4 & 5 October 2012
Cape Town, South Africa
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Our hybrid programming journey with Python and C++

James Saunders

James Saunders is the co-founder of BusinessOptics, who provide a complex decision support and automation system. He has been programming since a young age and has been involved in a number of industries including: oil and energy, financial and enterprise systems, environmental planning, and robotics. His original academic background is in Mathematics and Computer Science. He has worked with Python in many contexts, from web development to scientific software. When not behind his laptop he enjoys rock climbing, dodgy bars and making questionable life choices.

Talk Outline

We run a fairly complicated stack that includes a C++ computation library, we serve this all from a Django based web server. The process of wrapping a complex C++ library for easy use in Python turned out to be both intricate and interesting. We not only use C++ code from Python but also use Python libraries from C++. What I really want to talk about in the basics of how we did it, from how we started trying to do it (which was a monolithic nightmare) to our current system which is fully automated and uses our own Python DSL on top of Py++ (A C++ wrapping code generator) on top of boost/Python on top of our code. The talk should be accessible for people without a great understanding of either Python or C++, but will have enough interesting subtleties for more advanced users to also learn something. In the end we will also briefly talk about alternative solutions and how we might have done things differently if we started again.

Python is a great language, but sometimes you need to use a lower-level library, such as a C++ library. One of the great things about Python is that you can. However if you are trying to wrap (expose to Python) a fairly complex library it can be a lot more tricky. We faced exactly this problem and will share our solution as well as all the little tricks and gotchas along the way. We will focus on the broad principles of hybrid coding (using multiple languages), the technologies we used to communicate between the languages, the systems we built to automate the process, as well as some of the broad lessons and reflections on what we could have done differently and how its made us think differently about development. By the end of the talk the audience should have a reasonably practical understanding of how to wrap and use a complex C++ library in Python and vice versa.

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