[Python-Dev] python-dev Summary for 2005-05-01 through 2005-05-15 [draft]

Tim Lesher tlesher at gmail.com
Thu May 19 15:10:32 CEST 2005

Here's the first draft of the python-dev summary for the first half of
May. Please send any corrections or suggestions to the summarizers (CC'ed).

Summary Announcements

PEP 340 Episode 2: Revenge of the With (Block)

This fortnight's Python-Dev was dominated again by another nearly 400
messages on the topic of anonymous block statements. The discussion
was a little more focused than the last thanks mainly to Guido's
introduction of `PEP 340`_. Discussion of this PEP resulted in a
series of other PEPs, including

* `PEP 342`_: Enhanced Iterators, which broke out into a separate
PEP the parts of `PEP 340`_ that allowed code to pass values into
iterators using ``continue EXPR`` and yield-expressions.

* `PEP 343`_: Anonymous Block Redux, a dramatically simplified
version of `PEP 340`_, which removed the looping nature of the
anonymous blocks and the injection-of-exceptions semantics for

* `PEP 3XX`_: User Defined ("with") Statements, which proposed
non-looping anonymous blocks accompanied by finalization semantics
for iterators and generators in for loops.

Various details of each of these proposals are discussed below in the

1. `Enhanced Iterators`_

2. `Separate APIs for Iterators and Anonymous Blocks`_

3. `Looping Anonymous Blocks`_

4. `Loop Finalization`_

At the time of this writing, it looked like the discussion was coming
very close to a final agreement; `PEP 343`_ and `PEP 3XX`_ both agreed
upon the same semantics for the block-statement, the keyword had been
narrowed down to either ``do`` or ``with``, and Guido had agreed to
add back in to `PEP 343`_ some form of exception-injection semantics
for generators.

.. _PEP 340: http://www.python.org/peps/pep-0340.html

.. _PEP 342: http://www.python.org/peps/pep-0342.html

.. _PEP 343: http://www.python.org/peps/pep-0343.html

.. _PEP 3XX: http://members.iinet.net.au/~ncoghlan/public/pep-3XX.html<http://members.iinet.net.au/%7Encoghlan/public/pep-3XX.html>



Enhanced Iterators

`PEP 340`_ incorporated a variety of orthogonal features into a single
proposal. To make the PEP somewhat less monolithic, the method for
passing values into an iterator was broken off into `PEP 342`_. This
method includes:

* updating the iterator protocol to use .__next__() instead of .next()

* introducing a new builtin next()

* allowing continue-statements to pass values into iterators

* allowing generators to receive values with a yield-expression

Though these features had seemed mostly uncontroversial, Guido seemed
inclined to wait for a little more motivation from the co-routiney
people before accepting the proposal.

Contributing threads:

- `Breaking off Enhanced Iterators PEP from PEP 340 <


Separate APIs for Iterators and Anonymous Blocks

`PEP 340`_ had originally proposed to treat the anonymous block
protocol as an extension of the iterator protocol. Several problems
with this approach were raised, including:

* for-loops could accidentally be used with objects requiring blocks,
meaning that resources would not get cleaned up properly

* blocks could be used instead of for-loops, violating TOOWTDI

As a result, both `PEP 343`_ and `PEP 3XX`_ propose decorators for
generator functions that will wrap the generator object appropriately
to match the anonymous block protocol. Generator objects without the
proposed decorators would not be usable in anonymous block statements.

Contributing threads:

- `PEP 340 -- loose ends <
- `PEP 340 -- concept clarification <


Looping Anonymous Blocks

A few issues arose as a result of `PEP 340`_'s formulation of
anonymous blocks as a variation on a loop.

Because the anonymous blocks of `PEP 340`_ were defined in terms of
while-loops, there was some discussion as to whether they should have
an ``else`` clause like Python ``for`` and ``while`` loops do. There
didn't seem to be one obvious interpretation of an ``else`` block
though, so Guido rejected the ``else`` block proposal.

The big issue with looping anonymous blocks, however, was in the
handling of ``break`` and ``continue`` statements. Many use cases for
anonymous blocks did not require loops. However, because `PEP 340`_
anonymous blocks were implemented in terms of loops, ``break`` and
``continue`` acted much like they would in a loop. This meant that in
code like::

for item in items:
with lock:
if handle(item):

the ``break`` statement would only break out of the anonymous block
(the ``with`` statement) instead of breaking out of the for-loop. This
pretty much shot-down `PEP 340`_; there were too many cases where an
anonymous block didn't look like a loop, and having it behave like one
would have been a major stumbling block in learning the construct.

As a result, both `PEP 343`_ and `PEP 3XX`_ were proposed as
non-looping versions of `PEP 340`_.

