Ken McDonalds and Darryl Harms talked to us about their
experiences with Python and writing "The Quick Python Book." The
discussion ranged everywhere from what experience they have with Python
to how their book is laid out. For the log, read on.
<Wintersun> Okay, thank you everyone for coming out today!
<authors> Thank you!
<Wintersun> We've got Ken McDonald and Darryl Harms here today (aka authors) to talk to us about writing their latest book "The Quick Python Book", published by Manning Publishers
<Wintersun> Please be sure to /msg any questions you have to LcModerator and he will ask them in the channel. Thanks!
<Wintersun> Ken and Darryl, would you guys like to tell us a little bit about yourselves and what type of background you have in programming?
<authors> Ken sez:
<authors> Well, I've got a Bachelor's, M.Sc., and part of a Ph.D. in CompSci. I did a short stint as a junior
<authors> sysadmin at the end of my academic career, went to work as a programmer for the Human Genome
<authors> Project, wrote the Quick Python Book after than, and then ended up at Be, Inc. as a tech writer.
<authors> Daryl sez:
<authors> I started working in the field in data communications in the mid-80s
<LcModerator> you may /msg your questions to ken and darryl to me I will post them to channel. you can msg me now and I will start posting them after they have introduced themselfes
<authors> and moved into telecom and oil/gas network mgmt, and from there ended up (somehow :-) )
<authors> working for AltaVista, in their Calgary, Canada, office.
<LcModerator> <authors> We aimed it at people who were already knowledgeable about programming, and who wanted
<authors> to be able to learn Python very quickly. Ken sez: I started this book because at the time,
<authors> there was not a lot available for Python, and I was very frustrated with most of the
<authors> language introductory books, which often felt like they had to teach the basics of c.s.
<authors> along with the language.
<LcModerator> <authors> Not in that sense. It is a tutorial and concept book, not just--or even primarily--
<authors> a reference book. However, it's organized in such a manner (we hope), that it's easy to skip
<authors> over sections or chapters that address things you might already know.
* LcModerator what advantages do you see of python over say other alternatives languages like perl. And why did you choose Python as the basis for your book?
<authors> Ken sez: I started using Perl several years before I learned Python, and used Perl extensively,
<authors> at the Human Genome Project (which in some sense, really runs on Perl). But, IMHO, Perl isn't
<authors> really suited for maintainability--once your code base gets large, and you start having new
<authors> engineers looking back at other people's code, it can become difficult. I started using Python after
<authors> a bioinformatics guy in Cambridge sent me a program that used it, and fell in love with it because
<authors> it rectified all the things I'd come to dislike about Perl.
<LcModerator> <authors> Oh, and Python was the basis of a book because there weren't really any good books at the time
<authors> Is that the old April Fool's joke? My jaw dropped when I first read the article about
<authors> that, then I remembered what month it was :-)
<LcModerator> <authors> The first reference material I ever used for Python, and what I still primarily use, is the
<authors> language reference and library reference. They aren
<authors> t so great for learning the language (hence the book we wrote), but
<authors> once you know Python and know your way around the two references, they're pretty good.
<LcModerator> <authors> We've tried to do some innovative things in terms of making the sample easily
<authors> readable and short, and to make material easy to find. Do you remember reading poems way
<authors> back (or not so way back :-) ) in high school, with the little explanatory notes in the
<authors> margin? We put in lots of margin notes describing what a particular section was talking about,
<LcModerator> so like Coles notes so to speak
<authors> so if you knew in general where the info was, you could find it quickly by scanning the margin
<authors> notes. Yeah, somewhat like that. A lot of people have liked it, so I think we did some things right.
<LcModerator> <authors> We had a very short, not very complete section on using Python with C. Neither of
<authors> us has done much with that. However, Daryl tells me that there is some really good info
<authors> on that in the Python manuals--I believe there's an "Extending and Embedding" ref. manual.
<LcModerator> <authors> I don't think there's any reason to read both. If you're new to programming as well as to
<authors> Python, then the Learning Python book might be better, but I think ours is better if you already
<authors> know the basics of programming.
<LcModerator> So your book is more for a person that has a grounding in programming basics?
<authors> Yes, it was written specifically with someone who knows at least the basics of programming. By
<authors> the way, I think Python is a great language for people new to programming--very clean.
