Beyond Python Basics

While travelling in Europe, I had the opportunity to dig a little deeper into the Python programming language — not just into its internals, but also play around with some of Python’s slightly esoteric features.

I’d recommend any Python student who’s completed a basic tutorial [1] and fiddled around with a project or two to have a look at the following. Don’t be deterred by the terminology, because the concepts are explained as you go:

Iterators, Generators and Coroutines

Generator Tricks for System Programmers (v 2.0)

A Curious Course on Coroutines and Concurrency

Liked these? David Beazley, author of the Python Essential Reference and creator of these presentations, has kindly provided a list of some of the talks and tutorials he’s given.

Metaclasses, Decorators and ‘Yield’

e-satis on Stack Overflow wrote three fantastic ‘conceptual understanding’ answers, which make sense as stand-alone explanations:

The Python yield keyword explained

What is a metaclass in Python?

Understanding Python decorators

(Decorators are the weird @name syntax you sometimes see before function definitions; I’ve only used them once before, in for Django apps.)

Advanced Python or Understanding Python

This is an internal Google presentation on hardcore Python by Thomas Wouters, uploaded for the rest of the world to enjoy.

Something that never really clicked for me until this presentation: namespaces are just a dictionary mapping names to objects. I started seeing them everywhere, e.g. as the context used by Django to render HTML templates (references to ‘list_of_jobs’ in the template refer to this Python object, etc).

The presentation has lots of other cool (but deep) stuff too:

(this stuff is hard, but makes slightly more sense after watching the PyPy video below (specifically re: its bytecode comments))

(these topics are easy to understand if you viewed their above tutorials)

(most of this goes over my head, but it doesn’t seem to matter in a day-to-day practical sense anyway)

(the metaclass stuff isn’t too hard to understand once you’ve read the tutorial on them above, and there’s a nice description of how Django uses metaclasses for function definitions; I’ve never had to use multiple inheritance stuff; Unicode makes sense and is important!)

Bonus: Thinking about Tinkering with PyPy (PyCon 2012)

Curious about PyPy? Python’s default implementation is written in C (CPython), but PyPy implements Python in a Python subset called RPython. Here's David Beazley’s attempt at explaining RPython and how (part of) PyPy works. (Here’s the beta version of the talk, if you’re curious.)

Bonus 2: ‘A Few of My Favourite Things’

Michael Pirnat’s CodeMash 2012 talk quickly runs through his favourite things about Python and its ecosystem. Though the slides’ material is probably more up-to-date than many of the above materials, it’s not a tutorial, so consider further research on anything which piques your interest!

[1] As for tutorials, I’d recommend the How to Think Like a Computer Scientist series; they’re the most helpful ones I’ve encountered. For Python 2.x and 3.x.