python-dev Summary for 2005-04-01 through 2005-04-15

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Summary Announcements

New python-dev summary team

This summary marks the first by the team of Steve Bethard, Tim Lesher, and Tony Meyer. We're trying a collaborative approach to the summaries: each fortnight, we'll be getting together in a virtual smoke-filled back room to divide up the interesting threads. Then we'll stitch together the summaries in roughly the same form as you've seen in the past. We'll mark each editor's entries with his initials.

Thanks to Brett Cannon for sixty-one excellent python-dev summaries. Also, thanks for providing scripts to help get the new summaries off the ground! We're looking forward to the contributions you'll make to the Python core, now that the summaries aren't taking up all your time.



Acceptable diff formats

Nick Coghlan asked if context diffs are still favoured for patches. Historically, context diffs were preferred, but it appears that unified diffs are the today's choice. Raymond Hettinger made the sensible suggestion that whichever is most informative for the particular patch should be used, and Bob Ippolito pointed out that if CVS is replaced with subversion, unified diffs will have better support. The patch submission guidelines will be updated at some point to reflect the preference for unified diffs, although if your diff program doesn't support '-u', then context diffs are ok - plain patches are, of course, not.

Contributing threads:


Developers List

Raymond Hettinger has started a project to track developers and the (tracker and commit) privileges they have, and who gave them the privileges, and why (for example, was it for a one-shot project). Removing inactive developers should improve clarity, institutional memory, security, and makes everything tidier. Raymond has begun contacting recently inactive developers to check whether they still require the privileges they have.

Contributing threads:


Right Operator Methods

Greg Ewing explored an issue with new-style classes that define only right operator methods (__radd__, __rmul__, etc.) Instances of such a class cannot be added/multiplied/etc. together as Python raises a TypeError. Armin Rigo explained the rule: if the instances on both sides of an operator are of the same class, only the non-reversed method is ever called. Armin also explained that an __add__ or __mul__ method that returns NotImplemented may be called twice when Python attempts to differentiate between numeric and sequence operations.

Contributing threads:


Hierarchical groups in regular expressions

Chris Ottrey demoed his pyre2 project that can extract a hierarchy of strings when nested groups match in a regular expression. The current re module (in the stdlib) only matches the last occurrence of a group in the string, throwing away any preceding matches. People discussed some of pyre2's proposed API, with the main suggestion being to extend the API to support unnamed (positional) groups in addition to named groups.

Though a number of people expressed interest in the idea, it was not clear whether the functionality should be included in the standard library. However, most agreed that if it was included, it should be integrated with the existing re module. Gustavo Niemeyer offered to perform this integration if an API could be agreed upon. Further discussion was moved to the pyre2 development wiki and mailing list.

Contributing threads:


Security capabilities in Python

The issue of security came up again, and Ka-Ping Yee suggested that in Python's restricted execution mode secure proxies can be created by using lexical scoping. He posted some code for revealing only certain "facets" of an object by using a function to declare a proxy class that used a function's local variables to build the proxy. Thus to access the attributes used in the proxy class, you need to access things like im_func or func_closure, which are not accessible in restricted execution mode.

James Y Knight illustrated how strategic overriding of __eq__ in a subclass of str could allow access to the hidden "facets". Eyal Lotem suggested that such an attack could be countered by implementing "facets" in C, but having to turn to C every time you needed a particular security construct seemed unappealing.

Contributing threads:


Improving GilState API Robustness

Michael Hudson noted that his changes to thread handling in the readline module appeared to trigger bug 1176893 ("Readline segfault"). However, he believed the problem lay in the GilState API, rather than in his changes: PyGilState_Release crashes if PyEval_InitThreads wasn't called, even if the code you're writing doesn't use multiple threads.

He proposed several solutions, but no clear favorite emerged from respondents, and Tim Peters noted that PEP 311, Simplified Global Interpreter Lock Acquisition for Extensions, "specifically disowns responsibility for worrying about whether Py_Initialize and PyEval_InitThreads have been called." After further discussion, Michael checked in a change to PyGilState_Release that calls PyEval_SaveThread instead of PyEval_ReleaseThread, fixing the problem.

Bob Ippolito wondered whether just calling PyEval_InitThreads directly in Py_Initialize might be a better idea. No objections were raised, so long as the underlying OS locking mechanisms weren't overly expensive; some initial benchmarks indicated that this approach was viable, at least on Linux and OS X.

