Why would I learn Python over other languages?

Discussion in 'Python' started by Charif Lakchiri, Jul 8, 2004.

  1. Okay, here's what I know so far about Python:
    It's an object-oriented scripting language, supported on many platforms.

    Now here are my questions:
    It is easy to learn?
    Does it support GUI programming?
    Does it support server-side programming, say for web apps?
    Does it have extensions and libraries, say for DB connectivity, serial com
    or network programming...?
    Can it be used for administrative tasks, say as perl...?
    Also, can it be compiled to native code?

    Also much appreciated would be simple comparisons with say JAVA (my other
    candidate), and pointers to sites and docs where to start.

    Thank you in advance.

    --
    charif
    Charif Lakchiri, Jul 8, 2004
    #1
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  2. Charif Lakchiri

    Steve Lamb Guest

    On 2004-07-08, Charif Lakchiri <> wrote:
    > It is easy to learn?


    Yes. Of all the languages I've looked at Python's been one of the
    easiest.

    > Does it support GUI programming?


    Yes; in several different flavors. TK, QT, GTK just to name 3.

    > Does it support server-side programming, say for web apps?


    Yes. mod-python and zope come to mind.

    > Does it have extensions and libraries, say for DB connectivity, serial com
    > or network programming...?


    Yes. Standard, in fact.

    > Can it be used for administrative tasks, say as perl...?


    Yes. I Python has replaced Perl for my admin tasks since I find Python
    far more maintainable than Perl in the long run.

    > Also, can it be compiled to native code?


    No. However on i386 there is Psyco which provides some impressive speed
    boosts.

    --
    Steve C. Lamb | I'm your priest, I'm your shrink, I'm your
    PGP Key: 8B6E99C5 | main connection to the switchboard of souls.
    -------------------------------+---------------------------------------------
    Steve Lamb, Jul 8, 2004
    #2
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  3. I was ready to write a long response, but then I realized that all you
    probably need to know is speed. As in, how fast can I learn this?

    Java will take you months to get good, years if you don't know any other
    languages yet. It will take books, large time investments, lots of
    busywork as you get comfortable with stuff, and lots of false starts as
    you discover new parts of the API. You can be good at Python in weeks.

    The Java API dwarfs anything else I know. There are literally thousands
    of classes. I know the API well enough to make experienced programmers
    go "Woah! I never knew Java could do that!" and I still sometimes find
    it easier to write my own stuff than go looking for it in the docs. It's
    intimidating to newcomers, and it should be. It's pretty clean, but it's
    vast beyond any one person's ability to grasp.

    Python can do everything Java can do, but you can eyeball the whole
    module list every time you're trying to figure something out. It's
    easier to try stuff as you go (interactive interpreter), and a lot of
    the busywork and toil has been rolled into language features that make
    it trivial. That ultimately makes everything less work and more fun.

    To put it in perspective, I learned Java 3 years before Python. It was
    my language of choice. It took me two weekends with Python before I was
    more productive with it than with Java.
    Anthony Roberts, Jul 8, 2004
    #3
  4. Charif Lakchiri

    Paul Rubin Guest

    "Charif Lakchiri" <> writes:
    > Now here are my questions:
    > It is easy to learn?


    For the most part I'd say yes.

    > Does it support GUI programming?


    Hmm, yes, although the official GUI toolkit (tkinter) is cumbersome,
    doesn't look so great on the screen, and is poorly documented.

    > Does it support server-side programming, say for web apps?


    There's a cgi module. There's various third party packages for fancier
    types of web apps.

    > Does it have extensions and libraries, say for DB connectivity,
    > serial com or network programming...?


    There are reasonably good libraries included for various network protocols.
    There are third party extensions for DB connectivity and serial com.

    > Can it be used for administrative tasks, say as perl...?


    Sure, so can any language. I'd say it's generally simpler to toss off
    a 5-line perl script for some admin task than a comparable Python
    script. Python is better for somewhat more complex tasks, where Perl
    programs start getting hopelessly disorganized.

    > Also, can it be compiled to native code?


    There's a JIT compiler called psyco which isn't yet officially part of
    Python but which is coming along nicely. There's no ahead-of-time
    native code compiler and the language doesn't lend itself very well to
    that.

