In 2003, there was one new major release of Python and several minor bugfix releases. The Python Software Foundation began to assume a greater role and visibility in the community, organizing the first PyCon conference. A number of noteworthy books were published, and the conference calendar was also full.
Development activity continued at its usual pace despite Guido's departure from Zope Corporation. A new major release of Python, version 2.3, came out in 2003 and there were a number of bugfix releases.
Python 2.3 was released in July. Compared to last year's Python 2.2 release, 2.3 was fairly conservative, making relatively few changes to the language itself. These core changes included some new built-in functions such as enumerate() and sum() and adding a true Boolean type. There were also a number of low-level changes such as new import hooks, minor optimizations, and a specialized object allocator.
The real action was in the standard library, where new packages were added for date/time handling, sets, heaps, logging, bzip2 data compression, reading and writing tar files, word-wrapping paragraphs, command-line parsing, and importing Python modules from ZIP archives. Some external packages were absorbed into the standard library such as the latest version of IDLE and the PyBSDDB wrapper for the BerkeleyDB database library.
Another new feature in 2.3 was support for cataloging Python modules and applications in the Package Index. The list of packages can be browsed and searched at http://cheeseshop.python.org/pypi .
Since the release of 2.3, three bugfix releases have been issued. All of them were ably coordinated by Anthony Baxter. The current version is Python 2.3.3: http://www.python.org/2.3.3/.
For the highlights of the new features, see "What's New in Python 2.3": http://www.python.org/doc/2.3.3/whatsnew/.
For a full list of changes to 2.3, see the release notes at http://www.python.org/2.3/NEWS.txt.
Python 2.3 was a significant release for the MacPython community. The final release was timed so that Python 2.3 could be included in Panther, version 10.3 of the MacOS X operating system; every new Macintosh system now comes with an up-to-date version of Python, which probably increases the Python installed base by roughly a factor of four. Python was even mentioned in Apple's press release for Panther (http://www.apple.com/pr/library/2003/jun/23panther.html), because Panther includes an Apple-developed wrapper for the CoreGraphics API.
New MacOS-specific features in Python 2.3 included PackageManager, a GUI installer that lets you choose from a selection of third-party Python packages, and many more extensions for various MacOS APIs.
The Python Software Foundation, or PSF, is the copyright holder for current versions of Python.
This year the PSF became a 501(c)(3) charity for the purposes of US taxation, so donations to the PSF are now tax-deductible in the US. To donate funds, go to http://www.python.org/psf/donations.html; you can use PayPal or mail a cheque.
In December the ownership of the python.org domain name was transferred from CNRI, which has held it since the mid-1990s, to the PSF.
The largest PSF activity in 2003 was organizing the first PyCon conference, held in Washington DC in late March. More about this conference in the next section...
PyCon DC 2003 was held in Washington DC in late March, and was organized by the Python Software Foundation.
The conference had an experimental, informal flavor. While several tracks of refereed presentations were on the program, there was also a lot of free time for informally scheduled presentations and discussions, and a few development sprints took place before the conference officially began.
Links to papers and slides from PyCon 2003 are at http://www.python.org/cgi-bin/moinmoin/PyConPapers .
Various people posted pictures: http://www.python.org/cgi-bin/moinmoin/PyConPhotos
Mike Orr had a writeup of the conference in the Linux Journal: http://www.linuxjournal.com/print.php?sid=6800.
The production work for PyCon 2004 is well under way. The conference will be from March 24-26 in Washington DC. Mitch Kapor will be a keynote speaker. Early bird registration ends February 1 2004. See the conference web pages at http://www.python.org/pycon/dc2004/ for more information.
The Python 11 conference was held as part of O'Reilly's OSCON2003 in Portland, Oregon in July.
The schedule for Python 11 is still up at http://conferences.oreillynet.com/pub/w/23/track_python.html .
Coming soon: The Python 12 conference will be part of OSCON 2004, July 26-30 in Portland. The conference site is http://conferences.oreillynet.com/os2004/.
EuroPython, the major European Python conference, was held in Charleroi, Belgium, in June.
Links to papers and slides from EuroPython 2003 are at http://www.europython.org/sessions/talks/matrix.
Before the conference, the conference organizers interviewed various participants; the interviews are available from http://www.europython.org/other/interviews .
Reports on the conference were written by Stefane Fermigier (http://lwn.net/Articles/37835/, http://lwn.net/Articles/38472/, http://lwn.net/Articles/38998/), Michael Hudson (http://starship.python.net/crew/mwh/europython2003.html), and Jarno Virtanen (http://www.hole.fi/jajvirta/weblog/20030703T0801.html).
Coming soon: EuroPython 2004 is scheduled for June 7-9 2004 in Goteborg, Sweden.
The PythonUK conference was held in Oxford in April, organized with the assistance of the Association of C/C++ Users.
Guido van Rossum's comments on the 2003 conference were:
It's a very different conference than PyCon or EuroPython, probably because of the presence of lots of non-Python folks (it's the yearly ACCU conference, and they do C, C++, Java and other OO languages). The Python offerings are limited in volume but were of very high quality.
Coming soon: The next PythonUK conference will be held in Oxford, April 14-17 2004. It will again be held in concert with the ACCU.
The second SciPy conference was held in September 2003 at Caltech in Pasadena, California.
The conference site is at http://www.scipy.org/ . You can see the schedule at http://www.scipy.org/site_content/scipy03/scipy03sched.htm .
Chuck Esterbrook wrote up his impressions: http://www.sandpyt.org/pipermail/sandpyt/2003-September/000271.html
At OSCON, a number of awards were given out to notable members of the Python community.
There was one significant disappearance from the community; the Py 'zine published its third issue and then editor and publisher Bryan Richard had to abandon the task due to other personal commitments. Py was taken over by beehive KG, the firm that's been publishing ZopeMag magazine, and will become an electronic-only publication. The Py web site is still at http://www.pyzine.com.
A number of significant books were released in 2003. Some of them covered the language's fundamentals in a general way, but a new trend is an increasing number of application-specific titles.
O'Reilly released Python in a Nutshell by Alex Martelli. At 654 pages long it's a pretty large nutshell, but the book is an excellent one-volume Python reference. Soon after its release the book reached Amazon's list of top 100 bestsellers for a while. The book's web site is at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/pythonian/, and you can order it from Amazon via http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0596001886/pythonsoftwar-20 (using this link also earns the PSF a small affiliate fee).
The second edition of Learning Python by Mark Lutz and David Ascher, another noteworthy title, also came out this past year; Learning Python is most commonly recommended as the book for beginning Python users, so this update was most welcome. The new edition brings the coverage up to Python 2.3, including features such as iterators and generators. The book's web site is at http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/lpython2/, and you can order it from Amazon at http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0596002815/pythonsoftwar-20.
One title went out of print and was resurrected as an e-book. Fredrik Lundh's Python Standard Library was published in 2001, but the electronic version has additional updates, including examples for some modules introduced in Python 2.2 and 2.3. See http://effbot.org/zone/librarybook-index.htm for the online edition.
Among the more specialized titles, two books on game development appeared, Tom Gutschmidt's Game Programming w/ Lua, Python, Ruby, Sean Riley's Game Programming with Python. John Zelle's Python Programming: An Introduction to Computer Science uses Python as the vehicle for an introductory course. David Mertz's Text Processing in Python takes its chosen topic and carefully covers every possible aspect of it, mixing sections of reference material with tutorial explanations.
A more complete listing of Python books is available in the Python Wiki: http://www.python.org/cgi-bin/moinmoin/PythonBooks