. A simple yet decent TCP chat server in about 30 lines of code is
something I never considered possible before looking at Python.

"Todd7" <No****@please.com> wrote in message
news:Xn**********************************@68.12.19 .6...
I am looking at learning Python, but I would like to know what its
strengths and weaknesses are before I invest much time in learning it. My
first thought is what is it good for programming, however I expect an
answer from the python newsgroup to be something like "everything". So
maybe a better question is what type of programming projects is Python a
bad choice?

What makes it better or worse than languages like perl, php, delphi, or
c++?

Thanks for your opinions.

Todd.


Jul 18 '05 #4

P: n/a
> I am looking at learning Python, but I would like to know what its
strengths and weaknesses are before I invest much time in learning it.


All of the other answers above are good. I would say the followng:

* Python is easy to learn. I learned it in an afternoon -- that's an
experienced programmer. It's ideal for a beginner as well.
* Good cross platform support both windows and linux. Never re-write
code again. Also writes very fast to begin with--good RAD tool.
* To write just about anything all you need to know is python, C/C++,
and a little JavaScript if you want to make web pages. That's it.
Python has a huge application range--small scripts, full up
applications, cgi scripting for the web. You can even integrate it with
the Mozilla platform for local cgi like functions.

What's not good in python:

* If speed is more important than coding time use C/C++ instead.
* If you want to obscruate your code maybe a compiled langague is better.

Rob
Jul 18 '05 #5

P: n/a
Thanks for all the well reasoned replies. I think I will make the
plunge.

Todd7 <No****@please.com> wrote in
news:Xn**********************************@68.12.19 .6:
I am looking at learning Python, but I would like to know what its
strengths and weaknesses are before I invest much time in learning it.
My first thought is what is it good for programming, however I expect
an answer from the python newsgroup to be something like "everything".
So maybe a better question is what type of programming projects is
Python a bad choice?

What makes it better or worse than languages like perl, php, delphi,
or c++?

Thanks for your opinions.

Todd.


Jul 18 '05 #6

P: n/a
Todd7 wrote:
What makes it better or worse than languages like perl, php, delphi,
or c++?


I'll focus on the weaknesses of Python instead of the strengths.

1. Computation intense Python programs tend to be slower than optimized
equivalent programs written in languages that compile to native code.

2. Python programs are somewhat difficult to distribute compared to programs
in languages that compile to native code.

3. Some other languages make it easier to detect certain classes of errors
in your code. With a few exceptions, errors in Python code can only be
found by actually running the code or by checking by hand.

4. Python is only somewhat flexible about allowing you to customize the
language from within the language. You can define new functions and new
data types, but no new operators, no new control structures, nor any type of
new syntax. If you need to define a domain-specific language within your
program, Python may not be your best choice.
--
Rainer Deyke - ra*****@eldwood.com - http://eldwood.com
Jul 18 '05 #7

P: n/a
On Mon, 01 Mar 2004 05:12:48 +0000, Rainer Deyke wrote:
Todd7 wrote:
What makes it better or worse than languages like perl, php, delphi,
or c++?

I'll focus on the weaknesses of Python instead of the strengths. [snip] 2. Python programs are somewhat difficult to distribute compared to
programs in languages that compile to native code.


How do you figure this one? Something to do with statically linked
libraries? (I'm a Python newbie, but have been programming in general
for almost 20 years, about half of that professionally.)

Jul 18 '05 #8

P: n/a
Ed Murphy wrote:
On Mon, 01 Mar 2004 05:12:48 +0000, Rainer Deyke wrote:
2. Python programs are somewhat difficult to distribute compared to
programs in languages that compile to native code.


How do you figure this one? Something to do with statically linked
libraries? (I'm a Python newbie, but have been programming in general
for almost 20 years, about half of that professionally.)


Basically you have to distribute the Python interpreter along with your
program, since you generally can't rely on the end user having (the correct
version of) Python installed.
--
Rainer Deyke - ra*****@eldwood.com - http://eldwood.com
Jul 18 '05 #9

P: n/a
2. Python programs are somewhat difficult to distribute compared to
programs in languages that compile to native code.

How do you figure this one? Something to do with statically linked
libraries? (I'm a Python newbie, but have been programming in general
for almost 20 years, about half of that professionally.)


Basically you have to distribute the Python interpreter along with your
program, since you generally can't rely on the end user having (the correct
version of) Python installed.

It's really no harder a dependency to check than for shared libraries or
such with C programs.

Jul 18 '05 #10

P: n/a
"Rainer Deyke" <ra*****@eldwood.com> wrote in message
news:l6C0c.8261$ko6.195399@attbi_s02...
Ed Murphy wrote:
On Mon, 01 Mar 2004 05:12:48 +0000, Rainer Deyke wrote:
2. Python programs are somewhat difficult to distribute compared to
programs in languages that compile to native code.
How do you figure this one? Something to do with statically linked
libraries? (I'm a Python newbie, but have been programming in general
for almost 20 years, about half of that professionally.)


