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Luckily, Pythons aren't poisonous.

A couple years ago when I began using Python 3, its new ResourceWarnings infuriated me and I ranted against them. Python core developer Nick Coghlan patiently corrected me, and I wrote a followup, "Mollified About ResourceWarnings".

And now, a ResourceWarning has saved my tuchus.

A few months ago I was fixing a bug in Motor, my asynchronous driver for MongoDB. Motor has a copy_database method which I'll summarize thus:

@gen.coroutine
def copy_database(self, source, target):
pool, socket = None, None
try:
pool = self.get_pool()
socket = pool.get_socket()
# ... several operations with the socket ...
finally:
if pool and socket:
pool.return_socket(socket)

The bug occurred when the source database was password-protected. The get_socket call didn't ensure it was authenticated before it attempted to copy the database. I fixed the bug like so:

@gen.coroutine
def copy_database(self, source, target):
pool, socket = None, None
try:
member = self.get_cluster_member()
socket = self.get_authenticated_socket_from_member(member)
# ... several operations with the socket ...
finally:
if pool and socket:
pool.return_socket(socket)

Whoops. I fixed the authentication bug, but introduced a socket leak. Since pool is now always None, the code in the finally clause never runs. In this example the bug is obvious, but the real method is 60 lines long—just long enough for me not to see the mismatch between its first and final lines.

I blithely released the bug in Motor 0.2.

Apparently my users don't call copy_database much, since no one reported the socket leak. I'm not surprised: Motor is optimized for high-concurrency web applications, not for administrative scripts that copy databases around. If you want to copy a database you'd use the regular driver, PyMongo, instead. And so the bug lurked for three months.

This weekend I teased Motor apart, into two modules: a "core" module that talks to MongoDB, and a "framework" module that uses Tornado for asynchronous I/O. Once I had separated the two aspects of Motor, I made a second "framework" module that uses Python 3.4's new asyncio framework instead of Tornado. copy_database was among the first methods I tested in the new Motor-on-asyncio. It's relatively complex so I used it to give my new code a workout.

copy_database worked with asyncio! But I wasn't ready to celebrate yet:

ResourceWarning: unclosed <socket.socket fd=9, laddr=('127.0.0.1', 54065), raddr=('127.0.0.1', 27017)>

That damn ResourceWarning. I did a bit of binary-searching through my test code until I found it: I wasn't returning the socket in copy_database. The fix is obvious:

@gen.coroutine
def copy_database(self, source, target):
member, socket = None, None
try:
member = self.get_cluster_member()
socket = self.get_authenticated_socket_from_member(member)
# ... several operations with the socket ...
finally:
if socket:
member.pool.return_socket(socket)

One lesson learned is: I was foolish when I made my code "robust" against unexpected conditions. The earlier code had returned the socket if pool and socket. But if socket isn't null, pool shouldn't be, either. So if socket alone should be sufficient. This simpler code, that only handles the case I expect to arise, would have failed immediately when I introduced the bug. The misguided robustness of my earlier code masked my bug for months.

Another lesson is: I finally understand the value of ResourceWarnings. They force me to decide when costly objects are deallocated, and they warn me if I mess it up. I'm reviewing my test procedures to ensure that ResourceWarnings are displayed. Ideally, a ResourceWarning should be converted to an exception that causes my unittests to fail. Do you know how to make that happen?