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PyDev of the Week: Bert JW Regeer

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PyDev of the Week: Bert JW Regeer

This week's PyDev of the Week is Pyramid web framework core developer Bert JW Regeer! Come spend a few minutes to find out more about Bert!

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This week we welcome Bert JW Regeer as our PyDev of the Week! Bert is a core developer of the Pyramid web framework. You can check our his experience over on his website or go check out his GitHub profile to see what projects he’s been working on lately. Let’s take a few moments to get to know Bert better!

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Can you tell us a little about yourself? (Hobbies, education, etc?):

Oh, I have no idea where to start, but let’s give it a shot. I am first and foremost a geek, I love electronics, which in and of itself is an expensive hobby. Always new toys to play with and buy. I studied Computer Science at the University of Advancing Technology, and have been known to spend a lot of time building cool hardware based projects too. Spent a lot of time on FIRST Robotics, first in HS and then mentoring HS students while in college. Lately the only hardware I get to play with though is home automation, installing new switches and sensors to make my laziness even more lazy!

My other major hobbies all have something in common, they are expensive ones: photography and cars. I am a bit of an amateur photographer and am always looking to get new lenses or find new ideas on how to shoot something new and exciting. My next goal is to do some astrophotography and I am looking to get a nice wide lens with a nice large aperture. I live in Colorado so there are plenty of gorgeous places to go photograph. I drive a Subaru WRX, and I absolutely love going for rides. Been eyeing some upgrades to my car, but so far she is still stock. I enjoy going out and driving around the mountains though, which goes hand in hand with the photography!

Last but not least, lately I have gotten into making my own sourdough bread. There is nothing better than a freshly baked sourdough bread with a little butter. It’s my newest hobby, and it is also the one that costs almost nothing. I get to make healthier bread, share it with friends and family, and it costs pennies! I work at a small company named Crunch and a few of my colleagues are bread bakers too, which allows us to share tips and ideas on how to improve our bread.

I really should update my website to include this, but on a different note, you can find some of my older projects there!

Why did you start using Python?

I was introduced to Python while I was at university, at the time (2008 timeframe) I didn’t really think much of it other than just a quick way to prototype some ideas before translating them into C/C++. At the time I was a pretty big proponent of C++, and working mostly in the backend it was a pretty natural fit. Write your applications in C++ and run on FreeBSD.

It wasn’t until I was at my first programming job where we had to quickly write a new server component that I started reaching for Python first and foremost to deliver the project. After quickly prototyping I was able to prove that Python would provide us with the speed and throughput required while alleviating some of the development concerns we were worried about. As time went on there were still components I wrote in C++, but a large part of our service ended up being written in Python due to the speed of development.

For personal use, I had always written my websites in PHP since it was always available and easy to use, but I never really did enjoy using any of the frameworks built for PHP. All of them were brand new at the time and felt incredibly heavyweight, and because I was using more Python at work it was getting confusing, when do I need to use tabs and when do I use curly braces? It always took me a minute or two to context switch from one programming language to another, so I started looking at Django, Flask, Pylons, Pyramid, Google App Engine, and others. I ended up settling on Pyramid due to its simplicity and because it allowed me to pick the components I wanted to use. I ended up becoming the maintainer for WebOb and recently have become a full core contributor to the Pylons Project.

What other programming languages do you know and which is your favorite?

This is going to be an incredibly long list, so let’s go with the ones I have used extensively and not just used for a toy project here and there. As already mentioned, I started out with C/C++, being the first language I learned from a C++ for Dummies book when I was 12. Since then I’ve run the gamut, but PHP was fairly big for me a for a while. In high school and university Java of course was used, although it still is my least favorite language, I have used it extensively on some Android projects. I’ve worked on a project that was Objective C, with a little bit of Swift, mainly doing a security audit so I am not sure it really counts as extensively. Currently, the two languages I use most are Python and JavaScript (or Typescript, transpiled to JavaScript). ES6/ES7 (yay for Babel) are heavily used in various projects.

Python, however, has definitely become my favorite programming language. It is incredibly versatile and even though it is not the fastest language by far, it is one of the most flexible and I can appreciate how easy it makes my life. Are there things I’d like to see change in Python? Absolutely. Are there pieces missing? Sure. At the same time, I am not sure what other language I would enjoy working in as much as I currently do with Python. I’ve tried Golang, it’s just not for me. Rust comes pretty close, but it feels too much like C/C++ and requires a lot more thinking than I think is necessary for the things I am working on.

What projects are you working on now?

Outside of work, just a bunch of open source currently. As I am writing this I am preparing a talk for PloneConf where I am going to talk about taking over maintenance of well-loved projects, specifically WebOb which is a Python WSGI/HTTP request/response library that was written by Ian Bicking and is now maintained by the Pylons Project with me as lead.

The Pylons Project is a collective of people that maintain a bunch of different pieces of software, mostly for the HTTP web. Pyramid the web framework, WebOb the WSGI/HTTP request/response library that underlies it, webtest for testing your WSGI applications, form generation, pure HTTP web server, and more. We don’t have a lot of people, so there is a lot of work to be done. Releasing new versions of existing software, accepting/reviewing patches, and reducing the issue count faster than the issues continue to be generated!

There are also many unfinished projects, my Github is a venerable graveyard of projects that I’ve started and never finished. Great aspirations, just find that if I am doing things for myself, once I have figured out the hard part, once I’ve solved “the problem,” completing a project is not nearly as much fun, so off I go to the next project. I always learn something new, just feel bad that it is mostly half-finished code that no-one else can really benefit from.

Which Python libraries are your favorite (core or 3rd party)?

I believe it started as a third-party, but is now baked into every Python installation (unless you are on one of those special Linux distributions that rips it out and makes it a separate installable), and that is the virtual environment tool venv or virtualenv. It makes it much simpler to have different environments with different libraries installed. Being able to separate out all of my different projects and not have to install globally is amazing! C/C++ make this much more difficult, especially if you need to include linker flags and all kinds of fun stuff, and pkg-config and friends only get you so far. Similar systems exist for other languages, but it is by far my favorite part about working with Python.

Is there anything else you’d like to say?

We are always looking for new developers to join us in the Pylons Project. If you are looking for someone to mentor you, please reach out and we will do our best. This year we had an absolutely fantastic Google Summer of Code with Ira and I’d be happy to help introduce more new people to not just the Pylons Project but to open source in general.

Thanks for doing the interview!

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