Notes from Python Special Interest Group, 17-December-2008

Six folks attended the December meeting of the Python Special Interest Group, held on the irregular third Wednesday in December to allow for the festivities next week. (We normally meet the fourth Thursday, same place, same time.)

There wasn’t a formal agenda, and discussion was first the ice storms of last week and everyone’s power status.

I talked with Bill about setting up my new Sansa player with Rockbox and using gPodder in Fedora10 to sync music. The gPodder Podcast client can sync with using the standard file-based method or by using the Media Transfer Protocol popular in many players. To run with gPodder, I needed to install libMTP and PyMTP (there’s a Python connection!) I also discovered while importing RSS feeds that there’s a bug in Fedora 10’s version of Mark Pilgrim’s awesome feedparser, fairly easy to patch, documented here. It’s an arguable bug; it may be that feedparser throws an error instead of behaving more gracefully when hander RSS that might not be fully valid, in this case apparently a bad Unicode character. Perhaps not fully following Postel’s Law, paraphrased “be conservative in what you do and liberal in what you accept.” Is ignoring malformed Unicode too liberal? A philosophical question, perhaps. I noted that the RSS feed that fails in gPodder and from the Python command line actually passes the http://feedvalidator.org tests. Hmm.

Arc had sent a link, “If Languages were Religions,” which included the suggestion, “Python would be Humanism: It’s simple, unrestrictive, and all you need to follow it is common sense. Many of the followers claim to feel relieved from all the burden imposed by other languages, and that they have rediscovered the joy of programming. There are some who say that it is a form of pseudo-code. ” Read the whole post; there are some good ones!

Bill Freeman had an idea he’d like to float for a project to avoid name contention issues, using a naming scheme similar to Java’s com.sun…. namespace for individual projects. Kent dug around in the comp.lang.python archives for some previous threads on the subject to review what had been said on the issue before.

Kent wanted to talk about Python 3.0! Shawn had sent a link to the list for Python porting resources, but wasn’t able to make the meeting. We discussed some of the issues with porting 2.x Python code to Python 3.0 and tested out the 2to3 program. Arc and Matt arrived and joined in the conversation. We first converted the canonical “hello world” program and worked up to Bill’s telephone list program, Arc suggested jinja, and an unpublished project that Kent had been working on involving recognizing human languages, each of which had gradually more and more complex issues. The 2to3 program won’t always make working code, but it does a fine first pass in making all of the well-known changes in converting a 2.x program to 3.0. In running the programs through 2to3 and examining the results, the group had a good discussion about some of the syntax and structural changes in 3.0

Thanks to Bill Sconce for organizing the meeting and bringing the milk, to Janet for the wonderful airplane cookies, to the Amoskeag Business Incubator for providing us with the great facilities and to all for attending and participating.

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