CSci 1133 Lab Exercise 10 File I/O


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Large datasets are the domain of computing. Although short “script-like” programs are often needed, more
general computational tasks involve processing large volumes of data. Python provides several powerful
constructs for reading data from, and writing data to, external storage media.
Primer on CSV File Format
We’ve learned that text files are simply long strings (sequences of characters) that have been stored on some
non-volatile media. Text files can contain any data that is representable using characters: e.g., textbooks,
novels, computer program source code, lab data, etc. Although there is no standard text file “format”, a
universally accepted format has emerged to store tabular data (i.e., spreadsheet data) as a text file. This
standard is called the “Comma Separated Values” format, or CSV for short.
CSV format is quite simple in practice: individual rows of a table or matrix are delimited using the newline
character, ‘\n’, and individual values within a row (column values) are delimited using commas. For
example, consider the following “tabular” (matrix) values:
1 2 3
4 5 6
7 8 9
If the matrix is stored in CSV format, the resulting text file would contain the characters:
and, using any standard text editor to display the file contents, we would see:
Each “row” of a CSV file is referred to as a file record. And the data elements in each row are referred to as
“fields”. In the matrix example above there are three records, each consisting of three fields.
Writing CSV files
Since the .write method takes a single string argument, we have to construct each record of the file in the
same way we constructed lists. Since tabular data is two dimensional, this usually suggests a nested loop.
Here is one way in which we might write the matrix to a CSV formatted text file:
fileobj = open(‘somefile’,’w’)
for i in range(3):
record = ” # start with a null string
for j in range(1,4):
record += str(i*3+j) + ‘,’ # append each value and comma
record = record[:-1] # strip off the last comma
if i < 2: fileobj.write('\n') # no \n on last record! fileobj.close() Any tabular data can be represented in CSV format and it is a common method to export Excel Spreadsheet data to be subsequently processed using a computer program. 1) Generating Synthetic Test Data Write a Python program that will prompt the user for the name of a file and create a CSV (comma separated value) file with 1000 lines of data. Each line will contain 2 values: the line number (starting with 1) and a randomly generated integer value in the closed interval [-1000, 1000]. Program constraints: do not import/use the Python csv module. Warning! If you accidentally construct an infinite loop, you will most likely exhaust your CSELabs storage quota before you are able to stop the program and your account will then be suspended. Therefore, we suggest that you substitute a print() statement in place of .write() when you begin testing your program. Replace the print statement with .write() after you are comfortable that your program is working! After you've created the file, use a text editor to open it and examine its contents to verify that it was created correctly. Stretch 1) Letter Frequencies A number of computer applications make use of non-linear distributions of data values for various things like efficiently compressing large volumes of data or decoding encrypted messages. It is generally accepted that the individual letter 'e' is the most frequently occurring letter in the English language. In this problem we will explore the frequency of letters in a large corpus of English text and confirm if this is the case. Use your web browser to view the following URL: This is a website that maintains a large collection of English text corpora. Browse the site and download a suitably large (> 100,000 bytes) text file. Write a python program that will process this file and produce a
sorted letter frequency listing. Do not import/use the Python csv module.
Generate the letter frequency by counting individual letters in the text. If you are familiar with Python
dictionaries, then you may use a dictionary for this, otherwise you should use a list of individual integer
counters and determine how to convert a character to an offset into the list.
Note: you will need to “clean up” the text to remove spaces, punctuation, whitespace etc. and convert it to all
upper or lower case before analyzing the characters.
1) Earthquake Data, part 1
Large repositories of recorded measurement data are available on the World Wide Web from a wide spectrum
of applications such as stock market data, weather/climate data, etc.
Use your Web browser to view the following URL:
This site is maintained by the US Geological Service and reports recent earthquake activity around the world
in real time. Scroll down the page until you see a link titled ‘Spreadsheet Format’. Select this link and then
scroll down the next page until you locate ‘Feeds’. From the ‘Past Day’ menu, select ‘All Earthquates’ and then
save the downloaded file in your home directory. Open the .csv file with your text editor and examine it.
The file contains a large quantity of information that is detailed in the first line of the file. We will only be
interested in the magnitude of the earthquake and the place (the string indicating where the event occurred,
not the latitude/longitude). As you examine the file, note that the place is actually two comma separated
strings. The first begins with a double-quote and the second ends with another double quote. The “general”
location we are interested in is the second of the two strings that make up the place description.
Write a Python program that will read the file and display the categories from the first line, along with their
relative location in the line (do not import/use the Python csv module):
0 time
1 latitude
2 longitude
3 depth
4 mag
5 magType
6 nst
7 gap
8 dmin
9 rms
10 net
11 id
12 updated
13 place
14 type
15 horizontalError
16 depthError
17 magError
18 magNst
19 status
20 locationSource
21 magSource
2) Earthquake Data, part 2
Now modify your program to print out the magnitude and location of each earthquake in the file. The
location is the information that appears in the second “place” field (after the embedded comma). The list
should be printed in descending order of magnitude and the “location” should be clean of any quotation
symbols. Compare your program results to the actual file data to verify that it works correctly.
Here is an interesting challenge problem. Try it if you have extra time or would like additional practice
outside of lab.
Reading Internet Data
Python provides a useful module named urllib that enables reading data from Internet resources such as
web pages. The urllib module actually consists of several sub-modules which you can identify using the
help( ) function.
>>> import urllib
>>> help(urllib)
The particular sub-module urllib.request provides methods to allow you to construct programs that
interact with web-based html resources in much the same way as ordinary text files. In order to read a
webpage, you must first open it using the urlopen()method that works much like the regular file open but
takes a string argument containing the URL of the webpage you want to read:
>>> from urllib import request
>>> page = request.urlopen(“”)
The URL object is much like a text file. You can use the same methods to read the webpage that you use to
read a file. Try reading the first line of the webpage:
>>> htmltext = page.readline()
>>> htmltext
Although this looks like a simple string, notice that the “line” contains a subtle difference… it starts with b’
instead of the usual quotation mark. This is actually a byte array and needs to be converted to a string
before we try to do the usual string operations:
>>> line = htmltext.decode()
>>> line
1) Stock Market Data
There are numerous websites that provide stock market data. A well-known example is the webpage One of the services provided by the Yahoo website will produce daily stock
information for any particular stock given its NYSE symbol. For example, you can obtain a CSV formatted
listing of the daily stock market activity for the local biomedical company Medtronic, Inc. by looking up its
NYSE symbol: MDT at Let’s try it!
Use your web browser to view the following URL:
The ?s=MDT is how we provide an argument to the webpage. We can also provide additional arguments by
separating them with a ‘&’ symbol. For example, to obtain just the data for the month of September, we would
use the following:
The additional arguments are as follows:
a=8 … starting month-1
b=1 … starting day
c=2014 … starting year
d=8 … ending month-1
e=30 … ending day
f=2014 … ending year
Write a python program that will request a stock ticker symbol, a beginning date and ending date, then graph
the closing prices of the stock over that period using the Turtle graphics module.