GO vs. Python

Python or GO ? Which is the better machine learning language?

By ProngsDark | Pr0gram Failure | 4 May 2020

For those of you that followed me in the past, you probably know that I am Kotlin fanboy and for good reasons. That language is beautiful, expressive, easy to read and understand no matter the technical background. However its nature was not suited for my next project which consisted of implementing an algorithm that solves linear systems.

The problem ūüďēūüďĖ

I know it sounds like the most boring thing in the world and it kind of is, but this algorithm has some nice real-world usages. It can be used in recommendation techniques like the ones that Netflix or Spotify use to recommend you new stuff to watch and listen to. Let's say Netflix has a database of all the users and their movie rankings arranged as a matrix. This matrix has clearly a lot of rows that are similar to one another since your ratings match more or less with others from people with similar taste in movies. This means a lot of those rows are actually redundant when trying to perform an algorithmic computation of the recommendation. However Netflix can simply get from their database some other two smaller matrices that form the original one of ratings X movies, let's say a matrix with ratings X topic and another one of topic X movies. In machine learning terminology this is called non-negative matrix factorisation.

If we multiply the two matrices we get the original one, but that's not what we want. We want to make a prediction based on those two smaller matrices. Translated in mathematical terms, for the people that paid attention in maths, we need to solve the linear system U*V*b = y, where our original matrix A is A = U*V. This means we have to solve two linear systems V*b = x and X*x = y.

Supposing y is a vector of movie popularity we want to see how the popularity impacted the ratings. y can be anything related to movies that we want to analyze, like for example: a vector of yes/no values corresponding to whether Leonardo DiCaprio played in the respective movie. b will tell us how the y factor influenced the user ratings. This is called regression.

The algorithm I'm trying to implement will be:


Enough math, let's talk languages ūüí¨

Part 1. Which language is better?

I'm not going to say the usual trope of "all languages are equally good". Some are better than others depending on what you need to achieve. Are Python and GO better than others? Yes absolutely. There are also better languages than those two for this kind of problem like GNU Octave (nope not gonna recommend Matlab) or R or Julia which I haven't tried yet.

The advantage of Python and GO is that they are fairly easy to read, write and understand and support a large array of mathematical functionalities through NumPy and Gonum respectively. Unlike the others, Python and Go are general-purpose languages meaning that you can do anything with them and are not restricted to only one type of work.

Part 2. GO is immature, but it's really my fault for not knowing math

If you saw this post from a few days ago, I was venting about how I spent a whole day debugging the GO implementation of the algorithm. This was due to Gonum not computing the minimum-norm least-squares solution correctly through their Solve method. Or I shouldn't say correctly as their result was indeed correct it was just different than Python's. And so I spent two days figuring out how to write my own implememntation of a python functtion that calculated exactly what I needed.

And I failed. Python does some black-magic in the background that made their solution a little better than mine. And by a little better I mean 1.60942535335e-31 better.

Even though GO and Gonum might take some time to catch up to Python in terms of functionality, the team behind Gonum was extremely polite, professional and mature and due to our interaction we'll see a new Solve method around which will be just like Numpy's linalg.lstsq method. Thanks to everyone behind those two projects.

Anyway, as it tuned out, the solution obtained by my minimum-norm least-squares function was right even though different than Python's and the differences between the two probably was due to some rounding errors as it often happens when working with numbers that small.

So Math 1 - 0 Me.

Part 3. Python is great, but slow

It took me 4 hours to do everything in Python. So yeah... talk about efficiency in the development cycle. It was slow however. Much slower than GO even though the program was running in a multi-threaded manner.

In GO you have something called goroutines which are more or less like the Kotlin coroutines. They are a light construct and multiple coroutines can run on the same OS thread until one executes blocking code. This results in fewer used resources and improved speed when compared to traditional threads that Python uses.


Some reader of my previous article suggested PyPy as a faster alternative to normal Python, but I saw no massive speed gains and it was hard to install due to incompatibilities with matplotlib (python library for plotting) and took a lot of time to install numpy.

The code ūüĎ®‚ÄćūüíĽ

Python and GO are pretty similar when writing code, and even though I prefer GO's style, I'll say that Python is the easier one to write and the more fluent language.

