Catching thread exceptions in Python

Sat, 06 Oct 2012 12:50:18 +0000
tech python

Error handling is a total pain no matter method you choose to use; in Python we are more or less stuck with exceptions. When you have exceptions if you want any chance of debugging program failures, you want to see the stack-trace for any uncaught exceptions. Python usually obliges by spewing out a stack traces on stderr. However, it isn't too hard to get in to a situation where you end up losing those stack traces which ends up leading to a bunch of head scratcing.

When you have a server, you usually run it daemonized. When running as a deamon, it is not uncommon for any output to be redirected to /dev/null. In this case, unless you have arranged otherwise, your stack traces are going to disappear into the ether.

When you have a server style program, you definitely want to be using the Python logging system. This lets you output messages to logfiles (or syslogd). So ideally, you want any stack traces to go here as well.

Now, this is fairly straight forward, you can just make sure your top level function is wrapped in a try/except block. For example:

  logging.exception("Unhandled exception during main")

Another alternative is setting up a custom excepthook

This works great, unless you happen to be using the threading module. In this case, any exceptions in your run method (or the function you pass as a target) will actually be internally caught by the threading module (see the _bootstrap_inner method).

Unfortunately this code explicitly dumps the strack trace to stderr, which isn’t so useful.

Now, one approach to dealing with this is to have every run method, or target function expicilty catch any exceptions and output them to the log, however it would be nice to avoid duplicating this handling everywhere.

The solution I came up with was a simple sublcass the standard Thread class that catches the exception and places it out on the log.

class LogThread(threading.Thread):
    """LogThread should always e used in preference to threading.Thread.

    The interface provided by LogThread is identical to that of threading.Thread,
    however, if an exception occurs in the thread the error will be logged
    (using logging.exception) rather than printed to stderr.

    This is important in daemon style applications where stderr is redirected
    to /dev/null.

    def __init__(self, **kwargs):
        self._real_run = = self._wrap_run

    def _wrap_run(self):
            logging.exception('Exception during')

Then, use the LogThread class where you would previously use the Thread class.

Another alternative approach to this would be to capture any and all stderr output and redirect it to the log. An example of this approach can be found on in electric monk’s blog post "Redirect stdout and stderr to a logger in Python".

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