The Vespa Exception Hook

When an unhandled exception occurs in Python, Python calls an exception handler. Most apps use Python's default exception handler (which prints the exception to stderr and ends the process) but Python allows one to override the standard exception handler.

For technical details on how this works, see the Python standard library documentation for sys.excepthook and sys.__excepthook__. This document assumes you already understand those details.

Each Vespa app sets a custom exception hook early in its initialization. All applications use the same exception hook. As of this writing, our hook is defined in It does three things --

  1. Calls Python's standard exception handler to print the error to stderr.
  2. Logs the traceback to a file.
  3. Displays a dialog to the user containing the traceback and some info useful for debugging (info about the machine, Python version, etc.). The dialog encourages the user to email the info to us and makes it as easy as possible to do so.

The Exception Dialog

We really want to encourage users to send us error reports, so we remove as many barriers to that as possible. Ideally the user would just click "Send Error Report", but we weren't able to make things quite that simple.

My original version of the dialog invoked the user's local email client and started a new email, but David pointed out that some people user Webmail exclusively and thus don't have a dedicated local email client. So the dialog has to faciliate copying and pasting into an email.

Also, even if the user has local email client, there's limits to what one can do when invoking it programmatically. Without getting into platform-specific scripting (e.g. Applescript), we're limited to what we can stuff into a mailto: URL that we pass to Python's One can embed subject, to and even body text in a mailto: URL, but one can't specify a file to attach. Furthermore, encoding ~32k characters (the size of a typical bug report) into a URL and expecting it to open correctly in a mail client seems doomed to fail sooner or later. So we ask users to paste it in manually.

Disabling the Exception Handler

The exception handler is on by default. You can turn it off by adding this to vespa.ini which is in the VespaDataDirectory --


The Exception Handler and IDEs

If you're using an IDE, you might want to disable the exception handler.

Brian has reported to me that Vespa's exception handler doesn't play nice with Eclipse-Pydev. I suspect that app tries to set its own exception handler and Vespa's clashes with it. My guess is that other IDEs would exhibit similar behavior.

Last modified 8 years ago Last modified on Dec 6, 2010, 6:29:09 PM