Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Python under XCode?!? Cool. Sort of.

Dan Bader (@dbader_org)
"Running Python in Xcode: Step by Step" ericasadun.com/2016/12/04/run…

Thanks for the link. There's a fair amount of "this doesn't seem to be what Xcode was designed to do." But it does seem to work.

I'll stick with Komodo Edit.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Needless Complexity -- Creating Havoc Leads to Mistakes

I received the worst code example ever. The. Worst.

Here's the email.
I have hurriedly created a blog post titled [omitted] at the url below
[also omitted]
Unfortunately, I am neither an algorithm expert or a Python expert. However, I am willing to jump in. 
Please review the Python code snippets. I know that they work because I ran them using Python 2.7.6. It was the environment available on my work PC. Speed to get something to the group so that it does not disband outweighs spending time on environments. The goal is not to be Pythonic but to have anyone that has written any code follow the logic.
Also, please review the logic. Somehow, I managed to get the wrong answer. The entire blog post is a build to provide a solution to CLRS exercise 2.3-7. My analysis gave me the answer of O( {n [log n]}**2 ) and the CLRS answer is O(n [log n] ). Where did I screw up my logic?

The referenced blog post is shocking. The "neither an algorithm expert or a Python expert" is an understatement. The "willing to jump in" is perhaps a bad thing. I sent several comments. They were all ignored. I asked for changes a second time. That was also ignored. Eventually, changes were made reluctantly and only after a distressing amount of back-and-forth.

Havoc was created through a process of casually misstating just about everything that can possibly be  misstated. It transcended mere "wrong" and enters that space where the whole thing can't even be falsified. It was beyond simply wrong.

My point here is (partially) to heap ridicule on the author. More importantly, want to isolate a number of issues to show how simple things can become needlessly complex and create havoc.

The Problem

The definition of the problem 2.3-7 seems so straightforward.
"Describe a $\Theta(n \log n)$-time algorithm that, given a set $S$ of $n$ integers and another integer $x$, determines whether or not there exist two elements in $S$ whose sum is exactly $x$."
This brings us to problem #1. The blog post is unable to actually repeat the problem. Here's the quote:
x + y = x0
x ∈ N and y ∈ N for some finite set of integer values N
x0: the integer to which x and y sum
x != y
It's not at all clear what's going on here. What's x0? What's N? Why is x!=y even introduced?

This is how havoc starts. The requirements have been restated in a way that makes them more confusing. The original terminology was dropped in favor of random new terminology. There's no reason for restating the problem. The consequence of the bad restatement is to introduce needless features and create confusion.

The Python Nonsense

A quote:
Concepts are demonstrated via code snippets. They code snippets were executed using Python 2.7.6. They were written in such a way that anyone with basic coding skills could read the code. In other words, the goal was not to be Pythonic.
Python 2.7.6 has been obsolete since May of 2014. At the very least, use a current release.

The goal of using Python without being Pythonic seems to be -- well -- schizophrenic. Or it's intentional troll-bait. Hard to say. 

Another paragraph says this.
The Python community will be annoyed because I am using Python 2 and not 3. Their annoyance is appropriate. Unfortunately, I only have Windows machines and can't afford to screw them up at this point in time.
What? That makes no sense at all. It's trivial to install Python 3.6 side-by-side with Python 2. Everyone should. Right now. I'll wait. See https://conda.io/docs/. Start here: https://conda.io/miniconda.html.

If you're going to insist on using the quirky and slow Python 2, you absolutely must use this in all of your code:

from __future__ import print_function, division, absolute_import, unicode_literals

Python 2 code without this is wrong. If you're still using Python 2, add this to all your code, right now. Please. You'll have to fix stuff that breaks; but we'll all thank you for it. pylint --py3k will help you locate and fix this.

The code with a -2/10 pylint score

I'm trying to reproduce this faithfully. It's hard, because the original blog post has issues with layout.

SomeIntegerList = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
DesiredSumOfIntegers = 11
for SomeIntegerA in SomeIntegerList:
 for SomeIntegerB in SomeIntegerList:
  if SomeIntegerA == SomeIntegerB: continue
        SumOfIntegers = SomeIntegerA + SomeIntegerB
        print "SomeInteger A = ", SomeIntegerA, ", SomeInteger B = ", SomeIntegerB, ", Sum of Integers = ", SumOfIntegers
  if DesiredSumOfIntegers == SumOfIntegers:
      print "DesiredSumOfIntegers = ", DesiredSumOfIntegers, " was found"

(The original really could not be copied and pasted to create code that could even be parsed. I may have accidentally fixed that. I hope not.)

Almost every line of code has a problem. It gets worse, of course.

There's output in the original blog post that provides a hint as to what's supposed to be happening here.

Addition is Commutative

Yes. There is an entire paragraph plus a spreadsheet which proves that addition is commutative. An. Entire. Paragraph. Plus. A. Spreadsheet.

Meanwhile, factorial, multiplication, and division aren't mentioned. Why do we need a spreadsheet to show that addition is commutative, yet, all other operators are ignored? No clue. Moving on.


A quote:
Now, let's talk about the number of computations involved in using nested for loops to examine all the possible addition permutations. Here I am using the term permutation as it is strictly defined in mathematics.
First. The algorithm uses all combinations. $\textbf{O}(n^2)$.

Second. "as it is strictly defined in mathematics" should go without saying. If you feel the need to say this, it calls the entire blog post into question.

It's like "honestly." Anyone who has to establish their honesty with "can I be honest with you?" is still lying.

If we're being strict here, are we not being strict elsewhere? If we're not being strict, why not?

The algorithm enumerates all combinations of n things taken 2 at a time without replacement. For reasons that aren't clear. The original problem statement permits replacement. The restatement of the problem doesn't permit replacement.

The n things taken r or 2 at a time problem

There's a table with values for $\frac{n!}{(n-r)!}$

No hint is given as to what this table is or why it's here.  I think it's supposed to be because of this:

$\frac{n!}{r!(n-r)!} \text{ with } r=2 \equiv \frac{n!}{2(n-2)!} \equiv \frac{n\times(n-1)}{2}$

It's hard to say why commutativity of addition gets a paragraph, but this gets no explanation at all. To me, it shows a disregard for the reader: the reader doesn't understand addition, but they totally get factorial.

Another Perspective

A quote
Another perspective is to note that the nested for loops result in O(n^2). Clearly, the above approach is not scalable.
That's not "another perspective." That's. The. Point. The entire point of the exercise is that the brute force algorithm isn't optimal.

The Worst Code Snippet Ever

This is truly and deeply shocking.

