The Invent with Python Blog

Writings from the author of Automate the Boring Stuff.

Book Review: The Little Schemer

Sun 09 December 2018    Al Sweigart

Alternative Title: The Little Schemer Wears No Clothes

Perhaps a software engineer or MIT professor friend of yours recommended this book to you. “Oh, you want to learn how to code? You should read The Little Schemer,” they’ll say. Your friend means well, but is completely wrong to recommend this book.


A Curriculum for Python Packaging

Mon 22 October 2018    Al Sweigart

Python's packaging ecosystem contains multitudes. It can be intimidating for new Python developers to try to crack into, especially given the rapid evolution of Python packaging. Writing a ** file and running it on your computer is simple, but getting it to run on someone else's computer (and doing this the "right" way) involves a tangle of terms, tools, and techniques. What are wheel files? What is distutils? Do I use distutils or easy_install or pip?

To get to the bottom of this myself, I've compiled a curriculum of PyCon talks, online documentation, and my own personal notes to finally get a complete handle on Python packaging.


Writing Bots to Play Zombie Dice

Wed 17 October 2018    Al Sweigart

Programming games are a games genre where instead of playing the game directly, players write bot programs to play the game autonomously. I've created a Zombie Dice simulator, allowing programmers to practice their skills while having fun making game-playing AIs. Zombie Dice bots can be simple or incredibly complex, and are great for a class exercise or an individual programming challenge.


The Zen of Python, Explained

Fri 17 August 2018    Al Sweigart

The Zen of Python by Tim Peters are 20 guidelines for the design of the Python language. Your Python code doesn’t necessarily have to follow these guidelines, but they’re good to keep in mind. The Zen of Python is an Easter egg, or hidden joke, that appears if you run import this.


Python's Fake Increment and Decrement Operators

Mon 21 May 2018    Al Sweigart

In Python, you can increase the value of a variable by 1 or reduce it by 1 using the augmented assignment operators. The code spam += 1 and spam -= 1 increments and decrements the numeric values in spam by 1, respectively.

Other languages such as C++ and Java have the ++ and -- operators for incrementing and decrementing variables. (The name of C++ itself reflects this; the name is a tongue-in-cheek joke that indicates it's an enhanced form of the C language.) Code in C++ and Java could have ++spam or spam++. Python wisely doesn't include these operators; they are notoriously susceptible to subtle bugs.


How To Ask For Programming Help

Fri 02 February 2018    Al Sweigart

I often get emails say little more than "Why doesn't my program work?" Often I can't answer them; either I don't have enough information about your problem or you're asking me about something I don't know anything about.


Lessons Learned from Creating a Udemy Course

Wed 05 April 2017    Al Sweigart

This post contains the lessons I've learned and my process for creating video tutorials, and I hope others who want to do the same find it useful. While this post is specific to Udemy and programming courses, the same lessons probably apply to all online courses.