GlossaryΒΆ

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The default Python prompt of the interactive shell when entering code for an indented code block or within a pair of matching left and right delimiters (parentheses, square brackets or curly braces).
>>>
The default Python prompt of the interactive shell. Often seen for code examples which can be executed interactively in the interpreter.
ADC
In electronics, an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) is a system that converts an analog signal e.g. voltage into its digital representation.
API
An application programming interface (API) is a particular set of rules and specifications that software programs can follow to communicate with each other. It serves as an interface between different software programs and facilitates their interaction, similar to the way the user interface facilitates interaction between humans and computers. An API can be created for applications, libraries, operating systems, etc., as a way of defining their “vocabularies” and resources request conventions (e.g. function-calling conventions). It may include specifications for routines, data structures, object classes, and protocols used to communicate between the consumer program and the implementer program of the API.
argument

A value passed to a function or method, assigned to a named local variable in the function body. A function or method may have both positional arguments and keyword arguments in its definition. Positional and keyword arguments may be variable-length: * accepts or passes (if in the function definition or call) several positional arguments in a list, while ** does the same for keyword arguments in a dictionary.

Any expression may be used within the argument list, and the evaluated value is passed to the local variable.

attribute

A value associated with an object which is referenced by name using dotted expressions. For example, if an object o has an attribute a it would be referenced as o.a.

dictionary An associative array, where arbitrary keys are mapped to values. The keys can be any object with __hash__() and __eq__() methods. Called a hash in Perl.

CCD
A charge-coupled device (CCD) is a device for the movement of electrical charge, usually from within the device to an area where the charge can be manipulated, for example conversion into a digital value. This is achieved by “shifting” the signals between stages within the device one at a time. CCDs move charge between capacitive bins in the device, with the shift allowing for the transfer of charge between bins.
class
A template for creating user-defined objects. Class definitions normally contain method definitions which operate on instances of the class.
CLI
A command-line interface (CLI) is a mechanism for interacting with a computer operating system or software by typing commands to perform specific tasks. This text-only interface contrasts with the use of a mouse pointer with a graphical user interface (GUI) to click on options, or menus on a text user interface (TUI) to select options. This method of instructing a computer to perform a given task is referred to as “entering” a command: the system waits for the user to conclude the submitting of the text command by pressing the “Enter” key (a descendant of the “carriage return” key of a typewriter keyboard). A command-line interpreter then receives, parses, and executes the requested user command. The command-line interpreter may be run in a text terminal or in a terminal emulator window as a remote shell client such as PuTTY. Upon completion, the command usually returns output to the user in the form of text lines on the CLI. This output may be an answer if the command was a question, or otherwise a summary of the operation.
client-server model
The client-server model of computing is a distributed application structure that partitions tasks or workloads between the providers of a resource or service, called servers, and service requesters, called clients. Often clients and servers communicate over a computer network on separate hardware, but both client and server may reside in the same system. A server machine is a host that is running one or more server programs which share their resources with clients. A client does not share any of its resources, but requests a server’s content or service function. Clients therefore initiate communication sessions with servers which await incoming requests.
closed loop
A.k.a feedback loop, occurs when outputs of a system are routed back as inputs as part of a chain of cause-and-effect that forms a circuit or loop. In case of motion systems, closed loop positioning uses the position sensors e.g. encoders to measure the system’s output. The measured signal is looped back to the control unit as input and is used to correct the moveable’s position.
daemon
In Unix and other computer multitasking operating systems, a daemon is a computer program that runs in the background, rather than under the direct control of a user. They are usually initiated as background processes. Typically daemons have names that end with the letter “d”: for example, syslogd, the daemon that handles the system log, or sshd, which handles incoming SSH connections.
dial
See dial position
dial position
Position in controller units (See also user position).
expression
A piece of syntax which can be evaluated to some value. In other words, an expression is an accumulation of expression elements like literals, names, attribute access, operators or function calls which all return a value. In contrast to many other languages, not all language constructs are expressions. There are also statements which cannot be used as expressions, such as print() or if. Assignments are also statements, not expressions.
function
A series of statements which returns some value to a caller. It can also be passed zero or more arguments which may be used in the execution of the body. See also argument and method.
generator
A function which returns an iterator. It looks like a normal function except that it contains yield statements for producing a series a values usable in a for-loop or that can be retrieved one at a time with the next() function. Each yield temporarily suspends processing, remembering the location execution state (including local variables and pending try-statements). When the generator resumes, it picks-up where it left-off (in contrast to functions which start fresh on every invocation).
generator expression

