Archive for the ‘IronPython’ Category

If C# is so awesome, why use anything else?

December 29, 2011 20 comments

Anyone who knows me professionally knows I work in C# most of the time. I think it’s a great language that’s been well designed and made very portable by way of being an open language specification. A lot of people look at C# and say, that’s just Java with some Microsoft-extensions. Sort of, since it’s framework (.NET) ships with quite a few libraries that interoperate well with Windows, although the C# language itself doesn’t have anything to do with Windows, and runs on Linux, OS X, Android, iOS, and so on. In my opinion, Java has stagnated over the years, while C# has been evolving with generics (which Java followed), lambdas (Java finally gets them years later), anonymous types, partial method and class declarations, language integrated query (LINQ), dynamic runtime integration, and soon a simplified asynchronous programming model with await and async that will allow the runtime to deal with the gory details of async programming rather than forcing the programmer to understand and properly implement callbacks and cleanup. Java isn’t catching up fast, so Scala is filling the gaps, but C# remains years ahead.

Every year, my family looks at me funny when I they give me new books. That’s right, I’m a geek that reads computer books. Most of these books are not on C#, but on JavaScript, Python, Haskell, and I even keep an old PERL book on my shelf. What is all this other stuff?

JavaScript – it’s pretty rare these days that other developers would say, “why would you ever want to write JavaScript?” It’s a ubiquitous language amongst web browsers, and it’s pretty rare that anyone can write much of a browser-based application at all without it. Besides, the latest trend is to write a “language X to JavaScript converter” and what good would that be if I didn’t know JavaScript and wasn’t willing to learn language X? There have always been some nice server-side implementations, like Spidermonkey and newer V8, powering trendy applications like MongoDB and Node.js. Until I started down the Python path, whenever I needed extensibility, I would embed Spidermonkey for some JavaScript fun.

Python – in the realm of C#, a lot of people are uncomfortable mixing in Python. They don’t like the idea of losing compile-time checks and worry about needing a myriad of Python frameworks to solve any sizable development tasks. However, Python is an excellent tool for large and small projects alike, and IronPython take the Python language and gives it access to the full .NET framework. In the last few years, I’ve felt constrained if I didn’t have a layer of extensibility that IronPython can add to CLR applications. Python scripts let you treat code as data, meaning you can store it, transmit it, and change it at runtime. Python gives you a new way to move the problem around, solve it at a different time in your overall solution. It’s a great piece of the toolbox.

I remember spending weeks building business rules engines so non-programmers could add some logic to enterprise applications. These engines would use reflection and Lightweight Code Generation (LCG) and a clumsy UI where end users would select data objects and operators and build expression statements. IronPython uses LCG, is highly optimized, and gives you a general purpose scripting language with access to CLR objects. Most end users prefer the ability to write an expression in script rather than fumble with the type of UI needed to build an expression tree. This is just scratching the surface of the Python language, but at the very least, it’s a great tool anywhere you want to offer runtime extensibility.

Haskell is pure functional programming – no state, just functions. I used F# a bit for professional work just to learn it, but it allows you to fall back into the OOP line of thinking. Haskell makes you take a fully functional approach. I recommend every developer that’s looking to expand their approach to problem solving to spend some time with it.

What about that PERL 5 book? Well, I don’t use that, to be honest. I did once upon a time, but I really do avoid PERL at all costs. Maybe one day, I’ll pick it back up.

Categories: C#, IronPython Tags: , ,

Calling IronPython from C#

September 16, 2011 2 comments

There are a lot of great Python libraries out there, and IronPython makes it really easy to call many of them from .NET. Over the years, IronPython has become easier to embed in your applications, and the DLR that was added in .NET 4 makes it dead simple.

