Sunday, June 21, 2015

Lifehack - import directly from command line

If you're obsessed with UX as I am, and long repetitive commands seem to break your flow, you may appreciate this little trick for invoking Python from command line.

I invoke python from console/terminal to check some behavior that I tend to forget after a day in JavaScript or other programming languages. It is often way faster than reading the docs. It also helps to quickly try new PyPI libraries after installing with pip (saves on mouse clicking in IDE etc.).

Today I found a time saver that makes me happy. This example is typed for Windows, but there should be no problem for any Linux hacker to port it to their favorites. So instead of doing this:
> python [ENTER]
>>> import os [ENTER]
>>> [ENTER]
I can just type:
> import os [ENTER]
>>> [ENTER]
It should be now easy to understand how it works, so I will complicate it a bit. The trick is this little import.bat script, placed in system PATH:
@echo off
py -2 -c "import sys; print(sys.version)"
py -2 -i -c "import %*"
py here is a py.exe launcher that can call either Python 2 or Python 3 depending on argument. It comes installed with Windows Python versions. I like to know which Python I work with, so I've added version into to the command, and to avoid polluting the global space of new interpreter, the version is printed by separate command.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

ANN: patch 1.14.2 - utility to apply unified diffs

Google Code shutdown kicked me to finally release the Python patch utility on PyPI.
  • Python 2 only for now (issue #10)
  • single file that can be dropped directly into your repository
  • command line tool
  • importable diff parser library 
  • doesn't create and remove files (issue #3)
It can be run in from command line standard way
    python <patch.diff>
or directly from .zip file:
    python <patch.diff>
Get it from PyPI:

Monday, March 09, 2015

Python CLA, Community and Node.js

I was trying to write on CLA multiple times, since the day that I sent "My CLA" letter in hope for some explanation to python lists. Now search for "My CLA" leads to new model of Mercedes Benz released in 2014 and I wonder, why do I waste my time arguing on the things that should not matter to me? Why do they matter at all? If I could afford a Mercedes Benz and had time to enjoy it, everything else probably didn't matter.

The post by Bryan Cantrill is all good, but this quote in particular got my attention:
While node.js is a Joyent-led project, I also believe that communities must make their own decisions—and a CLA is a sufficiently nuanced issue that reasonable people can disagree on its ultimate merits.
I don't  remember that steps were taken to explain the necessity of  CLA or ask people what they think about it. There was no community process that I've seen and my requests to get some clarification did not went good. It took months of non-constructive critics and diplomatic skills of Ezio to at least add electronic signature to the paper form. There was no incident, nothing in public to cover that. Just somebody decided to do this and then there was a lot of peer pressure to force you to comply, because "lawyer know better". I can hardly name it a community process. OpenStack fights for it, to keep process open and inclusive, tries to analyze problems, to seek solution in open way, at least it is visible.

Python was an open source language, and a good and unique one that deserves its own license. Guido is always open and sincere behind the community of language supporters, but are languages supporters evolve the same, do they possess the same understanding into the complicated nature of human processes to take the baton? Did the core of community become a closed elitist circle of people with good relationships? Are they able to handle the insane amount of ideas and communication that coordination around core development and surrounded infrastructure is needed? Is new generation involved in solving these challenges or all they do now is dreaming about startups? Is it a community problem or economy problem already with all these CLA and other issues that are impossible to hide?

Monday, February 16, 2015

ANN: hexdump 3.2 - packaged and pretty executable

The new version doesn't add much to the API, but completes a significant research about executable .zip packages with proof of concept distribution that is both an installable Python package that you can upload to PyPI and an executable .zip archive.

The benefit is that you may drop .zip package downloaded from PyPI into your source code repository and invoke it from your helper scripts as python Keeping dependencies together with application source code in repository may seem like a bad idea, but we find it useful at Gratipay to setup project from checkout in offline mode with no internet connection.

