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Python Conference: Developers' Day
The Python Conference is now over. Much praise to the staff at Foretec
Seminars who ran a satisfying and smooth conference in the midst of a
blizzard that shut down the mid-Atlantic Seaboard. The conference ran like
clockwork, and everybody--staff, presenters, and attendees--was pleasant,
polite, and cooperative. How often does that happen in Washington D.C.?
New Python Releases
The big news on Developers' Day was that Guido announced the next releases
of Python, called 1.6, to come out soon, probably in Summer 2000. (The
current release is 1.5.2.) The purpose of this new point release is to get
existing code contributions into the new code base. The major addition will
be Unicode support, something the XML community has been seeking for some
time. This is a major step forward for Python. In addition, Guido will
include some existing bug fixes and probably Fredrik Lundh's new regular
expressions engine. There may be other additions as well, but nothing that
is not ready now will make it into this release. An alpha version of this
release will probably be ready in March. Feature freeze will be "very soon".
Guido added this release because Python language development had slowed
since he had begun working on
Programming for Everybody (CP4E). The original goals of 1.6 were too
ambitious and have stretched out the release date. Consequently, the
pre-Version 2 enhancements that don't make it into 1.6 will go into an
additional point release, 1.7, for which a date is not currently available.
The next major version of Python is now being informally called Python 3000
or P3K. ("Your users will be surprised and pleased," someone said, "when you
deliver it 300 years early.") It currently has a goal of a 2001 release. The
contents of this version are still under discussion, but will almost certainly
be backward-incompatible. A lot of computing work has happened since the
release of Python 1.0.
I attended the meeting of the Internationalization SIG. The discussion was a
bit too technically detailed for me to report here. There was much interest
in the addition of Unicode to Python in 1.6. Several attendees, however, felt
that Unicode was insufficient to support legacy (pre-Unicode) applications.
In Japanese, there are many more characters than those represented in
Unicode. Furthermore, some Unicode characters are compromises among the
characters of several different languages and therefore unsatisfying to
This meeting benefited from the attendance of Dick Hardt from
ActiveState announced at the conference that it will provide products and
services for Python as well as Perl. In fact, Dick announced that he had
hired two of O'Reilly's Python authors: David Ascher (co-author of
and Mark Hammond (co-author of
on Win32). Dick and ActiveState have faced a lot of these Unicode and
Asian character-set issues with Perl and offered some advice based on his
It was also gratifying to see that the members of this SIG recommend Ken
Processing, as the key book for this technology area.
I was unable to attend this meeting, but I heard from Greg Wilson and Fred
Drake that a fair amount of the discussion revolved around using the XML DTD
DocBook as the basis of future documentation. (In the interest of fairness
and shameless self-promotion, I should reveal here that I was the editor of
Norm Walsh's and Len Muellner's book
DocBook: the Definitive
Guide.) The discussion broke down into two camps, as such discussions
Both views, in my opinion, are correct. Some group should define a reduced
DocBook tag set appropriate to erstwhile technical authors. The complexity,
if necessary, could be added after the documentation is done and incorporated.
Get the information first; worry about formatting later. But the advantages of
using a DTD that was designed primarily to handle just this kind of
information are too valuable to pass up.
- Use DocBook because it is a supported standard and lots of tools and
processes already use it. (It was apparently mentioned that O'Reilly uses
DocBook. That's true, but not exclusively. DocBook is only one of the formats
- Don't use DocBook because it is too complicated. Use a simple tagging
language that encourages people to write about their software rather than
fret about their tags.
I followed the discussion in this SIG only with great difficulty. I can
report only that there was much interest in the addition of Unicode in the
1.6 code base. The remaining issues were too detailed for me to do justice
JPython is a variation of the Python language that supports the Java
environment. (In the JPython SIG, they refer to Python as CPython.)
Barry Warsaw announced that JPython 1.1 was released on the first day of the
conference. How's that for timing?
The major problems for JPython currently have to do with various JVMs (in
what Barry called Java's "Write Once Debug Everywhere environment") and some
incompatibilities between the JPyton compiler and the JIT.
JPython 1.2 hopes to deliver stability, performance, and some new features
like collections and support of Java security. (Security was felt by many of
the SIG members to be very important.) Further out, JPython will support
NetBeans integration and Java scripting frameworks.
One last issue was how JPython could capture the hearts and minds of Java
developers. I floated the idea of a JPython Cookbook, written by the
JPython community, with the Java developer community as the reviewers and
audience. Not surprisingly, Barry Warsaw has been working with O'Reilly on
such a book, and a barebones outline exists already. There was some interest
in this idea and some discussion about which JPython features such a book
Goodbye: See You in November
The goal of the
Activity is to have another conference in November of this year,
rather than next January, probably in Washington again. Certainly, after
this conference's weather, there is much support for a kinder, gentler
Washington climate. I expect to be there, and if attendance increases as much
as it did this year, many of you will be there, too. See you.
Read about Day One and
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