Brendan Enrick

Daily Software Development

Unpacking Tuples in Python

There are plenty of reasons why I like the Python language. Yes, I know it is an interpreted language and it is very dynamic. While looking at some JavaScript mere moments ago, I saw someone pass back two values from a function. This is one thing that bothers me when I am writing in a lot of languages. I will need to pass back two or more values from my function. So I need to change the return value to some type of a sequence perhaps an array. Then I need to adjust the location where I call the function so that it accepts and array. It then needs to take each value of the array and place the returned value into each variable that needs the value.... Yuck! What a pain just to get a couple of values!

A lot of times I just want a simple solution to my problem. I'd like to type 2 lines of code instead of 5. Python has plenty of problems, but one of my favorites assets of the Python language is the ability to Unpack tuples from functions. So lets say that I want to return three values from my function. I just separate them by commas and it works. I then in my function call just list each variable to which those values correspond separated by commas and away I go.


def GetBestHotel()
    # Logic Goes Here
    return name, location, cost

hotelName, hotelLocation, hotelCost = GetBestHotel()


Isn't that a neat trick. I just listed each variable and Python unpacked that tuple (basically an array) and it put each of the values in the correct variables. No extra variable declarations and I didn't have to have an assignment statement for each of the values being returned. Now that is convenience. This is obviously a very specialized little feature, but I do enjoy having it available. It is always good to know of the useful tricks of any language you use.

An Explanation of Interfaces in C# for Beginners

I recently authored an article for ASP Alliance in which I describe the basics of how interfaces work and how to use and create them in C#. I tried not to describe in great detail exactly how everything works, because that will prevent beginners from understanding how interfaces may be used. I plan to write further about this topic, but I think it a mistake to begin with even an intermediate description of a topic without at least giving a beginners explanation first. I'll be doing some more advanced examples for my next article on interfaces, so look forward to one in the not too distant future.

I am not sure how the rest of you feel, but I think that interfaces are an amazing tool. I try to use interfaces when possible, because it makes code much more maintainable.

Let me know what you think and any suggestions for future articles.

As always, thanks for reading!

Using the as Statement to Cast Without Exceptions in C#

It is common to obtain variables with a type which is not the desired one. Considering that plenty of times there will be variables passed using the object data type, it is important to be able to cast your variables into more usable types. Say for example you're passed a variable as an object. You probably want to be able to access properties or methods of this object, so you will need to cast it into another class. The simple way of doing this is to use code similar to this.

DataTable myData = (DataTable)dataSource;

This works well, but is slightly more dangerous than it needs to be. The problem I have with casting it in this way is that the variable dataSource might not be a DataTable, and if this is the case we will throw an exception. Yes, we could wrap a try-catch block around this code, but I prefer to avoid exceptions when possible instead of catching them.

If we use the as statement we will be able to achieve the same result and just need a little bit of checking for an error. This way if our code is in an exceptional case we can handle it ourselves instead of having the overhead of a try-catch block. If the as statement receives an invalid cast it does not throw an exception. Instead of throwing the exception it merely places the null value instead. Since we receive the null value if the cast fails, we are now able to simply check for the null value.

DataTable myData = dataSource as DataTable;
if (myData != null)
    // Perform work here
    // Error handling code goes here. Perhaps a message of some kind.

As you can see we're able to avoid our exception and handle it without using a try-catch block. I am not advocating programs without these try-catch blocks. I am merely saying that I find it better to avoid catching exceptions that could have been avoided in the first place. I think some people become excessive with try-catch blocks. I've seen plenty of people write code which doesn't check strings for validity they instead just try working with them and if an exception occurs they catch it and respond. I think it is simply crazy.

Have a great day! Happy casting!