Contributing threads:


Unicode byte order mark decoding

Evan Jones saw that the UTF-16 decoder discards the byte-order mark (BOM) from Unicode files, while the UTF-8 decoder doesn't. Although the BOM isn't really required in UTF-8 files, many Unicode-generating applications, especially on Microsoft platforms, add it.

Walter Dörwald created a patch to add a UTF-8-Sig codec that generates a BOM on writing and skips it on reading. A long discussion ensued on the history of the Unicode standard and Microsoft's influence over its evolution. Stephen Turnbull suggested (and Marc-Andre Lemburg agreed) that BOM and signature handling be moved to a higher-level API, but no overall consensus was achieved.

Contributing threads:


Marshalling Infinity

Scott David Daniels kicked off a very long thread by asking what (un)marshal should do with floating point NaNs. The current behaviour (as with any NaN, infinity, or signed zero) is undefined: a platform-dependant accident, because Python is written to C89, which has no such concepts. Tim Peters pointed out all code for (de)serialing C doubles should go through _PyFloat_Pack8()/_PyFloat_Unpack8(), and that the current implementation suggests that the routines could simply copy bytes on platforms that use the standard IEEE-754 single and double formats natively. Michael Hudson obliged by creating a patch to implement this.

The consensus was that the correct behaviour is that packing a NaN or infinity shouldn't cause an exception. When unpacking, an IEEE-754 platform shouldn't cause an exception, but a non-754 platform should, since there's no sensible value that it can be unpacked to, and errors should never pass silently.

Contributing threads:


Location of the sign bit in longs

Michael Hudson asked about the possibility of longs storing the sign bit somewhere other than the current location, suggesting the top bit of ob_digit[0]. Tim Peters suggested that it would be better to give struct _longobject a distinct sign member. This simplifies code, costs no extra bytes for some longs, and 8 extra bytes for others, and shouldn't hurt binary compatibility.

Michael coughed up a longobject patch, which seems likely to be checked in.

Contributing threads:


Skipped Threads

  • python-dev Summary for 2005-03-16 through 2005-03-31 [draft]
  • [Python-checkins] python/dist/src/Lib/logging, 1.19,
  • [Python-checkins] python/dist/src/Modules mathmodule.c, 2.74, 2.75
  • Weekly Python Patch/Bug Summary
  • New bug, directly assigned, okay?
  • inconsistency when swapping obj.__dict__ with a dict-like object...
  • Pickling instances of nested classes
  • args attribute of Exception objects



This is a summary of traffic on the python-dev mailing list from April 01, 2005 through April 15, 2005. It is intended to inform the wider Python community of on-going developments on the list on a semi-monthly basis. An archive of previous summaries is available online.

An RSS feed of the titles of the summaries is available. You can also watch comp.lang.python or comp.lang.python.announce for new summaries (or through their email gateways of python-list or python-announce, respectively, as found at

This is the first summary written by the python-dev summary cabal of Steve Bethard, Tim Lesher, and Tony Meyer (So long, Brett, and thanks for all the fish!).

To contact us, please send email:

  • Steve Bethard (steven.bethard at
  • Tim Lesher (tlesher at
  • Tony Meyer (tony.meyer at

Do not post to comp.lang.python if you wish to reach us.

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Commenting on Topics

To comment on anything mentioned here, just post to comp.lang.python (or email python-list at python dot org which is a gateway to the newsgroup) with a subject line mentioning what you are discussing. All python-dev members are interested in seeing ideas discussed by the community, so don't hesitate to take a stance on something. And if all of this really interests you then get involved and join python-dev!

How to Read the Summaries

The in-development version of the documentation for Python can be found at and should be used when looking up any documentation for new code; otherwise use the current documentation as found at . PEPs (Python Enhancement Proposals) are located at . To view files in the Python CVS online, go to . Reported bugs and suggested patches can be found at the SourceForge project page.

Please note that this summary is written using reStructuredText. Any unfamiliar punctuation is probably markup for reST (otherwise it is probably regular expression syntax or a typo =); you can safely ignore it. I do suggest learning reST, though; it's simple and is accepted for PEP markup and can be turned into many different formats like HTML and LaTeX. Unfortunately, even though reST is standardized, the wonders of programs that like to reformat text do not allow me to guarantee you will be able to run the text version of this summary through Docutils as-is unless it is from the original text file.