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Ryan King

Beginner's question regarding Python resources

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Let me be clear that I am a complete beginner. In the small handful of languages I've had any experience at all with, I'd only barely moved beyond 'Hello World'ing (and I'm sure to the more experienced, my progress was slight enough it might not be counted at all), and even that experience was about a year ago. I understand that a beginner's choice of language, while not inconsequential, is less important than the act of choosing one and following through with learning it. Currently, I have the time and the desire to do just that, and from what I've read, Python sounds most appealing to me. My question is regarding resources to learn from. I have Hetland's "Beginning Python, From Novice to Professional" from my brief experience with the language a year ago, and I'm wondering if the book is on the whole outdated (and if it is or was a good resource besides). I understand that Python 3.0 has been released between then and now, and I don't want to try to learn with a book that is incompatible with the language's most current release. Neither does it seem prudent to commit myself to learning an older version of the language (but who knows, I may be wrong). There is a second edition of this book out now that is supposed to cover 3.0, but just glancing at the first chapter, it still seems incompatible. With 'print' being changed from a statement to a function, for example, even the first, uber-beginner "Hello World!" code in the allegedly compatible book fails. It's not hard to work around, of course, but it just looks bad to me when the most beginning of beginner examples doesn't work. So is this an early warning of an incompatible book, or just an simple problem easily solved with some parentheses? Or is there a better resource still that I should know about? I am fully willing to get a new book; I'm just curious about using the one I have because I like Hetland's writing style, and, obviously, because I already have it. Thank you for any and all advice on the subject.

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While I'm not familiar with the book in question, you needn't worry much about Python 2 vs. Python 3. While the latter is released and available to program in, for the most part people are waiting to transition over until their favorite libraries have been ported. Most likely the libraries you would use to make games in Python aren't available for Python 3 yet. Besides, Python 2 will be well-supported for several years yet. And when you do decide to move to Python 3, the porting process (assuming all of your libraries have transitioned) should be fairly straightforward.

As you noted, the most important thing for you right now is to pick a language and follow through with it. You'll gain skills there that will transfer to any language regardless of when it was created.

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I've read the book in question, and I found it to be very good. So stick with it, IMO.

And I definitely agree with Derakon that once you know Python 2.x, moving to 3.x is straightforward. Not only that, but it might even prove useful to know Python 2.x as well. Also, I think you made a good choice when choosing to use Python as your first language. :)

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Quote:
Original post by Ryan KingI understand that a beginner's choice of language, while not inconsequential, is less important than the act of choosing one and following through with learning it.


You got that right. Python is my first and only language (as of yet), and I'm glad it is. I started learning Python from different websites, little tutorials here and there. First, http://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Non-Programmer%27s_Tutorial_for_Python/Contents . Then from there I moved onto other sites that covered some of the same stuff, like http://www.sthurlow.com/python/ . There are plenty more sites like that.

I decided I'd like to learn from a Python book instead of just sites (although they work just fine), so I got a copy of O'Reilly's Learning Python Third Edition by Mark Lutz. I liked it very much, and found it very helpful. But those other sites (linked above) were probably the most helpful and got me started.

I havn't used Python 3 yet, I'm still using 2.6 because it is what I had before 3 even came out. People suggest I hadn't switched until 3 had been out for a bit to have more support from other libraries as stated above. So, I could suggest the same or you could just try 3 I'm sure it doesn't really matter all that much.

Anyways, stick with Python - it is an easy, fun language to use from my experience. You'll most likely be glad you did. If you have any other questions let me know. I'm am still a novice myself, so it'd be nice to have other people to talk to about Python who are around the same skill level as me. Oh and by the way, on a final note, Python is easy, but not that easy that if you don't understand it - don't feel like an idiot :D !

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Thanks very much for the responses! These are helpful, insightful, and encouraging. I'll stick with older versions of Python for now and learn how to move on to Python 3 at a later time then. Good to know 2.x isn't completely obsolete.

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2.x isn't remotely obsolete. I've been using Python for almost six years now, and while I've installed Python 3.0 on my machine at home, I haven't touched it at all. All the libraries I rely on are only updated for 2.6 for now, and the 2.x branch will remain the priority branch for probably another year and a half. That's one thing I've come to appreciate about Python: while the language continues to advance at a solid pace, there's a sensible-ness to the community that prioritizes support for existing software and Real World™ application over playing with the latest and greatest toy.

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