    > Also much appreciated would be simple comparisons with say JAVA (my other
    > candidate), and pointers to sites and docs where to start.


    www.python.org
    Paul Rubin, Jul 8, 2004
    #4
  5. Charif Lakchiri

    Eric Brunel Guest

    Paul Rubin wrote:
    > "Charif Lakchiri" <> writes:[snip]

    [snip]
    >>Does it support GUI programming?


    Sorry: I couldn't resist:

    > Hmm, yes, although the official GUI toolkit (tkinter) is cumbersome,


    Obviously depends on who's talking: I personnaly always found *other* GUI
    toolkits cumbersome (I've tested wxPython and PyQT)

    > doesn't look so great on the screen,


    It seems to be the general opinion, but there is some work to make it better on
    the tcl/tk side; see http://tcl.projectforum.com/tk/Home

    > and is poorly documented.


    No it isn't; there are a lot of Tkinter resources around, not to mention plain
    tk ones. I do agree that they may be hard to find, but they exist. The docs for
    the other toolkits I've tried were usually worse than the ones for Tkinter
    (things may have improved for wxPython, since I tested it quite a while ago)
    --
    - Eric Brunel <eric (underscore) brunel (at) despammed (dot) com> -
    PragmaDev : Real Time Software Development Tools - http://www.pragmadev.com
    Eric Brunel, Jul 8, 2004
    #5
  6. Charif Lakchiri

    Alan Gauld Guest

    On 08 Jul 2004 00:04:51 -0700, Paul Rubin
    <http://> wrote:
    > > Does it support GUI programming?

    >
    > Hmm, yes, although the official GUI toolkit (tkinter) is cumbersome,
    > doesn't look so great on the screen, and is poorly documented.


    I won't dispute the other points but Tkinter is better documented
    than any other Python GUI toolkit IMHO. Not only does it have the
    Pythonware web site, it also has a book by Grayson and all the
    Tcl/Tk documentation(books and web sites)

    I'd argue that the amount of documentation for Tk (and thus
    Tkinter) exceeds any GUI tookit other than X or Microsoft's
    various efforts.

    Picking nits,

    Alan G.

    Author of the Learn to Program website
    http://www.freenetpages.co.uk/hp/alan.gauld
    Alan Gauld, Jul 8, 2004
    #6
  7. Charif Lakchiri

    Ed Suominen Guest

    Charif Lakchiri wrote:
    > Does it support server-side programming, say for web apps?
    > Does it have extensions and libraries, say for DB connectivity, serial com
    > or network programming...?


    Check out the twisted package (http://www.twistedmatrix.com/) for an
    incredibly powerful answer to these two questions.

    ---
    Ed Suominen * http://www.eepatents.com
    Registered Patent Agent * Open-Source Software Author (yes, both...)
    Ed Suominen, Jul 8, 2004
    #7
  8. Charif Lakchiri

    Roy Smith Guest

    "Charif Lakchiri" <> wrote:
    > It is easy to learn?


    Yes. Simplicity and ease of learning were major design criteria. There
    is also a large and active user community who can provide help,
    guidance, and the occasional group hug.

    > Does it support GUI programming?


    Yes. There are several GUI libraries available. I don't do much GUI
    programming, so I'll leave it to others to describe those.

    > Does it support server-side programming, say for web apps?


    Yes. There are a variety of ways to do this. At the low-level, there's
    CGI module. There's a mod-python for Apache. There's a sample HTTP
    server that comes with the system which you can extend on your own. I
    recently saw mention of a JSP container for writing servlets in Python.

    > Does it have extensions and libraries, say for DB connectivity, serial com
    > or network programming...?


    Yes. There is a standard DB API, and adapters for all of the major
    databases (Oracle, Sybase, MySql, etc).

    > Can it be used for administrative tasks, say as perl...?


    Yes. There are modules for interacting with the file system and
    operating system (process control, etc). If you want, you can execute
    external commands and capture their output, just like popen in perl.

    > Also, can it be compiled to native code?


    Yes. The compiler is called "psyco", and it's very easy to use.

    > Also much appreciated would be simple comparisons with say JAVA (my other
    > candidate), and pointers to sites and docs where to start.


    A quick Java. vs. Python comparison:

    Java uses a C-like syntax, Python uses it's own. The Python syntax is
    very easy to learn.