The solution required three modifications to distutils (see sources):
  • force sdist command to produce .zip file
  • strip extra dir created at PyPI package root
  • add to make .zip executable

If you think that it is cool and should be promoted further, feel free to test Gratipay to send me 0.01+, and I'll get the signal to spend more time on reversing native distutils/packaging gotchas.

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Shipping Python tools in executable .zip packages

UP201501: Found out how to force create .zip instead of .tar.gz

This is about how to make Python source packages executable. As a side effect, this also explains, how to run invoke's with a copy of invoke .zip shipped with your source code, but without installing it.

You know, Python can execute .zip files. As simply as:
$ wget
$ python
/usr/bin/python: can't find '' in ''
Well, you need to place '' into the root. It will then import what it needs and do something. The only problem with .zip source packages is that their structure (if created with standard Python tools) includes one additional directory at the top:
`-- hexdump-3.1
    |-- PKG-INFO
    |-- README.txt
    |-- hexfile.bin
So, even if you place `` into the root, it won't be able to import file from `hexdump-3.1` subdirectory.. unless you prepare for it. Here is the solution:
import os
import sys

# add package .zip to python lookup path
__dir__ = os.path.dirname(__file__)
path = os.path.join(__dir__, 'hexdump-3.1')
sys.path.insert(0, path)

import hexdump
msg = hexdump.dehex("48 65 6C 6C 6F 2C 20 57 6F 72 6C 64 21")
Now if you run it, it will print the obvious.
$ python
Hello, World!
In Python 3, the result will be wrapped into b'' string. But that's it!

The next hexdump version will likely to ship as executable .zip package

Where you may need it?

It may be useful for scripts automation if you're "vendorizing" dependencies (ship them with your code). It started with need to fix a broken link on Gratipay site. The Gratipay codebase is in public domain clear of any NDA, CLA and all other BS, and that makes it great for people to learn, reuse and enhance. I wish Python internal projects possessed these properties, but PSF politics is another topic.

Gratipay inside site uses make. It doesn't need powerful build tool, such as scons, so I tried to replace it with some simple task automation utility to be more cross-platform. I chose invoke, because of my previous experience with fabric for remote control, and because I saw previous attempts in another Gratipay repository. The necessary condition for new tool is that user experience should not degrade for make users, so main invoke's script needed to be self-executable.

I completed the proof of concept by making invoke .zip package executable with the method above, placed it into vendor/ directory, and tuned to reexecute itself with invoke .zip This also solved a potential problem with currently unstable invoke API. was modified as following:
import sys
sys.path.insert(0, 'vendor/')

from invoke import task, run

# ... tasks go here

if __name__ == '__main__':
  import sys
  from invoke import cli

Bonus points

There is one more thing, which is better explained with hexdump example. hexdump package ships `hexfile.bin` data file used for testing. looks for it in its directory (__file__ dirname), and this lookup fails when is in archive. I'd say Python could provide some kind of an API to deal with "virtual import filesystem" (with watchers to track who and when modifies sys.path), but I digress. If you modify the `` from the first chapter above to run tests - just call hexdump.runtest() - the execution will finally fail with the following error:
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/usr/lib/python2.6/", line 122, in _run_module_as_main
    "__main__", fname, loader, pkg_name)
  File "/usr/lib/python2.6/", line 34, in _run_code
    exec code in run_globals
  File "", line 13, in
  File "", line 311, in runtest
IOError: [Errno 20] Not a directory: '/root/'
(yes, I am hexdumping under root). The problem above was explained by Radomir, and I feel like the post is already tool long to write about it myself.

More bonus points

In theory it is possible to hack to produce executable source .zip package. By default, sdist command on Linux creates tar.gz files. So, first it needs to be forced to create .zip file. This can be done by overriding default --formats option:
# Override sdist to always produce .zip archive
from distutils.command.sdist import sdist as _sdist
class sdistzip(_sdist):
    def initialize_options(self):
        self.formats = 'zip'

    cmdclass={'sdist': sdistzip},
I posted relevant documentation links to this StackOverflow question. The rest - how to inject into the root of packed .zip - is yet to be covered, and I am not ready to research it just yet. Some hints may be provided by these answers.