Say you have a Python expression (could be an entire module) in a string variable called “expression” – the code to execute that is this simple:

var engine = IronPython.Hosting.Python.CreateEngine();
var script = engine.CreateScriptSourceFromString(expression);
var scope = engine.CreateScope();
dynamic result = script.Execute(scope);

When you execute that, your result will be whatever you returned from the Python expression. You could return a value or a function defined in Python. If your expression is a Python lambda taking three parameters, from your C# code you can write the following:

dynamic foo = result(a,b,c);

If you need to load additional .NET assemblies to expose them to the IronPython code, just call the following:


What about passing parameters? The scope let’s you pass in a dictionary of parameters. The key to each dictionary entry is the name the parameter will have inside the IronPython scope, and the value is going to be the value of that parameter when script.Execute(scope) is called. To pass a dictionary of parameters, simply do this:

var parameters = new Dictionary<string,object>() {
   { "age", 30 }, { "name", "Vinny" }
scope = engine.CreateScope(parameters);
result = script.Execute(scope);

The parameters “age” and “name” will be passed into the scope of the IronPython script being executed.

Suppose you have additional Python modules that you want to call from your embedded IronPython. IronPython ships with quite a bit of the standard library, but your embedded code doesn’t necessarily know how to find it. A call to engine.SetSearchPaths(paths) adds a collection of strings with paths that IronPython should search when executing your code.

var paths = new List<string>();

I encourage you explore the options for embedding IronPython in your own applications. The ScriptEngine is quite robust; you can execute string expressions or entire files, in the same AppDomain or in a new one.

Categories: C#, DLR, IronPython

JSON and the DLR

March 1, 2011 1 comment

JavaScript is a dynamic language, and with the DLR, C# can be as well. There have been more than a few times that I’ve wanted to pass JavaScript objects over to my C# code, but my object models didn’t match up, so I couldn’t easily deserialize them for server side processing. With the DLR, this is no longer a problem. We don’t need to modify a C# class to match the JavaScript object model. Instead, use the JavaScriptSerializer that ships with .NET 3.5 to get a Dictionary, then copy those elements into a DynamicObject.

First, our DynamicObject:

public class JsonDynamicObject : DynamicObject
	private Dictionary<string,object> properties = new Dictionary<string, object>();
	public override bool TryGetMember (GetMemberBinder binder, out object result)
		object value;
		if(properties.TryGetValue(binder.Name, out value)) {
			result = value;
			return true;
		else {
			result = null;
			return false;
	public override bool TrySetMember (SetMemberBinder binder, object value)
		if(properties.ContainsKey(binder.Name)) {
			properties[binder.Name] = value;
		else {
			properties.Add(binder.Name, value);
		return true;
	public override IEnumerable<string> GetDynamicMemberNames ()
		return properties.Keys;

Next, use the JavaScriptSerializer to parse a string of JSON into a Dictionary<string,object>, and build an instance of our JsonDynamicObject from that:

public static JsonDynamicObject Parse(string json) {
	var s = new System.Web.Script.Serialization.JavaScriptSerializer();
	return buildDynamicObject((Dictionary<string,object>)s.DeserializeObject(json));

private static JsonDynamicObject buildDynamicObject(Dictionary<string,object> props) {
	if(props != null) {
		JsonDynamicObject dynObj = new JsonDynamicObject();
		foreach(var kvp in props) {
			Dictionary<string, object> subProps = kvp.Value as Dictionary<string, object>;
			if(subProps != null) {, buildDynamicObject(subProps));
			else {, kvp.Value);
		return dynObj;
	else {
		return null;

In the end, we have an object that is fully compatible with the DLR and can even be passed on to other dynamic languages, such as IronPython running in the server:

dynamic d = JsonDynamicObject.Parse("{'UserID':23, 'User':{'Name':'Billy', 'Age':28}}");
var scriptEngine = Python.CreateEngine();
var scope = scriptEngine.CreateScope();
scope.SetVariable("jsObj", d);
var source = scriptEngine.CreateScriptSourceFromString("print jsObj.User.Age * 10");

An object defined in JavaScript passed to C# then on to IronPython all in just a few lines of code!

Categories: DLR, IronPython Tags: , ,

Embedding PowerShell 2 in IronPython

January 25, 2011 1 comment

PowerShell 2 makes the process of embedding PowerShell scripts inside other languages quite a bit simpler than in previous versions:

import clr
from System.Management.Automation import PowerShell
with PowerShell.Create() as ps:
   script = ps.AddScript("param([System.String]$pname)\r\nGet-Process -name $pname")
   script.AddParameters({"pname" : "devenv"})
   output = [o.BaseObject for o in script.Invoke()]

# Now you can access the Process object returned from the PS script.
print output[0].VirtualMemorySize64

You should create the PowerShell instance within a “with” block to ensure it is properly disposed after use. To pass parameters into a PS script, you’ll need to make sure the script accepts a few named parameters using the PS param() statement. Then you create a dict() of the name value pairs and add it as the parameters to the script. A Python list comprehension makes quick work of unwrapping the CLR objects from the PS output collection.

