10 July, 2007

Python's 'Pickle' Module

Recent changes to the SimulaeObject class have proven to be a big leap forwards in regards to flexible object manipulation for both testing and live environments.  The issue at hand was in regards to how to load and/or save object 'types' as it were.  Initial thoughts were to go with a simple configuration file which contained each and every object a la something akin to the httpd.conf file from Apache 1.3 (& 2.x?) for handling virtual hosts.  Then it dawned on me that this was a mistake which I personally made once before, and was almost about to fall victim to once more.  

The solution was sitting right in front of me all along, the standard library's 'pickle' module (or alternatively the 'cpickle' variation for speed's sake).  Due to the issues presented in a virtual world simulation the topic of object blueprints and simulation population ease come to mind rather quickly.  The best environment for manipulating these new objects will ultimately be via the methods provided by both the the SimulaE package (SimulaE.loadObject(filename_to_load, [optional_load_path]) as well as at the code level in the parent class in SimulaE.SimulaeObject.saveObject(filename_to_save_as, [optional_save_path]).

By going this route it has been realised that a simple loop and/or script-like routine could be used to create all the generic object templates needed for design platforms, and for customisation all one need do is use the loadObject routine, make the necessary alterations and re-save said item as a more concrete, concise and specialised object, named appropriately of course.  

Let us take an example of a room type object (more simply put, a larger container object).  We'll use simple constructor information here for the sake of staying on focus.  We're going to make a 4 metre x 5.5 metre dining room, with a 2.75 metre ceiling, simple called "Dining Room".  It will be empty sans an already pickled to storage butler object we've created for the sake of this example (whose filename is simply "butler_jeeves"), though future discussions on SimulaE's container and stack loading methods are forthcoming.

import SimulaE

generic_dr = SimulaE.SimulaeObject(name='Dining Room', width=4.0, length=5.5, height=2.75)

generic_butler = SimulaE.loadObject('butler_jeeves')



We now have a pickled version of this generic dining room of the aforementioned dimensions, sporting its own copy of Jeeves the butler, saved to a physical file on whatever storage device we're set to utilise.  We can overwrite said object by simply saving the item with the filename as it exists on whatever storage device is in use.  There is also the flexibility of specifying alternative file save and load paths with allow for multiple parallel simulations and/or individuals to work in safe separate but equal spaces, very much along the lines of a Unix mentality.  Another advantage by working in this manner is being able to create a path full of simulation objects and copy said path en masse for alternative and/or backup purposes.

Either way you slice the pickle (module), it proves to be quite (ful)filling, making one feel quite (programmatically) satisfied.

07 July, 2007

Java Redux. Redux.

I was perusing the internet last evening to pass the time before getting into a vicious round of Champions of Norrath : Return to Arms with my lovely wife.  I had Java on my mind for a bit of the commute home and as such decided to do a bit of googling.  For whatever reason, I decided to lookup “Java for Python Programmers" much along the lines of a great "Perl to Python Migration" book I'd acquired years back.  To my utter shock, results were actually returned.  

This whole 'ordeal' with Java has been going on with me for something over 7 years.  I started teaching myself Java way back when, but found it to be utterly too verbose for productivity, opting for perl in its place.  Then perl very quickly proved to be lacking when it came to large projects, and code cleanliness (by design mind you, I have written production code which after 7 years upon seeing it again, was very easy to follow in spite of its 7,000+ line codebase), and utter hackishness about it, regardless of the raw power.  I moved to Python both personally and then shortly thereafter, professionally where I enjoy myself most.  

However, there are certain things I've come to realise over the past many years, more so over the past few specifically.  One is that I should force myself to code in one of the behemoth languages to the point of solid fluency regardless of how dreadfully painful it can be.  Two is that most jobs are hybrid these days and require a wider set of disciplines in terms of technologies, languages and toolsets than in the past, and whilst I don't have any need for Java in my current work endeavours, it doesn't negate said need in the future.  Three is that Java makes the most sense being that C/C++ are for all purposes outside of hardware tied code (such as operating systems, device drivers, compilers), dead for application creation, period.

And so it is that I venture forth again into the wonderful realm of re-re-learning the evil behemoth formerly known as oak.  May she not be as cruel a mistress as in the past as my understandings of her workings have been greatly enhanced thanks to python sharing so many of those conceptual designs and paradigms coupled with my adoration for the latter language.  

Wish me luck.

05 July, 2007

Check External Data/Configurations First.

I was recently on holiday with my family visiting other members of my family as well as friends.  It was at this time I pulled out my trusty MacBook Pro, fired up TextMate, pulled down the newest subversion repository of my simulation software 'SimulaE' and attempted to show my friend the crafty english parser component I wrote.  I showed him the test suite with all of its various scenarios and then suggested he throw an attempt at it so that he may be amazed at its crafty logic.  

He did, and it failed, and I was surprised to say the last.  So given that I was on vacation, I wasn't going to focus must time on this issue other than updating the subversion repository so that I could look into the issue at a later time.  Well, two days ago I finally did so, and found out after careful checking that one of the datafiles utilised for cross checking and sub classifications of parts of speech of english lacked the necessary word (also the culprit of the mis-parse).  After making a quick addition to the aforementioned lookup file, the test ran just fine, and passed with flying colours.  

Lesson learned (for what feels like the millionth time);  check your support configuration and/or data files, because your code isn't broken, just doing what it is supposed to, based upon the information it has available (data files) to it.