Event-Driven Programming with Twisted and Python
In the event of an error, self.outgoingProxyError is called with a Failure object, which brings us to error handling. Python's traditional error handling is done through exceptions, a concept familiar to other high-level languages, such as Java (Listing 3).
Listing 3. Traditional Error Handling in Python
try: (offending code) except ValueError: (error handling code) except MyError: (error handling code)
Although Python's model of exception handling works exceptionally well (pun intended) for synchronous designs, it does not take into account asynchronous design. For example, when we initiate an outbound HTTP connection, Twisted continues processing other events while the connection is made. But, we want to specify behavior to address any problems that may occur at the time we request the connection. Fortunately, the good people making Twisted took this into account. Just as code is scheduled to run when a blocking operation completes successfully, it also can be scheduled to run in case of an error.
Twisted also handles all exceptions raised within the event loop, with hooks for developers to manage and log exceptions. This has an added benefit too: although an exception might abort a specific event from completing, it does not bring down the server, even if you haven't put any exception-handling code in place.
When using some of the Twisted classes, such as the LineReceiver class we're using, you can handle many events simply by adding methods with the correct names to your classes. Each time the protocol receives a line, the lineReceived method is invoked with the text of the line as an argument. Our SimpleHTTP class, which is intended to do minimal processing of an HTTP session, has methods such as these:
startNewRequest: invoked at the beginning of each request.
lineReceived: designed to facilitate chat-oriented protocols. Each time a line of text comes over the socket, this method automatically is called.
rawDataReceived: when sending a binary file or raw streams of data, it isn't reasonable to process information separated by newline characters. To account for this, LineReceiver lets us switch to raw mode transfer, in which case rawDataReceived is called instead of lineReceived.
handleFirstLine: HTTP works by starting each request with a single line. Generally, the client is sending a GET or POST request with a URI, and the server responds with a status code. handleFirstLine is used to handle either of these cases.
handleHeadersFinished: invoked when HTTP headers are sent fully.
handleRequestFinished: invoked when the HTTP request itself has completed.
Writing separate methods for states or actions that occur in the processing of a protocol is how Twisted programmers queue up events. At the beginning of a request, we can specify events to occur at each stage of handling a request. In our earlier example, we decided to call self.outgoingConnectionMade once a connection has been made. Let's take a look at that method, as shown in Listing 4.
Listing 4. Scheduling Events in Twisted
def outgoingConnectionMade(self, outgoing_proxy, uri): """ This occurs when our outbound proxy has connected. It's a Twisted callback method. """ assert(outgoing_proxy, OutgoingProxy) self.outgoing_proxy = outgoing_proxy outgoing_proxy.incoming_proxy = self # Send HTTP command and echo back result outgoing_proxy.write('%s %s %s' % \ (self.http_command, uri, self.http_version) \ + self.delimiter) outgoing_proxy.firstline_sent_def.addCallback( self.outgoingFirstlineReceived) # Send anything we have queued. self.flushOutgoingBuffer() # Add callbacks for when headers are ready outgoing_proxy.headers_finished_def.addCallback( self.outgoingHeadersReceived) outgoing_proxy.request_finished_def.addCallback( self.handleOutgoingRequestFinished)
Notice that outgoing_proxy represents the connection we are making to a remote server, on behalf of the Web browser we are serving. We're sending the HTTP request by calling outgoing_proxy.write. We're also scheduling the self.outgoingFirstlineReceived method to be called when a response is received from the remote server. The self.outgoingHeadersReceived method is called when the remote server has sent back all of its HTTP headers. Finally, self.handleOutgoingRequestFinished is called when the remote server has finished entirely responding to our outgoing HTTP request.
Although the outgoingConnectionMade method returns before any of this happens, we're lining up events to happen in the future. It well may be that while waiting for a response on one connection, ten other requests are opened and closed—all in the same thread. All information relevant to a connection is stored as instance data on protocol classes. Factories spawn protocol instances, protocol instances keep session states and deferred objects bind future data to event handlers. Completing the puzzle, the reactor manages the dirty work of polling sockets. This is the combination of tools upon which Twisted is built.
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