How to re-write this bash script in Python?

Chris Angelico rosuav at
Fri Jul 31 16:53:00 CEST 2015

On Sat, Aug 1, 2015 at 12:26 AM, Grant Edwards <invalid at invalid.invalid> wrote:
> On 2015-07-31, Chris Angelico <rosuav at> wrote:
>> There are two basic approaches to this kind of job.
>> 1) Go through every line of bash code and translate it into
>>    equivalent Python code. You should then have a Python script which
>>    blindly and naively accomplishes the same goal by the same method.
> In my experience, that works OK for C (with a little post-translation
> tweaking and re-factoring).  But, it's a pretty lousy method for bash
> scripts.  There are a lot of things that are trivial in Python and
> complex/hard in bash (and a few vice versa), so a direct translation
> usually turns out to be a mess.  You end up with a lot of Python code
> where only a couple lines are really needed. You also end up doing
> things in a bizarre manner in Python because the simple, easy, right
> way wasn't supported by bash.

Right. The two techniques I suggested can be generalized to any
language pair, but some work better this way than others do. Shell
scripts are something of a special case, because they're massively
optimized toward running other programs and piping output into input,
which applications languages like Python are not as good at; so the
naive transformation leads to code that goes to ridiculous lengths to
invoke five subprocesses and move data between them, where a more
intelligent approach might invoke one process, and then do the rest in
Python code. The trouble is, you really need to know what your code is
doing, because the non-naive transformation generally has a different
set of assumptions. For instance, the OP's shell script calls on the
'mailx' command. What's it do? Presumably it sends an email... well,
Python can do that. But what if the mailx command on this host has
been carefully configured to pass mail along via a specific relay
host, and that direct access on port 25 has been blocked? How would
you know? So it's not just a matter of translating the script, you
have to know its execution environment as well.

>> 2) Start by describing what you want to accomplish, and then
>>    implement that in Python, using algorithmic notes from the bash code.
>> The second option seems like a lot more work, but long-term it often
>> isn't, because you end up with better code.
> And the code works. :)
> For bash, I really recommend 2)

Yeah. You remove the ability for environmental changes to unexpectedly
affect the script, which is often a feature and not a bug.


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