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Recommend an E-book Meeting the Following Criteria (Newbie, Long)

 
 
Veli-Pekka Tštilš
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      12-14-2005
Hi,
I know several programming languages namely Java, Perl and C in this order
and would now like to pick up the Python basics fairly quickly. I've found
that the best way to learn for me is to get a good book (for Christmas in
this case), spend some time with it and do my own coding.

Now I'm wondering which Python book I should get as there are so many out
there. here are some pointers:

1. I already know programming in various languages so explaning how basic
procedural or OOP constructs work or why they might be useful is not really
necessary, though I might learn bits and pieces. Drawing comparisons and
analogies to other languages somewhat helps understanding and can greatly
speed up grasping the Python way of dealing with some OOP feature or
datastructure. i.e. hashes are like the hashes in perl except that they use
these method names and don't have those limitations.

2. I'd like to mostly concentrate on language features but some pointers
into useful standard library modules and Win32 specific stuff would be
appreciated, as well. As far as Perl goes, I'm mostly into text processing,
doing administrative things or quick hacks as well as dealing with WIn32
specific modules OLe and the native GUI in particular. I guess I'll be using
Python for mostly similar tasks, for programming in the small at home that
is, plus the OOP stuff I've gotten used to writing in Java.

3. When it comes to programming books, there are two that I like in
particular in terms of style. The reason I decided to bring these up is that
I've noticed reflectively that the way in which things are explained can
make a huge difference in learning and enjoying a particular subject.

The Lama book, that is Learning Perl (for Win32) was a great intro that got
me started way better than any net tutorial. In particular, it has a no
nonsense style which doesn't add abstraction, formalism or programming
jargon when it is not truely needed, that is is down-to-Earth for most
people. I find that this style resonates well with my mode of thinking.
Another aspect is that the examples are brief and though they don't do
anything that useful, they nail down the syntax and feel of the language
well. This kind of book for Python might be the way to go, though it might
be a bit too redundant on aspects that are similar to Perl or Java.

At the other end of the spectrum, I'm still awed by the K&R book (the C
Programming Language 2nd Ed). I do confffess that it was too heavy a book
for me to start learning the language, Teach Yourself C in 21 Days was much
better suited for that. Once I got into pointers, structs and the syntax
nitty-gritty, the K&R book was of graet help and still serves as a C
reference. The beauty of the book is that it says a lot even in a single
sentence without reading like a reference manual. The examples are great,
too. Rather short, highly useful in the real-world and idiomatic as well.
The book taught me the basics of hashing and linked lists, which are useful
concepts outside of C, for example.

A Python book like K&R might be one way to look at the language and might
not even be too heavy as I know some other languages already. HOwever,
there's the danger of beeing too abstract in places (Programming Perl comes
to mind), containing forward references (Unix man pages) or long examples.
Unless it is short, rather than study someone else's code, I prefer to try
writing some myself. ALso, I'd like to get down to business in a tutorial
fashion because I prefer reading sequentially. Digesting, say 10 chapters
before learning the basics of files, seems overkill considering how
frequently I deal with files using Perl in particular.

4. Finally one advantage with a KR style Python book might be that it is
able to teach me some Python idioms and new ways of thinking (without
viewing OO-abstraction mostly as a major hurdle in quick hacking). One of
the problems I'm currently facing is that I don't seem to get rid of Perl,
<grin>. I do know both the syntax and the OOP side is quirky but I've
learned to appreciate the former and cope with the latter. Also, I'm afraid
many useful Win32 modules will be Perl only (Win32::GUI, MIDI, MSAA,
Setupsup etc...) at least for some time. The native Win32 GUI and Java's
Swing after some hacks appear to be the only two screen reader accessible
GUI libs on the Windows platform, so I'd like to access those from Python.

Now many of my friends hype Python and I know I should be learning that at
some point but it is hard to get started. I do realize this is false
lazyness but I often feel like "but I can already do x in Perl with less
lines of code and very little abstraction so why bother." I wouldn't want to
start yet another language war and my programming friends keep me informed
of the merits of Python. However, I might like a book that's able to change
my thinking in this regard. As I've already put a lot of effort into
learning Perl, many books and hours of recreational hacking, I'd like to
preserve a useful symbiosis between the two languages because their domains
don't totally overlap, as well as apply my existing Perl knowledge as much
as possible. Still, I'm far from a guru of any kind, not even the local Perl
guru among my programming friends. In fact, one of the smartest programmers
I know is trying to shove Python down my throat with excellent
argumentation, figuratively speaking, so I guess I should really give it a
serious try, <smile>.