Usability conclusion

I am actually quite happy with the ability to execute python .zip packages (which gave a lot of motivation to write this post), because previously I had to care about how to tell people that a tool is a single script, which can be downloaded from repository or from some dedicated download site (I mean Google Code, which does not support this anymore). I also don't trust my own server for downloads, because one day I found some "benzonasos" running there and I don't even have a slightest idea how it got there.

But now it becomes possible to just download and run the stuff from PyPI to test how it works without messing with creating and activating virtualenvs, and installation of package inside. Of course, if your .zip package has dependencies, they still need to be present on your system, but that's still a time saver. Oh, and that means that my tools can now consist of several modules inside.

Monday, November 17, 2014

C/C++ Must Die

It is a four hour forward only text. I am not in the mood to clean. reread, refactor, split or fix any mistakes right now, and I am not saying sorry for that, because it is how it is written with this limited keyboard interface that I practiced over my lifetime. I am sorry only if you won't be able to read or understand that, because it would mean I made it all worse. I am already at the point that I want to filter it straight to the subject, reread and fix all typos, obscure moments, digressions and words, but I've already out of time and it might happen that there won't be any time for that later.

My system background is [assembly] --> [pascal] --> [c] --> [php] --> [python], so C is not my favorite language, I am in any way attached to it and don't exhibit a feeling of nostalgia and deep sadness when thinking about what changed in the past 40 years that passed since its invention. What I really regret is that there is no a place like Bell Labs anymore that could prevent bloody enterprise from formatting people to the bloody business mindset. Formatting so badly that you even need a ton of startups to just produce ideas (not mentioning getting them right).

So, in the past 40 years, a new language appeared called Python. I don't think that Guido knew the words "usability", "user experience" or CJM when inventing it - it was just natural and human like, just because it was not engineered, but made through feeling of a human, who likes Monty Python and doesn't follow accepted rituals of human organisms in suits. I understand his desire to keep CWI copyright in place - it is a living reminder about another environment that made this thing possible. Unlike these bloody corporations that keep pressure on what you need to do and when to deliver. There is not much creativity and freedom right now. Those tiny groups of people who gather through the internet try to change the things. But the poor expressive power of non-native English language, time gap and invisible mood and attitude changes make it almost impossible to provide a stable communication channel that will not limit itself only to a narrow band of appreciation, joy and positive emoji. All negative emotions, drama, critics and depressions exists there for a reason - to express the importance of details and adapt them.

Accepted rituals of human organisms in suits. It is hard to be human. So hard that the rational part of us will never accept the idea that I, me, myself are limited. Humans had somehow devised the ethics, culture and rituals to deal with that. Implemented complex system of oppressing behavior and enforcing rules to make everyone the same and keep balance. Capitalist economy made it possible to compete, to make a gameplay to measure and estimate your value compared to someone else instead of just killing him, because his will to live just dampens yours. Money had been chosen as a universal way to solve conflicts and it worked for a few generations. Until a new generation appeared that didn't not care about conflicts and didn't see why would anyone should conflict if everything you need is money. We are still limited humans who fail to see the balance and yet we are trying to prove that we are the best, we need to be respected etc, etc. Whatever our rituals are, they are a shroud on on our eyes. The shroud that doesn't allow us to see how human really work, that our perception is not discrete and the expressive power of art is something we should explore as a discipline of human interfaces.

