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Episode #277: It's a Python package showdown!

Published Sat, Apr 2, 2022, recorded Mon, Mar 28, 2022.

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About the show

Sponsored by: Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub.

Special guest: Thomas Gaigher, creator/maintainer pypyr taskrunner

Michael #1: March Package Madness

  • via Chris May
  • Start with 16 packages
  • They battle it out 2-on-2 in elimination rounds
  • Voting is once a week
  • So go vote!

Brian #2: nbpreview

  • “A terminal viewer for Jupyter notebooks. It’s like cat for ipynb files.”
  • Some cool features
    • pretty colors by default
      • piping strips formatting, so you can pass it to grep or other post processing
      • automatic paging
    • syntax highlighting
      • line numbers and wrapping work nicely
    • markdown rendering
    • images converted to block, character, or dots (braille)
    • dataframe rendering
    • clickable links

Thomas #3: pyfakefs

  • A fake file system!
  • It intercepts all calls that involve the filesystem in Python - e.g open(), shutil, or pathlib.Path.
  • This is completely transparent - your functional code does not know or need to know that under the hood it's been disconnected from the actual filesystem.
  • The nice thing about this is that you don't have to go patching open using mock_open - which works fine, but gets annoying quickly for more complex test scenarios.
    • E.g Doing a mkdir -p before a file write to ensure parent dirs exist.
  • What it looks like without a fake filesystem:
in_bytes = b"""[table]
foo = "bar"  # String

# read
with patch('',
            mock_open(read_data=in_bytes)) as mocked_open:
    payload = toml.read_file('arb/')

# write
with io.BytesIO() as out_bytes:
    with patch('', mock_open()) as mock_output:
        mock_output.return_value.write.side_effect = out_bytes.write
        toml.write_file('arb/out.toml', payload)

    out_str = out_bytes.getvalue().decode()

mock_output.assert_called_once_with('arb/out.toml', 'wb')

assert out_str == """[table]
foo = "bar"
  • If you've ever tried to patch/mock out pathlib, you'll know the pain!
  • Also, no more annoying test clean-up routines or tempfile - as soon as the fake filesystem goes out of scope, it's gone, no clean-up required.
  • Not a flash in the pan - long history: originally developed by Mike Bland at Google back in 2006. Open sourced in 2011 on Google Code. Moved to Github and nowadays maintained by John McGehee.
  • This has been especially useful for pypyr, because as a task-runner or automation tool pypyr deals with wrangling config files on disk a LOT (reading, generating, editing, token replacing, globs, different encodings), so this makes testing so much easier.
    • Especially to keep on hitting the 100% test coverage bar!
  • Works great with pytest with the provided fs fixture.
    • Just add the fs fixture to a test, and all code under test will use the fake filesystem.
  • Dynamically switch between Linux, MacOs & Windows filesystems.
  • Set up paths/files in your fake filesystem as part of test setup with some neat helper functions.
  • Very responsive maintainers - I had a PR merged in less than half a day. Shoutout to mrbean-bremen.
  • Docs here:
  • Github here:
  • Real world example:
@patch('pypyr.config.config.default_encoding', new='utf-16')
def test_json_pass_with_encoding(fs):
    """Relative path to json should succeed with encoding."""
    # arrange
    in_path = './tests/testfiles/test.json'
    fs.create_file(in_path, contents="""{
    "key1": "value1",
    "key2": "value2",
    "key3": "value3"
""", encoding='utf-16')

    # act
    context = pypyr.parser.jsonfile.get_parsed_context([in_path])

    # assert
    assert context == {
        "key1": "value1",
        "key2": "value2",
        "key3": "value3"

def test_json_parse_not_mapping_at_root(fs):
    """Not mapping at root level raises."""
    # arrange
    in_path = './tests/testfiles/singleliteral.json'
    fs.create_file(in_path, contents='123')

    # act
    with pytest.raises(TypeError) as err_info:

    # assert
    assert str(err_info.value) == (
        "json input should describe an object at the top "
        "level. You should have something like\n"
        "at the json top-level, not an [array] or literal.")

Michael #4: strenum

  • A Python Enum that inherits from str.
  • To complement enum.IntEnum in the standard library. Supports python 3.6+.
  • Example usage:
    class HttpMethod(StrEnum):
        GET = auto()
        POST = auto()
        PUT = auto()
        DELETE = auto()

    assert HttpMethod.GET == "GET"

Use wherever you can use strings, basically:

    ## You can use StrEnum values just like strings:

    import urllib.request

    req = urllib.request.Request('', method=HttpMethod.HEAD)
    with urllib.request.urlopen(req) as response:
       html =

Can auto-translate casing with LowercaseStrEnum and UppercaseStrEnum.

