Learning PythonΒΆ

I’m not a programmer. I find myself saying this with great frequency. Which is weird, because I end up writing a fair amount of content that looks like (and probably is) code. Almost always this takes the forms of little shell scripts that do the things that I would other wise have to do by hand.

Very early on in my development as a programmer and Linux user, bear told me that the greatest thing about the shell was that once you figured something out, you could save it and reuse it whenever you needed it, and you never had to figure out that thing again. That’s sort of the basis of how I live my life with computers these days.

And it works great, and it means that I’m pretty comfortable with a lot of really powerful shell tools. I’m personally amazed by everything that I can make sed do. The problem is that there are limitations to what one can do with shell programing (nothing for the web, and no way to edge yourself into object orientation) or other more advanced programming techniques. Though certainly there are a lot of things that I could do using the shell, I sort of know enough to know the bounds of what’s possible and what’s absurd.

So I’ve been trying to teach myself Python. Because it seems like a good option. Though I’m not a coder by any stretch, I read a bunch of code, and know enough about all of the various languages to appreciated Python and it’s possibilities. Seems like a good neutral option and I’m pretty sure it can do everything I want or need it to for a while, and the worst case scenario is that the skills will be transferable if I need to change later.

My first “project,” I think is to rewrite build novel to Python. I get what needs to happen, and it mostly just mangles some text files into a number of other files to keep source and publication versions of Knowing Mars in step with each other. The hope being that the script will be a bit more resilient, and also be more easily generalized to publishing other projects as I have them to publish.

I’ve gotten the hang of mangling variables and reading settings from configuration (YAML rocks, and is killer easy to use.) Next up, learning more about creating, writing, and copying files, with a likely side course in regular expressions for Python. I’ll keep you posted.


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