C/C++ is one such interface. It is a written language that no civilization from the outer world will be able to decipher. I didn't research this idea to far, so I leave it to you. It is a formal interface with brackets, asterisks and letter combinations that convey some ideas and concepts. It brings the former poor language of assembly to a whole new level. The level of more toys to play with and *exchange*. Every language invented after it was adding or removing these toys for humans to play with, but they still have hard time to combine all programming languages into the garden of toys as a whole. The garden that you can explore with the rest of your senses (further that arithmetic and text processor units in your head) to see how things work, tear them apart, which toys go well together and which just don't belong. There should be right toy for the game. It is in our mindset. We use the toy that we've used to, learned the first and like opiate, it instills us with the knowledge that this is the best tool in the world, in your world, because everything else if perhaps just worse. The nostalgic feeling brings us emotions, knowledge and experience keeps us in a comfort zone. Egoism. We want to world to be the same. But while we were playing with our toys, it changed.

Many toys appeared and vanished. Patterns made some of us high. UML - the art erased out of drawing - made slave drivers happy. These were adopted ways to transmit the knowledge, format the culture, and narrow the communication down to the limited capabilities of any human put into the bloody cage of enterprise machine. Bloody doesn't mean we can escape it. It is just bloody. I see it as squashing the humans into the cubes of comfort zones and I am afraid of it. There is no progress outside the cells of enterprise organisms and these organisms are still mostly parasites hooked on resources that they are extracting from ecosystem and killing the planet by their exhaust. If you think that Google is good - take a look to the streets - if there is any litter around - how do you think - could people from this Enterprise remove this litter with their bare hands? I think they could. It is easy and even fun. But will they?

C/C++ is not a litter. It is a tool and a toy. The world had grown a lot, but the tool and the toy stayed the same. In these 40 years we've learned that we can only have juggle 7 things in our head at a time. We have only 60 hertz in out heads compared to 3Ghz of modern CPU. 7 things is the most that can survive through the neural network while signal passes from one domain (limited 3D area) through the whole volume of absolutely parallel processing unit. The amount of thing that we need to keep in mind is bytes, chars and pointers, even for string processing. And as a humans we operate with strings. Even bytes in our heads look like hexadecimal and we are still constantly ignoring this. We are continuing to invent rational logical abstractions - new toys - instead of switching off the conscious part of our brain and concentrate on the part that scans things. In the past 42 years we've upgraded our interface from reading to scanning and nobody noticed that. The older people still insist on reading books, going through lengthy letters in mailing lists, and lots of articles. But we've invented movies, animation, visual arts, demoscene. The last one appeared and vanished - it was a sudden ray of warm and bright light - an excitement that was impossible to rationalize and explain, and that gave a birth to a whole generation of game designers out there.

C/C++ is not a game. It is a legacy, a hack, a combination of mysterious symbols that make impossible things possible. This combination has expressive power and concepts that will survive a whole new generations from now on. You will still need an instrument to manipulate memory on low level. An instrument to control hardware with high level concepts. But it is not C/C++ that needs to be used for that, because it doesn't make it optional. C/C++ doesn't help you scan programs faster, read operations behind combinations of asterisks, symbols and brackets to fill the 7 slots in your head with something that makes sense. It doesn't instill me with a sense of confidence, because the code once already written may leak in different places.

