George V. Reilly

Northwest Python Day 2009

Eric on BuildBot

[Eric holding forth on BuildBot]

Eric and I attended Northwest Python Day 2009 today at the University of Washington. There were about 50 people present, with a few out-of-town visitors from Portland and Vancouver BC.

It was a mixed bag. I found the afternoon sessions more in­ter­est­ing than the morning ones.

The morning talks started with a set of five-minute lightning talks, including:

Browser Interface, Local Server: creating a desktop app that contains, in one process, both a browser app and a local HTTP server, running on separate threads. The browser app can also be used to connect to a remote web server. Used wxPython to host an HTML control for the browser part.

The afternoon lightning talks included:

Sage is an impressive open-source package for doing math­e­mat­ics, and a potential al­ter­na­tive to expensive commercial products like Math­e­mat­i­ca and Matlab. Browse the Sage Notebook to get a feel for what it can do. Talk a look at today’s Sage talk.

Google App Engine is good for a narrow class of apps: HTTP, request+response, time-limited, sandboxed. There are many quotas, known and unknown. The non-relational data store has restricted queries: no joins, only complete entities, limited com­par­isons.

Cython is a Python-to-C compiler that seems promising. It requires slight mod­i­fi­ca­tions to the classes and functions that will be compiled to C: declare them with the cdef keyword. It offers sig­nif­i­cant speedups for hotspot code and it’s heavily used in Sage.

Ted Leung closed the day by talking about Python at Sun. All of the dynamic languages have been trending upwards in the last few years, hence Sun’s (and Microsoft’s) interest in dynamic languages. Jython, after years of struggling along, is alive and well. I really have to check out DTrace on Mac or Open­So­laris soon. One way to win mindshare for Python is better tools: NBPython will provide Python support for the NetBeans IDE: code completion, debugger, etc.

There were a handful of other talks that I didn’t write up.

My thanks to the organizers for putting together a successful free conference.

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