An expression that returns an iterator. It looks like a normal expression followed by a for expression defining a loop variable, range, and an optional if expression. The combined expression generates values for an enclosing function:

>>> sum(i*i for i in range(10))       # sum of squares 0, 1, 4, ... 81
285
GUI
A graphical user interface (GUI) is a type of user interface that allows users to interact with electronic devices with images rather than text commands. GUIs can be used in computers, hand-held devices such as MP3 players, portable media players or gaming devices, household appliances and office equipment. A GUI represents the information and actions available to a user through graphical icons and visual indicators such as secondary notation, as opposed to text-based interfaces (CLI), typed command labels or text navigation. The actions are usually performed through direct manipulation of the graphical elements.
interactive
Python has an interactive interpreter which means you can enter statements and expressions at the interpreter prompt, immediately execute them and see their results. Just launch python with no arguments (possibly by selecting it from your computer’s main menu). It is a very powerful way to test out new ideas or inspect modules and packages (remember help(x)).
interpreted
Python is an interpreted language, as opposed to a compiled one, though the distinction can be blurry because of the presence of the bytecode compiler. This means that source files can be run directly without explicitly creating an executable which is then run. Interpreted languages typically have a shorter development/debug cycle than compiled ones, though their programs generally also run more slowly. See also interactive.
iterable
An object capable of returning its members one at a time. Examples of iterables include all sequence types (such as list, str, and tuple) and some non-sequence types like dict and file and objects of any classes you define with an __iter__() or __getitem__() method. Iterables can be used in a for loop and in many other places where a sequence is needed (zip(), map(), ...). When an iterable object is passed as an argument to the built-in function iter(), it returns an iterator for the object. This iterator is good for one pass over the set of values. When using iterables, it is usually not necessary to call iter() or deal with iterator objects yourself. The for statement does that automatically for you, creating a temporary unnamed variable to hold the iterator for the duration of the loop. See also iterator, sequence, and generator.
iterator

An object representing a stream of data. Repeated calls to the iterator’s next() method return successive items in the stream. When no more data are available a StopIteration exception is raised instead. At this point, the iterator object is exhausted and any further calls to its next() method just raise StopIteration again. Iterators are required to have an __iter__() method that returns the iterator object itself so every iterator is also iterable and may be used in most places where other iterables are accepted. One notable exception is code which attempts multiple iteration passes. A container object (such as a list) produces a fresh new iterator each time you pass it to the iter() function or use it in a for loop. Attempting this with an iterator will just return the same exhausted iterator object used in the previous iteration pass, making it appear like an empty container.

More information can be found in Iterator Types.

key function

A key function or collation function is a callable that returns a value used for sorting or ordering. For example, locale.strxfrm() is used to produce a sort key that is aware of locale specific sort conventions.

A number of tools in Python accept key functions to control how elements are ordered or grouped. They include min(), max(), sorted(), list.sort(), heapq.nsmallest(), heapq.nlargest(), and itertools.groupby().

There are several ways to create a key function. For example. the str.lower() method can serve as a key function for case insensitive sorts. Alternatively, an ad-hoc key function can be built from a lambda expression such as lambda r: (r[0], r[2]). Also, the operator module provides three key function constructors: attrgetter(), itemgetter(), and methodcaller(). See the Sorting HOW TO for examples of how to create and use key functions.

