Trying to make friends with Python… again

I like the idea of Python. I have diverse interests, technically, and I like to think that there’s a language out there that I can use to write small script, a large website, a stored procedure, or a distributed system. The same language is used to write a very large chunk of systems code on Red Hat systems can also be used to make pretty graphical interfaces. I like that it’s cross platform.

My trouble with Python has been twofold: time, and support. I actually *have* read the introductory tutorial, but it was in 2002. I’ve forgotten just about all of it. I have a copy of the printed Python Reference Library, but it’s from 2000 (if memory serves). I own *both* editions of “Learning Python”, because by the time I got around to reading the first edition, the second edition made it completely obsolete. The other side of the time issue was making time to actually do something useful with the language so as to cement the fundamentals into my brain. That’s sometimes difficult when you’re a sysadmin and don’t really program for a living.

On the support side, I’ve had a lot of problems. Every time I go to do something with Python, I have no idea which route to take. There are so many frameworks and modules that have overlapping problem scopes that it’s hard for me to make a decision. What’s worse, nobody seems to know which module or framework is the canonical way of doing things. I guess things are still young enough to be schizophrenic. With Perl, when they say “there’s more than one way to do it”, that’s speaking more about the syntax of the language than the modules you might use (though it speaks to that, too, somewhat). With Python, the syntax is the (relatively) stable part – it’s choosing modules that can be a challenge.

Right now I’m building an XML-RPC server and a small test client. The client calls functions on the server, and in response, the server queries a PostgreSQL database and returns the results. I got a simple working prototype working with real data yesterday, but it took me a long time to figure out exactly which module should be used to talk to PostgreSQL from Python, and which module should be used for implementing the XML-RPC server. I’m comfortable with psycopg2 for the database calls, but I’m using SimpleXMLRPCServer for the server implementation, and I’m just waiting for one of its limitations to bite me. However, Twisted doesn’t seem like it’s quite soup yet in this particular area, and using xmlrpclib to implement a server seems silly with a ready made solution already built in (I know a project that does that, maybe because SimpleXMLRPC didn’t exist at the time they started?).

So, wish me luck. If you have any input on what you’ve done in this area with Python, fill me in! Also, if you’re an admin who uses Python and knows of a good reference site for simple day-to-day UNIX admin scripting in Python, let me know that too!

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  • Jennifer

    One of the things I like about python (I do most of my coding in the language) is that the language takes it’s time figuring out what works best in the wild before commiting to anything. I think of it as the “don’t prematurely optimize” dictum applied to the language itself. It makes me comfortable investing in anything *has* developed a degree of canonicality because it’s likely to be well conceived and useful.

    That said, the Python Package Index (sometimes “The Cheese Shop”) is a nice place to go looking for something before you implement it yourself: http://pypi.python.org/pypi