Basically you have to distribute the Python interpreter along with your
program, since you generally can't rely on the end user having (the

correct version of) Python installed.

Utilities such as py2exe and McMillan Installer make this problem much
simpler. Real-world example: I needed to provide a customer with a *very*
simple HTTP server for centrally serving up a global configuration file. My
prototype was 2 lines of Python code (actual finished version was about 50
lines, including some signal handling), used McInstaller to create a
free-standing distributable .EXE file (that fit on a 3-1/2" floppy!). Very
portable, does not require Python to be installed on the target platform.

-- Paul
Jul 18 '05 #11

P: n/a
> What makes it better or worse than languages like

Python has loads of modules, which are easy to install.

Python has good documentation, with useful examples.
I'm trying to learn Scheme at the moment, to broaden my programming
horizon. I am generally finding it an uphill struggle. Scheme might be
a theoretically better language design, but in Python you can just get
on and do it.

Someone once suggested that the fact that Python had a Benevolent
Dictator For Life is a possible positive on its popularity, and I
think that the suggestion has merit. Effort has been made to make it
accessable to the ordinary programmer.

To give just one example ...

Regular expressions.

MIT Scheme explains its REXP abstraction: "In addition to providing
standard regular-expression support, MIT Scheme also provides the REXP
abstraction. ". But it doesn't give any examples. And I couldn't find
any by Googling, either.

Now look at Python. Section 4.2.1 (Regular Expression Syntax) kindly
reminds us of the regexp syntax - something that MIT does not. Section
4.2.2 and 4.2.6 then goes on to give us some regexp examples.
Python is popular because it tries to be popular. Scheme seems more
academic, with a more "why would you want a GUI anyway?" type
attitude.
Jul 18 '05 #12

P: n/a
In article <10*************@corp.supernews.com>,
Robert M. Emmons <Ro********@cs.com> wrote:
Jul 18 '05 #13

P: n/a

"Todd7" <No****@please.com> wrote in message
news:Xn**********************************@68.12.19 .6...
I am looking at learning Python, but I would like to know what its
strengths and weaknesses are before I invest much time in learning it. My
first thought is what is it good for programming, however I expect an
answer from the python newsgroup to be something like "everything". So
maybe a better question is what type of programming projects is Python a
bad choice?

What makes it better or worse than languages like perl, php, delphi, or
c++?

Thanks for your opinions.

Todd.



Why NOT Python?
I'm a noob at it, but so far I love it. It's easy to put together a program
pretty quickly using it. Also, even when I have to code something up in, say
C++, I can still put together a prototype in Python first to get a better
understanding of the problem space. (Ya have to "...throw one away..."
anyway, so why not use Python first?)
I know this doesn't _directly_ answer your question, but it does in a way.
WR
Jul 18 '05 #14

P: n/a
> 3. Some other languages make it easier to detect certain classes of errors
in your code. With a few exceptions, errors in Python code can only be
found by actually running the code or by checking by hand.


True maybe, but I would argue that Python is not suseptable to many if
not most of the errors generated and found in say C/C++ coding. You
also have a dramatic code volume reduction which helps too.

There are static code checkers too for python which can help some too.

I personally think that python has it as a whole on debugging -- i.e.
pretty much the lack of a need to do much sophisticated debugging.

It's not clear to me what kind of error that a C compiler can catch
that's difficult to deal with in Python (although I'm sure there are
some). IMHO the whole reason C/C++ has sophisticated debugging tools is
that code debugging in C is a nightmare.

Thanks for the info--I enjoyed your comments and other's replies to them.

Take care.
Rob
Jul 18 '05 #15

P: n/a
Robert M. Emmons wrote:
IMHO the whole reason C/C++ has sophisticated debugging tools is
that code debugging in C is a nightmare.


That's my opinion as well.

One debugging feature that Python doesn't support is "edit-while-debugging" (edit
the function/method) you just debug, something which is possible in VB and VC6,
for example) I think it'd not be *that* hard implementing it. Maybe a Python IDE
vendor will implement it some day.

-- Gerhard

Jul 18 '05 #16

P: n/a
everything

But you were expecting that.

How about

everything in every way in all situations

The bottom line is python is a clear, powerful language that has a
great culture. You have a choice:

1. You want to learn the "perfect" language for each project at hand.
Even if you're good at learning new languages -- as I think I am --
it's still going to take you a while to be idiomatic in the language
instead of, say, programming perl in python.

Not to mention that finding the "perfect" language can take quite some
time for each project. You'll have language advocates on each side of
the issue. Is this project a natural fit for lisp? Oh, no, ruby's much
more practical for this. Yes, but foobar has a package for doing
exactly what you want. Blah, blah...