Back in a days we were playing with reversing the software. You choose the entrypoint and then try to figure out what software does. Most of the time you had to work with assembly, follow the jumps and procedures, you were writing tools to help you deal with the complexity and automate the journey. The process didn't change since. What changed is that you don't need to think about memory allocations anymore, algorithms can tackle strings more efficiently than humans, so this slot is freed too. You can concentrate on your DNA handling logic, on algorithm, on final result that you need to achieve and this result will make sense for ordinary humans,  not for people with computer science camp behind. Python made this possible by providing this interface for humans when hardware allowed that. Python adapted itself to humans who now scan things instead of reading them. You don't need a whole usability discipline to note a small nifty things to make improvements like these, but when you have this whole new usability and ux buzzworld emerged, it is somehow wrong not to take an advantage of that. It is quite natural and right from the point of standard human specie, but wrong from the point of augmented human that needs tools to be evolved to allow more freedom. Evolution in Python led to the Zen of it. It is not a speccy, not a book, not a long text in a foreign language. It is an artpiece - a thing that could only be born among people who value the artpiece of Monty Python, and appreciate irrational culture of humans and play that. Without the art squeaky PyPI will be remove and the new warehouse will be built, welcome sign will be replaced with patent paranoia, you will have to sign a paper and undergo passport scan to pass through. People attempt to save things that are important to them if they can see them. You can't see the irrational, you can't explain it, especially things that came naturally. Humans are limited in understanding things, in expressing things, complex associations and irrational thoughts that came out of their emotions, knowledge, fears and beliefs. They are limited in their ability to share this information with others, they don't have time to pass info anymore, can't communicate so fast and this is where the progress stops. Humans are limited, they can not deal with the complexity, and they naturally developed arts to deal with that. Arts communicate on different levels of perception and education, they are waiting for you to get there to feel them or came down on you rapidly right away. It is a way to look for answers, to explore, express and communicate them. It is about at least some kind of freedom in dealing with paralysis of complexity. But this is about C/C++ and I need to finish this.

C/C++ is insecurity, but at the same time it brings trust and freedom. At least it was many years ago. It is the last piece of freedom that makes hacking of the systems possible. It was fun and you don't want to kill the fun once you're there. It is not hackers, it is humans, sometimes among them, who kill the fun. Paranoia, fear, social engineering techniques that make talented hackers kill themselves. It is not fun anymore to hack things in this world of fight of limited species over limited resource. Perhaps the backdoor needs to close. I feel deep sadness and sorrow by thinking about that, but who cares anyway. There is a huge demand for a better readable human interfaces for controlling new technologies and devices that will be born to augment humans and while we are messing with bytes and pointers leaning of some memory scattered over the table, we skip the cosmos of possibilities and things that shine in depths behind our necks. There is a place for better coupling between human intention to care or not care about low level details, better interface between the though to operate on some level and the tools that make the thoughts real. It is important to keep it human oriented, because the picture that one human drawn should be intuitive and clean for other human to comprehend. If that second human is familiar with concepts, it should not undergo the long training in decyphering glyphs just to get into details. We've already seen that this is possible. Just need to experiment with this a little bit more to pave our way in the way art does it. Art is the ultimate hack of all times after the science.

And for us, for new generation of coders, C/C++ must die to let evolution continue.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Domain disaster, identity, history, account balance and horizons

I've added Python tag to this post, because the traffic above is mostly Python related, so it might be interesting to those concerned about preservation on their posts (or about essential properties of well-known trolls in certain communities). Blogging is not an easy process, especially if you're not an English native and it takes about 4 hours on average to rewrite and reword the content until it satisfies you, so preserving this knowledge is somewhat important. Some of the most emotional and big posts are never published at all (like black hate of Python 3 default system encoding or drafts of Spyder plugin architecture) .

So, what happened with the graph above?

With zero income over the past 2+ years I couldn't keep up with my bills and the domain name registration expired after I couldn't make it. It doesn't cost much ~$10 a year, but it is on the bill with DreamHost web hosting plan that costs $120 yearly + minimal VPS instance for $5/month to run Bitbucket mirrors and other services. I got the money from a $500 gift that I wanted to make to my girlfriend after we broke apart. To be honest I never had a girlfrend, but it was a nice try. It was painful, but in the end these $500 helped to save on debts without sacrificing my desire to meet with friends. I must say it is really hard to sustain any kind of relationship (timely replies, calls, switching to the context of another person, sharing interests, job activities) when you have an ADHD mindset, especially in those moments when you "catch the flow" and just escape everything outside until the feeling passes. The escape is possible. Otherwise it would be a direct way nowhere, but it is always stressful and takes its toll on psychosomatic resilience (how much stress a person can handle until it starts to grow on person's in physical form). Other factors may be contributing too, such as wiring scheme in ADHD trained brain - which can be more flexible so that it is able to diverge resources from maintenance of body systems to cognitive abilities. If there is some virus or generic modification in your body (chronic disease is also an option) - it might (probably will) take this chance to capture more territory when under a stress condition. At a time when rewiring process switches off lights in corridors near the dark corners of immune system. But that's is just a theory, an indication how easy it is for me to become distracted, which in turn is the cause why the situation emerged at all.