Categories: IronPython Tags: ,

Performance of IronPython vs. C#

October 21, 2009 25 comments

I’ve been using IronPython for a while, and every now and then I do a cursory check to see how it’s performs against the equivalent C# code. C# is generally a touch faster at most logic, but IronPython is faster at dynamic invocation of methods than reflection in C#. In general it’s a wash…over the course of an application you dabble in things that different languages are better optimized to handle. When performance is a wash, you get the freedom to choose entirely based on the features of each language, which is nice.

This was going well, until I had a need to do some recursion. I found that the recursive IronPython code was executing extremely slowly – code that was taking milliseconds in C# was taking minutes in IronPython. That’s not a wash anymore…it’s a few orders of magnitude. So to really figure out what’s going on with these recursive calls, I made two implementations of calculating Fibonacci numbers – one in C# and one in IronPython.

Updated 10/23 – I really need to rework this code a bit. The more I look at it, I don’t think I’m comparing apples to apples here, partly because Fibonacci isn’t all that representative of my actual problem where I’m recursing through complex types rather than primitives. After I do a little more research, maybe I can find out what performance metrics to look at when IPy (and dynamic code in general) executes appreciably slower than statically-typed C# code. The problem now is, I can get this code to run without a lot of GC, but it still does a lot of something else that doesn’t seem to show up in perfmon.


def fib(num):
   if num == 0:
      return 0
   elif num == 1:
      return 1
      return fib(num-1) + fib(num-2)

for i in range(0, 41): print "%i %i" % (i, fib(i))


class testfib
   private static int fib(int num)
      if(num == 0)
         return 0;
      else if(num == 1)
         return 1;
         return fib(num - 1) + fib(num - 2);

   public static void Main(string[] args)
      int i;
      for(i = 0; i < 41; i++)
         System.Console.WriteLine("{0} {1}", i, fib(i));

I ran the C# version – 5.5 seconds on average. I ran the IronPython version, 12 2-1/2 minutes. What’s going on here?

Updated 10/23 – Perfmon turned out to tell me very little in compared to some profiling.

Function Time Consumed(units) Hit Count Time Consumed(%)
IronPython.Compiler.PythonScriptCode::Run 5876406555 14 27.7169028
IronPython.Runtime.PythonFunction.FunctionCaller::Call1 5870624528 37860134 27.68963105
IronPython.Runtime.Operations.PythonOps::GetLocal 2794453317 37860205 13.18043438
IronPython.Runtime.Operations.PythonOps::GetVariable 2532912650 37860205 11.94684082
IronPython.Runtime.Binding.PythonBinaryOperationBinder::IntSubtract 607137805 37860099 2.863651344
IronPython.Runtime.Operations.PythonOps::GetGlobalContext 325908336 37860134 1.53719277
IronPython.Runtime.Operations.Int32Ops::Subtract 320598896 37860099 1.512150045
IronPython.Runtime.Operations.PythonOps::GetParentContextFromFunction 315597320 37860134 1.488559404
IronPython.Runtime.Binding.PythonBinaryOperationBinder::IntAdd 282632451 18930035 1.333075937
MS.Win32.HwndSubclass::SubclassWndProc 260663364 4048 1.22945563
MS.Win32.HwndSubclass::DispatcherCallbackOperation 258788088 4048 1.220610625
MS.Win32.HwndWrapper::WndProc 258788088 4048 1.220610625

Compare this to my C# version, which has a lot less going on, since all it’s work is in the single fib method:

Function Time Consumed(units) Hit Count Time Consumed(%)
testfib::Main 1182320483 1 53.01288057
testfib::fib 1047930863 133691744 46.98711938
testfib::.cctor 0 1 0

The information from profiling turns out to be much more useful than the GC numbers I get from perfmon. What’s really going on? First off, IronPython is making millions of calls to PythonFunction.FunctionCaller.Call1. That casts the function to a PythonFunction, then does a second cast to a Func delegate, which then gets invoked.

