alan little’s weblog

the price of freedom

9th March 2005 permanent link

On the other hand, sometimes installing open source software does require hours of fiddling about with editors and C compilers, but that isn’t always the fault of the people who wrote it.

Now I have MySQL and Postgres working. I don’t have Oracle yet but will soon, one way or another. The next thing I need is python connectors for all these databases. MySQLDB didn’t work on the Mac the last time I tried it, but now I discover it does. That’s nice. Everybody’s favourite Postgresql connector seems to be pyscopg, so I download that; and everybody’s favourite Oracle connector seems to be cx_Oracle so I download that too.

Both psycopg and cx_oOracle, however, need a third party date/time formatting library, Marc André Lemburg’s mxDateTime (because, apparently, the built-in facilities in python weren’t good enough at the time when they were orginally written). I download mxDateTime, which appears to build and install successfully, but then crashes python when I try to import it:

Python 2.3 (#1, Sep 13 2003, 00:49:11) 
[GCC 3.3 20030304 (Apple Computer, Inc. build 1495)] on darwin
Type "help", "copyright", "credits" or "license" for more information.
>>> import mx.DateTime
Fatal Python error: Interpreter not initialized (version mismatch?)

I post a cry for help on comp.lang.python, where I have always found people to be super friendly and knowledgeable, and get answers that suggest the problem is a bug in Apple’s standard installation of python 2.3. So now I must upgrade python, following these non-trivial looking instructions. Say bye bye to another afternoon.

Incidentally, Guido says that database drivers having this dependency on a third party library is an undesirable bit of legacy:

I would like the spec to change to require new versions of db API compatible modules to fully support the built-in datetime type, at least when used with Python 2.4 and beyond. The spec current recommends use of a 3rd party date/time type, which was a good idea back when there was no built-in alternative, but which should gradually be phased out now that there is.

Having to fiddle about with too many dependencies (especially when you happen to be trying to develop on a platform where one of your key dependencies doesn’t actually work, for whatever reason) is a major drag on productivity. Which takes us back to the key thing I don’t like about python: it’s no good having a super-productive language if all the time you save on typing code is wasted faffing about with the environment instead of getting more done.

The price of freedom is … eternal fiddling about with incompatible versions of odd little bits of software.

Hopefully this is just start-up cost and once I do finally get a working environment together everything will be lovely.

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