2. Learn a general-purpose language that can be easily used with many
different paradigms (OO, functional, etc), has a good library set
(network, math, etc), and has a flexible culture. This language should
be reasonably well-known so you can find it widely, can find books on
it, etc.

Some might say that perl 6 will be the epitome of #2, though my opinion
is that perl will manage to implement #1 in a single language.

If you want to go with option #2, python's at the top of the list, in
my opinion.

(Actually, there is a #3: you want to be highly marketable. Depending
on where you want to work, the language de jour is likely to be C++,
Java, or Visual Basic.)
Jul 18 '05 #17

P: n/a
On 2004-03-01 09:02:01 -0500, cl****@lairds.com (Cameron Laird) said:
In article <10*************@corp.supernews.com>,
Robert M. Emmons <Ro********@cs.com> wrote:
.
[apt comments]
.
.
What's not good in python:

* If speed is more important than coding time use C/C++ instead.
* If you want to obscruate your code maybe a compiled langague is better.

Rob


Note the availability of pyobfuscate <URL:
http://www.lysator.liu.se/~astrand/p...s/pyobfuscate/ >.

Myself, in the absence of more details, I advise people for
whom speed is important to work in Python--but be prepared
to combine it with C coding (or even assembler! I've been
experimenting lately ...).


One thing to note is that it is *reasonable* to combine C, C++,
assembly, etc with Python because the Python API is consistent and
understandable, and doesn't require a confusing "precompiler" (though,
Pyrex is a great one).

-bob

Jul 18 '05 #18

P: n/a
Gerhard Häring <gh@ghaering.de> writes:
One debugging feature that Python doesn't support is
"edit-while-debugging" (edit the function/method) you just debug,
something which is possible in VB and VC6, for example)


Sorry ... what do you mean by "edit while debugging" ?

Something like XCode's "fix-n-continue" ?

In other words the ability to redefine a function in a running program
(possibly even before the stack has been unwound after an error (or
breakpoint) was encountered) ?

[Something which has been an inherent part of the language in many
members of the Lisp family for decades, BTW]

If you forget about not unwinding the stack, Python certainly supports
this.

Now, how would one prevent stack unwiding when an exception is raised
.... in order to allow the user to inspect the stack frames navigate
them, redifine any functions, and then allow continuation?

[I guess I could find the answer in the pdb source.]
Jul 18 '05 #19

P: n/a
> Gerhard Häring wrote:
One debugging feature that Python doesn't support is
"edit-while-debugging" (edit the function/method) you
just debug, something which is possible in VB and VC6,
for example)

Jacek Generowicz wrote: Sorry ... what do you mean by "edit while debugging" ?


You can set a breakpoint in a function, and while stopped at that breakpoint
you can edit the code in that same function. Then, you can continue
execution and it will execute your new code.

As much as I dislike C++, Visual Studio's Edit and Continue feature is a
huge benefit. I often write the skeleton of a function, start the program
and trace into the function, and then write the code right there with the
program running, with live data to test while coding.

You can also change the execution pointer while stopped at a breakpoint. So
you can write some code and test it, and then if you want to change the code
and test it again, just move the execution pointer back to the beginning of
your code.

-Mike
Jul 18 '05 #20

P: n/a
Gerhard Häring <gh@ghaering.de> wrote in message news:<ma*************************************@pyth on.org>...

One debugging feature that Python doesn't support is "edit-while-debugging" (edit
the function/method) you just debug, something which is possible in VB and VC6,
for example) I think it'd not be *that* hard implementing it. Maybe a Python IDE
vendor will implement it some day.

-- Gerhard


I have used Python's reload and weakref to build classes and have
succeeded in develop simple UI programs in a non-stop fasion, i.e.,
you build your application while it is running, without needing to
shut it down and restart (theoretically.) It's like open-heart
surgery.

I believe VB and VC6's "edit-and-continue" does not roll back states
(neither does my Python program), which kind of makes them less
useful. I mean, you cannot use this feature to build up an application
truly in a continous, non-stop fashion. If for some reason you have
modified some states, you will have to restore them manually, before
you continue with the new debugged code.

A true "edit-and-continue" is somewhat related to two areas of
computing that I am aware of: (a) reversable computing, (b)
prototype-based programming languages. The first one is highly
theoretical, and claims that if everything is done right, our
computers will dissipate zero heat due to the conservation of entropy.
Reversing execution effects in these software/hardware combos is
always possible. The second one allows the programmer to easily build
surrogate objects, and commit the changes only at the end. (This will
dissipate heat with current hardware/software configurations.)
Moreover, surrogates can be built as onion skins, so even if you
commit the changes at the outter layers, you can still roll-back at
the inner layer later. Prototype-based languages thus may enjoy a
territory that common class-based OOP language do not. Theoretically
it's possible to build an application in a non-stop fashion this way,
but of course there are constraints from memory size and
non-compliance from existing libraries written in traditional
languages that do not support roll-back.

regards,

Hung Jung
Jul 18 '05 #21

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