[Mobile-sig] PyCon US 2018 talk about BeeWare

David Boddie david at boddie.org.uk
Tue May 15 17:52:26 EDT 2018

I saw that Russell gave a talk about BeeWare at PyCon:


It's interesting to see that the focus of presentations about BeeWare has
shifted from how the tools work to how they are used. For me this is as
interesting as the content of the presentation itself.

It got me thinking about what makes a solution Pythonic, which is usually a
bit too philosophical for my taste, so I found it interesting to consider
the different elements of a solution that needs to target various platforms.

On different platforms we have different implementations of the language -
well, two at least: CPython (desktop platforms, Android, iOS) and VOC
(Android). What people might consider Pythonic depends on their attachment
to CPython, but even using the reference implementation doesn't guarantee a
Pythonic language environment - as noted in the Q&A, people may expect
certain supporting libraries to be present for proper Python.

The GUI toolkits are typically different on each platform. Despite the
availability of middleware (mostly Qt) that could smooth over the differences
between platforms, there is still a perception that toolkits that access
native controls are the way to go. Another issue is the perception of
the style of the APIs exposed to Python - some toolkits, like PyGTK are
considered Pythonic while others are not. Tkinter also sets a standard and
enjoys a privileged position that is perhaps not so helpful when thinking
about newer platforms.

The deployment mechanisms are different on many of the platforms. While
CPython has developed its own mechanisms for deploying software (eggs,
wheels, whatever), it has tended to be parallel to the mechanisms used on
each platform unless the platform itself gained its own support for handling
Python packaging (as in Debian, for example). Traditionally, a parallel
universe of packages that exists alongside a platform's own collection seems
fine. However, whether we like it or not, modern platforms tend to dictate
how software is packaged, and this history of not integrating all that well
has not prepared CPython well for those platforms.

Traditionally, the end result of this diversity has been the tendency for
CPython to grow its own solutions to the above issues, and one could argue
that this wasn't helped by its popularity as a web server language where
Python developers could perhaps define their own standards. It shouldn't have
been a zero sum game between web frameworks and other uses of the language
but attention was very much focused on web technologies for many years.
Now the focus is more on data science and scientific computing it remains to
be seen whether better integration with underlying platforms will occur and
whether popular development technologies (virtualenv, pip) will help or
hinder this.

In the end it always seems to come down to finding a way to place
abstractions over differences in the underlying platforms, even if there was
never a commonly agreed abstraction for a feature. Python was once viewed by
many as a glue language, used in places where it made sense and where
expectations were set appropriately high or low. Python is now used in places
where it might be unrealistic to provide NumPy, for example, but does that
mean a compatible wrapper around a platform's native numeric libraries is
needed for the solution to be truly Pythonic on that platform?

I see that Toga provides another layer of abstraction and I worry that
there's a danger of spreading things a little thin with that, covering all
the variations between platforms and their quirks while having to compete
with both native and other middleware toolkits. For me, that has always
been an awkward feature of wxPython: it competes with its own dependencies.

Anyway, please feel free to disagree with any or all of the above if you
like. ;-)


More information about the Mobile-sig mailing list