Getting Started with Python

I’ve been using java for as long as I can remember (actually, I remember using C/C++ and even TurboPascal). This is because my work is largely a java shop, but more and more of us are using whatever fits the job. Python seems to be gaining popularity here so I decided to dive into it.

The python tutorial here is helpful for getting started.

Here’s my first python code just to insert some rows into a mysql database:

import MySQLdb

if __name__ =='__main__':
	conn = MySQLdb.connect(host='localhost',user='root',passwd='inference',db='mracompanies')
	x = conn.cursor()
	for i in range(1,2089):
		x.execute("insert into table_for_michelle(id) values(%d)"%(i))
	conn.commit()
	conn.close()

Let’s go over the code a bit first. The import MySQLdb on line 1 just imports the mysql library. MySQLdb is a wrapper for their native _mysql library and just makes working with mysql a bit easier.

The next line “if __name__==’__main__'” tells the interpreter that this is where the main method starts.

After that you have a bunch of mysql-specific calls.

Of course, setting up the system to do this wasn’t cake (it never is). Installing python was very straight-forward. It was actually installing this MySQLdb module that was tough.
I used the command “sudo pip install mysql-python” to get the MySQLdb library. It’s not “sudo pip install MySQLdb” as I would have expected. Then it complained about not finding mysql_config so I had to add the folder of that file to the $PATH. Then it complained about not finding libmysqlclient.18.dylib, so I had to soft link it to the /usr/lib folder.
Hopefully you don’t run into this, but both my coworker (who’s much more familiar with python) and I did.

So far, my sense is that python is great for quick-and-dirty implementations. Experiment or run-once and throwaway type of code. The language is very flexible and makes writing code pretty fast (if you know the syntax) but I think it can also be dangerous because it’s not as readable, so I’d imagine it’s hard to maintain or hand off to someone else. I also hear performance is not up to par compared to Java. So I think I’ll do my experimentations in python and production code in java and see how that works out.

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