[Python-checkins] python/nondist/peps pep-0340.txt,1.7,1.8

gvanrossum at users.sourceforge.net gvanrossum at users.sourceforge.net
Fri Apr 29 07:12:41 CEST 2005

Update of /cvsroot/python/python/nondist/peps
In directory sc8-pr-cvs1.sourceforge.net:/tmp/cvs-serv7169

Modified Files:
Log Message:
Add motivation (supplied by Shane Hathaway).

Explain what happens when a block contains a yield.

Add comparison to thunks.

Add examples.

Index: pep-0340.txt
RCS file: /cvsroot/python/python/nondist/peps/pep-0340.txt,v
retrieving revision 1.7
retrieving revision 1.8
diff -u -d -r1.7 -r1.8
--- pep-0340.txt	27 Apr 2005 23:10:42 -0000	1.7
+++ pep-0340.txt	29 Apr 2005 05:12:38 -0000	1.8
@@ -48,9 +48,53 @@
     __next__() methods; there is no user-friendly API to call
-Motivation and Use Cases
+    Perhaps __error__() should be named __exit__().
-    TBD.
+Motivation and Summary
+    (Thanks to Shane Hathaway -- Hi Shane!)
+    Good programmers move commonly used code into reusable functions.
+    Sometimes, however, patterns arise in the structure of the
+    functions rather than the actual sequence of statements.  For
+    example, many functions acquire a lock, execute some code specific
+    to that function, and unconditionally release the lock.  Repeating
+    the locking code in every function that uses it is error prone and
+    makes refactoring difficult.
+    Block statements provide a mechanism for encapsulating patterns of
+    structure.  Code inside the block statement runs under the control
+    of an object called a block iterator.  Simple block iterators
+    execute code before and after the code inside the block statement.
+    Block iterators also have the opportunity to execute the
+    controlled code more than once (or not at all), catch exceptions,
+    or receive data from the body of the block statement.
+    A convenient way to write block iterators is to write a generator
+    (PEP 255).  A generator looks a lot like a Python function, but
+    instead of returning a value immediately, generators pause their
+    execution at "yield" statements.  When a generator is used as a
+    block iterator, the yield statement tells the Python interpreter
+    to suspend the block iterator, execute the block statement body,
+    and resume the block iterator when the body has executed.
+    The Python interpreter behaves as follows when it encounters a
+    block statement based on a generator.  First, the interpreter
+    instantiates the generator and begins executing it.  The generator
+    does setup work appropriate to the pattern it encapsulates, such
+    as acquiring a lock, opening a file, starting a database
+    transaction, or starting a loop.  Then the generator yields
+    execution to the body of the block statement using a yield
+    statement.  When the block statement body completes, raises an
+    uncaught exception, or sends data back to the generator using a
+    continue statement, the generator resumes.  At this point, the
+    generator can either clean up and stop or yield again, causing the
+    block statement body to execute again.  When the generator
+    finishes, the interpreter leaves the block statement.
+Use Cases
+    TBD.  For now, see the Examples section near the end.
 Specification: the Iteration Exception Hierarchy
@@ -230,6 +274,18 @@
     block-statement is left.  The iterator also gets a chance if the
     block-statement is left through raising an exception.
+    Note that a yield-statement (or a yield-expression, see below) in
+    a block-statement is not treated differently.  It suspends the
+    function containing the block *without* notifying the block's
+    iterator.  The blocks's iterator is entirely unaware of this
+    yield, since the local control flow doesn't actually leave the
+    block. In other words, it is *not* like a break, continue or
+    return statement.  When the loop that was resumed by the yield
+    calls next(), the block is resumed right after the yield.  The
+    generator finalization semantics described below guarantee (within
+    the limitations of all finalization semantics) that the block will
+    be resumed eventually.
 Specification: Generator Exception Handling
     Generators will implement the new __next__() method API, as well
@@ -370,13 +426,190 @@
     EXPR2" is changed; break and return translate to themselves in
     that case).
+Comparison to Thunks
+    Alternative semantics proposed for the block-statement turn the
+    block into a thunk (an anonymous function that blends into the
+    containing scope).
+    The main advantage of thunks that I can see is that you can save
+    the thunk for later, like a callback for a button widget (the
+    thunk then becomes a closure).  You can't use a yield-based block
+    for that (except in Ruby, which uses yield syntax with a
+    thunk-based implementation).  But I have to say that I almost see
+    this as an advantage: I think I'd be slightly uncomfortable seeing
+    a block and not knowing whether it will be executed in the normal
+    control flow or later.  Defining an explicit nested function for
+    that purpose doesn't have this problem for me, because I already
+    know that the 'def' keyword means its body is executed later.
+    The other problem with thunks is that once we think of them as the
+    anonymous functions they are, we're pretty much forced to say that
+    a return statement in a thunk returns from the thunk rather than
+    from the containing function.  Doing it any other way would cause
+    major weirdness when the thunk were to survive its containing
+    function as a closure (perhaps continuations would help, but I'm
+    not about to go there :-).
+    But then an IMO important use case for the resource cleanup
+    template pattern is lost.  I routinely write code like this:
+       def findSomething(self, key, default=None):
+           self.lock.acquire()
+           try:
+                for item in self.elements:
+                    if item.matches(key):
