Wandering Thoughts archives


My complicated feelings on abandoning old but good code

Yesterday I wrote about some twelve year old Python code I have that's still running unmodified, and commented about both how it's a bit sad that Python 2 has changed so little that this code doesn't even emit warnings and that this is because Python has moved on to Python 3. This raises the obvious question: am I going to move portnanny (this code) to Python 3? My current answer is that I'm not planning to, because portnanny is basically end of life and abandoned.

I don't consider the program end of life because it's bad code or code that I would do differently if I was rewriting it today. It's EOL for a simpler reason, namely that I don't really have any use for what it does any more. This particular code was first written to be in front of an NNTP server for Usenet and then actually mostly used to be the SMTP frontend of a peculiar MTA. I haven't had any NNTP servers for a long time now and the MTA that portnanny sits in front of is obsolete and should really be replaced (the MTA lingers on only because it's still simpler to leave it alone). If and when portnanny or the MTA break, it probably won't be worth fixing them; instead that will be my cue to replace the whole system with a modern one that works better.

All of this makes me sad, partly because portnanny handles what used to be an interesting problem but mostly because I think that portnanny is actually some of the best Python code I've written. It's certainly the best tested Python code I've written; nothing else comes close. When I wrote it, I tried hard to do a good job in both structure and implementation and to follow the mantras of test driven development for Python, and I'll probably never again write Python code that is as well done. Turning my back on the best Python code I may ever write isn't entirely a great feeling and there's certainly part of me that doesn't want to, however silly that is.

(It's theoretically possible I'll write Python code this good in the future, but something significant would have to change in my job or my life in order to make writing high quality Python an important part of it.)

There's a part of me that now wants to move portnanny to Python 3 just because. But I've never been able to get really enthused about programming projects without a clear use and need, and this would be just such a 'no clear use' make work project. Maybe I'll do it anyways someday, but the odds are not good.

(Part of the reason that the odds are not good is that I think the world has moved on from using tcpwrappers like user level filtering for access control, especially when it's embodied in external programs. So not only do I not really have a use for portnanny any more, I don't think anyone else would even if they knew about it.)

python/AbandoningOldGoodCode written at 01:50:03; Add Comment

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