    Java uses static typing, Python uses dynamic typing That means Java
    programs are full of typecasts and variable declarations and useless
    drek like that. On the other hand, since you've pushed a lot of
    checking off to run time, Python takes a performance penalty.

    Java is very much into data hiding, with private/protected/public
    keywords to declare classes and variables. In Python, everything is
    public by default. There are some ways to do weak data hiding if you
    want.

    Both compile to byte-code which runs on a virtual machine. The
    underlying VM's are similar enough that there is a version of Python
    which compiles to java byte code and runs on a JVM! One big difference
    is that the compile step is explicit in Java, but happens automatically
    and behind the scenes in Python. This means you can just fire up an
    interactive Python session and type code at it to try things out, which
    turns out to be incredibly useful.

    Both are object-oriented. Java is a bit more extreme in this philosophy
    (i.e. everything is a class). In Python, you can write non-OO code if
    you want, and that's often easier for quickie one-off scripts such as
    are common in sysadmin work.

    If you are just starting out, I would definately learn both.
    Roy Smith, Jul 8, 2004
    #8
  9. On Thu, 8 Jul 2004, Eric Brunel wrote:

    > Paul Rubin wrote:
    >
    > > Hmm, yes, although the official GUI toolkit (tkinter) is cumbersome,

    >
    > Obviously depends on who's talking: I personnaly always found *other* GUI
    > toolkits cumbersome (I've tested wxPython and PyQT)


    Seconded. Only in Tkitner can you write a (legible) one-liner Hello World:

    import Tkinter
    Tkinter.Label(text='Hello, world!').pack()

    > > doesn't look so great on the screen,

    >
    > It seems to be the general opinion, but there is some work to make it better on
    > the tcl/tk side; see http://tcl.projectforum.com/tk/Home


    On Win32, Tk uses the native widgets, so it looks just as pretty (?) as
    any other Win32 app.

    > > and is poorly documented.

    >
    > No it isn't;


    Also seconded. It's also a lot easier to follow Tk's Tcl documentation
    than GTK or Qt's C documentation.
    Christopher T King, Jul 8, 2004
    #9
  10. Charif Lakchiri

    phil hunt Guest

    On Thu, 08 Jul 2004 06:10:32 GMT, Anthony Roberts <> wrote:
    >I was ready to write a long response, but then I realized that all you
    >probably need to know is speed. As in, how fast can I learn this?
    >
    >Java will take you months to get good, years if you don't know any other
    >languages yet. It will take books, large time investments, lots of
    >busywork as you get comfortable with stuff, and lots of false starts as
    >you discover new parts of the API. You can be good at Python in weeks.
    >
    >The Java API dwarfs anything else I know. There are literally thousands
    >of classes. I know the API well enough to make experienced programmers
    >go "Woah! I never knew Java could do that!" and I still sometimes find
    >it easier to write my own stuff than go looking for it in the docs. It's
    >intimidating to newcomers, and it should be. It's pretty clean, but it's
    >vast beyond any one person's ability to grasp.
    >
    >Python can do everything Java can do, but you can eyeball the whole
    >module list every time you're trying to figure something out.


    I find that Python's library does as much as Java's but with less
    classes. python's libraryu focusses on gettinbg the job done,
    whereas I find java's library to be pedantic and irritating.


    --
    "It's easier to find people online who openly support the KKK
    than people who openly support the RIAA" -- comment on Wikipedia
    (Email: zen19725 at zen dot co dot uk)
    phil hunt, Jul 8, 2004
    #10
  11. Charif Lakchiri

    GMTaglia Guest

    Christopher T King wrote:

    > Also seconded. It's also a lot easier to follow Tk's Tcl documentation
    > than GTK or Qt's C documentation.


    Also GTK documentation is not so bad, I prefer GTK but is only my personal
    taste -.-

    --
    Liquid
    sl.kuht.it <-> www.kuht.it
    GMTaglia, Jul 8, 2004
    #11
  12. Charif Lakchiri

    Jorgen Grahn Guest

    On Thu, 08 Jul 2004 06:10:32 GMT, Anthony Roberts <> wrote:
    > I was ready to write a long response, but then I realized that all you
    > probably need to know is speed. As in, how fast can I learn this?
    >
    > Java will take you months to get good, years if you don't know any other
    > languages yet. It will take books, large time investments, lots of
    > busywork as you get comfortable with stuff, and lots of false starts as
    > you discover new parts of the API. You can be good at Python in weeks.