keyword argument
Arguments which are preceded with a variable_name= in the call. The variable name designates the local name in the function to which the value is assigned. ** is used to accept or pass a dictionary of keyword arguments. See argument.
lambda
An anonymous inline function consisting of a single expression which is evaluated when the function is called. The syntax to create a lambda function is lambda [arguments]: expression
list
A built-in Python sequence. Despite its name it is more akin to an array in other languages than to a linked list since access to elements are O(1).
list comprehension
A compact way to process all or part of the elements in a sequence and return a list with the results. result = ["0x%02x" % x for x in range(256) if x % 2 == 0] generates a list of strings containing even hex numbers (0x..) in the range from 0 to 255. The if clause is optional. If omitted, all elements in range(256) are processed.
MCA
Multichannel Analyzer (MCA) is a device for ...
method
A function which is defined inside a class body. If called as an attribute of an instance of that class, the method will get the instance object as its first argument (which is usually called self). See function and nested scope.
namespace
The place where a variable is stored. Namespaces are implemented as dictionaries. There are the local, global and built-in namespaces as well as nested namespaces in objects (in methods). Namespaces support modularity by preventing naming conflicts. For instance, the functions __builtin__.open() and os.open() are distinguished by their namespaces. Namespaces also aid readability and maintainability by making it clear which module implements a function. For instance, writing random.seed() or itertools.izip() makes it clear that those functions are implemented by the random and itertools modules, respectively.
nested scope
The ability to refer to a variable in an enclosing definition. For instance, a function defined inside another function can refer to variables in the outer function. Note that nested scopes work only for reference and not for assignment which will always write to the innermost scope. In contrast, local variables both read and write in the innermost scope. Likewise, global variables read and write to the global namespace.
new-style class
Any class which inherits from object. This includes all built-in types like list and dict. Only new-style classes can use Python’s newer, versatile features like __slots__, descriptors, properties, and __getattribute__().
object
Any data with state (attributes or value) and defined behavior (methods). Also the ultimate base class of any new-style class.
OS
An operating system (OS) is software, consisting of programs and data, that runs on computers, manages computer hardware resources, and provides common services for execution of various application software. Operating system is the most important type of system software in a computer system. Without an operating system, a user cannot run an application program on their computer, unless the application program is self booting.
PLC
A programmable logic controller (PLC) is an industrial digital computer which has been ruggedised and adapted for the control of manufacturing processes, such as assembly lines, or robotic devices, or any activity that requires high reliability control e.g. equipment or personal protection.
plug-in
a plug-in (or plugin) is a set of software components that adds specific abilities to a larger software application. If supported, plug-ins enable customizing the functionality of an application. For example, plug-ins are commonly used in web browsers to play video, scan for viruses, and display new file types.
plugin
See plug-in.
positional argument
The arguments assigned to local names inside a function or method, determined by the order in which they were given in the call. * is used to either accept multiple positional arguments (when in the definition), or pass several arguments as a list to a function. See argument.
Python 3000
Nickname for the Python 3.x release line (coined long ago when the release of version 3 was something in the distant future.) This is also abbreviated “Py3k”.
Pythonic

An idea or piece of code which closely follows the most common idioms of the Python language, rather than implementing code using concepts common to other languages. For example, a common idiom in Python is to loop over all elements of an iterable using a for statement. Many other languages don’t have this type of construct, so people unfamiliar with Python sometimes use a numerical counter instead:

for i in range(len(food)):
    print food[i]

As opposed to the cleaner, Pythonic method:

for piece in food:
    print piece
ROI
Region of interest are samples within a data set identified for a particular purpose.
SCADA
supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) generally refers to industrial control systems: computer systems that monitor and control industrial, infrastructure, or facility-based processes.
SDS
Sardana Device server (SDS) is the sardana tango device server daemon.
sequence
An iterable which supports efficient element access using integer indices via the __getitem__() special method and defines a len() method that returns the length of the sequence. Some built-in sequence types are list, str, tuple, and unicode. Note that dict also supports __getitem__() and __len__(), but is considered a mapping rather than a sequence because the lookups use arbitrary immutable keys rather than integers.
slice
An object usually containing a portion of a sequence. A slice is created using the subscript notation, [] with colons between numbers when several are given, such as in variable_name[1:3:5]. The bracket (subscript) notation uses slice objects internally (or in older versions, __getslice__() and __setslice__()).
statement
A statement is part of a suite (a “block” of code). A statement is either an expression or a one of several constructs with a keyword, such as if, while or for.
stepper
A stepper motor (or step motor) is a brushless DC electric motor that divides a full rotation into a number of equal steps. The motor’s position can then be commanded to move and hold at one of these steps without any feedback sensor (an open-loop controller), as long as the motor is carefully sized to the application.
triple-quoted string
A string which is bound by three instances of either a quotation mark (”) or an apostrophe (‘). While they don’t provide any functionality not available with single-quoted strings, they are useful for a number of reasons. They allow you to include unescaped single and double quotes within a string and they can span multiple lines without the use of the continuation character, making them especially useful when writing docstrings.
type
The type of a Python object determines what kind of object it is; every object has a type. An object’s type is accessible as its __class__ attribute or can be retrieved with type(obj).
user
See user position
user position

Moveable position in user units (See also dial position). Dial and user units are related by the following expressions:

user = sign x dial + offset dial = controller_position / steps_per_unit

where sign is -1 or 1. offset can be any number and steps_per_unit must be non zero.