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2.1.3 Supporting cyclic garbage collection

Python has a cyclic-garbage collector that can identify unneeded objects even when their reference counts are not zero. This can happen when objects are involved in cycles. For example, consider:

>>> l = []
>>> l.append(l)
>>> del l

In this example, we create a list that contains itself. When we delete it, it still has a reference from itself. Its reference count doesn't drop to zero. Fortunately, Python's cyclic-garbage collector will eventually figure out that the list is garbage and free it.

In the second version of the Noddy example, we allowed any kind of object to be stored in the first or last attributes. This means that Noddy objects can participate in cycles:

 

>>> import noddy2
>>> n = noddy2.Noddy()
>>> l = [n]
>>> n.first = l

This is pretty silly, but it gives us an excuse to add support for the cyclic-garbage collector to the Noddy example. To support cyclic garbage collection, types need to fill two slots and set a class flag that enables these slots:

#include <Python.h>
#include "structmember.h"

typedef struct {
    PyObject_HEAD
    PyObject *first;
    PyObject *last;
    int number;
} Noddy;

static int
Noddy_traverse(Noddy *self, visitproc visit, void *arg)
{
    if (self->first && visit(self->first, arg) < 0)
        return -1;
    if (self->last && visit(self->last, arg) < 0)
        return -1;

    return 0;
}

static int 
Noddy_clear(Noddy *self)
{
    Py_XDECREF(self->first);
    self->first = NULL;
    Py_XDECREF(self->last);
    self->last = NULL;

    return 0;
}

static void
Noddy_dealloc(Noddy* self)
{
    Noddy_clear(self);
    self->ob_type->tp_free((PyObject*)self);
}

static PyObject *
Noddy_new(PyTypeObject *type, PyObject *args, PyObject *kwds)
{
    Noddy *self;

    self = (Noddy *)type->tp_alloc(type, 0);
    if (self != NULL) {
        self->first = PyString_FromString("");
        if (self->first == NULL)
          {
            Py_DECREF(self);
            return NULL;
          }
        
        self->last = PyString_FromString("");
        if (self->last == NULL)
          {
            Py_DECREF(self);
            return NULL;
          }

        self->number = 0;
    }

    return (PyObject *)self;
}

static int
Noddy_init(Noddy *self, PyObject *args, PyObject *kwds)
{
    PyObject *first=NULL, *last=NULL;

    static char *kwlist[] = {"first", "last", "number", NULL};

    if (! PyArg_ParseTupleAndKeywords(args, kwds, "|OOi", kwlist, 
                                      &first, &last, 
                                      &self->number))
        return -1; 

    if (first) {
        Py_XDECREF(self->first);
        Py_INCREF(first);
        self->first = first;
    }

    if (last) {
        Py_XDECREF(self->last);
        Py_INCREF(last);
        self->last = last;
    }

    return 0;
}

static PyMemberDef Noddy_members[] = {
    {"first", T_OBJECT_EX, offsetof(Noddy, first), 0,
     "first name"},
    {"last", T_OBJECT_EX, offsetof(Noddy, last), 0,
     "last name"},
    {"number", T_INT, offsetof(Noddy, number), 0,
     "noddy number"},
    {NULL}  /* Sentinel */
};

static PyObject *
Noddy_name(Noddy* self)
{
    static PyObject *format = NULL;
    PyObject *args, *result;

    if (format == NULL) {
        format = PyString_FromString("%s %s");
        if (format == NULL)
            return NULL;
    }

    if (self->first == NULL) {
        PyErr_SetString(PyExc_AttributeError, "first");
        return NULL;
    }

    if (self->last == NULL) {
        PyErr_SetString(PyExc_AttributeError, "last");
        return NULL;
    }

    args = Py_BuildValue("OO", self->first, self->last);
    if (args == NULL)
        return NULL;

    result = PyString_Format(format, args);
    Py_DECREF(args);
    
