Python - common problems and solutions

The following list state some common problems or known issues concerning Python (partially in combination with itom):

Re-Assigning a variable

Problem: If you assign an object with a limited access to anything (like a single camera) to a variable in a script, an access error might occur if you try to re-run the script:

cam = dataIO("IDSuEye", camera_id = 0)

Once you re-execute the same command, an error like the following one might be raised:

RuntimeError: Could not load plugin IDSuEye with error message:
Camera (0) could not be opened

This is due to the fact, that the re-execution at first tries to create a new instance of class dataIO with the same camera than is already opened. Then, this instance is assigned to the existing variable cam. In this moment, the recent content of cam is not longer in use and hence destroyed.

Solution: At first assign None or any other low-level value to cam and then re-assign the object that requires access to a limited structure. In some rare cases this is even not enough, since Python uses the concept of a garbage collector. Therefore, an object is only marked for deleted if it is not longer in use. The garbage collector is regularly called and finally deletes all marked objects. In this case, force the garbage collector to be executed:

import gc #import garbage collector

cam = None
gc.collect() #start the garbage collector
cam = dataIO("IDSuEye", camera_id = 0)

Variable deleted but referenced object is not closed

Problem: I delete a variable in Python but the value (e.g. a hardware instance - dataIO or actuator) is not closed.

Solution: At first, you should check if the variable you deleted is really the last variable that referenced to the underlying value. If you opened a hardware instance by the GUI you need to know that the GUI also holds a reference to the hardware. Therefore, the hardware must additionally be closed via a mouse click in the GUI. If the value is nevertheless not immediately destroyed, the last raised exception or the garbage collector of Python can be the reason.

class MyClass():
    def __init__(self):

    def __del__(self):
        print("MyClass destroyed")

m = MyClass()
raise RuntimeError(m)
del m

In this example, an instance of class MyClass is created (variable m). Afterwards, a runtime error is raised with m as single argument. Finally, m is deleted, but the destructor of MyClass is not called (no text MyClass destroyed is printed out). However, if you raise another runtime error:

raise RuntimeError()

the class is destroyed and the text appears. This is due to the fact, that the last exception that has been raised is still in memory and holds a reference to the passed argument, here, the instance m of class MyClass.


This behaviour changes in itom version > 1.4.0. Then, the last exception is not stored any more in the variables sys.last_type,

sys.last_value and sys.last_traceback.

Nevertheless, it might happen, that the object referenced by a variable (like a camera) is not immediately destroyed even if the last referencing variable is deleted. In Python objects are not directly deleted if they are not used any more, but they are only marked for deletion. Then, regularly, a garbage collector is executed that finally deletes all values marked for deletion. The reason is that deleting objects might be complicated and it is therefore better to execute this if the interpreter is idle or many objects have been marked. In order to directly force the garbage collector to delete marked objects, use:

import gc #import garbage collector
gc.collect() #start the garbage collector

Codec error

Problem: When executing a Python script, a syntax error with an error message similar to the following one appears:

File "C:\", line 10
SyntaxError: (unicode error) 'utf-8' codec can't decode byte oxe4 in position 0: unexpected end of data

Solution: You used any special character (even in comments) in your code. Per default and if not otherwise state, a document is always parsed using the ‘utf-8’ codec. This codec does not support special characters (like German ‘Umlaute’ or the greek letter µ). If you want to use such characters, you need to indicate the codec of your file, e.g. by adding:

# -- coding: iso-8859-15 --

at the first line of your script file (iso-8859-15 represents the Western Europe charset). For more information see