[Python-Dev] Python-dev summary: Jul 1-15

Andrew Kuchling akuchlin@mems-exchange.org
Mon, 17 Jul 2000 19:57:32 -0400 (EDT)

Note: this is an experiment in whether I can make a useful,
interesting, somewhat coherent summary of python-dev activity.  
Things I'm not sure of:

       * Accuracy.  I skipped past some threads such as the list
         comprehensions one, and may be unaware of a resolution.

       * How many links are needed?  Should I try to link to several
         posts per thread, SF patches, etc.?  That makes more work for
         me, but also makes the summary more useful.

       * Bi-weekly OK?  I think it's a reasonable frequency.

I'll check my e-mail tomorrow; if no one screams loudly, I'll post it.
(My connectivity is poor enough that I don't want to do major editing
on it, or be able to respond to many e-mails in detail.)


Python-dev summary, July 1-15, 2000:

The 2-week period started with reactions to Guido's June 30
announcement that the 2.0b1 release would be delayed for an indefinite
period due to legal wrangling.  This gave everyone a second chance to
contribute more patches while waiting for the release, and the
activity level remained high.  Two dominant issues for this time
period were Unicode-related issues, and list comprehensions.

The Unicode issues, as usual, turned on the question of where strings
and Unicode strings should be interchangeable.  A discussion in the
thread "Minidom and Unicode" considered whether it's legal to return a
Unicode string from __repr__.  The consensus was that it should be
legal, despite fears of breaking code that expects only an 8-bit
string, and the CVS tree was patched accordingly.  Python's
interpreter mode uses repr() to display the results of expressions,
and it will convert Unicode strings to ASCII, using the unicode-escape
encoding.  The following code, typed into the interpreter, will print

class C:
    def __repr__(self): return u'abc\u3456'
print repr( C() )

Hashing also presented a problem.  As M.-A. Lemburg explained in 

	The problem comes from the fact that the default encoding can
	be changed to a locale specific value (site.py does the lookup
	for you), e.g.  given you have defined LANG to be us_en,
	Python will default to Latin-1 as default encoding.

	This results in '' == u'', but hash('') !=
	hash(u''), which is in conflict with the general rule about
	objects having the same hash value if they compare equal.

The resolution seems to be simply removing the ability to change the
default encoding and adopt ASCII as the fixed default; if you want to
use other encodings, you must specify them explicitly.

List comprehensions originated as a patch from Greg Ewing that's now
being kept up-to-date versus the CVS tree by Skip Montanaro.
Originally they weren't on the roadmap for 1.6, but with the greater
version number jump to 2.0, GvR is more willing to incorporate larger

List comprehensions provide a more concise way to create lists in
situations where map() and filter() would currently be used.  To take
some examples from the patched-for-list-comphrensions version of the
Python Tutorial:

>>> spcs = ["  Apple", " Banana ", "Coco  nut  "]
>>> print [s.strip() for s in spcs]
['Apple', 'Banana', 'Coco  nut']
>>> vec1 = [2, 4, 6]
>>> vec2 = [4, 3, -9]
>>> print [x*y for x in vec1 for y in vec2]
[8, 6, -18, 16, 12, -36, 24, 18, -54]

A lengthy subthread about intuitiveness sprang from the second
example, and from a patch from Thomas Wouters that implements
parallel 'for' loops.  The patch makes "for x in [1,2]; y in
['a','b']" cause x,y to be 1,'a', and then 2,'b'.  The thread
circulated around whether people would expect this syntax to produce
the Cartesian product of the two lists: (1,'a'), (1, 'b'), (2, 'a'),
(2, 'b').  No clear answer or final syntax has emerged yet, though
Greg Wilson has been trying out syntaxes on Python-unaware people and
asking them what they'd expect:


It was also suggested to add a new built-in function for parallel
'for' loops instead of new syntax, so you would code 'for x,y in
zip([1,2], ['a','b']):'.  A lengthy and very dull discussion ensued
about the name 'zip': should it be 'plait', 'knit', 'parallel', or
even 'marry'?

Some new procedures for Python development were set out:  Tim Peters 
wrote some guidelines for using SourceForge's patch manager:

Barry Warsaw announced a series of Python Extension Proposal (PEP)
which play the role of RFCs for significant changes to Python:

Mark Hammond gave the first glimpse of a fourth Python implementation:
"This new compiler could be compared, conceptually, with JPython - it
is a completely new implementation of Python.  It has a compiler that
generates native Windows .DLL/.EXE files.  It uses a runtime that
consists of a few thousand lines of C# (C-Sharp) code.  The Python
programs can be debugged at the source level with Visual Studio 7, as
well as stand-alone debuggers for this environment.  Python can
sub-class VB or C# classes, and vice-versa."

Other bits:

Skip Montanaro experimented with using code coverage tools to measure
the effectiveness of the Python test suite, by seeing which lines of
code (both C and Python) that are exercised by the tests.  
A summary of the results is at:

Skip also added support to the readline module for saving and loading
command histories.

ESR suggested adding a standard lexer to the core, and /F suggested an
extension to regular expressions that would make them more useful for 

CVS problems were briefly a distraction, with dangling locks
preventing commits to the Lib/ and Modules/ subdirectories for a few
days.  Despite such glitches, the move to SourceForge has accelerated
development overall, as more people can make check-ins and review

For some time Tim Peters has been suggesting removing the Py_PROTO
macro and making the sources require ANSI C; mostly this is because
the macro breaks the C cross-referencing support in Tim's editor.  :)
The ball finally started rolling on this, and snowballed into a
massive set of patches to use ANSI C prototypes everywhere.  Fred
Drake and Peter Schneider-Kamp rose to the occasion and edited the
prototypes in dozens of files.

Jeremy Hylton pointed out that "Tuple, List, String, and Dict have a
Py*_Size method.  The abstract object interface uses
PySequence_Length.  This is inconsistent and hard to remember," and
suggested that *_Size be made the standard form, and *_Length will be

Just before the cutoff date, Paul Prescod proposed a new help()
function for interactive use, and began implementing it:

Huaiyu Zhu suggested adding new operators to support matrix math:

A slew of minor patches and bugfixes were made, too.  Some highlights:
  * Ka-Ping Yee improved the syntax error messages.
  * ESR made various changes to ConfigParser.py
  * Some of Sam Rushing's patches from Medusa were applied to add
  os.setreuid() and friends; AMK is working on adding the poll()
  system call.  
  * /F was his usual "patching machine" self, integrating PythonWin's
  win32popen function so that os.popen will now work correctly on
  Windows as well as Unix, writing PyErr_SafeFormat() to prevent
  buffer overflows, and proposing some patches to reduce the 600K size
  of the Unicode character database.

Some fun posts came up during the near-endless zip()/plait()/whatever
naming thread:


       "BTW: How comes, that Ping very often invents or introduces very
       clever ideas and concepts, but also very often chooses unclear
       names for them?  Is it just me not being a native english

       "I don't know.  Perhaps my florx bignal zupkin isn't very

       -- Peter Funk and Ka-Ping Yee, 12 Jul 2000

while everyone was trying to think up alternative names for zip():

	"Let me throw one more out, in honor of our fearless leader's
	recent life change: marry().  Usually only done in pairs, and
	with two big sequences, I get the image of a big Unification
	Church event :)"

	"Isn't it somewhat of a political statement to allow marriages
	of three or more items? I always presumed that this function
	was n-ary, like map."

	-- Barry Warsaw and Paul Prescod