Project 0: Unix/Python Solution





This tutorial will cover the basics of working in the Unix environment and a small Python tutorial. You may remotely connect to the SOE servers or use lab workstations as well as your own laptop.

You can download all of the files associated with this tutorial (including this description) under the ‘Resources/Project P0’ section of eCommons.


To get you familiarized with the automatic grading system, we will ask you to submit answers for problems 1 (buyLotsOfFruit function) and 2 (shopSmart function). This is a good thing: learning the basics of python now will save you many headaches later in the course. Please review first the instructions provided by the announcement on eCommons about the autograder.

This tutorial should be submitted with the filename name at the following URL:

Please use the command line ‘zip’ tool to make sure this gets zipped correctly:



Unix Basics

Here are basic commands to navigate UNIX and edit files.

File/Directory Manipulation

When you open a terminal window, you’re placed at a command prompt.


The prompt shows your username, the host you are logged onto, and your current location in the directory structure (your path). The tilde character is shorthand for your home directory. To make a directory, use the mkdir command. Use cd to change to that directory:

[cmps140ta@stardance ~]$ mkdir p0
[cmps140ta@stardance ~]$ cd p0
[cmps140ta@stardance ~/p0]$

Once you download the Python files from the resources section, you may want to create a new directory p0 for them. To transfer files between your machine and a remote machine, consider applications like FileZilla or WinSCP. The ‘rsync’ command will also be helpful. Use ls to see a listing of the contents of a directory.

[cmps140ta@stardance ~]$ ls

Some other useful Unix commands:

  • rm removes (deletes) a file
  • mv moves a file (ie. cut/paste instead of copy/paste)
  • man displays documentation for a command
  • pwd prints your current path
  • xterm opens a new terminal window
  • mozilla opens a web browser
  • Press “Ctrl-c” to kill a running process
  • Append & to a command to run it in the background
  • fg brings a program running in the background to the foreground
  • rsync flexible secure file transfer between local and remote machines

The Emacs text editor

Emacs is a customizable text editor which has some nice features specifically tailored for programmers. However, you can use any other text editor that you may prefer (such as vi, pico, or joe on Unix; or Notepad on Windows; or TextWrangler on Macs; and many more). To run Emacs, type emacs at a command prompt:

[cmps140ta@stardance ~]$ emacs &
[1] 3262

Here we gave the argument which will either open that file for editing if it exists, or create it otherwise. Emacs notices that this is a Python source file (because of the .py ending) and enters Python-mode, which is supposed to help you write code. When editing this file you may notice some of that some text becomes automatically colored: this is syntactic highlighting to help you distinguish items such as keywords, variables, strings, and comments. Pressing Enter, Tab, or Backspace may cause the cursor to jump to weird locations: this is because Python is very picky about indentation, and Emacs is predicting the proper tabbing that you should use.

Some basic Emacs editing commands (C- means “while holding the Ctrl-key”):

  • C-x C-s Save the current file
  • C-x C-f Open a file, or create a new file it if doesn’t exist
  • C-k Cut a line, add it to the clipboard
  • C-y Paste the contents of the clipboard
  • C-_ Undo
  • C-g Abort a half-entered command

You can also copy and paste using just the mouse. Using the left button, select a region of text to copy. Click the middle button to paste.

There are two ways you can use Emacs to develop Python code. The most straightforward way is to use it just as a text editor: create and edit Python files in Emacs; then run Python to test the code somewhere else, like in a terminal window. Alternatively, you can run Python inside Emacs: see the options under “Python” in the menubar, or type C-c ! to start a Python interpreter in a split screen. (Use C-x o to switch between the split screens).

If you want to spend some extra set-up time becoming a power user, you can try an IDE like Eclipse (Download the Eclipse Classic package at the bottom). Check out PyDev for Python support in Eclipse.

Python Basics

The programming assignments in this course will be written in Python, an interpreted, object-oriented language that shares some features with both Java and Scheme. This tutorial will walk through the primary syntactic constructions in Python, using short examples.

You may find the Troubleshooting section helpful if you run into problems. It contains a list of the frequent problems previous CMPS140 students have encountered when following this tutorial.

Invoking the Interpreter

Like Scheme, Python can be run in one of two modes. It can either be used interactively, via an interpeter, or it can be called from the command line to execute a script. We will first use the Python interpreter interactively.

