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Python notes

Using Modules

When running the Python interpreter, if you get an error like:

    Traceback (most recent call last):
      File "/opt/docutils-2008aug06/bin/", line 17, in ?
        from docutils.core import publish_cmdline, default_description
    ImportError: No module named docutils.core

It will be necessary to tell your interpreter where to look for modules. In the above example, I installed docutils in /opt/doc-utils-2008aug06/. So I did::

    export PYTHONPATH=/opt/docutils-2008aug06/lib/python2.4/site-packages

References: python2.4 -h


UnicodeDecodeError: 'ascii' codec can't decode ...


If you get an error like:

    UnicodeDecodeError: 'ascii' codec can't decode byte 0xc3 in position 16: ordinal not in range(128)

This can have several reasons.

Stack Overflow: UnicodeDecodeError when redirecting to file

And I strongly recommend the "Pragmatic Unicode", by Ned Batchelder, that explains this really fine. This is a 40 min and worthwhile presentation.

Pragmatic Unicode

In summary, why these commands have different output?

    $ python2.7 -c "import sys; print sys.stdout.encoding"                                .
    $ python2.7 -c "import sys; print sys.stdout.encoding" | cat

My terminal encoding is UTF-8 and my program works fine. But when I pipe the output or redirect it to a file, Python cannot discover the encoding I want to. So the variable is set to None and, when a UTF-8 encoding needs to be converted, it tries to convert to the ASCII encoding which, obviously, cannot represent all characters in UTF-8.

Ned Batchelder recommends to always work with encoding and decoding of UTF-8 strings (see that, in Python 2, a UTF-8 string is a different type of object than a normal string) or to either change your default encoding at the very beginning of your program. This can be done in different ways , like:

    import sys

Stack Overflow: Changing default encoding of Python?

Or using the PYTHONIOENCODING environment variable:

    $ PYTHONIOENCODING=UTF-8 python2.7 -c "import sys; print sys.stdout.encoding" | cat