SomeIntegerList = [1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6]
DesiredSumOfIntegers = 11
i = 0
for SomeIntegerA in SomeIntegerList:
    i = i + 1
    j = 0
 for SomeIntegerB in SomeIntegerList:
        j = j + 1
        if j > i:
            print "i = ", i, ", j = ", j
            SumOfIntegers = SomeIntegerA + SomeIntegerB
            print "SomeInteger A = ", SomeIntegerA, ", SomeInteger B = ", SomeIntegerB, ", Sum of Integers = ", SumOfIntegers
      if DesiredSumOfIntegers == SumOfIntegers:
          print "DesiredSumOfIntegers = ", DesiredSumOfIntegers, " was found"

This is what drove me over the edge. This is unconscionably evil programming. It transcends mere "non-Pythonic" and reaches a realm of hellish havoc that can barely be understood as rational. Seriously. This is evil incarnate.

This is the most baffling complex version of a half-matrix iteration that I think I've ever seen. I can only guess that this is written by someone uncomfortable with thinking. They copied and pasted a block of assembler code changing the syntax to Python. I can't discern any way to arrive at this code.

The Big-O Problem

This quote:
Even though the number of computations is cut in half
The rules for Big-O are in the cited CLRS book.  $\textbf{O}(\frac{n^2}{2}) = \textbf{O}(n^2)$.

The "cut in half" doesn't count when describing the overall worst-case complexity. It needs to be emphasized that "cut in half" doesn't matter. Over and over again.

This code doesn't solve the problem. It doesn't advance toward solving the problem. And it's unreadable. Maybe it's a counter-example? An elaborate "don't do this"?

The idea of for i in range(len(S)): for j in range(i): ... seems to be an inescapable approach to processing the upper half of a matrix, and it seems to be obviously $\textbf{O}(n^2)$.

The Binary Search

This quote is perhaps the only thing in the entire blog post that's not utterly wrong.
we can compute the integer value that we need to find. We can than do a search over an ordered list for the integer that we need to find.
Finally. Something sensible. Followed by more really bad code.

The code starts with this

def binarySearch(alist, item):

instead of this

from bisect import bisect

Why does anyone try to write code when Python already provides it?

There's more code, but it's just badly formatted and has a net pylint score that's below zero. We've seen enough.

There's some further analysis that doesn't make any sense at all:
Since the integers that sum must be distinct, the diagnol on the matrix have values of N/A
And this:
Secondly, we should remove the integer that we are on from the binary search
This is a consequence of the initial confusion that decided that $x \neq y$ was somehow part of the problem. When it wasn't. These two sentences indicate a level of profound confusion about the essential requirements. Which leads to havoc.

Added Complication

The whole story is pretty badly confused. Then this arrives.
Complicate Problem by Having Integer List Not Sorted
It's not clear what this is or why it's here. But there it is. 

It leads eventually to this, which also happens to be true. 
The total computation complexity is O(2 * n [log n] ) = O(n [log n] )
That's not bad. However. The email that asked for help claimed O( {n [log n]}**2 ). I have no idea what the email is talking about. Nor could I find out what any of this meant. 

The Kicker

The kicker is some code that solves the problem in $\textbf{O}(n)$ time. Without using a set, which is interesting.

This was not part of the CLRS exercise 2.3-7. I suppose it's just there to point out something about something. Maybe it's a "other people are smarter than CLRS"? Or maybe it's a "just google for the right answer without too much thinking"? Hard to say.

A sentence or two of introduction might be all that's required to see why the other result is there.

Lessons Learned

Some people like to add complexity to the problem. The $x \neq y$ business is fabricated from thin air. It adds to the code complexity, but is clearly not part of the problem space.

This creates havoc. Simple havoc.

Some people appear to act like they're asking for help. But they're not. They may only want affirmation. A nice pat on the head. "Yes, you've written a blog post." Actual criticism isn't expected or desired. This is easy to detect by the volume and vehemence of the replies.

Given a list of numbers, S, and a target, x, determine of two values exist in the set that sum to x.

>>> S = [1,2,3,4,5,6]
>>> x=11
>>> [(n, x-n) for n in S if (x-n) in S]
[(5, 6), (6, 5)]
>>> bool([(n, x-n) for n in S if (x-n) in S])

This follows directly from the analysis. It doesn't add anything new or different. It just uses Python code rather than indented assembler.

This first example is $\textbf{O}(n^2)$ because the in operator is applied to a list. We can, however, use bisect() instead of the in operator.

>>> [(n, x-n) for n in S if S[bisect(S, (x-n))-1] == x-n]
[(5, 6), (6, 5)]
>>> x=13
>>> [(n, x-n) for n in S if S[bisect(S, (x-n))-1] == x-n]

This achieves the goal -- following the parts of the analysis that aren't riddled with errors -- without so much nonsensical code.

This does require some explanation for what bisect(S, i) does. It's important to note that the bisect() function returns the position at which we should insert a new value to maintain order. It doesn't return the location of a found item. Indeed, if the item isn't found, it will still return a position into which a new item should be inserted.

If we want this to be $\textbf{O}(n)$, we can use this:

>>> S = [1,2,3,4,5,6]
>>> S_set = set(S)
>>> x=11
>>> bool([(n, x-n) for n in S_set if (x-n) in S_set])

This replaces the linear list with a set, S_set. The (x-n) in S_set operation is $\textbf{O}(1)$, leading to the overall operation being $\textbf{O}(n)$.

If you want to shave a little time, you can use any() instead of bool([]). If you're not returning the pairs, you can reduce it to any(x-n in S_set for n in S_set). Try it with timeit to see what the impact is. It's surprisingly small.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Fizz Buzz Overthought, Project Euler #1, and Unit Tests

This. http://www.tomdalling.com/blog/software-design/fizzbuzz-in-too-much-detail/

And many other thoughts on overthinking fizz buzz. I'm going to overthink it, also. Why not?

This is a problem where the obvious unit test may not cover the cases properly. See https://projecteuler.net/problem=1 for a unit test case with a subtle misdirection built in. I love this problem statement deeply because the happy path is incomplete.

Part of my overthinking is overthinking this as a "classification" exercise, where we have simple classifiers that we can apply as functions of an input value. A higher-level function (i.e., map or a generator expression) applies all of these functions to the input. Some match. Some don't.

It shakes out like this.

The core classifier is a function that requires flexible parameter binding.

query = lambda n, t: lambda x: t if x%n == 0 else None

This is a two-step function definition. The outer function binds in two parameters, n, and t. The result of this binding is the inner function. If an argument value is a multiplier of n, return the text, t. We can think of the result of the outer lambda as a partial function, also, with some parameters defined, but not all.

We have two concrete results of this query() function:

fizz = query(3, 'fizz') 
buzz = query(5, 'buzz')

We've bound in a number and some text. Here's how the resulting functions work.

>>> fizz(3) 
>>> fizz(2)

The "trick" in the fizz buzz problem space is recognizing that we're working with the power set of these two rules. There are actually four separate conditions. This is remarkably easy to get wrong even though the sample code may pass a unit test like the Project Euler #1 sample data.

Here's the power set that contains the complete set of all subsets of the rules.

rule_groups = set(powerset([fizz, buzz]))

"Um," you say, "Is that necessary? And powerset() isn't built-in."