You invoke the interpreter by entering python at the Unix command prompt.
Note: you may have to type python2.4 or python2.5, rather than python, depending on your machine.

[cmps140ta@stardance ~]$ python
Python 2.5 (r25:51908, Sep 28 2008, 12:45:36)
[GCC 3.4.6] on sunos5
Type “help”, “copyright”, “credits” or “license” for more information.


The Python interpeter can be used to evaluate expressions, for example simple arithmetic expressions. If you enter such expressions at the prompt (>>>) they will be evaluated and the result wil be returned on the next line.

>>> 1 + 1
>>> 2 * 3

Boolean operators also exist in Python to manipulate the primitive True and False values.

>>> 1==0
>>> not (1==0)
>>> (2==2) and (2==3)
>>> (2==2) or (2==3)


Like Java, Python has a built in string type. The + operator is overloaded to do string concatenation on string values.

>>> ‘artificial’ + “intelligence”

There are many built-in methods which allow you to manipulate strings.

>>> ‘artificial’.upper()
>>> ‘HELP’.lower()
>>> len(‘Help’)

Notice that we can use either single quotes ‘ ‘ or double quotes ” ” to surround string. This allows for easy nesting of strings.

We can also store expressions into variables.

>>> s = ‘hello world’
>>> print s
hello world
>>> s.upper()
>>> len(s.upper())
>>> num = 8.0
>>> num += 2.5
>>> print num

In Python, you do not have declare variables before you assign to them.

Exercise: Learn about the methods Python provides for strings.

To see what methods Python provides for a datatype, use the dir and help commands:

>>> s = ‘abc’

>>> dir(s)
[‘__add__’, ‘__class__’, ‘__contains__’, ‘__delattr__’, ‘__doc__’, ‘__eq__’, ‘__ge__’, ‘__getattribute__’, ‘__getitem__’, ‘__getnewargs__’, ‘__getslice__’, ‘__gt__’, ‘__hash__’, ‘__init__’,’__le__’, ‘__len__’, ‘__lt__’, ‘__mod__’, ‘__mul__’, ‘__ne__’, ‘__new__’, ‘__reduce__’, ‘__reduce_ex__’,’__repr__’, ‘__rmod__’, ‘__rmul__’, ‘__setattr__’, ‘__str__’, ‘capitalize’, ‘center’, ‘count’, ‘decode’, ‘encode’, ‘endswith’, ‘expandtabs’, ‘find’, ‘index’, ‘isalnum’, ‘isalpha’, ‘isdigit’, ‘islower’, ‘isspace’, ‘istitle’, ‘isupper’, ‘join’, ‘ljust’, ‘lower’, ‘lstrip’, ‘replace’, ‘rfind’,’rindex’, ‘rjust’, ‘rsplit’, ‘rstrip’, ‘split’, ‘splitlines’, ‘startswith’, ‘strip’, ‘swapcase’, ‘title’, ‘translate’, ‘upper’, ‘zfill’]

>>> help(s.find)

Help on built-in function find:





S.find(sub [,start [,end]]) -> int


Return the lowest index in S where substring sub is found,

such that sub is contained within s[start,end].  Optional

arguments start and end are interpreted as in slice notation.


Return -1 on failure.




>> s.find(‘b’)
1 Try out some of the string functions listed in dir (ignore those with underscores ‘_’ around the method name).



Build-in Data Structures

Python comes equipped with some useful built-in data structures, broadly similar to Java’s collections package.


Lists store a sequence of mutable items:

>>> fruits = [‘apple’,’orange’,’pear’,’banana’]
>>> fruits[0]

We can use the + operator to do list concatenation:

>>> otherFruits = [‘kiwi’,’strawberry’]
>>> fruits + otherFruits
>>> [‘apple’, ‘orange’, ‘pear’, ‘banana’, ‘kiwi’, ‘strawberry’]

Python also allows negative-indexing from the back of the list. For instance, fruits[-1] will access the last element ‘banana’:

>>> fruits[-2]
>>> fruits.pop()
>>> fruits
[‘apple’, ‘orange’, ‘pear’]
>>> fruits.append(‘grapefruit’)
>>> fruits
[‘apple’, ‘orange’, ‘pear’, ‘grapefruit’]
>>> fruits[-1] = ‘pineapple’
>>> fruits
[‘apple’, ‘orange’, ‘pear’, ‘pineapple’]

