From: Eric Armstrong <firstname.lastname@example.org>
I ran through about half the Python tutorial yesterday.
I see some great things about the language, but also
some major weaknesses. The features, with pluses (+)
and minuses (-) are noted below.
JPython vs Python:
--Runs on Java virtual machine
(+) runs everywhere
--Can use and/or extend Java classes (+)
--Can be built into a Java app as a command
--Can't trap Ctrl-C. So Ctrl-C aborts the shell (-)
--No command-line editing (-)
Python (and JPython)
--Indentation implies nesting
(+) Eliminates tyranny of braces.
(-) All subelements must have same indentation.
It's hard on parsers if they don't, and hard on
humans to meet the requirement. (XML can
eliminate the problem nicely.)
(+) Great for quick coding
(-) Means a lot of problems aren't detected at
compile time that could be
--Dispatch to named method (like C)
[Note: I'm pretty sure I saw an example of this
in the EasySAX code.]
(+) This is a cool feature. You don't need it often,
often, but when you do its irreplacable.
--Any non-zero integer == true, like C
(-) Ugh. Too many hours wasted on debugging to
find that you coded a=b instead of a==b, like
you intended. This one is a time-sink.
--Intelligent for statement
(+) It's "for x in aList". Yes!
--Interesting "for-else" construct
(+) A good control mechanism -- it's executed on
normal loop completion, but not after a "break".
(-) Horribly named. It's not executed *instead of*
the for (as "else" relates to "if") but is executed
*in addition* to the for. A better name might
have been "ok", or "for-ok".
--Can't modify list sequence while looping -- have to
modify a copy.
(+) The compile time error prevents runtime errors
I used to run into in Java before the ListIterator
(-) Not being able to modify under any circumstances
means you have to copy large lists, and use the
arcane syntax "list[:]" which implies a copy, rather
than the original. On the *other* hand, in JPython
it would be possible to generate a ListIterator for
--No labeled break/continue
(-) When you have nested loops, you absolutely need
the ability to determine which one you are breaking,
--The class can specify default argument values
(+) Not all values need to be specified in the call.
(+) Defines "overloading" of method names without
having to manually craft each individual method. Since
the most common use of overloading is to define default
values, this feature saves a lot of time and simplifies
--Multiple ways to call a function, with parameters specified by
name or by position, as:
foo("a", 50), or
(+) Lets you make your own ordering if you don't like the
(+) Lets you label the thing your passing. Especially valuable for
numerics and true/false args. Instead of "new Document(true)",
you can write "new Document(validating=true)". The only way
to get that readability in Java is to define a whole new variable.
(-) Reording the argument sequence has got to interfere with
(-) Overloading in any other way must be impossible, since
specifying default values like foo(string="b", number=n)
makes it impossible to define either foo(string) or foo(number),
as separate methods. The lack of overloading raises problems
for append() methods like append(string), append(number),
append(float), append(double), etc. Of course, with dynamic
typing you don't need overloading for that kind of behavior,
so maybe between dynamic typing and default-value specifications,
overloading is really a non-issue.
--Lambda function [I have a weak grasp on this one, good enough to
give an evaluation but not good enough to produce an example.]
(+) Makes it easy to define small, anonymous functions
(-) Reduces readability
--Functional programming functions: filter, map, reduce
(+) Really cool, fun to play with, and useful for building up
complex tools from simple components, like Unix pipes
--Data Structure: Lists, Strings/Characters, Tuples
(+) Well chosen set, and characters are just strings of length 1,
so you don't need two sets of tools to deal with them.
(+) pickle and unpickle make it easy to read
and write any of the standard types for persistence.
(+) try/except for catching them, raise for throwing them,
try/finally for clean up.
--Limited Multiple Inheritence
(+) That's a useful feature that allows you to extend a class
written by a third party. Saw an example in JBuilder where
that was necessary -- a class's private constructor used
a protected constructor in the super class. It was impossible
to extend the leaf class -- you had to extend the super
class, and then totally rewrite the leaf class. As always,
modifying the design was the "right" solution. That makes
multiple inheritance unnecessary. But with 3rd party code
you don't have access to, multiple inheritance is sometimes
All in all, I would rate Python as WAY better than Perl for
fast hacks, yet not up to Java's standards for production programs.
Interestingly, Howard Golden writes that "Jim Hugunin, who
developed JPython at CNRI, is now at Xerox PARC, where he
is working on AspectJ." One wonders if AspectJ solves some
of Python's more egregious miscarriages of developmental
AspectJ exists at http://aspectj.org/servlets/AJSite.
It's one of 135 languages built on the Java Virtual Machine that
is listed at http://grunge.cs.tu-berlin.de/~tolk/vmlanguages.html.
(The "What is JPython?" page was nice enough to include a link
to that one.)
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