Tag Archives: django

Grouping URLs in Django routing

One of the things I liked (and still like) about Django is that request routing is configured with regular expressions. You can capture positional and named parts of the request path, and the request handler will be invoked with the captured strings as positional and/or keyword arguments.

Quite often I find that the URL patterns repeat a lot of the regular expressions with minor variations for different but related view functions. For example, suppose you want CRUD-style URLs for a particular resource, you would write an urls.py looking something like:

from django.conf.urls import url, patterns

urlpatterns = patterns('myapp.views',
    url(r'^(?P<slug>[-\w]+)/$', 'detail'),
    url(r'^(?P<slug>[-\w]+)/edit/$', 'edit'),
    url(r'^(?P<slug>[-\w]+)/delete/$', 'delete'),

The detail, edit and delete view functions (defined in myapp.views) all take a slug keyword argument, so one has to repeat that part of the regular expression for each URL.

When you have more complex routing configurations, repeating the (?P<slug>[-\w]+)/ portion of each route can be tedious. Wouldn’t it be nice to declare that a bunch of URL patterns all start with the same capturing pattern and avoid the repetition?

It would be nice.

I want to be able to write an URL pattern that defines a common base pattern that the nested URLs extend:

from django.conf.urls import url, patterns, group
from myapp.views import detail, edit, delete

urlpatterns = patterns('',
        url(r'^$', detail),
        url(r'^edit/$', edit),
        url(r'^delete/$', delete),

Of course there is no group function defined in Django’s django.conf.urls module. But if there were, it would function like Django’s include but act on locally declared URLs instead of a separate module’s patterns.

It happens that this is trivial to implement! Here it is:

from django.conf.urls import url, patterns, RegexURLResolver
from myapp.views import detail, edit, delete

def group(regex, *args):
    return RegexURLResolver(regex, args)

urlpatterns = patterns('',
        url(r'^$', detail),
        url(r'^edit/$', edit),
        url(r'^delete/$', delete),

This way the detail, edit and delete view functions still get invoked with a slug keyword argument, but you don’t have to repeat the common part of the regular expression for every route.

There is a problem: it won’t work if you want to use a module prefix string (the first argument to patterns(...)). You either have to give a full module string, or use the view objects directly. So you can’t do this:

urlpatterns = patterns('myapp.views',
    # Doesn't work.
        url(r'^$', 'detail'),

Personally I don’t think this is much of an issue since I prefer to use the view objects, and if you are using class-based views you will likely be using the view objects anyway.

I don’t know if “group” is a good name for this helper function. Other possibilities: “prefix”, “local”, “prepend”, “buxtonize”. You decide.

Testing with Django, Haystack and Whoosh

The problem: you want to test a Django view for results of a search query, but Haystack will be using your real query index, built from your real database, instead of an index built from your test fixtures.

Turns out you can generalise this for any Haystack back-end by replacing the haystack.backend module with the simple back-end.

from myapp.models import MyModel
from django.test import TestCase
import haystack

class SearchViewTests(TestCase):
    fixtures = ['test-data.json']

    def setUp(self):
        self._haystack_backend = haystack.backend
        haystack.backend = haystack.load_backend('simple')

    def tearDown(self):
        haystack.backend = self._haystack_backend

    def test_search(self):
        results = SearchQuerySet().all()
        assert results.count() == MyModel.objects.count()

My first attempt at this made changes to the project settings and did HAYSTACK_WHOOSH_STORAGE = "ram" which works but was complicated because then you have to re-build the index with the fixtures loaded, except the fixtures don’t get loaded in TestCase.setUpClass, so the choice was to load the fixtures myself or to re-index for each test. And it was specific to the Whoosh back-end of course.

(This is for Django 1.4 and Haystack 1.2.7. In my actual project I get to deploy on Python 2.5. Ain’t I lucky? On a fucking PowerMac G5 running OS X Server 10.5 for fuck sacks.)