Try to add a third or fourth rule and the $\textbf{O}(2^n)$ growth in complexity of checking all combinations of the rules will become readily apparent. For two rules, $4 = \lvert\mathcal{P}(\{q(3), q(5)\})\rvert$. For a general set of rules, $r$, it's $2^{\lvert r \rvert} = \lvert \mathcal{P}(r)\rvert$. Four rules? sixteen outcomes. It sure seems like the power set is absolutely necessary; it describes the domain of possible outcomes. How could it not be necessary?

Also. There's a nice definition of powerset in the itertools recipes section of the standard library. It's *almost* built-in. 

The domain of possible responses form a power set. However, it's also clear that we aren't obligated to actually enumerate that set for each value we're testing. We do need to be aware that the complexity of the classification output is $\textbf{O}(2^n)$ where $n$ is the number of rules.

The processing to build each set of classifications, however, is $\textbf{O}(n)$. Here's how it looks.

for n in range(20):
    m = set(filter(None, (r(n) for r in [fizz, buzz])))
    print(m if m else n)

This locates the set of all matches, m. We apply the rules, fizz() and buzz(), to the given value. The result of applying the rules is filtered to remove falsy values. The resulting set, m, has the values from all rules which matched. This will be one of the sets from the power set of applying the rules to each value. The match, $m$, is an element of $\mathcal{P} (\{q(3), q(5)\})$.

I'm delighted that Python has some support for creating partial functions in a variety of ways. When things are complex, we can use the def statement. We can use functools partial(). When things are simple, we can even use lambdas.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Functional Python, Literate Programming & Trello Board Analysis

The general advice to people using Kanban/Agile Project boards of various kinds is this:

Stop Starting -- Start Finishing


There's a lot of this advice. Some of it is helpful.

Many tools have various dashboards and metrics computations.


The basic velocity calculations -- starts v. finishes -- is pretty straight-forward. The rules to classify a Trello action as "start" or "finish" are actually nice examples of simple functions or lambdas. Which also means that the basic pipeline required to gather the data can be written as a lazy, functional process.

Which leads to writing a Literate Programming version of a small program that gathers data from a Trello board.


It's a kind of deep-dive into some aspects of Python functional-style programming. It's also a dive into Literate Programming via a longish example. And it has a fair number of type hints. It's not perfectly clean from MyPy-'s analysis. So there's some more to do on that front.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Modules vs. Monoliths vs. Microservices:

Dan Bader (@dbader_org)
Worth a read: "Modules vs. Microservices" (and how to find a middle ground) oreilly.com/ideas/modules-…

"don't trick yourself into a microservices-only mindset"

Thanks for sharing.

The referenced post gives you the freedom to have a "big-ish" microservice. My current example has four very closely-related resources. There's agony in decomposing these into separate services. So we have several distinct Python modules bound into a single Flask container.

Yes. We lack the advertised static type checking for module boundaries. The kind of static type checking that doesn't actually solve any actual problems, since the issues are always semantic and can only be found with unit tests and integration tests and Gherkin-based acceptance testing (see Python BDD: https://pypi.python.org/pypi/pytest-bdd and https://pypi.python.org/pypi/behave/1.2.5).

We walk a fine line. How tightly coupled are these resources? Can they actually be used in isolation? What do the possible future changes look like? Where is the swagger.json going to change?

It's helpful to have both options on the table.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

AWS "Serverless" Architecture Update -- Python 3.6 News

This: https://aws.amazon.com/about-aws/whats-new/2017/04/aws-lambda-supports-python-3-6/

You can now use Python 3.6 Lambdas. This changes things dramatically. We can now write faster, simpler, less quirky code using the latest-and-greatest Python.

If you want to configure a server in the cloud, consider this: https://wiki.ubuntu.com/Python. Use Ubuntu as the base image. Faster. Cleaner. Less Quirky.

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Coding and "Inspiration"

Data Science Renee (@BecomingDataSci)
Thread. Coding is inherently frustrating. Expect that. But with puzzle-solving healthy attitude, keep going. Don't give up on yourself! twitter.com/IsabellaGhemen…

This thread includes some interesting topics. What hit me was the idea of "inspiration-driven coding."
"Do you ever get frustrated when coding? Or is it all inspirational?" 
"go into obsessive mode until I fix the problem"
This is fascinating. I've been coding for -- well -- a looooong time. I no longer recall a time when I struggled. These quotes provide some insight into the barrier that some people find between them and a finished project.

I think that "hard-part-do-later" is bad advice. I'm a big fan of tackling the hard part first.

I find that I have to do several things to get software to work. And I do these so often that I rarely think about doing them, so I might be misstating what I'm really doing. But I think this is right:

  • Understand the problem. It helps to understand the problem being solved. It's not essential to understand all of the problem. In a lot of cases, the problem is a larger-scale "business" issue which stems from a regulatory or competitive climate that has a very huge context including human aspirations and the very nature of what it means to be human. In these cases, narrowing the focus of the problem helps. Stating the problem clearly really helps. Clarifying the context can help; but it may involve erecting random-seeming boundaries to keep the problem from involving too many imponderables.
  • Understand the solution. This is easy to turn into glib useless advice. But I think that one thing that really helps is to really carefully detail what "success" means. For small things (like functions or classes) it should be a dry, formal assertion about the state of the variables. Without a mathematical formalism, it's easy to get confused and write a function that doesn't do the right thing. For larger-scale features, the solutions pieces need pretty complete, formal descriptions of how we know that they worked. File formats. Messages. Swagger specifications for an API. 
  • Understand the technology. This can be hard. For simple programming, the technology is the set of language constructs. For more sophisticated programming, the technologies are the libraries and packages available. When it comes to big data, these can be very large and complex packages (like pandas and numpy) with lots and lots of features. It's very easy to overlook features when searching through documentation. For integration of components, it's an understanding of what the various tools really do. (Example: I'm trying to get a grip on Docker, and there are a lot of commands that do a lot of things, and I have to be careful to understand the difference between "run" and "start".)
But how? How do we "understand" these things?

I'm a big fan of writing down everything. I really like the idea of "literate programming:" write down the problem. Write down the overview of the solution. Write down the technologies that will be used. Detail the coding assertions and outcomes. Detail the components being used. Write. Write. Write.

The first drafts will be all natural language. Summaries. Overviews. Hand-wringing over alternatives and tradeoffs and possibilities. That's okay. Writing helps. Write. Write. Write. 

Describe how simple it "should" be. Describe how the inputs get transmogrified to the outputs. Fantasize. 

Then elaborate on the details of "how" this will get done. Confirm the fantasy statements of how the various bits and pieces fit together. Revise. Revise. Revise.

At some point, parts will start to map to code in obvious ways. and there will be a break from natural language to more formal code. This may happen gradually. Or it may happen all at once.

One of the best pieces of coding advice was something I saw many years go.

"Write all the comments first." 

The example that followed showed a "wire frame" program that had some declarations, but was mostly blocks of comments describing -- in vague, general ways -- what would go here eventually. I like this approach because it allows space to think at a high level about how things fit together as well as space to think about details of how each individual little thing works.