    ....
    > To put it in perspective, I learned Java 3 years before Python. It was
    > my language of choice. It took me two weekends with Python before I was
    > more productive with it than with Java.


    I second that. The thing I find remarkable about Python is precisely that:
    that learning the language is a very small investment.

    Just sit down over the weekend with docs.python.org, a Python installation
    and a text editor with good Python support. By Monday you may not need to
    make a decision ...

    /Jorgen

    --
    // Jorgen Grahn <jgrahn@ ''If All Men Were Brothers,
    \X/ algonet.se> Would You Let One Marry Your Sister?''
    Jorgen Grahn, Jul 8, 2004
    #12
  13. Charif Lakchiri

    Roy Smith Guest

    I used to work with a guy who was a Perl fanatic (Hi, Nathan). We
    parted company a year to two ago, but I still talk to him every once in
    a while.

    A few days ago, I got some mail from him that said:

    > I just wanted to drop you a quick line to thank you for being the Python
    > evangelist at XXXX. I've started a small programming project this week
    > and I decided to prototype it in an interpreted language. Thus, this is
    > my first week working with Python! I've still got tons to learn but it
    > is very clean and I really like the ability to test code fragments
    > interactively.


    and later:

    > So far I've been quite pleased by the amount and quality of
    > documentation available on the Internet. I hate to say it, but it's
    > more readable than Perl (the code and the docs).


    I know this sounds like one of those corny fake testimonials, but those
    are real cut-and-paste quotes from his email. I just can't imagine
    reading the above paragraphs with "Python" crossed out and "Java"
    written in with crayon.
    Roy Smith, Jul 8, 2004
    #13
  14. Charif Lakchiri a écrit :
    > Okay, here's what I know so far about Python:
    > It's an object-oriented

    right, but also imperative and a bit functional

    > scripting

    yes with 'scripting'='dynamic hi-level interpreted'

    > language, supported on many platforms.

    right

    > Now here are my questions:
    > It is easy to learn?

    Yes. It's (also) used as scripting language for non-programmers and as
    first-language for students. If you have some working experience as a
    programmer, being productive in Python is a matter of days.

    > Does it support GUI programming?

    Yes. TCL, QT, GTK, wxWidget, Win32, etc...

    > Does it support server-side programming, say for web apps?

    Yes. The killer Python-app is Zope, a web application server - and it's
    *really* a killer-app. But there are many other solutions (plain old
    cgi, mod_python, a lot of frameworks based upon mod_python, etc...)

    > Does it have extensions and libraries, say for DB connectivity, serial com
    > or network programming...?

    Everything you need, and much more. Ever wrote a web server in a pair of
    lines of code ?
    http://docs.python.org/lib/module-SimpleHTTPServer.html

    > Can it be used for administrative tasks, say as perl...?

    Of course.

    > Also, can it be compiled to native code?

    No. Why ?

    But have a look at swig, Psycho, and Pyrex if you feel concerned with
    raw speed...

    > Also much appreciated would be simple comparisons with say JAVA (my other
    > candidate),


    Reading a text file line by line and printing each line to stdout in java:

    import java.io.*

    public class ReadFile {
    public static void main(String[] args) {
    try {
    BufferedReader buff =
    new BufferedReader(new FileReader("mytext.txt"));
    String line = buff.readLine();
    while (line != null) {
    System.out.printLn(line);
    line = buff.readline();
    }
    }
    buff.close();
    catch (IOException e) {
    System.out.printLn("Erreur : " + e.toString());
    }
    }
    }

    The same in Python

    try:
    for line in File("mytext.txt"):
    print line
    except IOError, e:
    print "Erreur", e

    The exception handling being useless in such a context (but still
    probably mandatory in the Java version...), you can make it :

    for line in File("mytext.txt"): print line

    If you go for low-level programming in an interpreted language, choose
    Java. If you prefer fun and productivity, you know where to find it.

    Consider this : starting from scratch in both languages, you'll probably
    have your application up and running in Python way before you begin to
    figure out how to write it with Java.