Let's some similarities. Computing matrix and vector norms in Python:

# Computing the squared Frobenuis norms of U and V 
frobenius_U = pow(numpy.linalg.norm(U, 'fro'), 2) 
frobenius_V = pow(numpy.linalg.norm(V, 'fro'), 2) 

euclidean_U = pow(numpy.linalg.norm(U[chosen_U], 2), 2) 
euclidean_V = pow(numpy.linalg.norm(V[chosen_V], 2), 2)

And the same in GO:

func FrobeniusSquared(matrix *mat.Dense) float64 { 
    return math.Pow(mat.Norm(matrix, 2), 2) 

func EuclideanNormSquared(vector mat.Vector) float64 { 
    return math.Pow(mat.Norm(vector, 2), 2) 

As you can see both have a dedicated function to get such norms, but the Python version has more options.

Since the algorithm uses matrix operations let's see how both languages handle those.
Python is first:

x = x + ((y[chosen_U][0] - numpy.array(U[chosen_U]).dot(x)[0]) / euclidean_U) * numpy.array(U[chosen_U]).T 

b = b + ((x[chosen_V][0] - numpy.array(V[chosen_V]).dot(b)[0]) / euclidean_V) * numpy.array(V[chosen_V]).T

And now GO:

    (y.At(randU, 0)-mat.Dot(chosenU, x))/euclideanU, 

    (x.At(randV, 0)-mat.Dot(chosenV, b))/euclideanV, 

It's pretty clear what both do, they multiply a number with a vector and then add the result to another vector. I like how GO is laid out here, while Python is easier to write since we are using the known mathematical symbols.

The algorithm is supposed to randomly choose rows from both the U and V matrix and compute the x and b vectors with the formula above. Both Python and GO have a function to take samples from a series of numbers with given weights.

The Python function would be something like:

def __choose_row(probs: []) -> int: 
    """ This method chooses a random row number from a bunch of 
    rows depending on the probability of each row. Cool. 

    :param probs: The probabilities of each row 
    :returns: The number of a row 
    choices = range(len(probs)) 
    return npy.random.choice( choices, 1, p=probs )

And the GO one:

// GetRandomRow performs weighted sampling with the weights you provide in the rowsProb array 
// The scope of this function is to return a random row index for the RkRk and RekRek algorithms. 
// Each row probability is computed by GetRowsProbability method 
func GetRandomRow(rowsProb []float64) int { 
    source := rand2.NewSource(uint64(time.Now().UnixNano())) 
    index, _ := sampleuv.NewWeighted(rowsProb, source).Take() 

    return index 

The whole code can be freely examined and used for your own purposes. Both projects are posted on Github:

Speed ūüŹÉ‚Äć‚ôā

Okay, let's talk numbers. How fast are both languages?

The tests I am about to present were made on my laptop which has an Intel i7 6700HQ CPU, an NVIDIA 960M, 8GB RAM and a normal SSD

In the first test, U is of size 5x2 and V is of size 2x3. The algorithm is let to run 100.000.000 times or until the difference from the exact solution is smaller than 10-4.
The test is repeated 50 times so what you'll be seeing is the average of those 50 tests.


Let's raise the bar a little bit and let the maximum error be 10-32. Same matrix sizes. I had to adjust the iteration limit because 100.000.000 was too much for both languages and for my hardware to handle. So I capped the limit 1.000.000.


As you can see the benefits of using PyPy over Python in this specific case is minimal. GO was a whooping 122 times faster than Python.

Alright let's run the last set of tests. We are going to test the number crunching performance of the two languages. We take U of size 500x200 and V of size 200x300. We set the tolerance of the system at 10-16 and let the 1.000.000 iterations limit as is. Let's go.


Again at this specific type of workflow PyPy offers negligible benefits over regular Python and GO outperformed both of them. I'm not saying that PyPy has no benefits over regular Python, but the speed improvements it offers might no apply to the type of work my algorithm does.

For the sake of it, I've ran a few more tests with GO just to give you an idea of how insanely fast this language is.



As I have stated in the preview, I think that the two languages have their ups and downs and it matters what you need to do.

Do you need to ship your product fast or do you need to ship a fast product?

This is not to say that shipping a product fast and using Python is bad, sometimes especially in the business world shipping a product on time is more valuable than shipping the best product. The time you would sink into something like GO which doesn't have a large of a community as Python can cost your company or yourself real money.

However if you need your project to be performant, I do recommend GO wholeheartedly.

What is your favourite? GO or Python? And why? Let me know.

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Happily married to a wonderful woman. Linux enthusiast, software developer and hacker of all things.

Pr0gram Failure
Pr0gram Failure

A blog dedicated to development subjects that every programmer deals with all the time. Simple things we all google and then ask ourselves "are we even developers?" or things we do when writing software that we are ashamed of and would never share with others. This blog is dedicated to the average Joe of programming.

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