November 2014

Monthly Archives

  • 5 Top Python GUI Frameworks for 2015


    As a Python developer, sooner or later you’ll want to write an application with a graphical user interface. Fortunately, there are a lot of options on the tools front: The Python wiki on GUI programming lists over 30 cross-platform frameworks, as well as Pyjamas, a tool for cross-browser Web development based on a port of the Google Web Toolkit.

    How to choose between all these options for Python GUIs? I started by narrowing it down to those that included all three platforms (Windows, Mac, and Linux) and, where possible, Python 3. After that filtering, I found four toolkits (Gtk, Qt, Tk, and wxWidgets) and five frameworks (Kivy, PyQt, gui2Py, libavg and wxPython). Here’s why I like them.

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    One of the more interesting projects, the liberal MIT-licensed Kivy is based on OpenGL ES 2 and includes native multi-touch for each platform and Android/iOS. It’s an event-driven framework based around a main loop, and is thus very suitable for game development. Your application adds callbacks from the main loop at a scheduled frequency, or by one-off trigger. The Kivy framework is very powerful for handling everything from widgets to animation, and includes its own language for describing user interface and interactions.

    If you want to create cross-platform graphical applications, or just need a very powerful cross-platform GUI, Kivy is highly recommended.

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    Qt is a multi-licensed cross-platform framework written in C++. If your application is completely open source, you can use Qt for free under the community license; otherwise you’ll need a commercial license. Qt has been around for a long time and was owned by Nokia for a while; it’s a very comprehensive library of tools and APIs, widely used in many industries, and covers many platforms including mobile. If a gadget such as a SatNav has a GUI, there’s a good chance it’ll be Qt based.


    Compared to Kivy and PyQt, PyGUI is considerably simpler and just for Unix, Macintosh and Windows platforms. Developed by Dr. Greg Ewing at the University of Canterbury in New Zealand, the MVC framework focuses on fitting into the Python ecosystem as easily as possible.

    One of the platform’s aims is to interpose as little code as possible between the Python application and the platform’s underlying GUI so the application’s display always reflects the native GUI of the platform. If you’re after a simple and quick way to learn GUI, start with this one.


    This is another third-party library, written in C++ and scripted from Python, with properties of display elements as Python variables, a full-featured event handling system, timers (setTimeout, setInterval), support for logging and more. Like Kivy, libavg uses OpenGL and makes use of hardware acceleration.

    Libavg runs on Linux, Mac OS X and Windows, and is open source and licensed under the LGPL. It’s been used extensively for artistic exhibitions and has a wide range of features such as a layout engine that can deal with thousands of objects (images, text, videos and camera output), fast video output, and a markup system for displaying text, as well as GPU shader effects such as blur, Chromakery and more. Plugins written in C++ have access to all libavg internals.

    If you ever see many people playing a multi-touch game on a large flat display, you might be looking at a good example of libavg in action.


    There have already been two books written about wxPython, making it worth a mention even if it isn’t quite ready for Python 3. WxPython is based on wxWidgets, a cross-platform GUI library written in C++. In addition to the standard dialogs, it includes a 2D path drawing API, dockable windows, support for many file formats and both text-editing and word-processing widgets.

    There’s a great set of demos provided with wxPython, along with several sets of tutorials to help get you started. Given that wxWidgets has a 22-year development pedigree, this is one of the most popular frameworks. Make sure you read the wiki.


    This is a great set of frameworks that should cover most needs. All except PyQt are completely free.

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  • Should You Take an IT Job in a Small City?

    shutterstock  Michael Shake

    If you’re tired of living in a hectic metropolis, you’re in luck. Small cities such as Helena, Mont. (pop. 25,596) and Cheyenne, Wyo. (pop. 62,448) have managed to attract a handful of high-tech firms. Now their recruiters are actively seeking IT professionals who would rather live and work in a modest-sized town.

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    While the idea of a 10-minute commute may be tempting, accepting a job in a small city could have long-term consequences on your personal life and career. Here are seven questions you should ask yourself before pulling up stakes.

    Will Taking This Job Hurt or Help Your Career?

    Working with cutting-edge technology may benefit your career in the short-term—but will you be able to reach the next career milestone, and the one after that, in a place with relatively few tech companies?

    “If you live in a major city it’s easy to change jobs every three years,” said Alexandra Levit, a workplace expert and blogger based near Chicago. “You have fewer options in a small city. Ask about career progression before you commit, because you should plan on working at the company for at least five years.”

