Lately I have been on a Python kick. You know, just in case you haven’t noticed it based on the new outcrop of Python centric posts around these parts. In addition to Google App Engine related stuff I’ve been doing, the big P sort of became my new go-to language for random-ass scripting needs. Perl used to be that language to me, but… Well, let me tell you a story.
Recently I needed to update an ancient Perl script that I wrote few years ago. At the time I was actually taking a Bioinfomatics course, where we user Perl to process genetic sequences. Needless to say, the language and the regexp syntax were fresh in my mind. Fast forward few years of me working almost exclusively in Java and PHP and most of that 1337 knowledge got filed away in some distant corner of my brain. Then it was covered up by intellectual mold, cobwebs and someone hung a sign saying “Beware of the Leopard” on the door. Imagine me happily opening a file and going, “Hey, I just need to change couple of… Oh… Wait… What? What… I don’t even… What the fuck in hell was I thinking?”
It turns out that former me was a dick, and he was fond of playing Perl Golf. You know, as in “I bet I can do this in three fucking lines or less”. Yeah, I hate that guy. I eventually figured it out, but I decided that I should tell myself to:
- Comment more
- Fight the urge to write incomprehensible spaghetti code
- Oh, and try not to hard-code so many things
So I figured out that I might as well take some of my old Perl scripts and rewrite them in Python where needed. For example, I had a script that I would periodically check a certain log file searching for error codes that I wanted to be notified about. Recently however the app that generates said log files has changed its behavior. Now, when a long file reaches a certain size it starts a new one giving it a name like “log_file_12345″ where 12345 is some semi random garbage probably based on the timestamp or what not. My old Perl script of course had the log file hard coded.
I replaced it with a python script that did the same thing, and added the following logic to find the most recently modified file in the directory:
#ct: 801527ff-462f-4291-9925-8bcbe7ac9e0a import os def find_most_recent(directory, partial_file_name): # list all the files in the directory files = os.listdir(directory) # remove all file names that don't match partial_file_name string files = filter(lambda x: x.find(partial_file_name) > -1, files) # create a dict that contains list of files and their modification timestamps name_n_timestamp = dict([(x, os.stat(directory+x).st_mtime) for x in files]) # return the file with the latest timestamp return max(name_n_timestamp, key=lambda k: name_n_timestamp.get(k))
You guys know python lambdas, right? They are basically inline functions. They take a list of arguments and a one-liner expression. Whatever that expression evaluates to is returned as a result. So as you can see above, I pass a lambda that will check whether a file name matches partial_file_name into the filter function.
The last line is interesting because it reveals a particular Python quirk. When you run the max function on a dictionary, it will return the the highest key without ever looking at values. If you want to get the key of the highest value however you have to do the above.
Have you ever been in this situation? Have you ever wanted to travel back in time and smack yourself upside the head for writing overly cryptic code. Or you know – stupid code? In production environment? Yeah, I have monumentally stupid code in production right now. How about you? The script above was an easy fix because it was running just for my benefit and nothing else depended on it. Some of the production stuff… Not that easy to fix.