Contributing threads:

- `PEP 340: Else clause for block statements <
- `PEP 340 -- loose ends <
- `PEP 340 -- concept clarification <
- `PEP 340: Breaking out. <
- `PEP 340: Non-looping version (aka PEP 310 redux) <
- `PEP 340 - Remaining issues <
- `PEP 340: Deterministic Finalisation (new PEP draft, either a competitor 
or update to PEP 340) <
- `Merging PEP 310 and PEP 340-redux? <
- `PEP 343 - Abstract Block Redux <


Loop Finalization

Greg Ewing pointed out that a generator with a yield inside a
block-statement would require additional work to guarantee its
finalization. For example, if the generator::

def all_lines(filenames):
for name in filenames:
with open(name) as f:
for line in f:
yield line 

were used in code like::

for line in all_lines(filenames):
if some_cond(line):

then unless the for-loop performed some sort of finalization on the
all_lines generator, the last-opened file could remain open

As a result, `PEP 3XX`_ proposes that for-loops check for a
__finish__() method on their iterators, and if one exists, call that
method when the for-loop completes. Generators like all_lines above,
that put a yield inside a block-statement, would then acquire a
__finish__() method that would raise a TerminateIteration exception
at the point of the last yield. The TerminateIteration exception would
thus cause the block-statement to complete, guaranteeing that the
generator was properly finalized.

Contributing threads:

- `PEP 340 - For loop cleanup, and feature separation <
- `PEP 340: Deterministic Finalisation (new PEP draft, either a competitor 
or update to PEP 340) <
- `PEP 343 - Abstract Block Redux <


Breaking out of Nested Loops

As a result of some of the issues of looping anonymous blocks, a few
threads discussed options for breaking out of nested loops. These
mainly worked by augmenting the ``break`` statement with another
keyword (or keywords) that would indicate which loop to break out of.

One proposal suggested that ``break`` be followed with ``for`` or
``while`` to indicate which loop to break out of. But ``break for``
would only really be useful in a while-loop nested within a for-loop,
and ``break while`` would only really be useful in a for-loop nested
within a while-loop. That is, because loops could only be named by
type, the proposal was only useful when loops of different types were
mixed. This suggestion was thus discarded as not being general enough.

A few other suggestions were briefly discussed: adding labels to
loops, using an integer to indicate which "stack level" to break at,
and pushing breaks onto a "break buffer", but Guido killed the
discussion, saying, `"Stop all discussion of breaking out of multiple
loops. It ain't gonna happen before my retirement."

Contributing threads:

- `PEP 340: Breaking out. <
- `PEP 340: Deterministic Finalisation (new PEP draft, either a competitor 
or update to PEP 340) <


The future of exceptions

Ka-Ping Yee suggested that instead of passing (type, value, traceback)
tuples in exceptions it would be better to put the traceback in
value.traceback. Guido had also suggested this (in the `PEP 340`_ murk) but
pointed out that this would not work as long as string exceptions exist
(as there is nowhere to put the traceback).

Guido noted that there are no concrete plans as to when string exceptions
will be deprecated and removed (other than in 3.0 at the latest); he
indicated that it could be sooner, if someone wrote a PEP with a timeline
(e.g. deprecated in 2.5, gone in 2.6).

Brett C. volunteered to write a PEP targetted at Python 3000 covering
exception changes (base inheritance, standard attributes (e.g. .traceback),
reworking the built-in exception inheritance hierarchy, and the future of
bare except statements). 

Contributing threads:

- `Tidier Exceptions <

.. _PEP 340: http://www.python.org/peps/pep-0340.html


Unifying try/except and try/finally

Reinhold Birkenfeld submitted a Pre-PEP to allow both except and finally
clauses in try blocks. For example, a construction like::

<suite 1>
except Ex1:
<suite 2>
<more except: clauses>
<suite 3>
<suite 4>

would be exactly the same as the legacy::

<suite 1>
except Ex1:
<suite 2>
<more except: clauses>
<suite 3>
<suite 4>

Guido liked this idea (so much that he wanted to accept it immediately),
and recommended that it was checked in as a PEP. However, Tim Peters
pointed out that this functionality was removed from Python (by Guido) way
back in 0.9.6, seemingly because there was confusion about exactly when
the finally clause would be called (explicit is better than implicit!).
Guido clarified that control would only pass forward, and indicated that
he felt that since this is now available in Java (and C#) fewer people
would be confused. The main concern about this change was that, while the
cost was low, it seemed to add very little value.

Contributing threads:

- `Pre-PEP: Unifying try-except and try-finally <


Decorator Library

Michele Simionato asked whether a module for commonly used decorators, or
utilities to create decorators, was planned. Raymond Hettinger indicated
that while this was likely in the long term, he felt that it was better if
these first evolved via wikis, recipes, or mailing lists, so that a module
would only be added once best practices and proven winners had emerged.
In the meantime, there is both a `Decorator Library wiki page`_ and
you can try out `Michele's library`_ [zip].

