Bottle’s Built-In Server

The launch command will simply use the WSGI server built into Bottle (built into the Python standard library, actually) to serve the routes defined by the webapp. This is a multithreaded server (see the The Multithreading Problem), which is primarily intended for debugging and light-duty use.

Static and Dynamic Routes

If you’re using the built-in server, one thing to be aware of is that by default, only dynamic content is served. That means, if you create pages that reference style sheet, image, or font files, all these resources will cause 404 errors when a user agent attempts to request them from the server, because no routes exist to serve such content.

If you specify the --static option to launch, then for every file that is not related to dynamic content being generated by TinCan, a route will be created to serve that file’s content. The HTTP Content-Type header for such routes will be set based on the file’s extension, using the Python mimetype library.


Bottle, and by implication TinCan, support WSGI, so any web server that supports WSGI can be used to serve a TinCan webapp. This is generally to be preferred for production use.

How exactly to do this is beyond the scope of this document, but here’s an example of serving a webapp using mod_wsgi under Apache. Note how rewrites are used to ensure that only dynamic content is served by TinCan, leaving static content to be served by Apache itself.

In the configuration file for the site in question:

WSGIScriptAlias /ti_webapp /home/davidb/webapp.wsgi
RewriteEngine on
RewriteRule ^/ti/(.*\.pspx)$ /ti_webapp/$1 [PT]
<LocationMatch "^/ti/WEB-INF/">
    Order deny,allow
    Deny from all
<LocationMatch "^/ti/.*\.(py|pyc|pt)$">
    Order deny,allow
    Deny from all
<Directory "/var/www/html/ti">
    DirectoryIndex index.html index.pspx
<Directory "/home/davidb">
    <Files "webapp.wsgi">
        Order deny,allow
        Allow from all
        Require all granted

The webapp.wsgi script:

#!/usr/bin/env python3

# C o n s t a n t s

# Set the following appropriately.
TINCAN_HOME = "/home/davidb/src/tincan"
WEBAPP_HOME = "/var/www/html/ti"
LOG_HOME = "/var/log/wsgi"
LOG_NAME = "webapp"

# I m p o r t s

# First, fix up the path
import os, sys
if sys.path[0] == "":
    sys.path[0] = TINCAN_HOME
    sys.path.insert(0, TINCAN_HOME)

# Then do the importing
import bottle
import logging
from logging.handlers import RotatingFileHandler
import tincan

# M a i n   P r o g r a m

# Set up logging
logger = logging.getLogger(LOG_NAME)
handler = RotatingFileHandler(os.path.join(LOG_HOME, LOG_NAME+".log"),
    maxBytes=1048576, backupCount=5)
    logging.Formatter(fmt="%(asctime)s - %(levelname)s: %(message)s"))

# And away we go
application, errors = tincan.launch(fsroot=WEBAPP_HOME, logger=logger,

Note the bit about setting up logging. The WSGI standard provides no standard means by which to log errors. It does mention that WSGI code is strictly forbidden to write to either the standard output or the standard error stream. What this all means is that unless you explicitly tell TinCan what to do with its error messages, it has no place to log them when running via WSGI. Thus, by default, TinCan is silent under WSGI. So you almost certainly will want to create a logger and pass it to tincan.launch as in the example above.

TinCan is not particularly chatty with its logging, preferring to only log what routes it creates when starting up and then only logging something when a truly exceptional condition happens. Logging of requests is left to the main server. Therefore, running with a logging level of INFO will not produce an undesirably large amount of output to the logs.

The Multithreading Problem

Due to fundamantal aspects of the language’s design and implementation, Python isn’t that great at running multithreaded code. The global interpreter lock (GIL) lets only a single thread execute Python bytecode at any given time. Thus, a busy multithreaded WSGI server is likely to spend much of its time unable to service new, incoming requests.

The simplest workaround is to avoid using threads with Python. This is what the default prefork execution model of mod_wsgi does, and it is recommended that you run mod_wsgi this way. If you do, you should set multithread=False when calling tincan.launch, as it will optimize memory use somewhat by maximizing the degree to which templates are shared.

That said, using threads could conceivably be useful for webapps that spend a large amount of their time doing I/O (e.g. database queries), as when a Python app is waiting on I/O, it is in the operating system kernel, and thus not actively executing Python bytecode, allowing another thread to hold the GIL.

The simple server created by the launch command runs in a single process and thus does always use multithreading.

So far as being thread safe goes, you don’t have to much worry about it. TinCan gives each request a completely separate copy of a page’s code-behind, request, and response objects. Although templates are shared to some degree, locking is used to ensure only a single thread has access to shared template objects at any one time. In short, multithreading might cause performance issues, but I have taken pains to ensure it should not cause code to execute incorrectly.


There’s basically two strategies for installing a webapp to a production server: the single-directory strategy, in which one runs a server against a single directory exactly like the one you created to develop the webapp, and the two-directory strategy, in which the static and dynamic parts of a webapp are separated into separate directory trees.

The Single-Directory Strategy

This is arguably the simplest, since it doesn’t involve breaking a webapp into two separate directory trees at install time. If you’re serving a webapp for test purposes or limited-duty internal usage with the launch command, this is the only strategy supported.

The rub comes in production use. It’s unwise to have a web server run with the permission to create files in the directory trees it serves. However, TinCan needs to do just that if it needs to compile a .py file into a .pyc file.

The solution is to run launch --compile each time you update the webapp, before serving it. This will cause all referenced Python code that needs it to be recompiled, generating fresh .pyc files. The production server will then see that the byte-compiled files are all newer than the source code they are based upon, and not attempt to compile anything.

The single-directory strategy is what I typically use myself, and what is used in the example Apache configuration in the WSGI section above.

The Two-Directory Strategy

This gets rid of the need to recompile things, at the expense of having to install the webapp into two separate directories. What you must do is:

  1. Create an empty directory for serving static content, and point your web server at it. This directory should readable but not writeable by the server.

  2. Create a directory for serving the dynamic content. This will be the directory that tincan.launch gets passed, and it must be both readable and writeable by the server.

  3. Place all the webapp’s files in the second directory, ensuring all subdirectories created are both readable and writeable by the server.

  4. Use the install-static command to copy or move the static content into the first directory.