    return result;
}

static PyMethodDef Noddy_methods[] = {
    {"name", (PyCFunction)Noddy_name, METH_NOARGS,
     "Return the name, combining the first and last name"
    },
    {NULL}  /* Sentinel */
};

static PyTypeObject NoddyType = {
    PyObject_HEAD_INIT(NULL)
    0,                         /*ob_size*/
    "noddy.Noddy",             /*tp_name*/
    sizeof(Noddy),             /*tp_basicsize*/
    0,                         /*tp_itemsize*/
    (destructor)Noddy_dealloc, /*tp_dealloc*/
    0,                         /*tp_print*/
    0,                         /*tp_getattr*/
    0,                         /*tp_setattr*/
    0,                         /*tp_compare*/
    0,                         /*tp_repr*/
    0,                         /*tp_as_number*/
    0,                         /*tp_as_sequence*/
    0,                         /*tp_as_mapping*/
    0,                         /*tp_hash */
    0,                         /*tp_call*/
    0,                         /*tp_str*/
    0,                         /*tp_getattro*/
    0,                         /*tp_setattro*/
    0,                         /*tp_as_buffer*/
    Py_TPFLAGS_DEFAULT | Py_TPFLAGS_BASETYPE | Py_TPFLAGS_HAVE_GC, /*tp_flags*/
    "Noddy objects",           /* tp_doc */
    (traverseproc)Noddy_traverse,   /* tp_traverse */
    (inquiry)Noddy_clear,           /* tp_clear */
    0,		               /* tp_richcompare */
    0,		               /* tp_weaklistoffset */
    0,		               /* tp_iter */
    0,		               /* tp_iternext */
    Noddy_methods,             /* tp_methods */
    Noddy_members,             /* tp_members */
    0,                         /* tp_getset */
    0,                         /* tp_base */
    0,                         /* tp_dict */
    0,                         /* tp_descr_get */
    0,                         /* tp_descr_set */
    0,                         /* tp_dictoffset */
    (initproc)Noddy_init,      /* tp_init */
    0,                         /* tp_alloc */
    Noddy_new,                 /* tp_new */
};

static PyMethodDef module_methods[] = {
    {NULL}  /* Sentinel */
};

#ifndef PyMODINIT_FUNC	/* declarations for DLL import/export */
#define PyMODINIT_FUNC void
#endif
PyMODINIT_FUNC
initnoddy4(void) 
{
    PyObject* m;

    if (PyType_Ready(&NoddyType) < 0)
        return;

    m = Py_InitModule3("noddy4", module_methods,
                       "Example module that creates an extension type.");

    if (m == NULL)
      return;

    Py_INCREF(&NoddyType);
    PyModule_AddObject(m, "Noddy", (PyObject *)&NoddyType);
}

The traversal method provides access to subobjects that could participate in cycles:

static int
Noddy_traverse(Noddy *self, visitproc visit, void *arg)
{
    if (self->first && visit(self->first, arg) < 0)
        return -1;
    if (self->last && visit(self->last, arg) < 0)
        return -1;

    return 0;
}

For each subobject that can participate in cycles, we need to call the visit() function, which is passed to the traversal method. The visit() function takes as arguments the subobject and the extra argument arg passed to the traversal method.

We also need to provide a method for clearing any subobjects that can participate in cycles. We implement the method and reimplement the deallocator to use it:

static int 
Noddy_clear(Noddy *self)
{
    Py_XDECREF(self->first);
    self->first = NULL;
    Py_XDECREF(self->last);
    self->last = NULL;

    return 0;
}

static void
Noddy_dealloc(Noddy* self)
{
    Noddy_clear(self);
    self->ob_type->tp_free((PyObject*)self);
}

Finally, we add the Py_TPFLAGS_HAVE_GC flag to the class flags:

    Py_TPFLAGS_DEFAULT | Py_TPFLAGS_BASETYPE | Py_TPFLAGS_HAVE_GC, /*tp_flags*/

That's pretty much it. If we had written custom tp_alloc or tp_free slots, we'd need to modify them for cyclic-garbage collection. Most extensions will use the versions automatically provided.

 

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