Python Multiprocessing And Unittest

I've been having an issue with unit testing Microblogger when my tests need to use Python's multiprocessing module. I've been looking at this code for days now and I can't seem to find the bug. I'm hoping that by writing down my thoughts here, I can think through the problem.

Basically, the test is trying to verify that a User object can be created with information from a remote XML feed. The test gives the User module a URL and tells it to fetch all information at that resource.

    def test_cache_user(self):
        user = User(remote_url='')
        self.assertEqual(user._status, dl.CACHED)
        self.assertEqual(user.username, 'sonicrocketman')

The cache_user method starts up a crawler to go out and parse the contents of the URL provided.

    def cache_users(users):
        from crawler.crawler import OnDemandCrawler
        remote_links = [user._feed_url for user in users]
        user_dicts = OnDemandCrawler().get_user_info(remote_links)

Everything is ok still. Inside that OnDemandCrawler().get_user_info() method, the OnDemandCrawler crawls the URL given and then calls self.on_finish(). This is when things get funky.

    def on_finish(self):

The stop command tells the crawler to shut down, the now keyword just tells it to force stop the crawling process and don't wait to cleanly exit.

If we look at the source to the microblogcrawler (v1.4.1) we see that stop does the following:

    def stop(self, now=False):
        if now:
            # Try to close the crawler and if it fails,
            # then ignore the error. This is a known issue
            # with Python multiprocessing.
                self._stop_crawling = True

The curious part is that self._stop_crawling = True part. In the tests for the microblogcrawler both forcing the crawler to stop and normally stopping it work fine. The issue arises when trying to stop them in a unit test. For some reason the crawler doesn't stop.

Here's a sample crawler and the output it produces when run as a unit test:

    class SomeCrawler(FeedCrawler):
        def on_start(self):
            print 'Starting up...' + str(self._stop_crawling)
        def on_finish(self):
            print 'Finishing up...' + str(self._stop_crawling)
            print 'Should be done now...' + str(self._stop_crawling)

>>> python -m crawler_test
>>> Starting up...False        # Correct
>>> Finishing up...False       # Correct
>>> Should be done now...True  # Correct
>>> Starting up...False        # lolwut?

For some reason the crawler isn't receiving the signal to stop. Looking at it from my Activity Monitor it appears to stop (the 4 worker threads are closed), but then the crawler creates 4 new worker threads and does it all over again.

The last step of this process is inside the crawler itself. The crawling process is controlled by the self._stop_crawling attribute:

    def _do_crawl(self):
        # Start crawling.
        while not self._stop_crawling:
            # Do work...

From this code, if the _stop_crawling attribute is set to True, then the crawler should finish the round it's on and close down, but the value of the attribute doesn't seem to be sticking when it's assigned in the stop method above.

If anyone has any ideas as to what the issue could be, I'd love to hear them. I'm pretty much out of ideas now. As I said before, the tests in the microblog crawler (which are not unit tests) work fine. The issue only comes up when running a test suite through unittest itself.

Filed under: python, bugs
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