We can also index multiple adjacent elements using the slice operator. For instance fruits[1:3] which returns a list containing the elements at position 1 and 2. In general fruits[start:stop] will get the elements in start, start+1, …, stop-1. We can also do fruits[start:] which returns all elements starting from the start index. Also fruits[:end] will return all elements before the element at position end:

>>> fruits[0:2]
[‘apple’, ‘orange’]
>>> fruits[:3]
[‘apple’, ‘orange’, ‘pear’]
>>> fruits[2:]
[‘pear’, ‘pineapple’]
>>> len(fruits)

The items stored in lists can be any Python data type. So for instance we can have lists of lists:

>>> lstOfLsts = [[‘a’,’b’,’c’],[1,2,3],[‘one’,’two’,’three’]]
>>> lstOfLsts[1][2]
>>> lstOfLsts[0].pop()
>>> lstOfLsts
[[‘a’, ‘b’],[1, 2, 3],[‘one’, ‘two’, ‘three’]]

Exercise: Play with some of the list functions. You can find the methods you can call on an object via the dir and get information about them via the help command:

>>> dir(list)
[‘__add__’, ‘__class__’, ‘__contains__’, ‘__delattr__’, ‘__delitem__’,
‘__delslice__’, ‘__doc__’, ‘__eq__’, ‘__ge__’, ‘__getattribute__’,
‘__getitem__’, ‘__getslice__’, ‘__gt__’, ‘__hash__’, ‘__iadd__’, ‘__imul__’,
‘__init__’, ‘__iter__’, ‘__le__’, ‘__len__’, ‘__lt__’, ‘__mul__’, ‘__ne__’,
‘__new__’, ‘__reduce__’, ‘__reduce_ex__’, ‘__repr__’, ‘__reversed__’,
‘__rmul__’, ‘__setattr__’, ‘__setitem__’, ‘__setslice__’, ‘__str__’,
‘append’, ‘count’, ‘extend’, ‘index’, ‘insert’, ‘pop’, ‘remove’, ‘reverse’,


>>> help(list.reverse)

Help on built-in function reverse:



L.reverse() — reverse *IN PLACE*

>>> lst = [‘a’,’b’,’c’]
>>> lst.reverse()
>>> [‘c’,’b’,’a’]

Note: Ignore functions with underscores “_” around the names; these are private helper methods.




A data structure similar to the list is the tuple, which is like a list except that it is immutable once it is created (i.e. you cannot change its content once created). Note that tuples are surrounded with parentheses while lists have square brackets.

>>> pair = (3,5)
>>> pair[0]
>>> x,y = pair
>>> x
>>> y
>>> pair[1] = 6
TypeError: object does not support item assignment

The attempt to modify an immutable structure raised an exception. Exceptions indicate errors: index out of bounds errors, type errors, and so on will all report exceptions in this way.




A set is another data structure that serves as an unordered list with no duplicate items. Below, we show how to create a set, add things to the set, test if an item is in the set, and perform common set operations (difference, intersection, union):

>>> shapes = [‘circle’,’square’,’triangle’,’circle’]
>>> setOfShapes = set(shapes)
>>> setOfShapes
>>> setOfShapes.add(‘polygon’)
>>> setOfShapes
>>> ‘circle’ in setOfShapes
>>> ‘rhombus’ in setOfShapes
>>> favoriteShapes = [‘circle’,’triangle’,’hexagon’]
>>> setOfFavoriteShapes = set(favoriteShapes)
>>> setOfShapes – setOfFavoriteShapes
>>> setOfShapes & setOfFavoriteShapes
>>> setOfShapes | setOfFavoriteShapes

Note that the objects in the set are unordered; you cannot assume that their traversal or print order will be the same across machines!




The last built-in data structure is the dictionary which stores a map from one type of object (the key) to another (the value). The key must be an immutable type (string, number, or tuple). The value can be any Python data type.

Note: In the example below, the printed order of the keys returned by Python could be different than shown below. The reason is that unlike lists which have a fixed ordering, a dictionary is simply a hash table for which there is no fixed ordering of the keys (see the FAQ about dictionary key ordering).

