Archive for April, 2011

What’s New in Python 2.7

April 29, 2011 Leave a comment

Ubuntu 11.04 comes with Python 2.7 (the previous release contained 2.6). Learn more about Python 2.7 here.

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Calling external commands

April 28, 2011 Leave a comment

How to call external commands in Python:

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Debugging in Python

April 24, 2011 4 comments

If you are doing debugging with “print“, it’s time to try one of the following methods.

Debugging with pdb/ipdb

If you want a clear and gentle introduction to the usage of the Python debugger “pdb“, read Steve Ferg’s excellent tutorial Debugging in Python.

Here I make a short summary for reference purposes:

  • import pdb” or “import ipdb as pdb“, then “pdb.set_trace()
  • n (next)
  • ENTER (repeat previous)
  • q (quit)
  • p <variable> (print value)
  • c (continue)
  • l (list where you are)
  • s (step into subroutine)
  • r (continue till the end of the subroutine)
  • ! <python command>

ipdb is like pdb but it adds syntax highlightning and completion. You can install it with “sudo pip install ipdb“. If you used pdb with “import pdb“, just change this line to “import ipdb as pdb“. This way the line “pdb.set_trace()” can be left unchanged.

Debugging with Winpdb

Another interesting debugger is Winpdb, which is a platform independent GUI debugger for Python with support for multiple threads, namespace modification, embedded debugging, encrypted communication… It can be installed from the Ubuntu repos (sudo apt-get install winpdb). Tutorial here.

Short summary again:

  • restart (restart debugging session)
  • exit
  • n (next)
  • go (continue)
  • x <python command> (exec, changes state)
  • v <python command> (eval, print to console, no changes in state)
  • j <line> (jump)
  • s (step in subroutine)
  • r (return from subroutine)
  • bp <line> (breakpoint @ line)
  • bp <line>, <expression> (conditional breakpoint @ line)
  • bl (breakpoint list)
  • bc <id> | * (breakpoint clear)

Debugging with the Eric IDE

I would sum up how to debug with the Eric IDE too:

  • F5 (start debugging; untick “Don’t stop at first line” or set a breakpoint)
  • F10 (stop)
  • F7 (next, step in subroutines)
  • F8 (next, step over subroutines)
  • F9 (return, step out of subroutine)
  • F6 (continue, go, run)
  • Shift+F6 (continue till cursor)
  • conditional breakpoints are supported (set a breakpoint, right click on it, edit)

I find Eric’s debugger is much faster than Winpdb.

Update (20141227)
If you want to add a break point to your script and you want to “break out” to ipython, then just add this line:

import ipdb; ipdb.set_trace()
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Understanding imports and PYTHONPATH

April 23, 2011 Leave a comment

If you have problems with imports or you want to know how to write your own library and make it globally available, read Dan Fairs’ excellent article entitled Understanding imports and PYTHONPATH.

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Pythex: a real-time regexp editor

April 20, 2011 Leave a comment

Pythex is a real-time regular expressions editor for Python. Just paste in a test string and start writing your regular expression. Pythex will mark in green the part of the test string that is covered by your regexp. Useful stuff!


/ discussion /

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Determine the image type (JPG, GIF, PNG, etc.)

April 19, 2011 2 comments


You want to process an image but you want to verify if the user-specified input file is really an image.

Solution #1

There is a standard module for this called imghdr. Its usage is very simple:

>>> import imghdr
>>> imghdr.what('/tmp/bass.gif')

The method checks the content of the file.

Solution #2

If you want a more general solution, i.e. you want to figure out the type of an arbitrary file, use the Python binding to the command “file“.

Command-line example:

$ file lolcat.jpg 
lolcat.jpg: JPEG image data, JFIF standard 1.01

If you want to use it from Python, install the package “python-magic” (it’s in the Ubuntu repos). It comes with the following example:

import magic

ms =
type =  ms.file("/path/to/some/file")
print type

f = file("/path/to/some/file", "r")
buffer =

type = ms.buffer(buffer)
print type


Update (20131218)
Here is how to convert the return value of ms.file to a file extension:

    'JPEG' : 'jpg',
    'GIF' : 'gif',
    'PNG' : 'png',

def get_file_type(fname):
    ftype = ms.file(fname).split()[0]
    return FTYPES.get(ftype)

Solution #3
You can also use the module PIL to verify if the given file is an image. Refer to this thread for some examples.

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Python Module of the Week by Doug Hellmann

April 16, 2011 1 comment

Update (20130225): PyMOTW has moved to Update your bookmarks.

PyMOTW is a series of blog posts written by Doug Hellmann. It was started as a way to build the habit of writing something on a regular basis. The focus of the series is building a set of example code for the modules in the Python standard library.

Doug guides you through the Python standard library with lots of examples. Definitely a must read!


json – JavaScript Object Notation Serializer