Python programming language, created in 1991 by Guido van Rossum, is the sixth most popular programming language and “the programming language of year 2007“. Nokia Series 60 is a Symbian-based mobile phone platform for high end smart phones which is the most widespread smart phone platform. Python for Series 60 is Python ported to S60. PyS60 is open source .
This essay is a post-mortem for creating a commercial grade PyS60 application. By “commercial” I mean something which is publicly available for end users and meets the criteria of Symbian Signed certification. I hope this essay will shed light on the real world challenges, thus aiding Nokia, mobile application vendors and PyS60 community to know when to use PyS60, to strengthen PyS60 as a platform and to guide people make most of it.
Python for Series 60 and the alternative platforms
Python has traditionally had strong foothold in the academic world. So it does not come with a surprise that Finnish universities use PyS60 on mobile application software development courses due to Python’s low learning curve.
Python itself has been around longer than the most popular programming language, Java. Python’s suitability for the complex development jobs was largely untested until the rise of modern web. The dynamic, agile, nature of Python does not come for free. So called abstraction penalty (interpreting) slows down Python execution speed. It was not until the 00s when processor were fast enough to make this irrelevant matter: software development costs outrun hardware costs and more agile development tools had to be found.
Python for Series 60. Started as a Nokia’s research effort, Nokia brings this agile environment to mobile software development. Python for Series 60 has also a sister project, PyUIQ, which targets Sony-Ericsson phones.
PyS60 has had the reputation to be “prototype only” technology and it’s use has been counter-argumeted by “serious development needs C++”. This is slowly changing. Nokia has shown serious commitment to Python. With the launch of Mobile Web Server, Nokia proved that Python is feasible in commercial grade applications.
This is how my brain worked when I choose PyS60: Symbian C++ is notorious difficult and no one wants to ever touch it. Java ME might have not enough access to the phone features to fulfill the application requirements My client already used Python on embedded Linux and web servers.
Python is agile
This is maybe the most important argument to pick PyS60. Python tends to reduce development time compared to C++ or Java. The language itself is very easy to learn. Syntax is expressive and developers can achieve much more functionality in less lines of codes: You can focus on getting the task itself done. With higher level concepts and less hassle with lower level things, changes to introduce bugs radically decreases.
Python development does not have traditional compiling phase, though byte code files can be built for the final release to obfuscate the code and optimize loading times. Changes made into Python code are immediately (in seconds) visible in the running application. Even if the application runs on the target device, since code changes can be automatically synchronized over a Bluetooth connection. No wonder Python enjoys legendary fast prototyping language fame – the developers have less time to surf in web when they don’t need to wait compilers to bake yet another test build.
PyS60 is open source
The benefits of open source already: vendor freedom, no licensing cost, not being mercy on others and so on. This all holds true for PyS60 as well.
PyS60 license (Python license) does not place restrictions for creating closed source software. You can have very good development tools for free: Series 60 SDK, Eclipse IDE with PyDev plug-in and PUTools bluetooth synchronization kit for free. This makes the barrier to enter PyS60 development very low.
Since PyS60 is fully available in the source code form, you can customize and fix it for your needs. The traditional horror story from Java ME development is that your application won’t run in the mobile phone model X, since there is a bug in the vendor’s Java Virtual Machine implementation. Unless you are A Very Big Player, don’t ever think about going to talk with the vendor and ask it to fix its bug – hitting one of these issues might prevent you to release product at all. With PyS60 you can control all aspects of the software execution up to the closed parts of the device. No more being mercy on others!
Being open is pop now. Embracing open source gives much for your company: good citizen reputation, hiring pool and free marketing.
Python is portable
Python runs on Linux, Windows mobile and Symbian – Python runs on almost every smart phone known to man. And not just the phones, it runs on every computer as well: Windows, OSX and Linux server and desktops. Moving your code between these environments is easy. Maybe there isn’t yet “cross-platform Python SDK for mobile phones”, but it might be just a matter of time when something leveraging the idea comes out.
In our project, core files, independent from graphical user interface, were built and unit tested on Linux desktop environment. No emulator was needed. It was not until the late development stages when they had to be moved to Symbian environment. Since you can develop and debug your code in such “easy” environment, you can work more effectively.
Because the full Python is available in the phone and it can run the exactly same modules as your servers, sharing code between these two environments opens possibility for making “smart” clients. Think about the situation where your phone is offline. It can have a subset of the full database loaded on a memory card. Since moving Python code from the server to the mobile is easy, the mobile application can have the same database functions and application logic modules loaded with it. Without the extra duplication of the logic code, one can operate on the small subset of the data and later synchronize it with the main database.
Python is extendable
You can mix C++ and Python. When you run out of ready components or you need unleash all available CPU cycles for CPU sensitive calculation tasks, you can write your own native extensions (DLL files) for PyS60 in Symbian C++. They enjoy all the same privileges as any native built code or application. Actually standalone PyS60 applications are just normal Symbian executables which just happen to have Python interpreter started inside them.
If you are working with phone features which are not yet very common and lack working Java ME implementations, say acceleration sensors, instead of creating a native C++ application you can create a Python application. You need to mix-in low level C++ only for the the critical part of the applications which operate with the native platform API.
Arguments against Python for Series 60
PyS60 has not been around for long
PyS60 is a young project. It still has some maturity issues. If you don’t do preparations well and test that all needed modules work as you want them to work, you might need to do some extra work to get around the issues.
Especially PyS60 user interface lacks some crucial components and polish which may force you to create UI components yourself.
By “getting around” the issues I mean leaping to the native Symbian code world and writing embedded C++. Since this leap is all but a little step, in the terms of development skills and complexity, I recommend preparing for the worst before the roof is falling on your head. I have seen too much “plz reply me asap urgent my boss kills me this afternoon” PyS60 discussion board messages from persons who haven’t done their homework. For example, you could make sure that you have some hired Symbian guns available in the case your own effort was not enough.
Python is for high-end phones only
PyS60 and PyUIQ are available for the high end smart phones only. Nokia’s Series 40 devices, and other devices built around in-house operating systems, cannot run Python. If you are targetting to e.g. consumers markets and Java ME has all the required capabilities to implement the application, it is the only real way to go.
Symbian is powerful platform
Symbian, as a software development platform, is very challenging. Due to its history, the feeling of developing for Symbian differs greatly from other mobile, desktop and server platforms. Things simple elsewhere, like installing an application, might become a development nightmare on Symbian where one has to fight his/her way through capability limitations, artificial device restrictions and signing process just to get the application to the phone.
PyS60 naturally inherits all these challenges. Java ME goes around the issue by having its own custom installation, signing, etc. schemes. On Symbian, even accessing some of the device features – a device you own and hold in your hand – requires you to throw in few hundred bucks cash to get the publisher id – to get the developer certificate – to sign the application – to have all required capabilities – to access the specific features (read: GPS). More cash and third party testing is needed to publish the application. This is the price of virus free DRM’ed platform.
NOTE: From now we will try to put all the basics of pys60 to advanced programming.This content may be copied/created by own but intention is that to provide all contents in this website/blog for pys60 programmers in single site and i ll be sure that if you follow this site than they is no need of referring other website in creating the applications.
some samples we will take from wiki,forum.nokia.com and other books in future