Optimizing queries in Haystack results

My Adobe software updates app (which uses Haystack + Django to provide a search feature) has a very inefficient search results template, where for each search result the template links back to the update’s related product page.

The meat of the search results template looks something like this:

{% for result in page.object_list %}
<div class="search-result">
    <a href="{{ result.object.get_absolute_url }}">{{ result.object }}</a>
    <a href="{% url "product_page" result.object.product.slug %}">{{ result.object.product }}</a>
{% endfor %}

The reverse URL lookup triggers a separate SQL query to find the related product object’s slug field for each object in the results list, and that slows down the page response significantly.

For a regular queryset you would tell Django to fetch the related objects in one go when populating the template context in order to avoid the extra queries, but in this case page.object_list is generated by Haystack. So how to tell Haystack to use select_related() for the queryset?

It is easy. When you register a model to be indexed with Haystack for searching, you have to define a SearchIndex model, and you can also override the read_queryset() method that is used by Haystack to get a Django queryset:

# myapp.search_indexes.py
from haystack import indexes, site
from myapp.models import MyModel

class MyModelIndex(indexes.SearchIndex):
    # Indexed fields declared here
    def get_model(self):
        return MyModel

    def read_queryset(self):
        return self.model.objects.select_related()

site.register(MyModel, MyModelIndex)

And that solved it for me. Shaves three quarters off the execution time.

PS This all pertains to Django 1.4 and Haystack 1.2.7.

PPS Also pertains to a version of my Adobe software updates page that I haven’t deployed quite yet.

Caching a Django app with Nginx + FastCGI

I just spent a stupid amount of time trying to figure why Nginx was failing to cache my Django app responses. The Django app is running as a FastCGI backend and I have Nginx using the fastcgi_cache directive to cache responses.

The answer is that Nginx since version 0.8.44 does not cache backend responses if they have a “Set-Cookie” header. This makes perfect sense because you don’t want a response which sets a cookie to be cached for subsequent requests, but I was stupid because I had totally forgotten that my Django app was using a POST form for all responses for non-authenticated clients (due to how Django’s CSRF middleware does its stuff).

The solution was to change the app so that it uses the GET method on the form in question, which in this case is fine from a security point-of-view.

The moral of this story is I should pay attention to my HTTP response headers and that I am badly short-sighted both figuratively and literally. With that fixed the site has gone from 15 requests per second to ~2000 requests per second!

Class-based views for Bottle

I’m not convinced this is actually a good idea, but I have an approach for using class-based views as handlers for a route with Bottle.

(If you were mad keen on Django’s shift to class-based views you might reckon life wouldn’t be complete with a Bottle-based application until you employ classes for views. However Bottle’s use of decorators for tying URLs to views means it is less a natural fit than the same thing in Django.)

The problem is that you can’t just decorate the method in your class using bottle.route because if you use that decorator on a method in a class you are telling Bottle to use the method before it has been bound to an instance of that class.

So although I wish it did, the following example will not work:

import bottle

class ViewClass(object):
    def home_view(self):
        return "My home page."

obj = ViewClass()

Running that will lead to errors about not enough arguments passed to the view method of your ViewClass instance.

Instead you need to register the route right after the object is created. This can be done in the class’s __new__ method:

import bottle

class ViewClass(object):
    def __new__(cls, *args, **kwargs):
        obj = super(ViewClass, cls).__new__(cls, *args, **kwargs)
        return obj

    def home_view(self):
        return "My home page."

obj = ViewClass()

It works. It isn’t that pretty. You could achieve exactly the same thing by explicitly passing the obj.home_view method to bottle.route after the instance is created. The advantage to doing this in the __new__ method is it will happen automatically whenever ViewClass is instantiated.

And if you go down this path then you should be aware of threads. Hey! Nice threads! Also I have a cold.

Running Django on Mac

These are semi-detailed steps for installing all the bits to host a Django application on Mac OS X. Tested on 10.5, should work perfectly on 10.6.

Use MacPorts: relatively easy to install and the best thing is everything is contained in a directory that you can be confident won’t eff up Apple’s stuff and won’t be effed up by Apple’s stuff.