To assist with decorator creation, Michele would like a facility to copy a
function. Phillip J. Eby noted that the informally-discussed proposal is
to add a mutable __signature__ to functions to assist with signature
preserving decorators. Raymond suggested a patch adding a __copy__ method
to functions or a patch for the copy module, and Michele indicated that he
would also like to subclass FunctionType with an user-defined __copy__

Contributing threads:

- `my first post: asking about a "decorator" module <
- `The decorator module <

.. _Decorator Library wiki page: 
.. _Michele's library: 


Hooking Py_FatalError

Errors that invoke Py_FatalError generally signify that the internal state
of Python is in such a poor state that continuing (including raising an
exception) is impossible or unwise; as a result, Py_FatalError outputs the
error to stderr and calls abort(). m.u.k. would like to have a callback to
hook Py_FatalError to avoid this call to abort(). The general consensus
was that effort would be better directed to fixing the causes of fatal
errors than hooking Py_FatalError. m.u.k.'s use case was for generating
additional logging information; a `callback system patch`_ (revised by
James William Pye) is available for those interested.

Contributing threads:

- `Need to hook Py_FatalError <

.. _callback system patch: http://python.org/sf/1195571

Chaining Exceptions

Ka-Ping Yee suggested adding information to exceptions when they are raised
in the handler for another exception. For example::

def a():
raise AError
raise BError

raises an exception which is an instance of BError. This instance could
have an attribute which is instance of AError, containing information about
the original exception. Use cases include catching a low-level exception
(e.g. socket.error) and turning it into a high-level exception (e.g.
an HTTPRequestFailed exception) and handling problems in exception handling
code. Guido liked the idea, and discussion fleshed out a tighter
definition; however it was unclear whether adding this now was feasible -
this would perhaps be best added in Python 3000.

Contributing threads:

- `Chained Exceptions <


Py_UNICODE madness

Nicholas Bastin noted an apparent bug in the documentation for
Py_UNICODE, which states that Py_UNICODE is 16-bit value implemented
as an alias for wchar_t when that type is available, and for unsigned
short otherwise However, on recent Redhat releases, PY_UNICODE_SIZE
turns out to be 4. Guido and Marc-Andres Lemburg both agreed that the
documentation is incorrect, so Nicholas set out to fix the
documentation by removing the 16-bit reference and adding a caveat for
extension developers not to make assumptions about the size of Py_UNICODE.

It wasn't *quite* that simple. A long discussion ensued over why
Python sometimes needs to default to UCS-4 Unicode (to avoid
breaking an existing UCS-4 Tkinter), whether to expose the size of
Py_UNICODE to extension developers (they won't take 'no' for an
answer), and whether Python should provide better support for high
surrogate pairs (it should). The matter remained open.

Contributing threads:

- `Py_UNICODE madness <
- `New Py_UNICODE doc <
- `New Py_UNICODE doc (Another Attempt) <


Python's Unicode width default 

Marc-Andre Lemburg objected to Python's build process automatically
changing its default Unicode size from UCS2 to UCS4 at build time when
a UCS4 version of Tcl is found. Martin Löwis argued that having
Tkinter always work out of the box was more important than having a
hard-and-fast Unicode default configuration; Marc dissented.

Shane Hathaway opined that it could be a runtime rather than a
compile-time decision, and Bob Ippolito mentioned NSString from
OpenDarwin's libFoundation and CFString from Apple's CoreFoundation
libraries for implementation ideas.

Contributing threads:

- `Python's Unicode width default (New Py_UNICODE doc) <


Skipped Threads

- `Keyword for block statements <
- `PEP 340 - possible new name for block-statement <
- `Generating nested data structures with blocks <
- `PEP 340 -- Clayton's keyword? <
- `PEP 340: Only for try/finally? <
- `2 words keyword for block <
- `anonymous blocks <
- `"begin" as keyword for pep 340 <
- `PEP 340: propose to get rid of 'as' keyword <
- `PEP 340 keyword: after <
- `PEP 340 keyword: Extended while syntax <
- `PEP 340 - Remaining issues - keyword <
- `PEP 340: Examples as class's. <
- `Proposed alternative to __next__ and __exit__ <
- `"with" use case: exception chaining <
- `PEP 343: Resource Composition and Idempotent __exit__ <
- `[Python-checkins] python/nondist/peps pep-0343.txt, 1.8, 1.9 <
- `the current behavior of try: ... finally: <
- `a patch to inspect and a non-feature request <
- `Python 2.4 set objects and cyclic garbage <
- `CHANGE BayPIGgies: May *THIRD* Thurs <
- `Python continually calling sigprocmask() on FreeBSD 5 <
- `Weekly Python Patch/Bug Summary <
- `problems with memory management <
- `Adding DBL_MANTISSA and such to Python <
- `python-dev Summary for 2005-04-16 through 2005-04-30 [draft] <
- `Python Language track at Europython, still possibilities to submit talks 
- `(no subject) <
- `Kernel panic writing to /dev/dsp with cmpci driver <

Tim Lesher <tlesher at gmail.com>
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