There's a kind of progressive filling-in-the-blanks as code evolves into the frame.

Then A Miracle Occurs

Perhaps most important is this. Starting with wire-frame comments and natural language narratives can lead to identification of gaps in understanding the problem, the solution, or the technology. I think that these conceptual gaps are where the frustration grows.

This is why I think that the big problem is caused by "hard-part-do-later" thinking. It can turn out that the "hard part" required a miracle. 

There's a famous S. Harris cartoon (visit http://www.sciencecartoonsplus.com/pages/gallery.php) which has the "then a miracle occurs" step in the middle of a process. 

A wire frame for code is a low-cost, low-investment, low-emotional-content product. As code fills in, it may become clear that the wire frame wasn't right. It's easier to discard a hundred lines of comments once we realize that they're not quite right. There's less emotional investment. It's easy to throw it away and start again.

Indeed, we may have to go through a few wireframes to be really clear on where we think the miracle will occur. This gives us a chance to identify the hard part of the problem. 

Once we've got the hard part identified, we can tackle that. It may involve one of three kinds of deeper understanding:
  • Understanding the problem better,
  • Understanding the solution in more detail, or
  • Understanding the technology more completely.
Any combination of these may be the reason why some part is hard. We'll have to fix our understanding before we can finish. We may as well tackle it first, since we're going to have to do it anyway.

It's best to look for alternatives before we've written too much code. There's an emotional commitment to code, even if it doesn't work right. It's hard to throw code away. Therefore, stall as long as possible. Solve the hard parts. Commit to code last.  

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Linked-in Learning: Migrating from Python 2.7 to Python 3

Migrating from Python 2.7 to Python 3
with: Steven Lott

...is now available on LinkedIn Learning:

and on Lynda.com:

Course Description:
Are you still using Python 2.7? If you've been meaning to make the jump to Python 3, but aren't entirely sure what's different in the latest version of this popular language—or how to migrate your code—then this course is for you. Instructor Steven Lott illuminates the differences between the two Python versions, going over elements such as changes to built-in Python functions and the Python standard library. He also walks through a number of ways to convert your Python 2.7 applications to Python 3, showing how to use packages like six, future, and 2to3. Along the way, Steven shares his own experiences with this transition, and offers helpful suggestions for enhancing the overall quality and performance of your code.

Topics Include:
Reviewing the differences between the two versions
Reviewing the syntax changes introduced with Python 3
Understanding the changes to built-in functions
Reviewing the most important changes to the Python standard library
Understanding which tools are required to migrate from Python 2.7 to Python 3
Using six to handle class definitions
Using six with standard library changes
Using future
Making syntax changes and class changes with futurize
Using 2to3 or modernize

2h 40m

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Simple CSV Transformations

Here's an interesting question:

I came across your blog post "Introduction to using Python to process CSV files" as I'm looking to do something I'd think is easy in Python but I don't know how to do it. 

I simply want to examine a column then create a new column based on an if-then on the original column. So if my CSV has a "gender" field I'd like to do the Python equivalent of this SQL statement: 

case when gender = 'M' then 1 else 0 end as gender_m, case when gender = 'F' then 1 else 0 end as gender_f,...

I can do it in Pandas but my CSVs are too big and I run into memory issues. 

There are a number of ways to tackle this.

First -- and foremost -- this is almost always just one step in a much longer and more complex set of operations. It's a little misleading to read-and-write a CSV file to do this.

A little misleading.

It's not wrong to write a file with expanded data. But the "incrementally write new files" process can become rather complex. If we have a large number of transformations, we can wind up with many individual file-expansion steps. These things often grow organically and can get out of control. A complex set of steps should probably be collapsed into a single program that handles all of the expansions at once.

This kind of file-expansion is simple and fast. It can open a door previously closed by the in-memory problem  of trying to do the entire thing in pandas.

The general outline looks like this

from pathlib import Path
import csv
source_path = Path("some_file.csv")
target_path = Path(source_path.stem + "_1").with_suffix('.csv')

def transform(row):
    return row

with source_path.open() as source_file:
    with target_path.open('w', newline='') as target_file:
        reader = csv.DictReader(source_file)
        columns =  reader.fieldnames + ['gender_m', 'gender_f']
        writer = csv.DictWriter(target_file, columns)
        for row in reader:
            new_row = transform(row)

The goal is to be able put some meaningful transformation processing in place of the build new_row comment.

The overall approach is this.

1. Create Path objects to refer to the relevant files.

2. Use with-statement context managers to handle the open files. This assures that the files are always properly closed no matter what kinds of exceptions are raised.

3. Create a dictionary-based reader for the input.  Add the additional columns and create a dictionary-based writer for the output. This allows the processing to work with each row of data as a dictionary.
This presumes that the data file actually has a single row of heading information with column names.

If column names are missing, then a fieldnames attribute can be provided when creating the DictReader(), like this: csv.DictReader(source_file, ['field', 'field', ...]).

The for statement works because a csv Reader is an iterator over each row of data.

I've omitted any definition of the transformational function. Right now, it just returns each row unmodified. We'd really like it to do some useful work.

Building The New Row

The transformation function needs to build a new row from an existing row.

Each row will be a Python dictionary. A dictionary is a mutable object. We aren't really building a completely new object -- that's a waste of memory. We'll modify the row object, and return it anyway. It will involve a microscopic redundancy of creating two references to the same dictionary object, one known by the variable name row and the other know by new_row.

Here's an example body for transform()

def transform(row):
    row['gender_m'] = 1 if row['gender'] == 'M' else 0
    row['gender_f'] = 1 if row['gender'] == 'F' else 0
    return row

This will build two new keys in the row dictionary. The exact two keys added to the fieldnames to write a new file.

Each key be associated with a value computed by a simple expression. In this case, the logical if-else operator is used to map a boolean value, row['gender'] == 'M', to one of two integer values, 1 or 0.

If this is confusing -- and it can be -- this can also be done with if statements instead of expressions.

def transform(row):
    if row['gender'] == 'M':
        row['gender_m'] = 1
        row['gender_m'] = 0
    row['gender_f'] = 1 if row['gender'] == 'F' else 0
    return row

I only rewrite the 'M' case. I'll leave the rewrite of the 'F' case to the reader.

Faster Processing with a Generator

We can simplify the body of the script slightly. This will make it work a hair faster. The following statements involve a little bit of needless overhead.

        for row in reader:
            new_row = transform(row)

We can change this as follows:

        writer.writerows(transform(row) for row in reader)

This uses a generator expression, transform(row) for row in reader, to build individually transformed rows from a source of data. This doesn't involve executing two statements for each row of data. Therefore, it's faster.

We can also reframe it like this.

        writer.writerows(map(transform, reader))

In this example, we've replaced the generator expression with the map() function. This applies the transform() function to each row available in the reader.

In both cases, the writer.writerows() consumes the data produced by the generator expression or the map() function to create the output file.