Install Xcode

You need the compiler and bits that are installed with Xcode. If you can’t find your Mac install discs (Xcode is included with every new Mac but not installed) you can download it from Apple’s developer website. Registration is required but is free.

The current version of Xcode is easy to find, while older versions are available in the downloads section under “Developer Tools”. Xcode version 3.1.4 is the last version that will work for Mac OS X 10.5 systems.

Install MacPorts

MacPorts have a nice pkg installer. You can also build it from source.

curl -O http://distfiles.macports.org/MacPorts/MacPorts-1.9.1-10.5-Leopard.dmg
hdiutil attach MacPorts-1.9.1-10.5-Leopard.dmg
sudo installer -pkg /Volumes/MacPorts-1.9.1/MacPorts-1.9.1.pkg -target /
hdiutil detach /Volumes/MacPorts-1.9.1

If for some reason MacPorts cannot fetch updates you may need to pull updates by hand.

Check your $PATH after installing ports to make sure /opt/local/bin is in there. If it isn’t your can do export PATH=/opt/local/bin:/opt/local/sbin:${PATH} to fix things, and even add taht line to ~/.profile so that bash picks it up every time (assuming you haven’t switched your shell).

Install software

The port command is used to manipulate the MacPorts installation. Use it to build and install the various bits we need. This takes a while, especially on old PowerPC machines. Make it more exciting by adding the --verbose flag. Exciting!

sudo port install python26
sudo port install apache2
sudo port install mysql5-server
sudo port install mod_python26
sudo port install py26-mysql
sudo port install py26-django
sudo port install py26-south

And if you want to hook Django into a network directory then you almost certainly want to use LDAP.

sudo port install py26-ldap

Cool kids these days say use mod_wsgi instead of mod_python for hosting Python applications with Apache, but I am not cool (and on 20 September 2010 I couldn’t persuade mod_wsgi to build from MacPorts on a clean installation).

Configuring and starting MySQL

UPDATED: commenter matea pointed to Jason Rowland’s MySQL on Mac posting that includes steps to secure a default installation, so I’ve updated this section with the appropriate steps.

I always seem to be the only person who cares about non-English visitors… anyway, so I want to have MySQL use UTF8 for everything. Edit the configuration so it does. As root, create a configuration at /opt/local/var/db/mysql5/my.cnf with these lines:

init-connect = 'SET NAMES utf8'
character-set-server = utf8
collation-server = utf8_general_ci

default-character-set = utf8

One thing about the line skip-networking in the configuration file is that it means MySQL will not listen to any network clients, including connections to Instead clients should connect to localhost or they should specify the path to the socket that MySQL uses for communication. If your MySQL “client” is a Django instance running on the same host then that should not be a problem.

Now initialize the database and start the server. (The use of -w in the second line tells launchctl to have the database daemon start at boot. If you don’t want to have MySQL running at boot use -F to force start just this one time instead of every time.)

sudo -u mysql /opt/local/bin/mysql_install_db5
sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.mysql5.plist

And let’s check that the server is up and configured right.

/opt/local/bin/mysql5 -e "SHOW variables LIKE '%char%'"

You should see a table showing that the character set for the client and server is set to utf8.

Now run the secure installation script for MySQL. This will ask you to set a password for MySQL’s root account (the administrator) and ask whether to remove the test database and anonymous user access (you should do both):


Thaz better.

Configuring Postgresql instead of MySQL

If you want to use Postgres instead of MySQL then you need a couple different packages out of ports.

sudo port install postgresql84-server
sudo port install py26-psycopg2

Did you know Apple’s management tools use Postgres? Is true.

Configuring Apache to serve a Django project

Let’s suppose your Django project lives under /Library/WebServer/example.com/myproj, and the project’s settings file is /Library/WebServer/example.com/myproj/settings.py. Here’s how to configure Apache with mod_python to serve your project.

Create a separate site configuration for Apache in /Library/WebServer/example.com/site.conf.