Brian #5: Code Review Guidelines for Data Science Teams

  • Tim Hopper
  • Great guidelines for any team
  • What is code review for?
    • correctness, familiarity, design feedback, mutual learning, regression protection
    • NOT opportunities for
      • reviewer to impose their idiosyncrasies
      • dev to push correctness responsibility to reviewers
      • demands for perfection
  • Opening a PR
    • informative commit messages
    • consider change in context of project
    • keep them short
    • write a description that helps reviewer
    • include tests with new code
  • Reviewing
    • Wait for CI before starting
      • I would also add “wait at least 10 min or so, requester might be adding comments”
    • Stay positive, constructive, helpful
    • Clarify when a comment is minor or not essential for merging, preface with “nit:” for example
    • If a PR is too large, ask for it to be broken into smaller ones
    • What to look for
      • does it look like it works
      • is new code in the right place
      • unnecessary complexity
      • tests

Thomas #6: Shell Power is so over. Leave the turtles in the late 80ies.

  • Partly inspired by/continuation of last week’s episode’s mention of running subprocesses from Python.
  • Article by Itamar Turner-Trauring
  • Aims mostly at bash, but I'll happily include bourne, zsh etc. under the same dictum
  • If nothing else, solid listing of common pitfalls/gotchas with bash and their remedies, which is educational enough in and of itself already.
    • TLDR; Error handling in shell is hard, but also surprising if you're not particularly steeped in the ways of the shell.
    • Error resumes next, unset vars don't raise errors, piping & sub shells errs thrown away
  • If you really-eally HAVE to shell, you prob want this boilerplate on top (aka unofficial bash strict mode:
    set -euo pipefail
  • This will,
    • -e: fail immediately on error
    • -u: fail on Unset vars
    • -o pipefail: raise immediately when piping
    • IFS: set Internal Field Separator to newline | tab, rather than space | newline | tab.
      • Prevents surprises when iterating over strings with spaces in them
  • Itamar lists common counter-arguments from shell script die-hards:
    • It's always there!
      • But so is the runtime of whatever you're actually coding in, and in the case of a build CI server. . .almost by definition.
    • Git gud! (I'm paraphrasing)
    • Shell-check (linting for bash, basically)
  • The article is short & sweet - mercifully so in these days of padded content.
  • The rest is going to be me musing out loud, so don't blame the OG author. So expanding on this, I think there're a couple of things going on here:
  • If anything, the author is going a bit soft on your average shell script. If you’re just calling a couple of commands in a row, okay, fine. But the moment you start worrying about retrying on failure, parsing some values into or out of some json, conditional branching - which, if you are writing any sort of automation script that interacts with other systems, you WILL be doing - shell scripts are an unproductive malarial nightmare.
    • Much the same point applies to Makefile. It’s an amazing tool, but it’s also misused for things it was never really meant to do. You end up with Makefiles that call shell scripts that call Makefiles. . .
  • Given that coding involves automating stuff, amazingly often the actual automation of the development process itself is deprioritized & unbudgeted.
  • Sort of like the shoemaker's kid not having shoes.
    • Partly because when management has to choose between shiny new features and automation, shiny new features win every time.
    • Partly because techies will just "quickly" do a thing in shell to solve the immediate problem… Which then becomes part of the firmament like a dead dinosaur that fossilises and more and more inscrutable layers accrete on top of the original "simple" script.
    • Partly because coders would rather get on with clever but marginal micro-optimisations and arguing over important stuff like spaces vs tabs, rather than do the drudge work of automating the development/deployment workflow.
  • There's the glimmering of a point in there somewhere: when you have to choose between shiny new features & more backoffice automation, shiny new features probably win.
    • Your competitiveness in the marketplace might well depend on this.
    • BUT, we shouldn’t allow the false idea that shell scripts are "quicker" or "lighter touch" to sneak in there alongside the brutal commercial reality of trade-offs on available budget & time.
    • If you have to automate quickly, it's more sensible to use a task-runner or just your actual programming language. If you're in python already, you're in luck, python's GREAT for this.
  • Don’t confuse excellent cli programs like git , curl , awscli, sed or awk with a shell script. These are executables, you don’t need the shell to invoke these.
  • Aside from these empirical factors, a couple of psychological factors also.
    • Dealing with hairy shell scripts is almost a Technocratic rite of passage - coupled with imposter syndrome, it's easy to be intimidated by the Shell Bros who're steeped in the arcana of bash.
    • It's the tech equivalent of "back in my day, we didn't even have <<>>", as if this is a justification for things being more difficult than they need to be ever thereafter.
    • This isn't Elden Ring, the extra difficulty doesn't make it more fun. You're trying to get business critical work done, reliably & quickly, so you can get on with those new shiny features that actually pay the bills.



  • A changing of the guard
    • Firefox → Vivaldi
    • Google email/drive/etc → Zoho
    • to
    • Google search → DuckDuckGo
    • BTW Calendar apps/integrations and email clients are trouble

Joke: A missed opportunity - and cybersecurity

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