The idea is that we can make the transform() function as complex as we need. We just have to be sure that all the new field names are handled properly when creating the writer object.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Strange "I Hate Python" Concerns. Mostly nonsensical.

From a troll-bait thread asking the argumentative question "why do people use Python"? The answers were, oddly, a long list of strange, nonsensical complaints. And a few logical fallacies. Here are all the ones I could parse:
  1. "It's the FORTRAN of our times."
  2. It's the COBOL of our times.
  3. "deep seated aversion to languages where whitespace has fundamental syntactic significance". 
  4. "And also where the simplest "Hello world!" program is busted between v2 and v3 (true story)"
  5. "My stomach turns in a knot at the introduction of EVERY trendy language"
  6. "I am almost always focused on productization qualities such as maintainability, performance, and any number of other "-ilities"."
  7. Nobody [cares] about Your language unless You can produce executable
  8. "It's ghastly. The Python Tools for Visual Studio eases the pain with a full symbolic/visual debugger but still..."
  9. "the socialist theme of universities leads to preference for open source and "free" over professionally developed and maintained tools... Meanwhile I really like JavaScript as a free wheeling scripting language."
  10. "Python ... is an inferior language. I can trust a well-engineered JavaScript system."
  11. "it's worse than fortran because it has a dedicated following"
  12. "my indictment is maintainability once productized. I always have a fear of building legacy packages that, once a mountain is built and is difficult to move, that people of the future will curse my name"
  13. "rationally, the continuing investment in the Node/TypeScript infrastructure places JavaScript in an entirely different infrastructure realm than Python"
  14. "Python doesn't have its equivalent of Node.js"
  15. "as a LANGUAGE JavaScript has great infrastructure across device types, OS brands, and across every level of scale now imaginable"
  16. Four separate reasoning-by-analogy: Lisp, FoxPro, PHP, and Perl. (e.g., "Amazon did amazing things with perl.") Somehow a failure involving these languages (or ecosystems or whatever) indicts Python because they're all "trendy" (I think.)
Yes. There were others that made less sense. I've omitted them.

TL;DR: These people don't seem to know what they're talking about. The posts are universally fact-free, so we're just listening to folks rambling randomly about Python.

Some responses. Feel free to use these when someone asks you why you're still using Python.
  1. That makes no sense
  2. That makes no sense
  3. The languages which are totally free of whitespace appear to be C and maybe C++. This principle rules out JavaScript, since the ASI rules involve wrangling ";" in place of the evil whitespace.
  4. This is a weird complaint. Stuff changed. How is that a problem? Are you saying change is a problem? What's this then? https://kangax.github.io/compat-table/es5/ 
  5. Trendy is a problem? Really?
  6. Who isn't focused on quality attributes?
  7. http://docs.python-guide.org/en/latest/shipping/freezing/
  8. What does "ghastly" mean?
  9. What's a "socialist theme"? How is JavaScript "free-wheeling"? What does that even mean?
  10. What is "inferior" being measured? Alphabetically? (Python comes after Javascript, so it's in an inferior position alphabetically?)
  11. How is a dedicated following a problem?
  12. http://pypl.github.io/PYPL.html Python is second to Java.
  13. "continuing investment"? By whom? And how does this "investment" compare with Python?
  14. What's wrong with twisted, tornado, Gunicorn, and Nginx? Don't they count?
  15. Python is available more-or-less everywhere. Without a specific coverage gap, this makes no sense.
  16. Also known as the False Equivalence fallacy. Without details of the failure mode, equivalence with Python isn't established.
Omitted is a random discussion on how Ruby is "rigorously defined". The implication seems to be that Python somehow might not be rigorously defined or something. It's not clear what the sub-thread was about, so I ignored it.

This thread seemed to involve two kinds of complaints:
  • Utter nonsense.
  • Lies that are pretty east to refute.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Chain of Command Example

One objective of the Chain of Command design pattern is to be able to write a bunch of functions that link together. The form a chain of alternative implementations. The idea is the have alternatives that vary in their ability to compute a correct answer. If algorithm 1 doesn’t work, try algorithm 2. If that doesn’t work, fall back to algorithm 3, etc.

Perhaps algorithm 1 has a number of constrains: it's fast, but only for a limited kind of input. Algorithm 2 may have a different set of constraints. And Algorithm 3 involves the "British Museum" algorithm.

Algorithm zero, at the head of the chain, can be a dynamic cache, perhaps with LRU features. Maybe it can be shared among servers. There are lots of choices here. The idea is that a cache is often first because it's so fast.

We can, of course, write a giant master function with other functions. Maybe they're all linked with a lot of clever if-statements. We know how that turns out, don't we?

Instead, we can make each function a distinct object. The alternative algorithm functions have a relationship with other functions, so a simple non-stateful class definition is appropriate. The cache alternative may involve state changes, so it’s a little different than the others.

We'll imagine a simple doTheThing() function with a few arguments that returns a value. We have several alternatives. The goal to be able to wrap each doTheThing() function in a very small class like this:

class AlgorithmOne(DoAThing):
    """One way to do it."""
    def doTheThing(self, arg1, arg2):
        # Check some constraints, maybe...
        if arg1 < arg2:
            return Fraction(arg1, arg2)
            raise DoAThingError("Outside AlgorithmOne Constraints")

Either this algorithm produces a good answer, or it raises an exception that it can’t really do the thing. Any other exceptions are ordinary bad code crashing at run time.

The core feature of the abstract superclass is the all-important try:/except: block that tries doTheThing(). If the DoAThingError exception is raised, it moves down the chain of command. If it succeeds, then, we're done.

This has a consequence of wrapping the doTheThing() implementation with a function named theThing(). The wrapper function, theThing(), contains the try:/except: block, a call to a concrete doTheThing() implementation, plus the fall-back processing.

The cache version doesn't really have a meaningful implementation of the theThing() function. Instead it always tries the fallback chain and caches the result.

A cool way to build the chain is omitted from this design. We're creating a linked list like this:

a2 = AlgorithmTwo()
a1 = AlgorithmOne(a2)
coc = UseCache(a1)

Some people object to the "backwardness" of this. In which case, they can write a simple constructor function which emits the chain of command by linking the things together in the proper order.

def builder(*classes):
    previous = None
    for class_ in classes:
        next = class_(previous)
        previous = next
    return previous

I'm not sure it's essential. But it's simple.

Here's the whole show.

