Why should I switch to Python?

James Felix Black jfblack at uswest.com
Thu May 11 21:58:13 CEST 2000

> The only explanation for this that I can think of is that you're a
> lot smarter than I am!

Oh, I don't know about that.  I've got a /lot/ of perl state in my
brain -- I've been programming perl for eight years.  Not that that
kept me from making a mistake in the code I posted, though.  Ah, the
hubris ...

> It's getting stuff *out* of the data structures that I find to be
> radically different.

Yes.  This is due to the dichotomy between first-class variables and
references, and it's a confusing problem for people, I can see.  And
that doesn't even begin to cover such horrendous things as typeglobs.
> 	for $f (@{ $friends{ $name } }) {

Ok.  Let me redo the code (and get it /right/ this time!).

%friends = ( Bob => [ ], Jane => [ "Lisa", "Mabel", "Freddy" ],
             Lisa => [ "Mabel" ] ); 

# note that I had to change the braces to parens in the assignment to
# a hash: curly braces return a /reference/ to a hash -- when you want
# a "real" hash, you need to use parens.  if you ran the code as it
# originally was posted, you'd get a hash with one element (the hash
# reference { Bob => [ ] ... }.  Which is illegal.  mea maxima culpa!

for $name (keys %friends) { 
  print "$name has these friends:\n";

  for $f (@{ $friends{ $name } }) {

     # ok.  in the hash (dictionary) %friends, the value associated
     # with the "$name" key is a reference to an array.  However, the
     # for operator expects a list to iterate over.  therefore, we
     # have to dereference the value of $friends{ $name } back into a
     # list: we do this with the @{ } construction.
     # man, that's weird looking.

    print " ", $f;
  print "\n";

After I sit back and look at this, I realize just how strange dealing
with perl's references is.  To me, of course, it's natural: but for
someone just looking at doing some scripting, I can totally
empathise.  I'm just so numbed by looking at things like:

$var{ foo }[ bar ]("baz");

all day long that I occasionally lose sight of how strange that is.

There're a couple of things about python I wish were different, but I
have to say that the language is astonishingly readable and
straightforward: no nasty little "gotchas."  And threads (and signals)
appear to function properly.  


To spur "enterprise Linux," Big Bang, the distributed two-phase commit.

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