After that, IronPython is making millions of calls to PythonOps.GetLocal, which calls PythonOps.GetVariable, which goes to the CodeContext and starts trying to lookup the variable in a few dictionaries, which appears to include the global dictionary by the number of calls to PythonOps.GetGlobalContext. The variables are local to the fib() function, but the fib() function itself is in the global context.

What else is in here? Int32Ops.Add and Int32Ops.Subtract are obviously called a lot to find Fibonacci numbers. These both have an overflow check in them in case the result is out of the range of an Int32, in which the result will be a boxed Int64 value. If the result happens to fit in a Int32, it will be performed again, with BigIntegerOps. All of this is to hide the work of handling integer overflow.

All this extra work – the casting, invoking, and dictionary lookups – are all by-products of working with a dynamic language. There isn’t a lot you can do to avoid it, but one thing that can cut down tremendously is to avoid recursion here. With an iterative solution, IronPython doesn’t have to continually lookup the functions to call, and you’re not going to be moving between function scopes so there is no need for looking up variables in dictionaries. The iterative solution in IronPython is much, much faster:

def fib(n):
   previous = -1
   result = 1
   for i in range(0,n+1):
      sum = result + previous
      previous = result
      result = sum
   return result

On with my post, and the GC numbers that are more relevant if recursing through objects, but less relevant to the code I presented with value types.

I fired up perfmon.exe and started adding various counters, but the one where you see the most visible difference is in the .NET CLR Memory, specifically the “# Gen 0 Collections”. In the IronPython version, the generation 0 collections numbered around 4 million 30,000! On my C# implementation, there actually were no collections. Everything was done on the stack. To be fair to IronPython which has to box everything in PythonType, I changed the C# code to box everything in objects, like the following:

public static object fib(object num)

The boxed C# implementation averaged 22 seconds to run, and also had about 12 6,000 generation 0 garbage collections. It’s still nowhere near the 4 million 30,000 collections taken by IronPython.

Two good things I learned:
1) Be careful with recursion in IronPython, as those PythonType objects carry some baggage that can keep the GC pretty busy.
2) Perfmon is a very important part of your toolbox if you’re fixing performance problems in IronPython code, or just .NET in general.

And, just for those Python purists out there, running it in CPython averaged 3 minutes, 18 seconds. Yes, much faster than IronPython, much slower than C#, and I have no idea how to figure out why (I have to get back to you on the CPython numbers). I also made a C version, and it averaged 3.8 6.5 seconds to execute. Obviously no garbage collection, but mysteriously slower than the C# version. Hopefully nobody cares about the C version, but here it is in case you want to try it for yourself:

int fib(int num)
   if(num == 0)
      return 0;
   else if(num == 1)
      return 1;
      return fib(num - 1) + fib(num - 2);

int main(void)
   int i;
   for(i = 0; i < 41; i++)
      printf("%i %i\r\n", i, fib(i));
   return 0;

Getting WPF Control Template in IronPython

October 14, 2009 Leave a comment

I always find myself needing a control template so I can customize one of the WPF controls. I used to fire up Expression Blend to get it, and then realized I could write a little IronPython code to do it. Paste this code into the IronPython 2.0 or 2.6 console to see it work!

import clr
from System.Windows import Window
from System.Windows.Controls import *
from System.Windows.Markup import XamlWriter
from System.Xml import XmlWriter, XmlWriterSettings
from System.Text import StringBuilder

# Need to render the control on screen so it will have a Control Template
def getControlTemplate(ctl):
   "Gets the control template for a WPF control"
   window = Window()
   window.Content = ctl
   return ctl.Template

settings = XmlWriterSettings()
settings.Indent = True
settings.IndentChars = "   "
sb = StringBuilder()
writer = XmlWriter.Create(sb,settings)
### replace Button() with an instance of whatever control you want. ###
XamlWriter.Save(getControlTemplate(Button()), writer)
print (sb.ToString())