Windows & .NET Watch: Python: Arbitrarily Interesting
February 3, 2009 —
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Python is the easiest language in which to do interesting things. I’m not claiming that it’s the best language for learning programming, the appropriate language for your next enterprise project, or even, for interesting things, the most powerful language. Only that it’s easy to do interesting things because the language is approachable, flexible and has been popular with scientists.
Professional programmers might find the syntactical niceties of “Hello World” or the calculation of a factorial as an “interesting thing,” but no one else does. You need graphs, at least, if not interactive graphics, image processing and, say, robots. And while for any one of these there are specialized languages that might be even easier for each individual task, Python is your best bet for easy access to arbitrary values of “interesting.”
IronPython, Microsoft’s flagship of the Dynamic Language Runtime, recently achieved its 2.0 release. The cliché is that Microsoft takes three releases to get a product right, and programming IronPython in Visual Studio is still not as seamless as programming in C# or Visual Basic. I’m by no means an advanced Python user, and I take no stand on the completion of the language or its support for Very Important Frameworks. But in my eyes, IronPython and its ability to glue together interesting libraries and tools from both the .NET and the Python worlds is already doing very well.
For fellow dilettante Python programmers, I recommend the book “IronPython in Action” by Michael Foord and Christian Muirhead. Soon to be published by Manning (I reviewed a preprint), the book is particularly strong in providing simple-but-not-simplistic illustrations and tables that clarify behind-the-scenes structural elements. Visual Studio screenshots may be a little more common than I’d like, but for those new to the VS environment, these may be welcome.
A common challenge for books involving technologies ported to new environments is balancing viewpoints. A strength of the Foord/Muirhead book is just such a balance, providing “Pythonic” topics such as test-driven development, mocks and metaprogramming, along with clear discussions of .NET’s CLR structure, Windows Presentation Foundation, and even programming PowerShell with Python.