>>> studentIds = {‘knuth’: 42.0, ‘turing’: 56.0, ‘nash’: 92.0 }
>>> studentIds[‘turing’]
>>> studentIds[‘nash’] = ‘ninety-two’
>>> studentIds
{‘knuth’: 42.0, ‘turing’: 56.0, ‘nash’: ‘ninety-two’}
>>> del studentIds[‘knuth’]
>>> studentIds
{‘turing’: 56.0, ‘nash’: ‘ninety-two’}
>>> studentIds[‘knuth’] = [42.0,’forty-two’]
>>> studentIds
{‘knuth’: [42.0, ‘forty-two’], ‘turing’: 56.0, ‘nash’: ‘ninety-two’}
>>> studentIds.keys()
[‘knuth’, ‘turing’, ‘nash’]
>>> studentIds.values()
[[42.0, ‘forty-two’], 56.0, ‘ninety-two’]
>>> studentIds.items()
[(‘knuth’,[42.0, ‘forty-two’]), (‘turing’,56.0), (‘nash’,’ninety-two’)]
>>> len(studentIds)




As with nested lists, you can also create dictionaries of dictionaries.



Exercise: Use dir and help to learn about the functions you can call on dictionaries.

Writing Scripts

Now that you’ve got a handle on using Python interactively, let’s write a simple Python script that demonstrates Python’s for loop. Open the file called and update it with the following code:

# This is what a comment looks like

fruits = [‘apples’,’oranges’,’pears’,’bananas’]

for fruit in fruits:

print fruit + ‘ for sale’


fruitPrices = {‘apples’: 2.00, ‘oranges’: 1.50, ‘pears’: 1.75}

for fruit, price in fruitPrices.items():

if price < 2.00:

print ‘%s cost %f a pound’ % (fruit, price)


print fruit + ‘ are too expensive!’

At the command line, use the following command in the directory containing

[cs188-tf@solar ~/tutorial]$ python
apples for sale
oranges for sale
pears for sale
bananas for sale
oranges cost 1.500000 a pound
pears cost 1.750000 a pound
apples are too expensive!

Remember that the print statements listing the costs may be in a different order on your screen than in this tutorial; that’s due to the fact that we’re looping over dictionary keys, which are unordered. To learn more about control structures (e.g., if and else) in Python, check out the official Python tutorial section on this topic.

If you like functional programming (like Scheme) you might also like map and filter:

>>> map(lambda x: x * x, [1,2,3])
[1, 4, 9]
>>> filter(lambda x: x > 3, [1,2,3,4,5,4,3,2,1])
[4, 5, 4]

You can learn more about lambda if you’re interested. The next snippet of code demonstrates python’s list comprehension construction:

nums = [1,2,3,4,5,6]

plusOneNums = [x+1 for x in nums]

oddNums = [x for x in nums if x % 2 == 1]

print oddNums

oddNumsPlusOne = [x+1 for x in nums if x % 2 ==1]

print oddNumsPlusOne

This code is in a file called, which you can run:

[cmps140ta@stardance ~]$ python

Those of you familiar with Scheme, will recognize that the list comprehension is similar to the map function. In Scheme, the first list comprehension would be written as:

(define nums ‘(1,2,3,4,5,6))


(lambda (x) (+ x 1))  nums)

Exercise: Write a list comprehension which, from a list, generates a lowercased version of each string that has length greater than five. Solution:

Beware of Indentation!

Unlike many other languages, Python uses the indentation in the source code for interpretation. So for instance, for the following script:

if 0 == 1:

print ‘We are in a world of arithmetic pain’

print ‘Thank you for playing’

will output

Thank you for playing

But if we had written the script as

if 0 == 1:

print ‘We are in a world of arithmetic pain’

print ‘Thank you for playing’

there would be no output. The moral of the story: be careful how you indent! It’s best to use four spaces for indentation — that’s what the course code uses.

Writing Functions

As in Scheme or Java, in Python you can define your own functions:

fruitPrices = {‘apples’:2.00, ‘oranges’: 1.50, ‘pears’: 1.75}


def buyFruit(fruit, numPounds):

if fruit not in fruitPrices:

print “Sorry we don’t have %s” % (fruit)


cost = fruitPrices[fruit] * numPounds

print “That’ll be %f please” % (cost)


# Main Function

if __name__ == ‘__main__’:



Rather than having a main function as in Java, the __name__ == ‘__main__’ check is used to delimit expressions which are executed when the file is called as a script from the command line. The code after the main check is thus the same sort of code you would put in a main function in Java.