<Location "/">
    SetHandler python-program
    PythonHandler django.core.handlers.modpython
    SetEnv DJANGO_SETTINGS_MODULE myproj.settings
    PythonOption django.root /
    PythonDebug On
    PythonPath "['/Library/WebServer/example.com'] + sys.path"

<Directory /Library/WebServer/example.com>
    Order deny,allow
    Allow from all

Of course once everything is hunky dory you will go back and edit the site configuration so that PythonDebug Off.

And finally tell Apache to use mod_python and read the site configuration. Edit /opt/local/apache2/conf/httpd.conf and add a line at the end of the modules like:

LoadModule python_module modules/mod_python.so

And then a line like:

Include /Library/WebServer/example.com/site.conf

Now fire up Apache:

sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.apache2.plist

MacPorts has a convenient shortcut for this:

sudo port load apache2

You also want to save Apache a little grief by pre-compiling the Python source files for the project:

/opt/local/bin/python2.6 -m compileall /Library/WebServer/example.com

Hope this helps.

Django-style routing for Bottle

Bottle provides the @route decorator to associate URL paths with view functions. This is very convenient, but if you are a Django-reject like me then you may prefer having all your URLs defined in one place, the advantage being it is easy to see at a glance all the different URLs your application will match.

Updated: I have re-written this post and the example to make it simpler following Marcel Hellkamp’s comments (Marcel is the primary author of Bottle). My original example was needlessly complicated.

It is possible to have a Django-style urlpatterns stanza with a Bottle app. Here’s how it can work:

from bottle import route

# Assuming your *_page view functions are defined above somewhere
urlpatterns = (
    # (path, func, name)
    ('/', home_page, 'home'),
    ('/about', about_page, 'about'),
    ('/contact', contact_page, 'contact'),

for path, func, name in urlpatterns:
    route(path, name=name)(func)

Here we run through a list where each item is a triple of URL path, view function and a name for the route. For each we simply call the route method and then invoke it with the function object. Not as flexible as using the decorator on a function (because the @route decorator can take additional keyword arguments) but at least you can have all the routes in one place at the end of the module.

Then again if you have so many routes that you need to keep them in a pretty list you probably aren’t writing the simple application that Bottle was intended for.

(This was tested with Bottle’s 0.8 and 0.9-dev branches.)

More Python features that I really like

Another thing that makes using Python pleasing is decorators. A decorator is a wrapper for a function (or method) that takes a function (or method) as an argument and returns a new function (or…) which is then bound to the name for the original function.

The newly-decorated function can then do things like checking the called arguments before invoking the original un-decorated function.

Django provides decorators for authentication so that you can wrap a view function with a check for client credentials before deciding whether to return the original response or a deny access.

In this manner Django’s authentication decorators encourage orthogonal code: the logic for displaying a view is separated from the logic for deciding whether you should be permitted to see the view’s output. By keeping them separate, it becomes simpler to re-use the authentication logic and apply it to other views.

Suppose you have a view that accepts a Django request object and checks whether the user is signed in:

def administration_page(request):
    if request.user.is_authenticated():
        return HttpResponse("Welcome, dear user.")
        return HttpResponseRedirect("/signin/")

With a decorator you can simplify and clarify things:

def administration_page(request):
    return HttpResponse("Welcome, dear user.")

For older versions of Python (pre 2.4) which don’t understand the @ operator one must explicitly decorate the view function like so:

def administration_page(request):
    return HttpResponse("Welcome, dear administrator.")

administration_page = login_required(administration_page)

Note in the example that the original administration_page function is passed to the decorator. The @ syntax in the first example makes that implicit but the two are equivalent.

The implementation of a decorator is interesting. It takes the function itself as an argument and returns a new function which does the actual checking. Here is how the decorator used above might do its stuff:

def login_required(view_function):
    def decorated_function(request):
        if request.user.is_authenticated():
            return view_function(request)
            return HttpResponseRedirect("/signin/")

    return decorated_function

The actual implementation of Django’s login_required decorator is considerably less idiotic. Python’s functools module has helpers for writing well-behaved decorators.

