Wednesday, March 2, 2011

QNX at PyCon US 2011! Long live Python!

I'm excited to announce that QNX is a diamond sponsor of this year's PyCon 2011!  Excited because I've been a long-time fan of Python, and I'm very happy to see it and the community get the support it deserves.  And happy that I'll be personally involved in a geek gathering of this magnitude. I will be there along with some of my co-workers next week in Atlanta, spreading the Python joy.

(I'm about to go into a historical musing.  If I start sounding too much like Jerry Pournelle used to in his Byte column, going off onto long irrelevant tangents, please shoot me.)

I started using Python way back in 2002 when I worked at OnStar.  I was creating an "illegal" web site--illegal in the sense that ONLY EDS was allowed to do anything with our computers.  As engineers, we were only allowed to use Word, Excel, and PowerPoint.  Ugh.  I had to fight tooth and nail just to get admin privileges on my PC that would allow me to install software!  Dear God, it still makes me shiver.  So the fact that I was enabling huge efficiencies in the engineering department by creating a wiki for information sharing was just a little bit under the radar.  (For the record, I did actually ask EDS to set one up first, but they refused to.  So you can see, it wasn't really my fault :-)

I was looking for something that would allow us to organize our documents & share files in a very easy to maintain extension to an Apache server.  There were a few wiki packages that I found in Java, C++, Perl, PHP, and Python.  I had used Perl before while I was a consultant, and the customer absolutely required it.  But that language was so gruesome, it scarred me for life--talk about a read-only language!  (I had a co-worker come up to me today and ask me what Python was.  "Isn't that just like Perl?"  No, grasshopper.) PHP looked a little wonky--tons of HTML and script mixed together--and it really didn't look very pleasant to maintain.  I knew C++ pretty well, and felt that I would prefer to pick up a new skill.

So that left Java and Python based wikis. The Java wiki that I was looking at didn't have great file support, so I downloaded the Python one--Pylewiki if my memory serves.  After I got over the whole "white space matters" concept of Python, I found the language to be clean, elegant, and powerful.  I made a number of extensions to the base wiki, adding change notification emails, version tracking on files, ability to embed images into the wiki pages, adding support for our information lifecycle management, etc.

I'm going into this long drawn-out story to illustrate a couple of facts.  First is that I was able to pick up Python very quickly--it's a very cleanly designed language, which makes it pretty easy to get.  Second is that even as a novice Python programmer, I was able to extend the existing source base with some pretty sophisticated concepts.  The language is very powerful, and lets the developer do amazing things with pretty little work.  As much as you can with a programming language, I fell in love.

Since then, I've always had a soft spot in my heart for Python, even though my career has taken me a ways away from day-to-day coding.  Go Python!

1 comment:

  1. I think this is awesome, but there's one thing I can't figure out about it... Why?