5. Before I let you go I should mention one important factor in choosing the
book. I know this narrows down the scope loads, but if at all possible the
book should be readily available in electronic form. My favorite formats
are: CHM, TXT, HTML, accessible PDF and LIT in this order (Well I hate the
last one more than most). The reason is that I'm actually sight impaired and
should I get a physical book, that means hours or days of scanning before I
can enjoy it on the computer with a formant speech synth. Even so, typos or
subtle layout bugs might creep in.

As to getting physical books in electronic form, apart from ordinary e-books
I know of two ways. The first are services like <www.bookshare.org> which
are great in principle and legal, too. THe only problem is I don't live in
the States and the local Finnish equivalent has very few tech books. the
other, of course, is getting books scanned by someone else and distributed
over HTTP or FTP. As far as I know, this is illegal as long as both parties
aren't visually impaired but it can be highly convenient and would not be
morally that bad in my case, as I would join orgs like bookshare if I could.

But still I have mixed feelings about this and would really like to support
the authors of good tech books provided that it is not terribly
inconvenient. The price is not the real issue, I would gladly pay twice the
price for gems like the K&R, but rather accessibility.

Any help greatly appreciated.

--
With kind regards Veli-Pekka Tštilš ((E-Mail Removed))
Accessibility, game music, synthesizers and programming:
http://www.student.oulu.fi/~vtatila/


 
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gene tani
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      12-14-2005

Veli-Pekka Tštilš wrote:

> 5. Before I let you go I should mention one important factor in choosing the
> book. I know this narrows down the scope loads, but if at all possible the
> book should be readily available in electronic form. My favorite formats
> are: CHM, TXT, HTML, accessible PDF and LIT in this order (Well I hate the
> last one more than most). The reason is that I'm actually sight impaired and
> should I get a physical book, that means hours or days of scanning before I
> can enjoy it on the computer with a formant speech synth. Even so, typos or
> subtle layout bugs might creep in.
>
> As to getting physical books in electronic form, apart from ordinary e-books
> I know of two ways. The first are services like <www.bookshare.org> which
> are great in principle and legal, too. THe only problem is I don't live in
> the States and the local Finnish equivalent has very few tech books. the
> other, of course, is getting books scanned by someone else and distributed


search on python: 700+ hits. Since your'e experienced, you might be
able to just dive in with Python in Nutshell and Python Cookbook

http://safari.oreilly.com/JVXSL.asp

 
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andypurshottam@gmail.com
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      12-15-2005
I reccomend David Mertz's text:
http://gnosis.cx/TPiP/
Despite name its more that just text processing, he uses
"modern" (ie, 20 - 30 years old) style of programming in examples,
often using library packages, especially parsing tools. Online version
is free, but you can pay him buy buying the p-book. Has short examples
that can be tried out from command line.

 
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Veli-Pekka Tštilš
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      12-15-2005
http://www.velocityreviews.com/forums/(E-Mail Removed) wrote:
> I reccomend David Mertz's text:
> http://gnosis.cx/TPiP/
> Despite name its more that just text processing <snip>

I'll give that one a try, thanks. I guess it might be just the book as far
as the text processing that I've used to doing in Perl goes. I'm also
interested in parsing in general so again the material might be well
applicable outside Python, too. Before you know the very basics, even
parsing ordinary arithmetic seems like black magic. I've read bits and
pieces about recursive descent parsers and hopefully Python does have some
modules for rolling your own.

--
With kind regards Veli-Pekka Tštilš ((E-Mail Removed))
Accessibility, game music, synthesizers and programming:
http://www.student.oulu.fi/~vtatila/


 
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Veli-Pekka Tštilš
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      12-15-2005
gene tani wrote:
> Since your'e experienced, you might be
> able to just dive in with Python in Nutshell and Python Cookbook
> http://safari.oreilly.com/JVXSL.asp

Based on the reviews and extras the nutshell looks good. I've just realized
that you can combine Python and Java. THat would really give me the best of
both worlds, I think, as speed is not an issue. That is I could write the
GUIs in Swing, and they would even be accessible unlike TK on Windows. Then
I can use python for text processing and file operations for which Java's
OOP seems heavy and cumbersome. Great stuff. Perl cannot pull this off
unless you count the Sleep language but it is not quite the same thing. So
that''s at least one good reason to really learn Python.

--
With kind regards Veli-Pekka Tštilš ((E-Mail Removed))
Accessibility, game music, synthesizers and programming:
http://www.student.oulu.fi/~vtatila/


 
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