Because functions in Python are themselves objects the decorator can accept a function reference, construct a new function that checks for authentication and then return a reference to that new function.


(Simples gets less simples when you want to write a decorator that accepts configuration arguments because you then need either another layer of nested function definitions or a class whose instances can be called directly, but I’m going to ignore you for a bit and wow is that Concorde…?)

Django AdminForm objects and templates

I can’t find documentation for the context of a Django admin template. In particular, where is the form and how does one access the fields? This post describes the template context for a generic admin model for Django 1.1.

Django uses an instance of ModelAdmin (defined in django.contrib.admin.options) to handle the request for a model object add / change view in the admin site. ModelAdmin.add_view and ModelAdmin.change_view are responsible for populating the template context when rendering the add object and change object pages respectively.

Here are the keys common to add and change views:

  • title, ‘Add ‘ or ‘Change ‘ + your model class’ _meta.verbose_name
  • adminform is an instance of AdminForm
  • is_popup, a boolean which is true when _popup is passed as a request parameter
  • media is an instance of django.forms.Media
  • inline_admin_formsets is a list of InlineAdminFormSet objects
  • errors is an instance of AdminErrorList
  • root_path is the root_path attribute of the AdminSite object
  • app_label is your model class’ _meta.app_label attribute

The way that Django renders a form in the admin view is to iterate over the adminform instance and then iterate over each FieldSet which in turn yield AdminField instances. All I want to do is layout the form fields, ignoring the fieldset groupings which may or may not be defined in the model’s ModelAdmin.fieldset attribute.

This turns out to be easy once you know how. The regular form is an attribute of the adminform object. So if your model has a field named “king_of_pop” you can refer to the form field in your template like so:

{{ adminform.form.king_of_pop.label_tag }}: {{ adminform.form.king_of_pop }}

Or if you want to save your finger tips you can use the with template tag:

{% with adminform.form as f %}
{{ f.king_of_pop.label_tag }}: {{ f.king_of_pop }}
{% endwith %}

Delving through the Django source while I tried to understand all of this I was struck by how Python defines hook functions for iteration and accessing attributes. Half of Python’s attraction is in how easy it is from the program author’s point of view to treat objects as built-in types like lists, dicts, etc.; the other half is the responsibility of the author of a Python module to encourage that same ease of use by implementing the related iteration protocols. It is harder to write a good Python module than it is to write a good Python program that uses a good module.

ModelForms good for importing too

If you have exported data from one database in plain text format and you want to import it to Django, you should use a ModelForm class to do a lot of the heavy lifting for you.

A suitable ModelForm for your Django model will consume each row and do the conversion of each field to an appropriate Python type. Much simpler than explicitly converting each value yourself before creating a new model instance.

Suppose you have a model for an address book entry and its associated ModelForm (this works for Django 1.1):

# myapp/models.py
from django.db import models
from django import forms

class Contact(models.Model):
    first_name = models.CharField(max_length=100)
    second_name = models.CharField(max_length=100)
    telephone = models.CharField(max_length=50, blank=True)
    email = models.EmailField(blank=True)

class ContactForm(forms.ModelForm):
    class Meta:
        model = Contact

Here’s a script to run through a comma-separated list of contacts where each line looks something like “Smits, Jimmy, jimmy@example.com, 555-1234”:

from myapp.models import ContactForm

# Map columns to fields, adjusting the order as necessary
column_map = (

for line in open('tab-separated-data.txt'):
    row = dict(zip(column_map, (field.strip() for field in line.split(','))))
    form_obj = ContactForm(row)
    except ValueError:
        for k, v in form_obj.errors.items():
            print k, row[k], ', '.join(map(unicode, v))

If a line doesn’t validate the script prints the validation errors and moves to the next line. If your data has columns you want to ignore then just name them in the column_map – the form class will ignore extra keys in the dictionary.