    Consider this too : There is a Java implementation of Python. So you can
    have you'r cake and eat it too. (well, almost, since you'll still have
    to learn the Java API, but what...)

    > and pointers to sites and docs where to start.


    http://www.python.org

    > Thank you in advance.

    HTH
    Bruno
    bruno modulix, Jul 8, 2004
    #14
  15. Charif Lakchiri

    chuck amadi Guest

    Hi , I would like to add a comment I agree I uses to be a coder (
    Systems Programmer prodominately Java and JSP and thus switched to
    SysAdmin role as I wanted to get into Security and add more dimension to
    my learning curve with Linux .

    I have used Python quite limiting but it done the trick I also found the
    books and the user group excellant going back to Java I am to take and
    sit my Java 1.4 exam this November 2004 and Im not that prepared and I
    don't fancy the investment I know I need to make in order to try and get
    a pass .

    Java is a rich dynamic language bit from a time and speed point of view
    I love Python and as a Zope Admin is execellant tool in order to run
    Zope/Plone CMS sites as If you may or not know Zope/Plone/CMF is making
    a quite inpact in the Content Management Areana with this being written
    in Python.

    So ti say it again Python is a great lanaguage I it isn't for me a hugh
    time investment .

    Cheers

    Chuck


    Jorgen Grahn wrote:

    >On Thu, 08 Jul 2004 06:10:32 GMT, Anthony Roberts <> wrote:
    >
    >
    >>I was ready to write a long response, but then I realized that all you
    >>probably need to know is speed. As in, how fast can I learn this?
    >>
    >>Java will take you months to get good, years if you don't know any other
    >>languages yet. It will take books, large time investments, lots of
    >>busywork as you get comfortable with stuff, and lots of false starts as
    >>you discover new parts of the API. You can be good at Python in weeks.
    >>
    >>

    >...
    >
    >
    >>To put it in perspective, I learned Java 3 years before Python. It was
    >>my language of choice. It took me two weekends with Python before I was
    >>more productive with it than with Java.
    >>
    >>

    >
    >I second that. The thing I find remarkable about Python is precisely that:
    >that learning the language is a very small investment.
    >
    >Just sit down over the weekend with docs.python.org, a Python installation
    >and a text editor with good Python support. By Monday you may not need to
    >make a decision ...
    >
    >/Jorgen
    >
    >
    >
    chuck amadi, Jul 8, 2004
    #15
  16. Charif Lakchiri

    Arthur Guest

    On Thu, 8 Jul 2004 14:06:08 +0900, "Charif Lakchiri"
    <> wrote:

    >Okay, here's what I know so far about Python:
    >It's an object-oriented scripting language, supported on many platforms.
    >
    >Now here are my questions:
    >It is easy to learn?


    I, as always, will answer that question differently from most other
    answers you will yet.

    Depends how much previous programming experience you have. It is
    widely reported, and I have no reason to doubt, that people with a
    good understanding of programming principles already in place, find
    Python easy to learn.

    It is widely reported, that Python also is easy to learn as a first
    language. Almost exclusively by people who learned their programming
    principles elsewhere. They are making a logical conclusion based on
    their understanding of the languages strenghts - clean syntax,
    readibility, etc.

    My position is that the issue is considerably more complex than that.

    I can only go by my own experience. Especially when I have seem
    nothing substantial contradicting it, other than verbiage.

    It seems to me sensible to believe that someone can become a quite
    decent, say C++ programmer, by tackling it as a first language, and
    sticking with it.

    I don't think that is true of Python. I think there is a layer of
    Python that one cannot reasonably penetrate without stepping outside
    of Python.

    One can get started with Python, with Python.

    But in the end I don't think Python serves as a fully adequate
    introduction to itself.

    Art

    >Does it support GUI programming?
    >Does it support server-side programming, say for web apps?
    >Does it have extensions and libraries, say for DB connectivity, serial com
    >or network programming...?
    >Can it be used for administrative tasks, say as perl...?
    >Also, can it be compiled to native code?
    >
    >Also much appreciated would be simple comparisons with say JAVA (my other
    >candidate), and pointers to sites and docs where to start.
    >
    >Thank you in advance.
    Arthur, Jul 9, 2004
    #16
  17. Charif Lakchiri

    Peter Hansen Guest

    Arthur wrote:

    > But in the end I don't think Python serves as a fully adequate
    > introduction to itself.


