Pythonic : The Good Programmer

When do you think Python programmers appreciate more its dynamic nature?

Guido: The language’s dynamic features are often most useful when you are exploring a large problem or solution space and you don’t know your way around yet—you can do a bunch of experiments, each using what you learned from the previous ones, without having too much code that locks you into a particular approach. Here it really helps that you can write very compact code in Python—writing 100 lines of Python to run an experiment once and then starting over is much more efficient than writing a 1,000-line framework for experimentation in Java and then finding out it solves the wrong problem!

From a security point of view, what does Python offer to the programmer?

Guido: That depends on the attacks you’re worried about. Python has automatic memory allocation, so Python programs aren’t prone to certain types of bugs that are common in C and C++ code like buffer overflows or using deallocated memory, which have been the bread and butter of many attacks on Microsoft software. Of course the Python runtime itself is written in C, and indeed vulnerabilities have been found here over the years, and there are intentional escapes from the confines of the Python runtime, like the ctypes module that lets one call arbitrary C code.

Does its dynamic nature help or rather the opposite?

Guido: I don’t think the dynamic nature helps or hurts. One could easily design a dynamic language that has lots of vulnerabilities, or a static language that has none. However having a runtime, or virtual machine as is now the “hip” term, helps by constraining access to the raw underlying machine. This is coincidentally one of the reasons that Python is the first language supported by Google App Engine, the project in which I am currently participating.

How can a Python programmer check and improve his code security?

Guido: I think Python programmers shouldn’t worry much about security, certainly not without having a specific attack model in mind. The most important thing to look for is the same as in all languages: be suspicious of data provided by someone you don’t trust (for a web server, this is every byte of the incoming web request, even the headers). One specific thing to watch out for is regular expressions—it is easy to write a regular expression that runs in exponential time, so web applications that implement searches where the end user types in a regular expression should have some mechanism to limit the running time.

Is there any fundamental concept (general rule, point of view, mindset, principle) that you would suggest to be proficient in developing with Python?

Guido: I would say pragmatism. If you get too hung up about theoretical concepts like data hiding, access control, abstractions, or specifications, you aren’t a real Python programmer, and you end up wasting time fighting the language, instead of using (and enjoying) it; you’re also likely to use it inefficiently. Python is good if you’re an instant gratification junkie like myself. It works well if you enjoy approaches like extreme programming or other agile development methods, although even there I would recommend taking everything in moderation.

Source of Information : Oreilly - Masterminds of Programming


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