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

Discussion in 'Python' started by Veli-Pekka Tätilä, Dec 14, 2005.

  1. 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 Tätilä ()
    Accessibility, game music, synthesizers and programming:
    http://www.student.oulu.fi/~vtatila/
    Veli-Pekka Tätilä, Dec 14, 2005
    #1
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  2. Veli-Pekka Tätilä

    gene tani Guest

    Veli-Pekka Tätilä 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
    gene tani, Dec 14, 2005
    #2
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  3. Veli-Pekka Tätilä

    Guest

    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.
    , Dec 15, 2005
    #3
  4. 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 Tätilä ()
    Accessibility, game music, synthesizers and programming:
    http://www.student.oulu.fi/~vtatila/
    Veli-Pekka Tätilä, Dec 15, 2005
    #4
  5. 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 Tätilä ()
    Accessibility, game music, synthesizers and programming:
    http://www.student.oulu.fi/~vtatila/
    Veli-Pekka Tätilä, Dec 15, 2005
    #5
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