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Morepath 0.4.1 released (with Python 3 fixes)

I just released Morepath 0.4.1. This fixes a regression with Python 3 compatibility and has a few other minor tweaks to bring test coverage back up to 100%.

I had broken Python 3 support in Morepath 0.4. I'm still not in the habit of running 'tox' before a release, so I find out about these problems too late.

I'll go into a bit of detail about this issue, as it's a mildly amusing example of writing Python code being more complicated than it should be.

Morepath 0.4 broke in Python 3 because I introduced a metaclass for the morepath.App class. I usually avoid metaclasses as they are a source of unpredictability and complexity, but the best solution I saw here was one. It's a very limited one.

One task of the metaclass is to attach to the class with Venusian. Venusian is a library that lets you write decorators that don't execute during import time but later. This is nice as import time side effects can be a source of trouble.

Venusian also lets you attach a callback to a Python object (such as a class) outside of a decorator. That's what I was doing; attaching to a class, in my metaclass.

Venusian determines in what context the decorator was called, such as module-level and class-level, so you can use that later. For this it inspects the Python stack frame of its caller.

My first attempt to make the metaclass work in Python 3 was to use the with_metaclass functionality from the future compatibility layer. I am using this library anyway in Reg, which is a dependency of Morepath, so using it would not introduce a new dependency for Morepath.

Unfortunately after making that change my tests broke in both Python 2 and Python 3. That's not an improvement over having the tests being broken in just Python 2!

It appears that with_metaclass introduces a new stack frame into the mix somewhere, which breaks Venusian's assumptions. Now Venusian's attach has a depth argument to determine where in the stack to check, so I increased the stack depth by one and ran the tests again. Less tests broke than before, but quite a few still did. I think the cause is that the stack depth of with_metaclass is just not consistent for whatever reason.

Digging around in the future package I saw it includes a copy of six, another compatibility layer project. six has a name close to my heart -- long ago I originated the Five project for compatibility between Zope 2 and Zope 3.

That copy of six had another version of with_metaclass. I tried using future.util.six.with_metaclass, and hey, it all started working suddenly. All tests passed, in both Python 2 and Python 3. Yay!

Okay then, I figured, I don't want to depend on a copy of six that just happens to be lying about in future. It's not part of its public API as far as I understand. So I figured I should introduce a new dependency for Morepath after all, on six. It's not a big deal; Morepath's testing dependencies include WebTest, and this already has a dependency on six.

But when I pulled in six proper, I got a newer version of it than the one in future.util.six, and it caused the same test breakages as with future. Argh!

So I copied the code from old-six into Morepath's compat module. It's a two-liner anyway. It works for me. Morepath 0.4.1 done and released.

But I don't know why six had to change its version, and why future's version is different. It worries me -- they probably have good reasons. Are those reasons going to break my code at some point in the future?

Being a responsible open source citizen, I left bug reports about my experiences in the six and future issue trackers:

I much prefer writing Python code. Polyglot is an inferior programming language as it introduces complexities like this. But Polyglot is what we got.


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