<LcModerator> <authors> Copyright of the book is owned by Manning, not by us. This is standard in the tech publishing
<LcModerator> Iwill ask apersonal ? if the guests dont mind
<authors> industry, I think. We've talked with Manning about realeasing some parts for free, but it hasn't happened yet.
<authors> Go ahead
<LcModerator> Given that linux and most of the applications that use it are released under the GNU/free software. How do you as Authors feel about say O'reilly releasing books that are no more then the LDP in a book format and charging for it. and Do you think at some point even your book should be released online for free
<authors> Publishing a book does cost money, and writing it takes a lot of time. Trust us, we're not
<authors> getting rich off of this book :-) I'm certainly willing to pay for a printed version of printed
<authors> material because of the convenience. However, at some point, I'd like to see some system for
<authors> collaborative production of books online, sort of a sophisticated CVS for documentation--then, I think,
<authors> it will be much more practical to produce really good, free books.
<LcModerator> <authors> Neither of us has looked at Ruby in detail. But the real question is whether it will
<authors> have the libraries Python has built up. (Of course, that's what Perl people say about Python.)
<authors> By the way, people interested in languages might want to look at Sather--it's now a Gno project.
<authors> That's a Gnu project :-)
<LcModerator> tpck- do you tough on any of the GUI interfacesto using Python in your book
<LcModerator> sorry tcpk I closed the window to soon
<authors> We talk about Tkinter, but not in depth. But Manning has another book all about
<authors> using Tkinter, by John Grayson.
<LcModerator> I think parts of books online as appetizers are great to boost sales, I as a matter of fact bought Opensource development with CVS 'cause they made a very good part of the book available online, how do you feel about this?
<authors> We agree. We put two chapters online :-) (Manning did, that is)
<LcModerator> plug the chapters then by all means post a URL
<LcModerator> we will ask if we may mirror them on linux.com
<authors> I don't know the full URL, but go to www.manning.com, and it should be easy to find from
<LcModerator> When was the book published? What version(s) of Python does it cover?
<authors> there. I think they do that for a lot of their books. And, if we're allowed to
<authors> plug the book :-), I'll note that it's received some pretty good reviews from Amazon and
<authors> similar sources.
<authors> It was published about ... (looking it up)...
<LcModerator> If anyone has questions they would like to ask out authors today just /msg me and I willpost them for you
<authors> Setp 1999, and covers up to Python 1.5.2.
<LcModerator> As Python is first introduced to a lot of end-users is IRC interfaces like X-Chat. Do you see this as a hinderance to it beingmore widely used
<authors> Could you rephrase the question, please?
<LcModerator> I will try for the guest
<LcModerator> X-chat for a lotof users of linusis the firsttime they even see a word Python
<authors> Ah, I see. Sorry, I don't really know anything about X-chat. Does it use Python, or is it
<LcModerator> sothey assume it is simply a script language for IRC. do you see this as a detriment to Python being applied to many other things
<authors> a place where Python is regualary discussed.
<authors> No, I certainly don't see it as a detriment. As long as the users become aware that Python
<LcModerator> Python scripts are the prefered script of choice for X-Chat
<authors> can be used in other arenas, anything that exposes people to the language is
<authors> good, in my opinion.
<LcModerator> do you see that as a hinderance to it's growth
<authors> In fact, I think Python is becoming known to a lot of people as an
<authors> scripting language that can be embedded into products. For instance, there's
<authors> a version of the 3d animation program Poser that lets you script it using
<authors> Python. This can only be good for the language.
<LcModerator> <authors> Again, we're not interested in teaching programming, we're interested in teaching Python--
<authors> so most of our examples are very small, intended to show off a specific feature. Some of the
<authors> special chapters (such as interacting with Microsoft software) have larger examples because they
<authors> are needed to show a complete working setup.
<LcModerator> any oher questions?
<Wintersun> Okay, I think we're just about out of questions
<Wintersun> So, I'd like to thank, once again, Ken and Darryl for coming out and talking to us today.
<authors> Thank you everyone! Run, don't walk :-) to your nearest bookstore, and
<authors> take a look at the Quick Python Book.
<Wintersun> I'd also like to encourage everyone to stick around as long as you'd like and chat with the authors yourselves.
<LcModerator> thats a catch phrase I like that
<authors> thanks :-)