Save this script as and run it:

[cmps140ta@stardance ~]$ python
That’ll be 4.800000 please
Sorry we don’t have coconuts

Problem 1 (for submission): Add a buyLotsOfFruit(orderList) function to which takes a list of (fruit,pound) tuples and returns the cost of your list. If there is some fruit in the list which doesn’t appear in fruitPrices it should print an error message and return None (which is like nil in Scheme). Please do not change the fruitPrices variable.

Test Case:We will check your code by testing that the script correctly outputs

Cost of [(‘apples’, 2.0), (‘pears’, 3.0), (‘limes’, 4.0)] is 12.25

Advanced Exercise: Write a quickSort function in Python using list comprehensions. Use the first element as the pivot. Solution:

Object Basics

Although this isn’t a class in object-oriented programming, you’ll have to use some objects in the programming projects, and so it’s worth covering the basics of objects in Python. An object encapsulates data and provides functions for interacting with that data.

Defining Classes

Here’s an example of defining a class named FruitShop:

class FruitShop:


def __init__(self, name, fruitPrices):


name: Name of the fruit shop


fruitPrices: Dictionary with keys as fruit

strings and prices for values e.g.

{‘apples’:2.00, ‘oranges’: 1.50, ‘pears’: 1.75}


self.fruitPrices = fruitPrices = name

print ‘Welcome to the %s fruit shop’ % (name)


def getCostPerPound(self, fruit):


fruit: Fruit string

Returns cost of ‘fruit’, assuming ‘fruit’

is in our inventory or None otherwise


if fruit not in self.fruitPrices:

print “Sorry we don’t have %s” % (fruit)

return None

return self.fruitPrices[fruit]


def getPriceOfOrder(self, orderList):


orderList: List of (fruit, numPounds) tuples


Returns cost of orderList. If any of the fruit are


totalCost = 0.0

for fruit, numPounds in orderList:

costPerPound = self.getCostPerPound(fruit)

if costPerPound != None:

totalCost += numPounds * costPerPound

return totalCost


def getName(self):


The FruitShop class has some data, the name of the shop and the prices per pound of some fruit, and it provides functions, or methods, on this data. What advantage is there to wrapping this data in a class?

  • Encapsulating the data prevents it from being altered or used inappropriately,
  • The abstraction that objects provide make it easier to write general-purpose code.


Using Objects

So how do we make an object and use it? Download the FruitShop implementation in We then import the code from this file (making it accessible to other scripts) using import shop, since is the name of the file. Then, we can create FruitShopobjects as follows:

import shop


shopName = ‘the Berkeley Bowl’

fruitPrices = {‘apples’: 1.00, ‘oranges’: 1.50, ‘pears’: 1.75}

berkeleyShop = shop.FruitShop(shopName, fruitPrices)

applePrice = berkeleyShop.getCostPerPound(‘apples’)

print applePrice

print(‘Apples cost $%.2f at %s.’ % (applePrice, shopName))


otherName = ‘the Stanford Mall’

otherFruitPrices = {‘kiwis’:6.00, ‘apples’: 4.50, ‘peaches’: 8.75}

otherFruitShop = shop.FruitShop(otherName, otherFruitPrices)

otherPrice = otherFruitShop.getCostPerPound(‘apples’)

print otherPrice

print(‘Apples cost $%.2f at %s.’ % (otherPrice, otherName))

print(“My, that’s expensive!”)

You can download this code in and run it like this:

[cmps140ta@stardance ~]$ python

Welcome to the Berkeley Bowl fruit shop


Apples cost $1.00 at the Berkeley Bowl.

Welcome to the Stanford Mall fruit shop


Apples cost $4.50 at the Stanford Mall.

My, that’s expensive!

