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Ralsina.Me — Roberto Alsina's website

PyQt Quickie: Don't Get Garbage Collected

There is one area where Qt and Python (and in con­se­quence PyQt) have ma­jor dis­agree­ments. That area is mem­o­ry man­age­men­t.

While Qt has its own mech­a­nisms to han­dle ob­ject al­lo­ca­tion and dis­pos­al (the hi­er­ar­chi­cal QOb­ject trees, smart point­er­s, etc.), PyQt runs on Python, so it has garbage col­lec­tion.

Let's con­sid­er a sim­ple ex­am­ple:

from PyQt4 import QtCore

def finished():
    print "The process is done!"
    # Quit the app
    QtCore.QCoreApplication.instance().quit()

def launch_process():
    # Do something asynchronously
    proc = QtCore.QProcess()
    proc.start("/bin/sleep 3")
    # After it finishes, call finished
    proc.finished.connect(finished)

def main():
    app = QtCore.QCoreApplication([])
    # Launch the process
    launch_process()
    app.exec_()

main()

If you run this, this is what will hap­pen:

QProcess: Destroyed while process is still running.
The process is done!

Plus, the script never ends. Fun! The problem is that proc is being deleted at the end of launch_process because there are no more references to it.

Here is a bet­ter way to do it:

from PyQt4 import QtCore

processes = set([])

def finished():
    print "The process is done!"
    # Quit the app
    QtCore.QCoreApplication.instance().quit()

def launch_process():
    # Do something asynchronously
    proc = QtCore.QProcess()
    processes.add(proc)
    proc.start("/bin/sleep 3")
    # After it finishes, call finished
    proc.finished.connect(finished)

def main():
    app = QtCore.QCoreApplication([])
    # Launch the process
    launch_process()
    app.exec_()

main()

Here, we add a global processes set and add proc there so we always keep a reference to it. Now, the program works as intended. However, it still has an issue: we are leaking QProcess objects.

While in this case the leak is very short­-lived, since we are end­ing the pro­gram right af­ter the process end­s, in a re­al pro­gram this is not a good idea.

So, we would need to add a way to remove proc from processes in finished. This is not as easy as it may seem. Here is an idea that will not work as you expect:

def launch_process():
    # Do something asynchronously
    proc = QtCore.QProcess()
    processes.add(proc)
    proc.start("/bin/sleep 3")
    # Remove the process from the global set when done
    proc.finished.connect(lambda: processes.remove(proc))
    # After it finishes, call finished
    proc.finished.connect(finished)

In this version, we will still leak proc, even though processes is empty! Why? Because we are keeping a reference to proc in the lambda!

I don't really have a good answer for that that doesn't involve turning everything into members of a QObject and using sender to figure out what process is ending, or using QSignalMapper. That version is left as an exercise.

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