"""Chain of command."""
from fractions import Fraction
import pickle

class DoAThingError(Exception):

class DoAThing:
    """Abstract superclass."""
    def __init__(self, fall_back=None):
        self.fall_back = fall_back

    def theThing(self, arg1, arg2):
            return self.doTheThing(arg1, arg2)
        except DoAThingError:
            if self.fall_back:
                return self.fall_back.theThing(arg1, arg2)

    def doTheThing(self, arg1, arg2):
        raise DoAThingError("Not Implemented")

class UseCache(DoAThing):
    """Is the answer in cache? Cache is dynamic and grows quickly.
    There's no LRU.
    def __init__(self, *args, **kw):
        super().__init__(*args, **kw)
        self.cache = {}

    def load(self, openFile):
        self.cache = pickle.load(openFile)

    def dump(self, openFile):
        pickle.dump(self.cache, openFile)

    def theThing(self, arg1, arg2):
        if (arg1, arg2) not in self.cache:
            self.cache[arg1, arg2] = self.fall_back.theThing(arg1, arg2)
        return self.cache[arg1, arg2]

class AlgorithmOne(DoAThing):
    """One way to do it."""
    def doTheThing(self, arg1, arg2):
        # Check some constraints, maybe...
        if arg1 < arg2:
            return Fraction(arg1, arg2)
            raise DoAThingError("Outside AlgorithmOne Constraints")

class AlgorithmTwo(DoAThing):
    """Another way to do it."""
    def doTheThing(self, arg1, arg2):
        return arg1/arg2

a2 = AlgorithmTwo()
a1 = AlgorithmOne(a2)
coc = UseCache(a1)


Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Intro to Python CSV Processing for Actual Beginners

I've written a lot about CSV processing. Here are some examples http://slott-softwarearchitect.blogspot.com/search/label/csv.

It crops up in my books. A lot.

In all cases, though, I make the implicit assumption that my readers already know a lot of Python. This is a disservice to anyone who's getting started.

Getting Started

You'll need Python 3.6. Nothing else will do if you're starting out.

Go to https://www.continuum.io/downloads and get Python 3.6. You can get the small "miniconda" version to start with. It has some of what you'll need to hack around with CSV files. The full Anaconda version contains a mountain of cool stuff, but it's a big download.

Once you have Python installed, what next? To be sure things are running do this:
  1. Find a command line prompt (terminal window, cmd.exe, whatever it's called on your OS.)
  2. Enter python3.6 (or just python in Windows.)
  3. If Anaconda installed everything properly, you'll have an interaction that looks like this:

MacBookPro-SLott:Python2v3 slott$ python3.5
Python 3.5.1 (v3.5.1:37a07cee5969, Dec  5 2015, 21:12:44) 
[GCC 4.2.1 (Apple Inc. build 5666) (dot 3)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.

More-or-less. (Yes, the example shows 3.5.1 even though I said you should get 3.6. As soon as the Lynda.com course drops, I'll upgrade. The differences between 3.5 and 3.6 are almost invisible.)

Here's your first interaction.

>>> 355/113

Yep. Python did math. Stuff is happening.

Here's some more.

>>> exit
Use exit() or Ctrl-D (i.e. EOF) to exit
>>> exit()

Okay. That was fun. But it's not data wrangling. When do we get to the good stuff?

To Script or Not To Script

We have two paths when it comes to scripting. You can write script files and run them. This is pretty normal application development stuff. It works well. 


You can use a Jupyter Notebook. This isn't exactly a script. But. You can use it like a script. It's a good place to start building some code that's useful. You can rerun some (or all) of the notebook to make it script-like.

If you downloaded Anaconda, you have Jupyter. Done. Skip over the next part on installing Jupyter.

Installing Jupyter

If you did not download the full Anaconda -- perhaps because you used the miniconda -- you'll need to add Jupyter.  You can use the command conda install jupyter for this.

Another choice is to use the PIP program to install jupyter. The net effect is the same. It starts like this

MacBookPro-SLott:Python2v3 slott$ pip3 install jupyter
Collecting jupyter
  Downloading jupyter-1.0.0-py2.py3-none-any.whl
Collecting ipykernel (from jupyter)
  Downloading ipykernel-4.5.2-py2.py3-none-any.whl (98kB)

    100% |████████████████████████████████| 102kB 1.3MB/s 

It ends like this.

  Downloading pyparsing-2.1.10-py2.py3-none-any.whl (56kB)
    100% |████████████████████████████████| 61kB 2.1MB/s 
Installing collected packages: ipython-genutils, decorator, traitlets, appnope, appdirs, pyparsing, packaging, setuptools, ptyprocess, pexpect, simplegeneric, wcwidth, prompt-toolkit, pickleshare, ipython, jupyter-core, pyzmq, jupyter-client, tornado, ipykernel, qtconsole, terminado, nbformat, entrypoints, mistune, pandocfilters, testpath, bleach, nbconvert, notebook, widgetsnbextension, ipywidgets, jupyter-console, jupyter
  Found existing installation: setuptools 18.2
    Uninstalling setuptools-18.2:
      Successfully uninstalled setuptools-18.2
  Running setup.py install for simplegeneric ... done
  Running setup.py install for tornado ... done
  Running setup.py install for terminado ... done
  Running setup.py install for pandocfilters ... done
Successfully installed appdirs-1.4.0 appnope-0.1.0 bleach-1.5.0 decorator-4.0.11 entrypoints-0.2.2 ipykernel-4.5.2 ipython-5.2.2 ipython-genutils-0.1.0 ipywidgets-5.2.2 jupyter-1.0.0 jupyter-client-4.4.0 jupyter-console-5.1.0 jupyter-core-4.2.1 mistune-0.7.3 nbconvert-5.1.1 nbformat-4.2.0 notebook-4.4.1 packaging-16.8 pandocfilters-1.4.1 pexpect-4.2.1 pickleshare-0.7.4 prompt-toolkit-1.0.13 ptyprocess-0.5.1 pyparsing-2.1.10 pyzmq-16.0.2 qtconsole-4.2.1 setuptools-34.1.1 simplegeneric-0.8.1 terminado-0.6 testpath-0.3 tornado-4.4.2 traitlets-4.3.1 wcwidth-0.1.7 widgetsnbextension-1.2.6

Now you have Jupyter.

What just happened? You installed a large number of Python packages. All of those packages were required to run Jupyter. You can see jupyter-1.0.0 hidden in the list of packages that were installed.

Starting Jupyter

The Jupyter tool does a number of things. We're going to use the notebook feature to save some code that we can rerun. We can also save notes and do other things in the notebook. When you start the notebook, two things will happen.
  1. The terminal window will start displaying the Jupyter console log.
  2. A browser will pop open showing the local Jupyter notebook home page.
Here's what the console log looks like:

MacBookPro-SLott:Python2v3 slott$ jupyter notebook
[I 08:51:56.746 NotebookApp] Writing notebook server cookie secret to /Users/slott/Library/Jupyter/runtime/notebook_cookie_secret
[I 08:51:56.778 NotebookApp] Serving notebooks from local directory: /Users/slott/Documents/Writing/Python/Python2v3
[I 08:51:56.778 NotebookApp] 0 active kernels 
[I 08:51:56.778 NotebookApp] The Jupyter Notebook is running at: http://localhost:8888/?token=2eb40fbb96d7788dd05a49600b1fca4e07cd9c8fe931f9af
[I 08:51:56.778 NotebookApp] Use Control-C to stop this server and shut down all kernels (twice to skip confirmation).