    Are there local meetup groups, boot camps, mentors or training classes to help you expand your skills? Can you envision yourself learning and advancing your career in that new city? Use scenario-planning to estimate the impact on your marketability and goals over the next five years.

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    Is the Company Committed and Secure?

    Job security is fleeting, no matter where you live. But will you be able to find employment in the local area should you lose your job? And what’s your backup plan if you don’t like the company? Is the management team committed to your happiness and success? If you’re not sure, offer to start out on a contract basis before you make a permanent move.

    “The company should support your decision making process by providing information on schools, housing, social activities and even take you on a tour,” said Debbie Maupin, president of Relocation Services for Grabel, an employee relocation company based in Aurora, Colorado. “If they are committed to a successful transition, they will go out of their way to give you a preview of the company and the community.”

    What Am I Leaving Behind?

    Are you an extravert? Do you make friends easily? Leaving behind family, friends, co-workers and your favorite hangouts can be emotionally trying. On the other hand, it could be invigorating if you crave change and adventure.

    “It’s harder to make friends as an adult,” Levit said. “Ask the IT professionals at the company about their lifestyle and how they built connections when they arrived in town. Otherwise, you may end up with a great job but no life.”

    Does the Move ‘Pencil Out’?

    You might think that a small city has a lower cost of living than a major city, but some things could cost more… and salaries are lower, too. For instance, you could end up paying more for airline tickets and groceries, and a local employment boom may escalate real estate prices.

    Plus, it could take several months to recoup your relocation outlay if you have to foot the tab. According to the American Moving & Storage Association, the average cost of an intrastate move is $1,170, and the average move between states costs $5,630. Fortunately, there’s plenty of help at your fingertips. Use this list of online resources from the U.S. State Department to assess the cost of living in another city and how much you need to earn to break even or come out ahead.

    Do You Like the Community as Well as the Job?

    If you love hiking and skiing, moving to a resort area might be just what the doctor ordered. If you like to go club hopping on Saturday night or take in a pro basketball game, you’re probably better suited for big city life. Spend a couple of days driving around the city and sampling local eateries and activities to get a sense of what it would be like to live there.

    “IT professionals don’t have to move to a small city to find work,” Levit noted. “You really need to be enamored with the lifestyle, the weather and the community to move to a small city.”

    How Will the Move Impact Your Family?

    The decision to move is easier if you’re single and unattached. Uprooting a spouse and family can have emotional and financial consequences, and thus requires careful consideration.

    Research suggests that every move translates into a 2 percent decline in a spouse’s annual earnings in military families; frequent moves also increase the likelihood of spousal unemployment. (Although to be fair, other research shows that some families on the move experience an increase in resilience and cohesion.) Consider your family’s penchant for adventure and adaptability before deciding to take a job in a small city.

    Bottom Line: What Do You Have to Gain?

    List the plusses on one side of a ledger and the minuses on the other, along with their associated financial and emotional costs, to determine whether you should take an IT job in a small city. And remember: If it doesn’t work out, you can always move back. Being in demand is one of the perks of being an IT professional.

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  • Will That Certification Actually Get You a Job?

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    Those willing to spend the time and money to earn a certification must feel that it will boost their careers. But experience often trumps certification, according to IT career experts.

    With the IT unemployment rate at just 3 percent, many companies aren’t putting many limitations on the candidate pool, according to John Reed, senior executive director for staffing firm Robert Half Technology: “A lot of things that might have been ‘must haves’ are becoming ‘nice-to-haves’ now.”

    While hiring managers usually value experience over certification alone, many companies want both, and some see no value at all in certifications. Having all its IT staff certified does offer a company some advantages, not the least of which is the ability to charge clients more, suggested Randy Russell, director of certification for Red Hat.

    Fortunately, a little bit of research can quickly show how much importance particular employers place on certification.

    Setting Yourself Apart

    Having a certification on your resume can be a way to differentiate yourself from the crowd. Linux advocate Shawn Powers recalls being hired to run the database department at a college, even though it was 100 percent a Microsoft shop. “I asked my boss about that later. He told me that they thought, ‘If this guy knows Linux, he can do anything we need,’” he said. “As a Linux system administrator or a Linux professional, you’re forced to think outside the box. … If you’re an outside-the-box thinker, you’re going to be a better employee in any situation.”

    Certification is actually most helpful, he believes, to those on the active hunt for a job. “A lot of the interviewing team is not necessarily going to have a way to measure your expertise,” he said. “Having the certification gives you some evidence that you’ve gone that extra step and you really do know what you’re talking about.”