Looking at the chart of traffic I think that if that traffic was in any way useful at all, I wish it could be directly converted into paying for domain name and hosting. I don't need extra and don't want to "monetize" content by introducing pestering ads and other nasty stuff from the "business end" - just need the power to keep the systems up and operational. It is quite sad knowing that only a year needs to pass after you die to erase traces of your work from the internet, and even don't help when new owner of your domain uploads robots.txt to block resource-sucking spiders. It will be much more comfortable knowing that what you do will persist to help somebody else save some time in future.

The easy answer would be to just blog on * * or facebook if you like, and that's already an option for a newer generation, but you own domain is one of the achievements in the ladder of your technical skills. Or sometimes it is just matters for some reason.

One high tech idea to build a sustainable human-less domain preservation mechanism was to build a closed loop around automated recurring payments with bitcoins. That one needs a lot of time to develop and clean up roadblocks for an automatic chain that transforms useful traffic to Etherium or any other similar Bitcoin 2.0 concept. There are two concerns here. First is that useful needs to be defined more clearly. I am sure for some reason that Google already knows and calculates the metric even for posts without views, likes or +1 buttons. Second concern is that there is so much buzz about Bitcoin 2.0, that it looks like people are already fighting to capture this playfield, and I am not sure that these new technologies are really worthy. Investigation and review needs time and it is hard to tell how much exactly without trying.

Another option to sustain the costs was to use DreamHost referral system that through a referral link allows to get bonus for every newly registered user. is a very old account - it uses a deprecated recurring bonus scheme, that shares 10% of new user's payments instead of one-time bonuses, but so far I had only $5 from 10 people registered over last 5 years or so, and I don't think it is a good route to take unless you want to force people to hate you, because you're obsessed with selling them to DreamHost as referrals. also possesses a nice looking donation URL that looks like but it does not answer the questions "how much does this this blog needs to be alive and why?", "what part of a share should I pay?" and more import "why should I pay for this?". In other words there is no transparency and trust in "modern" economy, because openness and transparency hurts it. And if resources become scarce, the economy starts a killing cycle. It is not from economy - it is from ecosystems.

There are always ideas for new experiments and horizons in this area, such as marrying Gratipay concept with BitHub. These project are less obsessed with "doing money software for the money", but they can not escape the "preferential attachment" of people around it, meaning that people will support projects that support money movement more than projects that need actual support, such as PyPy, Spyder and PySide. It might be not even about project support, but more about people contributing to these projects. I don't think that I have a solution to the problem, because it complex, but I think I'd be happy to try if I had a chance.

I tried to submit a proposal for activities to H2020 program as a last chance to escape the corporate clutches and dedicate some time to experiment, but I could not find a single idea over which to subscribe myself to work over for the next five years. In the end I realized that I am alone and hardly the right the right person to do coordination and communication work even though it might be extremely interesting at some point (and hence extremely difficult to resist).

So, in the conclusion of this letter to make it more useful and worthy of 4 hour time, I'd really like to see more people from hard core Python projects that are somehow supported in Europe (such as PyPy and PySide), and especially people from outside who interested in helping them, to take a look at the Horizon 2020 program. It is a funding scheme for EU companies, but organizations from outside (including US and Russia) are welcome to participate with their own funds if they contribute something unique. I believe it is the only way for independent R&D to continue and it will be a pity to miss this chance to experiment with transparent economy schemes and trust systems to support people in open source and open science projects. And it requires more than just coding skills to handle. In fact, it may require a completely different set of skills, even art or design or cognitive sciences - everything that helps better understanding and communication. Because all problems in the world are the problems of communication.