You can glance at it to see that things are still working. The "Use Control-C to stop this server" is a reminder of how to stop things when you're done.

Your Jupyter home page will have this logo in the corner. Things are working.

You can pick files from this list and edit them. And -- important for what we're going to do -- you can create new notebooks.

On the right side of the web page, you'll see this:

You can create files and folders. That's cool. You can create an interactive terminal session. That's also cool. More important, though, is that you can create a new Python 3 notebook. That's were we'll wrangle with CSV files.

"But Wait," you say. "What directory is it using for this?"

The jupyter server is using the current working directory when you started it.

If you don't like this choice, you have two alternatives.
  • Stop Jupyter. Change directory to your preferred place to keep files. Restart Jupyter.
  • Stop Jupyter. Include the --notebook-dir=your_working_directory option.
The second choice looks like this:

MacBookPro-SLott:Python2v3 slott$ jupyter notebook --notebook-dir=~/Documents/Writing/Python
[I 11:15:42.964 NotebookApp] Serving notebooks from local directory: /Users/slott/Documents/Writing/Python

Now you know where your files are going to be. You can make sure that your .CSV files are here. You will have your ".ipynb" files here also. Lots of goodness in the right place.

Using Jupyter

Here's what a notebook looks like. Here's a screen shot.

First. The notebook was originally called "untitled" which seemed less than ideal. So I clicked on the name and changed it to "csv_wrestling".

Second. There was a box labeled In [ ]:. I entered some Python code to the right of this label. Then I clicked the run cell icon. (It's similar to this emoji --  ⏯ -- but not exactly.)

The In [ ]: changed to In [1]:. A second box appeared labeled Out [1]:. This annotates our dialog with Python: each input and Python's response is tracked. It's pretty nice. We can change our input and rerun the cell. We can add new cells with different things to run. We can run all of the cells. Lots of things are possible based on this idea of a cell with our command. When we run a cell, Python processes the command and we see the output.

For many expressions, a value is displayed.  For some expressions, however, nothing is displayed. For complete statements, nothing is displayed. This means we'll often have to throw the name of a variable in to see the value of that variable.

The rest of the notebook is published separately. It's awkward to work in Blogger when describing a Jupyter notebook. It's much easier to simply post the notebook in GitHub.

The notebook is published here: slott56/introduction-python-csv. You can follow the notebook to build your own copy which reads and writes CSV files.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Writing Tools

Read this: http://thesweetsetup.com/apps/our-favorite-pro-writing-app-for-mac/

What I have been doing instead of using these sophisticated, integrated writing tools?

I use OmniOutliner. https://www.omnigroup.com/omnioutliner I've used it for years. It does a lot of things. Most notably, I can create multiple columns so that I can create page budgets for outlines. Acquisition Editors like this. Except, of course, they like it as an DOCX file, which requires a bit of manual juggling to produce.

I use BBEdit and KomodoEdit for a the bulk of my writing. http://www.barebones.com/products/bbedit/index.html

"But wait," you say, "those are text editors."

(Or, more dismissively, "there are merely text editors.")

Correct.  I use RST markup and write in Unicode text.  I use tools to convert the RST text to a variety of other binary formats. See http://docutils.sourceforge.net/docs/user/tools.html for a list of tools. This is what I often use:

How is this better than a tool like Scrivener? It depends -- as always -- on what you're trying to optimize. My pipeline has the (dubious) advantage of being very inexpensive. Except for OmniOutliner and BBEdit, it's all community-edition, free software. If cheap is your goal, I've got cheap.

The cool part is this.

The Mac OS X desktop is an integrated writing environment. I have browser, outliner, writing tool, publishing tool, etc., etc., all readily and immediately available. The "look and feel" isn't consistent, but I'm not sure that's a show-stopper.

The biggest difficulty?

BBEdit doesn't enable the Mac OS X grammar checker. Really. It's switched off. The grammar checker is sometimes handy for preventing a large number of common, dumb writing mistakes. BBEdit shows the word count, which is very helpful for some kinds of writing. I wind up using a second app (i.e. the built-in Mac OS X TextEdit) to make a grammar check pass.

I think, however, the hacker-friendly free-and-open-source tool chain may have reached the end of its service life.

Why Not Use Word?

"After all," you say, "MS-Word does everything."

Agreed. It does everything badly and confusingly. (1) The outliner is hard to use and is firmly tied to the text in a way that breaks outlines all the time. (What's that paragraph doing there? Why is it the wrong outline level?) (2) There are too many useless features. The presence of "advanced" mode is a UX nightmare come true. (3) The character-mode and paragraph-mode formatting rules are baffling (and break the outlining.) (4) The styles are essentially invisible: you have to click on the text and check the style side-bar to be sure that the (invisible) markup is actually right.

The worst thing is that publishers have house style sheets for MS-Word that drive the publishing pipeline. This means that writing involves a weird step where I have to apply the publishers styles to things that are **very** clearly annotated with RST markup. You have to review each word. The words may look right, but have the wrong style applied. This is extremely tiresome to get right.

I intend to stick with plain-text markup. Scrivener supports MultiMarkdown. It's not RST, but it seems to be as rich with built-in semantic categories.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Improving the epub format -- hacking your ebooks

From a reader.

I recently purchased a copy of 'Modern Python Cookbook' but I found that the code listings in the epub file were indented which caused a problem when reading on my tablet. (I reverted to epub as the PDF version froze in the Bookari ereader software.)

I unzipped the epub file, created and ran the following script to 'unindent' the code listings then rezipped. (I also tweaked the epub.css file slightly.)


import os
import codecs
from textwrap import dedent
from bs4 import BeautifulSoup

ENCODING = 'utf8'

def dedent_page(filepath):
    soup = load_soup(filepath)
    code = soup.findAll('pre')
    for c in code:
        # Dedent twice to cater for 'blank' lines with spaces.
        c.string = dedent(dedent(c.text))
    save_soup(filepath, unicode(soup))

def load_soup(filepath):
    with codecs.open(filepath, encoding = ENCODING) as f:
        return BeautifulSoup(f)

def save_soup(filepath, soup):
    with codecs.open(filepath, mode = 'w', encoding = ENCODING) as f:

if __name__ == "__main__":

    FOLDER = r'ebook\OEBPS'

    html_files = [fn for fn in os.listdir(FOLDER) if fn.endswith('.html')]
    total_files = len(html_files)
    for i, file_name in enumerate(html_files):
        print 'Processing file %s (%s/%s)' % (file_name, i + 1, total_files)
        dedent_page(os.path.join(FOLDER, file_name))

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Irrelevant Feature Comparison

A Real Email.
So, please consider creating a blog post w/ a title something like "Solving the Fred Flintstone Problem using Monads in Python and Haskell"
First. There's this: https://pypi.python.org/pypi/PyMonad/ and this: http://www.valuedlessons.com/2008/01/monads-in-python-with-nice-syntax.html. Also, see https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Type_class. I think this has been covered nicely.

I can't improve on what's been presented.