    Companies often look at certification in making hiring decisions, but it’s not the sole factor, Russell added: “If I’m a hiring manager looking at my pile of resumes, I’m not going to be able to interview everybody. I may not even be able to do a phone screen with everybody. So I’ve got to sort that pile.” Certification is a useful way to sort the pile—provided the recruiter believes in the certification.

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    In Context of Experience

    Yes, employers can be wary when they see a certification on your resume, according to Stephen Van Vreede, a Rochester, N.Y.-based resume writer and career strategist at There are many certifications out there and employers aren’t familiar with all of them.

    “You have all these people who have the certification, but they don’t have the real-life experience,” he said. “So go into an interview and show, ‘Hey, this wasn’t just a theoretical training and certification program I went through. I have some skills that have been applied and here’s an example of how I put them into action.’”

    It’s best to put the certification in the context of your experience: either what you learned while gaining that cert, or how you’ve put it to work since.

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  • Certifications With the Highest Demand


    For years, cynical IT pros have maintained that certifications aren’t worth the paper they’re printed on. But recruiters and analysts report a growing interest in IT certification. While it’s true that employers still want to see experience, certification can provide outside validation of your skills… and signal a commitment to furthering those skills.

    Certifications in these areas are showing some of the sharpest growth in demand:


    The recent breaches at Target, Home Depot and the almost-daily privacy and security lapses at healthcare institutions are making security a hot area for IT pros.

    Fortune 1000 companies are now spending millions of dollars on their privacy programs, with financial services, consumer products, and retail firms leading the way, according to a survey by the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP). A third of the responding companies said they plan to increase their privacy program staff, while only 3 percent expect to cut staffers.

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    That’s why certifications such as GIAC Certified Penetration Tester, InfoSys Security Management Professional (ISSMP/CISSP), and EC-Council Certified Ethical Hacker are among the fastest-growing with regard to premium pay, according to analyst firm Foote Partners.

    In addition, government jobs these days often require security certifications for contractors as well as staff positions.

    Mobility and Cloud

    In its predictions for 2015, Juniper Research maintains that mobile and cloud will alter the architectural landscape, and that DevOps techniques will revamp the way we deliver solutions to business stakeholders. Perhaps the biggest challenge facing companies, however, will be recruiting and retaining people will the skills to build applications quickly and to integrate them into legacy portfolios.

    Cloud employers are looking for pros skilled in Linux, Java/J2EE, SaaS (Software-as-a-Service), Python, virtualization, and other areas, according to a recent analysis of the Dice database.

    Amazon Web Services recently unveiled a new DevOps Engineer certification, which validates the technical expertise required for provisioning, operating and managing distributed application systems on its public-cloud platform. (It’s still in beta through mid-December.) To be eligible, you must already be certified as an AWS Certified Developer – Associate or AWS Certified SysOps Administrator – Associate.


    A new Gartner report cites a shift to open-source software as a major factor in the coming major disruption to data centers. IT leaders responding to a survey by TechPro Research put more faith in the future of Linux desktops than in the possibility of Apple elbowing ahead of Microsoft in the enterprise.

    Combine that with Microsoft open-sourcing its .NET code to run atop Linux servers, along with the wild popularity of container technology such as Docker, and the future of Linux seems bright.

    Linux Professional Institute certifications, CompTIA Linux+ and RedHat Certified Technician are among the skills making big gains in market value of late.

    While the ranks of Linux pros is growing, the segment isn’t expanding fast enough to meet demand, said Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, in announcing two new vendor-neutral certifications: the Linux Foundation Certified System Administrator (LFCS), which covers the skills necessary for basic-to-intermediate system administration from the command-line for systems running Linux, and the Linux Foundation Certified Engineer (LFCE), which focuses on the design and implementation of system architecture. Both are performance-based and can be on CentOS, openSUSE, or Ubuntu.

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  • Workarounds undermine BYOD policies

    In June 2013, Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia took the ambitious step of simultaneously going live with an EHR system and a BYOD policy. After 14 years on a legacy EHR, the shift to a new system and access to it from hundreds of employee-owned devices happened all at once.

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  • Chief data officers come to healthcare

    As chief data officer at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Eugene Kolker has a fairly unusual job title – especially for this industry. "In healthcare it's extremely, extremely rare," he says. But that may be changing.

    [See also: Why should docs care about big data?]

    "To my knowledge, I was one of the first couple" CDOs in healthcare, says Kolker, who took on that position at Seattle Children's way back in 2007.

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