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More Thread Tricks - Python

If you want your application to perform several tasks at once, you can use threads. Python can handle threads, but many developers find thread programming to be very tricky. Among other points, Peyton McCullough covers how to spawn and kill threads in this popular language.

  1. Basic Threading in Python
  2. Using the Threading Module
  3. Pooling Threads
  4. More Thread Tricks
By: Peyton McCullough
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April 04, 2005

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There is more to threads than just spawning them and sending them on their way. The threading module's Thread module contains a few more methods that you should be aware of. The first two deal with naming threads. The method setName sets a thread's name, and the method getName retrieves a thread's name:

import threading

class TestThread ( threading.Thread ):

   def run ( self ):

      print 'Hello, my name is', self.getName()

cazaril = TestThread()
cazaril.setName ( 'Cazaril' )

ista = TestThread()
ista.setName ( 'Ista' )


No suprises there. Also, as you can see, threads have names even if you don't specify them.

We can also check whether a thread is “alive” using the isAlive method. If the thread hasn't finished executing whatever is in its run method, then it's classified as being alive:

import threading
import time

class TestThread ( threading.Thread ):

   def run ( self ):

      print 'Patient: Doctor, am I going to die?'

class AnotherThread ( TestThread ):

   def run ( self ):

      TestThread.run( self )
      time.sleep ( 10 )

dying = TestThread()
if dying.isAlive():
   print 'Doctor: No.'
   print 'Doctor: Next!'

living = AnotherThread()
if living.isAlive():
   print 'Doctor: No.'
   print 'Doctor: Next!'

The second thread remains alive because we force it to wait using the time module's sleep method.

If we want to make a thread wait for another thread to terminate itself, we can use the join method:

import threading
import time

class ThreadOne ( threading.Thread ):

   def run ( self ):

      print 'Thread', self.getName(), 'started.'
      time.sleep ( 5 )
      print 'Thread', self.getName(), 'ended.'

class ThreadTwo ( threading.Thread ):

   def run ( self ):

      print 'Thread', self.getName(), 'started.'
      print 'Thread', self.getName(), 'ended.'

thingOne = ThreadOne()
thingTwo = ThreadTwo()

We can use the setDaemon method, too. If a True value is passed with this method and all other threads have finished executing, the Python program will exit, leaving the thread by itself:

import threading
import time

class DaemonThread ( threading.Thread ):

   def run ( self ):

      self.setDaemon ( True )
      time.sleep ( 10 )

print 'Leaving.'

Python also contains a thread module that deals with lower level threading. The only feature I would like to point out is the start_new_thread function it contains. Using this, we can turn an ordinary function into a thread:

import thread

def thread( stuff ):
   print "I'm a real boy!"
   print stuff

thread.start_new_thread ( thread, ( 'Argument' ) )


There's much more to multi-threading than I explained in this article, but I will not bore you by extending the scope of this article to include everything. Moreover, as Guido van Rossum mentioned, the advantage gained by complex multi-threading in Python may be outweighed by the consequences. A small dose of common sense can eliminate much of the problems in simple multi-threading, however.

Threading is very important when dealing with computer applications, and, as I mentioned earlier, Python isn't excluded. When used properly, threads can be very beneficial and often even crucial, as I've outlined in this article.

>>> More Python Articles          >>> More By Peyton McCullough

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