Python-based browser plugins?

Terry Hancock hancock at anansispaceworks.com
Thu Oct 31 03:44:39 CET 2002


[I actually posted this question to the mailing list a couple of days ago,  
but I think it fell victim to the mail-news gateway problem. If it's a 
repeat, I apologize].

This starts with Java, but ends with Python ... ;-D

Although I have no special familiarity with it or inclination towards it, I 
have been considering using Java and/or Jython as a means of delivering 
applet and/or plugin clientside content-creation tools for a web 
collaboration application (specific examples would include a 
wysiwyg/wysiwym sdocbook XML editor and a simple 2D drawing/CAD tool that 
would create DXF or SVG output).  I had hoped to be able to use as much 
pre-existing code as possible for this, in an effort to keep the task 
feasible (I was considering using Jython to handle the top-level part and 
rely on a free class library for the heavy parts).  I found a HowTo 
describing a method of running a program as an applet, or downloading and 
installing as a plugin at the user's discretion, which gets past the bulk 
downloading problem in a flexible way.  Sounds good so far.

However, after reading an article on "the status of Java in Debian", I have 
become very concerned about the use of Java from a free-software 
perspective. It seems that Sun has taken a very aggressive stance regarding 
Java2, which the Java programmer community seems to have become very 
reliant on -- especially for the types of apps I'm talking about.  It seems 
there is, for example, no end-to-end free-software way to run a Java2 
applet.

Unfortunately, the Java developer community seems to be very enamoured of 
Java2, and components built on it, such as Swing, seem to be an important 
part of any of the apps I would've considered using.

Several people have posted in this group on the feasibility of replacing 
Java with Python, and my post resolves to another such question: is there 
any way I could distribute applets/plugins implemented in Python (I 
probably mean ordinary "C Python" here), such that the user will have a
similarly transparent experience? (The other option of using Java1-only, 
I'll ask on the Jython list, I suppose).  

Unfortunately, the only browser that I know can do this is Grail, which is 
hardly mainstream!  To be useful, I need something that will at least work 
on Windows, Macs, and Linux/X systems running IE, Netscape, or Mozilla (and 
it'd be nice if Konqueror, Opera, and others would work, too).  In 
principle, I don't really care if it stays in the browser window, but it's 
got to work for the "teen using Mom's borrowed Win 9x system" crowd -- 
which is where the applets concept really shines.  On the other hand, the 
curmudgeonly "just left of Richard Stallman" crowd isn't going to like 
relying on a non-free system (and I agree), which it would appear that Java2
is (no free Java2 implementations).

But maybe I'm wrong and there is a way to get what I want using Python 
(pure or otherwise).  That *would* be one less language to learn in short 
order!  Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! :-D

Cheers,
Terry

-- 
Terry Hancock
Anansi Spaceworks
http://www.anansispaceworks.com



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