Dutch python user group meetingΒΆ

We had a meeting 2005-08-04 with 13 people in a restaurant's room in The Hague. Just a meeting of python-loving people with two talks and a bit of socializing.

There were two talks, one showing the great things about using python inside a high-tech measurement devices making firm; the other a demo of the debugging capabilities of WingIDE.

Rob Hooft, Bruker AXS, Delft

He started with Python in 1997 when asked to start a Java program. The company makes Roentgen-based material analysis equipment. The most advanced method is measuring the location of individual atoms. In short: expensive high tech stuff. Crystallography.

Talking about high tech... He had the most irritant bright green laser pointer I ever saw :-)

In their machines there's an ever increasing amount of software. Software is extremely sensitive to market pressure and competition. Their software is splitted in two layers: the server layer that handles everything concerning the machine; the client handles everything concerning the experiment.

Rob started the scientific client side in 1997 with python and object oriented programming. As a one-man project. Currently they're working on it with 5 programmers.

He showed the list of python libraries they ware using: an impressive list, showing (imho) one of python's strengths, namely that it comes "with batteries included", with lots of additional libraries. They're using openssl plus pycrypto to protect their code a bit against copying and against too much reverse engineering, btw.

Now they're working with five programmers, but originally it was him at the firm Nonius against four guys at competitor Bruker AXS, who subsequently bought them. They were programming in c++ and he was, as lone python programmer, quite capable of keeping up with those four. Now they work together. In python (at least, most of them; some stuff still needs to be c++). That is a challenge to their competitors.

Debugging is easier and great standard types are available that save time. And you don't need to spend time on memory allocation and so. And you can read each other's code. And your own code a few months later.

Nice: customers that have a problem can be given just a small python file to make them happy again. Fixes can be made in very short order with python.

Their greatest challenge is now to find a good client/server protocol. It is not something you'd expect to be such a great deal, with the amount of protocols available. But it is - for their case - surprisingly hard. One looks promising, but the python and C implementations of the standard can't talk to each other. Bugger.

Martijn Pieters, Pareto, Zoetermeer

He gave an improvised demo of remote debugging of zope by using WingIDE . You can even have the server run somewhere else, provided you have the relevant source code local.

Nice demo, but nothing that's handy to write down. The python debugger is, as always, great. It is well-integrated in wingIDE.

Joel Burton said at EuroPython that it's the best 40 dollar you can ever spend on an editor. According to Martijn the two programmers working on it are very responsive to user feedback and suggestions, which sets them apart from the competition. That and the way-better python debugger integration.

Note to self: time to look at it. I'm deep, deep into emacs, though :-)

Loose stuff

I asked around for the stichting zope en plone Nederland, the "Dutch zope and plone foundation", as I stumbled upon their website last week (quite empty). Never ever heard of that. The answer was that it was started by Amaze and Pareto to get a neutral plone-foundation-like foundation going in the Netherlands. The pushers behind it are on holiday now, so it's a bit quiet. They haven't yet thought out completely what the goal is.

Martijn Pieters mentioned his very-early-stage chronolog web-based time logging application. Very early stage if Martijn is to be believed :-) I pointed at an eXtreme Programming management and time logging application Ahmad Hadi makes at Zest software (where I also work). A first good version will be ready in september, when Jean Paul Ladage will present it at the plone conference .

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About me

My name is Reinout van Rees and I work a lot with Python (programming language) and Django (website framework). I live in The Netherlands and I'm happily married to Annie van Rees-Kooiman.

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