Monday, February 11, 2008

Climbing the Python hill

Finally I have started working on new year's resolution. As a part of it, I'm learning a dynamic language called Python.

There are several reasons why I'm a new Python convert. One of them is not because blogosphere keeps intimidating Java programmers that they are writing crap. And I've honest sympathy for those who hold the assumption that Java is dead and other strangling naive opinions like that.

I am rather going ahead with some mature opinion like programming in a language with different philosophy gives you another way of solving the same problem, And sometimes the other way is better or at least, it will bring out interesting techniques which can be useful in general. Since I have very limited experience writing sizable software using them, I am expecting a lot from dynamically typed languages, Python in particular.

Python has been particularly interesting to me because I am curious about it since academics. I've played with it in past but that was just a stab that didn't bleed my nerve. I have no hard feelings for Ruby (or "hoopla oriented" Rails), because I'm not a huge fan of Web applications - web applications are boring.

Python is actually fun to program, programming in Python is like kidding, no it's not as frightening as it's name implies. For example, Methods in Java you know? they can't be moved around with out puzzlers and pain. But in Python, methods are also treated as types, called function types, which you move around like variables - no wait believe me it's as simple as passing around variables. Look at the closure example below and tell me how difficult it is to understand?
x = lambda: a,b: a**b


Like you do in a regular mathematical equation, assign an expression to a variable or symbol and bind that symbol with value as shorthand like this.
a = x(10,2) * x(6, 8) / x(10, 2)
Also, any method which is not using 'lambda; keyword is also treated in same way, no partiality. Other obvious thing to like about Python is - it forces correct indentation in source code, that makes Python program much more readable in a consistent style. No need for one thousand formatters and coding standards.

I'm not comparing Java with Python, that's not my Job. I'm just trying to realize that how apt it is to solve the same problem aptly in a different way.

Python community, like Python itself, looks great. It isn't impossible to realize that - hangout on Python google group sometime and you will know. I am glad that they are very accepting and responsive to the n00bs like me.

I have started with SQLAlchemy ORM and db api in general to learn python because I'm curious on how they play with tuples and all. Later on I'll write a bit of parser as I've heard Python has some neat and funky stuff for parsing.

And oh, I'm having little trouble getting out of Java shoes lately - hmm, there is nothing like private fields or methods. But I guess that's better than writing getter and setter for that private variable which does nothing but to add overhead for dynamic compiler of hotspot VM to inline it after 3000 iterations, gosh!! But hey, Python is missing the package convention or let me say it prefers configuration over convention here, is not as intuitive, is it?

1 comment:

Michael Easter said...

Cool... let us know how it progresses.

I'm a big fan of Python. I think it would be my choice if I had to pick a single language.

Here's a thought: I wonder what the percentage is for people who honestly try Python and then reject it? I suspect it is low.