EuroPython 2010

Well, I’m back from another great EuroPython – my thanks to John Pinner and his EuroPython crew, the presenters, Josette from O’Reilly, and all my fellow delegates. Regrettably, I might not be able to make the next EuroPython in the wonderful city of Florence, but I might be able to make it to PyCon AU in Sydney next year. Fingers crossed on that one – I might even pluck up the courage to do a talk!


Monday’s talks kicked off with Raymond Hettinger’s “Idiomatic Python”. He guaranteed everyone would learn something new and he definitely delivered. I walked away with some interesting gems of Pythonic knowledge, from basic stuff like enumerate() through to more advancing knowledge like the surprising behaviour of super().

Ezio Melotti followed after the break with a useful overview of the Python development process, which inspired me to join the Python Core sprint on Friday. I’ve already contributed my first couple of patches to Python 3.2 – the first of which has been committed to trunk already.

“How Import Works” was a run through by Brett Cannon on how, you guessed it, Python imports code. Although you’ll probably never need to modify the standard import process, it’s fascinating to discover how it all works. Best of all, new utilities in Python 3 make it much easier to customise things safely if you ever need to.

“PostgreSQL’s Python Soup” was a little disappointing, with a good chunk of the talk being a general one about relational databases. The interesting stuff about connecting to PostgreSQL came quite near the end when we were introduced to the many different connectors. And I mean many.

Monstrum is a new HTTP functional testing framework for Python 3, and was detailed in “Testing HTTP Apps with Python3”. It looks very cool, and the logo would make a great t-shirt! Continuing the web testing theme, Raymond Hettinger followed up with “Python & Selenium Testing”. Alongside an overview of Selenium, Raymond introduced Sauce Labs, a company providing commercial support for Selenium, the web testing framework, via their cloud service.

To round off the day, I attended two talks by Richard Watts and Tony Ibbs of Kynesim who presented Muddle, their open source build system which looks very cool, and KBUS which is an elegant and lightweight messaging system implemented as a Linux kernel extension.


The day’s talks began with a rather packed presentation by Guido on AppStats, an AppEngine monitoring tool. I must admit that I did partially go to hear him talk, as did probably a lot of other people, but also because I was interested to learn more about AppEngine. I picked up some interesting bits of information about AppEngine internals, and the tool looks fantastic. However, I did feel a bit out of my depth.

Bart Demeulenaere’s “Pyradiso Rapid Software Development” was a call to arms, a request and discussion on how to create a rapid application development framework in Python that supports the multicore world out-of-the-box.

Engaging both my computer science and art historical sides, I then attended Richard Barrett-Small’s “The Trojan Snake”. Richard works for the Victoria & Albert Museum, and has been instrumental in introducing Python and Django as a way to clean-up and replace a mess of bespoke PHP, ASP.NET and Java. An interesting look at how an organisation faced issues with bespoke applications in a variety of technologies, and found Python to be a flexible and effective solution. It’s a shame more people didn’t attend.

I was an avid reader of Michele Simionato’s blog posts, covering his experiences with Scheme, so it was great to hear him speak at EuroPython with his talk entitled “Intro to Functional Programming”. Functional programming is receiving a surge of interest amongst programmers, thanks to the search for better ways to deal with concurrency, so it was good for someone to cover other reasons to start exploring FP.

“Tickery, Pyjamas & FluidDB” by Terry Jones was a run through of Tickery, a FluidDB application for analysing Twitter friend sets. Regular readers of this blog will know that I’ve been interested in FluidDB since attending an introductory talk by Nicholas Tollervey. Definitely worth a look.

Rounding out the end of the day were Andrew Godwin’s “Fun with Databases and Django” and Russel Winder’s “Pythonic Parallelism with CSP”. Andrew’s talk provided a general overview of some of the more advanced features of the Django ORM, including Django’s interaction with non-relational databases such as MongoDB and CouchDB. Meanwhile, Russel Winder is one of the key players in pushing Python support for concurrent and parallel programming. CSP has been around for over 30 years, and now Python programmers can begin to take advantage of the ideas thanks to projects like Python-CSP and PyCSP.


Wednesday kicked off with Nicholas Tollervey’s “Organise a Python Code Dojo!”. Nicholas shared his experiences running the London Code Dojo – the joys, the successes… and the things that didn’t quite go to plan.

“HotPy – A comparison” was Mark Shannon’s comparison between three different VMs for Python: PyPy, Unladen Swallow and his own HotPy project which runs on top of the GVMT.

Henrik Vendelbo gave two short talks in succession. The first was “Real Time Websites with Python” which gave a simple example of the Tornado web server, released as open source by FriendFeed. The second was “Custom Runtimes with PyPy”, a very interesting talk on using PyPy to provide an easy way to bundle up a custom Python application as a self-contained app.

qooxdoo is a full-featured JavaScript framework for developing Rich Internet Applications. It’s quite an impressive piece of work, not only because of the sheer size of the code base. Managing large code bases can be a headache, especially if you also need to process that source to produce more compact, optimised versions for delivery to specific browsers. In “Python for Javascript Apps”, Thomas Herchenröder explained how they use a set of Python tools to make dealing with the code a much more pleasant experience.

“A Python’s DNA” by Erik Groeneveld illustrated an issue I’ve hit myself: how to configure a complex component-based system in a simple, maintainable way. The answer Erik came up with for Meresco is not to use XML or similar to express configurations, but use Python instead to provide a rich, flexible, and elegant way to define dependencies, data flows and configurations.

It’s not often a talk begins by telling you that the subject of the talk is now officially dead, and a new project has taken over. Kay Schlühr’s “The Trails of EasyExtend” quickly changed to “The Trails of LangScape”. LangScape evolved from a toolkit for writing language extensions to Python, but takes a much broader view with the aim of allowing easy ways to extend many different languages.


The morning began with “Building a python web app”. Anthony Theocharis and Nathan Wright took us through their journey to find the right Python web framework to implement MediaCore. They discussed Django, TurboGears and Pylons, illustrating their experiences with each and why they settled on Pylons. The different approaches to database access and templating languages were also examined in brief, followed by how they open sourced the project. An entertaining and interesting talk, refreshing by the fact they apparently came from a non-Python background so lacked any preconceptions.

Next up, Denis Bilenko introduced gevent in his talk “gevent network library”. gevent is a network library for handling large numbers of connections efficiently and, more importantly, elegantly. Optional, seamless monkey patching of standard library modules makes it very easy to work with existing code and libraries. I also discovered Gunicorn a Python implementation of Ruby’s Unicorn webserver.

Finally, my selection of conference talks closed with “Arduino and Python” by Michael Sparks. The talk should probably have been renamed “How not to blow up your computer” as Michael crammed in a quick intro to electricity and electronics into a few slides to dispel concerns about inexpensive pieces of electronics destroying your computer. The talk was illustrated by his prototype of a rather interesting TV remote control developed at a BBC R&D workshop, built with an Arduino… and Python of course.


Big thanks to Brett Cannon and Richard Jones for putting up with me all day while I got to grips with downloading, building, testing and patching Python 3.2. It was a really enjoyable day, and very satisfying to have a patch committed to the Python source code – no matter how small.


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