What PyPy can do for your objects

Thanks to the Object Space architecture, any feature that is based on proxying, extending, changing or otherwise controlling the behavior of all objects in a running program is easy to implement on top of PyPy.

Here is what we have implemented so far, in historical order:

  • Dump Object Space: dumps all operations performed on all the objects into a large log file. For debugging your applications.
  • Transparent Proxies Extension: adds new proxy objects to the Standard Object Space that enable applications to control operations on application and builtin objects, e.g lists, dictionaries, tracebacks.

Transparent Proxies


This is a feature that was tried experimentally long ago, and we found no really good use cases. The basic functionality is still there, but we don’t recommend using it. Some of the examples below might not work any more (e.g. you can’t tproxy a list object any more). The rest can be done by hacking in standard Python. If anyone is interested in working on tproxy again, he is welcome, but we don’t regard this as an interesting extension.

PyPy’s Transparent Proxies allow routing of operations on objects to a callable. Application level code can customize objects without interfering with the type system - type(proxied_list) is list holds true when ‘proxied_list’ is a proxied built-in list - while giving you full control on all operations that are performed on the proxied_list.

See [D12.1] for more context, motivation and usage of transparent proxies.

Example of the core mechanism

The following example proxies a list and will return 42 on any add operation to the list:

$ py.py --objspace-std-withtproxy
>>>> from __pypy__ import tproxy
>>>> def f(operation, *args, **kwargs):
>>>>    if operation == '__add__':
>>>>         return 42
>>>>    raise AttributeError
>>>> i = tproxy(list, f)
>>>> type(i)
>>>> i + 3

Example of recording all operations on builtins

Suppose we want to have a list which stores all operations performed on it for later analysis. We can use the small lib_pypy/tputil.py module to help with transparently proxying builtin instances:

from tputil import make_proxy

history = []
def recorder(operation):
    return operation.delegate()

>>>> l = make_proxy(recorder, obj=[])
>>>> type(l)
>>>> l.append(3)
>>>> len(l)
>>>> len(history)

make_proxy(recorder, obj=[]) creates a transparent list proxy where we can delegate operations to in the recorder function. Calling type(l) does not lead to any operation being executed at all.

Note that append shows up as __getattribute__ and that type(lst) does not show up at all - the type is the only aspect of the instance which the controller cannot change.

Transparent Proxy PyPy builtins and support

If you are using the –objspace-std-withtproxy option the __pypy__ module provides the following builtins:

  • tproxy(type, controller): returns a proxy object representing the given type and forwarding all operations on this type to the controller. On each such operation controller(opname, *args, **kwargs) is invoked.
  • get_tproxy_controller(obj): returns the responsible controller for a given object. For non-proxied objects None is returned.

tputil helper module

The lib_pypy/tputil.py module provides:

  • make_proxy(controller, type, obj): function which creates a transparent proxy controlled by the given ‘controller’ callable. The proxy will appear as a completely regular instance of the given type but all operations on it are send to the specified controller - which receives a ProxyOperation instance on each such operation. A non-specified type will default to type(obj) if obj was specified.

    ProxyOperation instances have the following attributes:

    proxyobj: the transparent proxy object of this operation.

    opname: the operation name of this operation

    args: positional arguments for this operation

    kwargs: keyword arguments for this operation

    obj: (if provided to make_proxy): a concrete object

    If you have specified a concrete object instance obj to your make_proxy invocation, you may call proxyoperation.delegate() to delegate the operation to this object instance.

Further points of interest

A lot of tasks could be performed using transparent proxies, including, but not limited to:

  • Remote versions of objects, on which we can directly perform operations (think about transparent distribution)
  • Access to persistent storage such as a database (imagine an SQL object mapper which looks like a real object)
  • Access to external data structures, such as other languages, as normal objects (of course some operations could raise exceptions, but since they are purely done on application level, that is not real problem)

Implementation Notes

PyPy’s standard object space allows to internally have multiple implementations of a type and change the implementation at run time while application level code consistently sees the exact same type and object. Multiple performance optimizations using this features are already implemented: see the document about alternative object implementations. Transparent Proxies use the architecture to provide control back to application level code.

Transparent proxies are implemented on top of the standard object space, in pypy/objspace/std/proxy_helpers.py, pypy/objspace/std/proxyobject.py and pypy/objspace/std/transparent.py. To use them you will need to pass a –objspace-std-withtproxy option to py.py or translate.py. This registers implementations named W_TransparentXxx - which usually correspond to an appropriate W_XxxObject - and includes some interpreter hacks for objects that are too close to the interpreter to be implemented in the std objspace. The types of objects that can be proxied this way are user created classes & functions, lists, dicts, exceptions, tracebacks and frames.

[D12.1]High-Level Backends and Interpreter Feature Prototypes, PyPy EU-Report, 2007, https://bitbucket.org/pypy/extradoc/raw/tip/eu-report/D12.1_H-L-Backends_and_Feature_Prototypes-2007-03-22.pdf