    I think you might say the same about almost any language.

    And yet, many seem to get a good start in programming with,
    well, almost any language... (except VB ;-) .

    -Peter
    Peter Hansen, Jul 9, 2004
    #17
  18. Charif Lakchiri

    Arthur Guest

    On Thu, 08 Jul 2004 22:10:00 -0400, Peter Hansen <>
    wrote:

    >Arthur wrote:
    >
    >> But in the end I don't think Python serves as a fully adequate
    >> introduction to itself.

    >
    >I think you might say the same about almost any language.
    >
    >And yet, many seem to get a good start in programming with,
    >well, almost any language... (except VB ;-) .


    Perhaps of any very high level language.

    Guess I am feeling some frustration. Don't see a path to getting
    deeper into an understanding of Python without undertaking getting
    some handle on C. Mostly intuition at work.

    And its not that I need (or expect to be able) to follow the Python C
    code.

    Python has me addicted me to the interactive prompt as a learning
    tool, so was lucky to comae across CH, a C intepreter.

    http://www.softintegration.com

    New hope.

    Art
    Arthur, Jul 9, 2004
    #18
  19. Charif Lakchiri

    Donn Cave Guest

    Quoth Arthur <>:
    ....
    | It seems to me sensible to believe that someone can become a quite
    | decent, say C++ programmer, by tackling it as a first language, and
    | sticking with it.
    |
    | I don't think that is true of Python. I think there is a layer of
    | Python that one cannot reasonably penetrate without stepping outside
    | of Python.

    It's odd that you would pick C++ for contrast. I thought it was
    nearly universally dismissed as the worst possible way to learn
    object oriented programming, to the point that some people suggest
    learning a real OOP language like Smalltalk first to inculcate the
    basic principles.

    I wouldn't claim that Python is particularly easy for pure beginners,
    without more than the slim anecdotal evidence I have, but I would
    be interested to hear what other sort of language experience you
    believe it takes to get the whole story.

    In my comment above about Smalltalk and C++, I don't mean to suggest
    that Smalltalk helps anyone understand C++. It's just supposed to
    present a more focused object oriented programming model, and that
    sense of the important principles is what it's about. Of course it's
    utterly different from C++ in most respects.

    Does Python present some aspect of itself in a confused and incoherent
    way? Well, yes, of course - it's a terrible introduction to functional
    programming! But it's a terrible functional programming language anyway,
    so a Haskell programmer wouldn't have a big advantage here. In fact
    there are enough subtle differences in what variables are and so forth,
    that Haskell or for that matter almost any other language is going to
    be a bit of a liability.

    Donn Cave,
    Donn Cave, Jul 9, 2004
    #19
  20. Charif Lakchiri

    Paul Prescod Guest

    Arthur wrote:

    > ...
    >
    > I don't think that is true of Python. I think there is a layer of
    > Python that one cannot reasonably penetrate without stepping outside
    > of Python.
    >
    > One can get started with Python, with Python.
    >
    > But in the end I don't think Python serves as a fully adequate
    > introduction to itself.


    In one sense I think that any language is a sufficient introduction to
    itself. Given enough time and effort you learn every trick, see every
    corner exposed by someone (perhaps someone with a different background
    than you) and learn everything there is to possibly know. Sometimes it
    is MORE EFFICIENT to step outside the language to learn it but one can
    do the whole thing from the inside. It would be a lot easier to learn
    physics if we could step outside the universe and experiment with the
    rules but we scrape away at it from the inside and figure it out the
    hard way. Python is surely simpler to understand than the universe.

    In another sense, every language builds on other languages and you will
    always feel you are missing something if you know the language but not
    the ones it is built upon. A C++ programmer who doesn't understand
    assembly language does not know what an function call "really" is (in
    terms of its implementation).

    Sometimes Python's implementation language leaks through. "Why is it
    that way? Because it is in C?" But that is also true for C++. What does
    the register keyword mean? Or ask a Lisper what "cdr" means...

    I am skeptical that Python is either more or less self-revealing in
    these senses than any other language.

    Paul Prescod
    Paul Prescod, Jul 9, 2004
    #20
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