+                        return item
+                return default
+           finally:
+              self.lock.release()
+    and I'd be bummed if I couldn't write this as:
+       def findSomething(self, key, default=None):
+           block synchronized(self.lock):
+                for item in self.elements:
+                    if item.matches(key):
+                        return item
+                return default
+    This particular example can be rewritten using a break:
+       def findSomething(self, key, default=None):
+           block synchronized(self.lock):
+                for item in self.elements:
+                    if item.matches(key):
+                        break
+                else:
+                    item = default
+            return item
+    but it looks forced and the transformation isn't always that easy;
+    you'd be forced to rewrite your code in a single-return style
+    which feels too restrictive.
+    Also note the semantic conundrum of a yield in a thunk -- the only
+    reasonable interpretation is that this turns the thunk into a
+    generator!
+    Greg Ewing believes that thunks "would be a lot simpler, doing
+    just what is required without any jiggery pokery with exceptions
+    and break/continue/return statements.  It would be easy to explain
+    what it does and why it's useful."
+    But in order to obtain the required local variable sharing between
+    the thunk and the containing function, every local variable used
+    or set in the thunk would have to become a 'cell' (our mechanism
+    for sharing variables between nested scopes).  Cells slow down
+    access compared to regular local variables: access involves an
+    extra C function call (PyCell_Get() or PyCell_Set()).
+    Perhaps not entirely coincidentally, the last example above
+    (findSomething() rewritten to avoid a return inside the block)
+    shows that, unlike for regular nested functions, we'll want
+    variables *assigned to* by the thunk also to be shared with the
+    containing function, even if they are not assigned to outside the
+    thunk.
+    Greg Ewing again: "generators have turned out to be more powerful,
+    because you can have more than one of them on the go at once. Is
+    there a use for that capability here?"
+    I believe there are definitely uses for this; several people have
+    already shown how to do asynchronous light-weight threads using
+    generators (e.g. David Mertz quoted in PEP 288, and Fredrik
+    Lundh[3]).
+    And finally, Greg says: "a thunk implementation has the potential
+    to easily handle multiple block arguments, if a suitable syntax
+    could ever be devised. It's hard to see how that could be done in
+    a general way with the generator implementation."
+    However, the use cases for multiple blocks seem elusive.
 Alternatives Considered
-    TBD.
+    1. A template for ensuring that a lock, acquired at the start of a
+       block, is released when the block is left:
+        def synchronized(lock):
+            lock.acquire()
+            try:
+                yield
+            finally:
+                lock.release()
+       Used as follows:
+        block synchronized(myLock):
+            # Code here executes with myLock held.  The lock is
+            # guaranteed to be released when the block is left (even
+            # if by an uncaught exception).
+    2. A template for opening a file that ensures the file is closed
+       when the block is left:
+        def opening(filename, mode="r"):
+            f = open(filename, mode)
+            try:
+                yield f
+            finally:
+                f.close()
+       Used as follows:
+        block opening("/etc/passwd") as f:
+            for line in f:
+                print line.rstrip()
+    3. A template for committing or rolling back a database
+       transaction:
+        def transactional(db):
+            try:
+                yield
+            except:
+                db.rollback()
+                raise
+            else:
+                db.commit()
+    4. A template that tries something up to n times:
+        def auto_retry(n=3, exc=Exception):
+            for i in range(n):
+                try:
+                    yield
+                    return
+                except Exception, err:
+                    # perhaps log exception here
+                    continue
+            raise # re-raise the exception we caught earlier
+       Used as follows:
+        block auto_retry(3, IOError):
+            f = urllib.urlopen("http://python.org/peps/pep-0340.html")
+	    print f.read()
+    5. It is possible to nest blocks and combine templates:
+        def synchronized_opening(lock, filename, mode="r"):
+            block synchronized(lock):
+                block opening(filename) as f:
+                    yield f
+       Used as follows:
+        block synchronized_opening("/etc/passwd", myLock) as f:
+            for line in f:
+                print line.rstrip()
+    6. Coroutine example TBD.
@@ -384,10 +617,10 @@
     Brett Cannon, Brian Sabbey, Doug Landauer, Duncan Booth, Fredrik
     Lundh, Greg Ewing, Holger Krekel, Jason Diamond, Jim Jewett,
     Josiah Carlson, Ka-Ping Yee, Michael Chermside, Michael Hudson,
-    Nick Coghlan, Paul Moore, Phillip Eby, Raymond Hettinger, Samuele
-    Pedroni, Shannon Behrens, Steven Bethard, Terry Reedy, Tim
-    Delaney, Aahz, and others.  Thanks all for a valuable discussion
-    and ideas.
+    Neil Schemenauer, Nick Coghlan, Paul Moore, Phillip Eby, Raymond
+    Hettinger, Samuele Pedroni, Shannon Behrens, Steven Bethard, Terry
+    Reedy, Tim Delaney, Aahz, and others.  Thanks all for the valuable
+    discussion and ideas!
@@ -395,6 +628,9 @@
     [2] http://msdn.microsoft.com/vcsharp/programming/language/ask/withstatement/
+    [3] http://effbot.org/zone/asyncore-generators.htm
     This document has been placed in the public domain.

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