So what just happended? The import shop statement told Python to load all of the functions and classes in The line berkeleyShop = shop.FruitShop(shopName, fruitPrices) constructs an instance of the FruitShop class defined in, by calling the __init__ function in that class. Note that we only passed two arguments in, while __init__ seems to take three arguments: (self, name, fruitPrices). The reason for this is that all methods in a class have self as the first argument. The selfvariable’s value is automatically set to the object itself; when calling a method, you only supply the remaining arguments. The self variable contains all the data (name and fruitPrices) for the current specific instance (similar to this in Java). The print statements use the substitution operator (described in the Python docs if you’re curious).

Static vs Instance Variables

The following example with illustrate how to use static and instance variables in python.
Create the containing the following code:

class Person:

population = 0

def __init__(self, myAge):

self.age = myAge

Person.population += 1

def get_population(self):

return Person.population

def get_age(self):

return self.age


We first compile the script:
[cmps140ta@stardance ~]$ python
Now use the class as follows:
>>> import person_class
>>> p1 = person_class.Person(12)
>>> p1.get_population()
>>> p2 = person_class.Person(63)
>>> p1.get_population()
>>> p2.get_population()
>>> p1.get_age()
>>> p2.get_age()
In the code above, age is an instance variable and population is a static variable. population is shared by all instances of the Person class whereas each instance has its own age variable.

Problem 2 (for submission): Fill in the function shopSmart(orders,shops) in, which takes an orderList (like the kind passed in to FruitShop.getPriceOfOrder) and a list of FruitShop and returns the FruitShop where your order costs the least amount in total. Don’t change the file name or variable names, please. Note that we will provide the implementation as a “support” file, so you don’t need to submit yours.

Test Case:We will check that, with the following variable definitions:


orders1 = [(‘apples’,1.0), (‘oranges’,3.0)]

orders2 = [(‘apples’,3.0)]

dir1 = {‘apples’: 2.0, ‘oranges’:1.0}

shop1 =  shop.FruitShop(‘shop1’,dir1)

dir2 = {‘apples’: 1.0, ‘oranges’: 5.0}

shop2 = shop.FruitShop(‘shop2’,dir2)

shops = [shop1, shop2]

The following are true:

shopSmart.shopSmart(orders1, shops).getName() == ‘shop1’


shopSmart.shopSmart(orders2, shops).getName() == ‘shop2’

More Python Tips and Tricks

This tutorial has briefly touched on some major aspects of Python that will be relevant to the course. Here’s some more useful tidbits:

  • Use range to generate a sequence of integers, useful for generating traditional indexed for loops: for index in range(3):
  • print lst[index]
  • After importing a file, if you edit a source file, the changes will not be immediately propagated in the interpreter. For this, use the reload command:

    >>> reload(shop)


These are some problems (and their solutions) that new python learners commonly encounter.

  • Problem:
    ImportError: No module named py Solution:
    When using import, do not include the “.py” from the filename.
    For example, you should say: import shop
    NOT: import
  • Problem:
    NameError: name ‘MY VARIABLE’ is not defined
    Even after importing you may see this. Solution:
    To access a member of a module, you have to type MODULE NAME.MEMBER NAME, where MODULE NAME is the name of the .py file, and MEMBER NAME is the name of the variable (or function) you are trying to access.
  • Problem:
    TypeError: ‘dict’ object is not callable Solution:
    Dictionary looks up are done using square brackets: [ and ]. NOT parenthesis: ( and ).
  • Problem:
    ValueError: too many values to unpack Solution:
    Make sure the number of variables you are assigning in a for loop matches the number of elements in each item of the list. Similarly for working with tuples.
    For example, if pair is a tuple of two elements (e.g. pair =(‘apple’, 2.0)) then the following code would cause the “too many values to unpack error”:
    (a,b,c) = pair
    Here is a problematic scenario involving a for loop:
    pairList = [(‘apples’, 2.00), (‘oranges’, 1.50), (‘pears’, 1.75)]
  • for fruit, price, color in pairList:
  • print ‘%s fruit costs %f and is the color %s’ % (fruit, price, color)
  • Problem:
    AttributeError: ‘list’ object has no attribute ‘length’ (or something similar) Solution:
    Finding length of lists is done using len(NAME OF LIST).
  • Problem:
    Changes to a file are not taking effect. Solution:

    • Make sure you are saving all your files after any changes.
    • If you are editing a file in a window different from the one you are using to execute python, make sure you reload(YOUR_MODULE) to guarantee your changes are being reflected. reload works similar to import.

More References!


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