GitHub. Let’s take some time to get to know Anthony better!
Can you tell us a little about yourself (hobbies, education, etc)?:
I grew up in a small town in the central interior of British Columbia, Canada. In spite of it being a small town, my school managed to acquire a personal computer shortly after they were made available. I was fascinated and quickly became the school guru. That experience convinced me that computers and especially programming were in my future. I moved to Edmonton, Alberta, Canada in order to attend university and ended up staying there permanently. Instead of only taking computing science courses I ended up combining them with engineering and received a computer engineering degree. After university, I first worked for a small consulting firm, then for a large consulting firm and am now working for the software company, Oracle, in the database group. Besides working with computers I enjoy reading and both cross-country and downhill skiing.
Why did you start using Python?
In the late 1990s, I had developed a C++ library and set of tools to manage Oracle database objects. These worked reasonably well but they took a fair amount of time to both develop and maintain. I discovered Python and its C API and did some experimentation with what eventually became the cx_Oracle Python module. Within a few days, I had sufficiently rewritten the C++ library and a couple of the tools using Python and cx_Oracle to prove to myself that Python was an excellent choice. In spite of being interpreted and theoretically slower than C++, the tools I had written in Python were actually faster, primarily due to the fact that I could use more advanced data manipulation techniques in Python with little to no effort compared to C++. I completed the rewrite in Python and continued to expand my use of Python to the point where the flagship product of the company I was working for used it extensively. Thankfully, the companies I worked for saw the benefits of the open source model and I was able to make the libraries and tools I developed there available as open source. These include cx_PyGenLib, cx_PyOracleLib, cx_Oracle, cx_OracleTools, cx_OracleDBATools, cx_bsdiff, cx_Logging, ceODBC and cx_Freeze.
What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?
What projects are you working on now?
Which Python libraries are your favorite (core or 3rd party)?
The modules I have found to be the most useful in my work have been reportlab (cross-platform tool for creating PDFs programmatically), xlsxwriter (cross-platform tool for creating Excel documents without requiring Excel itself) and wxPython (cross-platform GUI toolkit). I have also recently been making use of the virtues of the venv module (earlier known as virtualenv) and have found it to be excellent for testing.
What was your motivation for creating the cx_Freeze package?
As mentioned earlier, I had built a number of tools for managing Oracle database objects. I wanted to distribute these to others without requiring them to install Python itself. I first experimented with the freeze tool that comes with Python itself and found that it worked but wasn’t easy to use or create executables. I discovered py2exe but it was only developed for Windows and we had Linux machines on which we wanted to run these tools. So I built cx_Freeze and it worked well enough that I was able to easily distribute my tools and later full applications on both Windows and Linux and (with some help from the community) macOS. My current job doesn’t require this capability so I have not been able to spend as much time on it as I did before.
What are the top three things that you have learned while maintaining this project?
These lessons have been learned not just with cx_Freeze but also with cx_Oracle, the other well-used module I originally developed. First, the code you write that works well for you will break when other people get their hands on it! Everyone thinks differently and makes mistakes differently and that becomes obvious very quickly. Second, although well-written code is the most important aspect of a project (keep in mind lesson #1), documentation, samples, and test cases are nearly as important and take almost as much time to do well, and, without them, others will find your project considerably more difficult to use. Finally, even though additional people bring additional and possibly conflicting ideas, the project is considerably stronger and more useful the more contributors there are.
Is there anything else you’d like to say?
I can’t think of anything right now!
Thanks for doing the interview!