Second. I don't see any problems that are solved well by monads in Python. In a lazy, optimized, functional language, monads can be used bind operations into ordered sequences. This is why file parsing and file writing examples of monads abound. They can also be used to bind a number of types so that operator overloading in the presence of strict type checking can be implemented. None of this seems helpful in Python.

Perhaps monads will be helpful with Python type hints. I'll wait and see if a monad definition shows up in the typing module. There, it may be a useful tool for handling dynamic type bindings.

Third. This request is perilously close to a "head-to-head" comparison between languages. The question says "problem", but it is similar to asking to see the exact same algorithm implemented in two different languages. It makes as much sense as comparing Python's built-in complex type with Java's built-in complex type (which Java doesn't have.)

Here's the issue. I replace Fred Flintstone with "Parse JSON Notation".  This is a cool application of monads to recognize the various sub-classes of JSON syntax and emit the correctly-structured document.  See http://fssnip.net/bq/title/JSON-parsing-with-monads.  In Python, this is import json. This isn't informative about the language. If we look at the Python code, we see some operations that might be considered as eligible for a rewrite using monads. But Python isn't compiled and doesn't have the same type-checking issues. The point is that Python has alternatives to monads.

Fourth. It's just asking about a not-required feature to a language. In the spirit of showing the not-required-in-Python features, I'll show the not-required-in-Python GOTO.

Here it is:

def goto(destination):
    global next
    next = destination

def min_none(sequence):
        return min(sequence)
    except ValueError:
        return None
def execute(program, debug=False, stmt=None):
    global next, context
    if stmt is None:
        stmt = min(program.keys())
        context = {'goto': goto}
    while stmt is not None:
        next = min_none(list(filter(lambda x: x>stmt, program.keys())))
        if debug:
            print(">>>", program[stmt])
        exec(program[stmt], globals(), context)
        stmt = next
example = {
100: "a = 10",
200: "if a == 0: goto(500)",
250: "print(a)",
300: "a = a - 1",
400: "goto(200)",
500: "print('done'()",


This shows how we can concoct an additional feature that isn't really needed in Python.

Given this, we can now compare the GOTO between Python, BASIC, and Haskell. Or maybe we can look at Monads in BASIC vs. Haskell. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

The Depths of Degradation or How to Reduce

Let's talk real-world functional programming. Disclosure: I'm a fan of functional programming in Python. (This: https://www.packtpub.com/application-development/functional-python-programming)

The usual culprits for functional programming are map(), filter(), generator functions, and the various comprehensions. This is very pleasant and can lead to succinct, expressive code.

The reduce operation, however, is sometimes slippery.  The obvious reductions are sum() and prod().  Some slightly less obvious reductions are these three:

sum0 = lambda s: sum(1 for _ in s)
sum1 = lambda s: sum(s)
sum2 = lambda s: sum(n**2 for n in s)

The first is essentially len(s), but stated more formally. It shows how we can add in filter or transformations. If we're working with a collections.Counter object, we can rewrite these three to work with the values() of a counter. This allows us to have a statistics library that works with a sequence of simple items or a Counter of binned items.

(I've left it as an exercise for the reader to create the summaries of Counters.)

The Health Check Question

The context is an RESTful application's /health end-point. When a client does a GET to /health, we want to provide status of the components on which the app depends as well as a summary.

The details are created like this:

components = (component() for component in COMPONENT_LIST)
init_components = [thing.init_app(app) for thing in components]
details = [component.health() for component in init_components]

We have a list of class definitions for each component. We can create instances of each class. We can initialize these by providing the RESTful app. Finally, we can create a list of the various health end-point status codes.

There's a class definition for other RESTful API's. The health check does a transitive GET to a /health end-point. These are all more-or-less identical.

There are also class definitions for the database and the cache and other non-RESTful components. It's all very pretty and very functional.

Note that the three statements aren't adjacent. They're scattered around to fit better with the way Flask works. The component list is in one place. The initialization happens before the first request. The details are computed as requested.

Also. We don't really use a simple list for the details. It's actually a mapping from which we will derive a vector. I've left that detail out because it's a relatively simple complication.

Representation of Health

We represent health with a simple enumeration of values:

from enum import Enum
class Status(Enum):
    OK = "OK"
    DOWN = "DOWN"

This provides the essential definition of health for our purposes. We don't drag around details of the degradation; that's something that we have to determine by looking at our consoles and logs and stuff.  Degradation is (a) rare, and (b) nuanced. Some degradations are mere annoyances: one of the servers is being restarted. Other degradations are hints that something else might be going on that needs investigation: database primary server is down and we're running on a secondary.

Summarizing Health

A subset of the details vector, then, looks like this: [Status.OK, Status.OK, Status.DEGRADED].

How can we summarize this?

First, we need some rules.  Like these:

class Status(Enum):
    OK = "OK"
    DOWN = "DOWN"

    def depth(self, other):
        if self == self.OK:
            return {self.OK: self.OK,
                    self.DEGRADED: self.DEGRADED,
                    self.DOWN: self.DEGRADED}[other]
        elif self == self.DEGRADED:
            return {self.OK: self.DEGRADED,
                    self.DEGRADED: self.DEGRADED,
                    self.DOWN: self.DEGRADED}[other]
        elif self == self.DOWN:
            return {self.OK: self.DEGRADED,
                    self.DEGRADED: self.DEGRADED,
                    self.DOWN: self.DOWN}[other]

The depth() method implements a comparison operator that defines the relationships. This can be visualized as a table.


This allows us to define a function that uses reduce to summarize the vector of status values.

from functools import reduce
def summary(sequence): 
    return reduce(lambda a, b: a.depth(b), sequence)

The reduce() function applies a binary operator between items in a vector. We've used lambda a, b: a.depth(b) to turn the the depth() method into a binary operator so it can be used with reduce.

The summary() function is a "depth-reduction" of a vector of status objects. It's defined independently of the actual status objects. The relationships among the status levels are embedded in the class definition where they belong. The actual details of status are pleasantly opaque.


We have an example of map-reduce outside the sphere of big data.

The Integer Alternative

The health rules as shown above are kind of complex. Could they be simplified? The answer is no.

Here's an alternative -- which does not do what we want.

class Status2(IntEnum):
    OK = 1
    DEGRADED = 2
    DOWN = 3
summary2 = lambda sequence: max(sequence)

This works in some cases, but it doesn't work in others. Another alternative is to change the order to be OK=1, DOWN=2, DEGRADED=3. This doesn't work, either. I'll leave it as an exercise to write out some of the various combinations of values and see how these differ.

JSON Representation

The final detail is JSONification of the status vector and the summary.

json.dumps({"status": summary(vector).name, "details": [s.name for s in vector]})

This converts the various Status objects to text items that fit the Swagger specification for our /health end-points. The .name attribute reference is required to get the string labels from the enum. An alternative is to customize the JSON encoder to recognize the Enum objects and extract their names.


Map-Reduce is easy. It surfaces in a number of places. The idea helps encapsulate summarization rules.