animesh kumar

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Fun with Singleton (Python, Javascript, Java)

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They say that Singletons, like global variables, are evil. They hide dependencies; are harder to test and even harder to extend. Singletons are lies, and it’s best to keep away from them. But, there are scenarios where you need them. For example, when you want a shared resource like printer spooler or file manager or log manager, you want a single object to handle requests from all the various parts of your application.

In this blog, I am going to explore various ways to make Singletons in languages like Python, Java and Javascript so as to keep it simple, elegant and usable. Let’s talk about Python first. I love it, and it’s a really really wonderful language, and in here, there are n different ways to solve a problem. Singletons are no exception. The most natural way to do it is to create a decorator.

class Singleton(object):
	def __init__(self, klass):
		self.klass = klass   # class which is being decorated
		self.instance = None  # instance of that class
	def __call__(self, *args, **kwargs):
		if self.instance is None:
			# new instance is created and stored for future use
			self.instance = self.klass(*args, **kwargs)
		return self.instance

Now, let’s say you have a Resource class. To make it singleton, you just need to decorate it with ‘@Singleton‘, and you are done.

@Singleton
class Resource(object):
	def __init__(self, klass):
		self.name = None

Cool…eh? There are other – nerdy – ways too. Python uses an internal dictionary ‘__dict__’ variable to keep track of an Object’s properties and methods. So, if you can share ‘__dict__‘ across multiple instances of a Class, you can share the state between them. And isn’t that Singleton? Yes, that is. You might have many many instances, but all of them behave exactly the same.

class Singleton(object):
	_shared = {}
	def __init__(self):
		self.__dict__ = Singleton._shared
class Resource(Singleton):
	def __init__(self, klass):
		self.name = None

Since ‘self.__dict__‘ now refers to ‘_shared‘ dictionary, all instances of Resource would use the same dictionary and hence they will all have the same behavior. Geeky? Let me show you an even geekier way to do it.

In Python, when you instantiate a class, the interpreter calls ‘__new__‘ method – a class method which returns an instance of the class – and then ‘__init__‘ method – constructor of the class – is called which initializes the object. So, you can hack into ‘__new__‘ and return the single instance whenever it is being called.

class Singleton(object):
	_instance = None
	def __new__(cls, *args, **kwargs):
	# cls is the Class and the rest are constructor arguments
		if cls._instance is None:
			# create an instance and store it
			cls._instance = Object.__new__(cls, *args, **kwargs)
		return cls._instance
class Resource(Singleton):
	def __init__(self, klass):
		self.name = None

Aweomse! Isn’t it? There are other ways that deal with ‘__metaclass__‘ etc. but let’s save them for another day. Let’s use it now:

# get resource r1
r1 = Resource();
# get resource r2  (since Resource is singleton, r1 == r2)
r2 = Resource();
# to verify, let's set 'name' onto r1
r1.name = "Animesh Kumar"
print r1.name
# and the same 'name' appears in r2 as well!
print r2.name

Let’s now see how do we do this in Javascript. For the most simple form, just define an Object Literal, and you are done.

var resource = {
	getName : function() {
		return this.name;
	},
	setName: function(name){
		this.name = name;
	}
}

Easy. You have an object which you can now share across your application modules and it just works. For more complex scenarios, like private variables and all, you might have to resort to something like this:

// self-executable wrapper function
var Resource = (function(){
	// Resouce class which is to made 'singleton'
	function _Resource() {
    	var name; // private variable
    	this.getName = function() {	// getter
    		return this.name;
    	};
		this.setName= function(name){ // setter
			this.name = name;
		};
		// do more stuffs
    }
    // instance holder
    var instance = new _Resource();</p>
    // return an object with 'getInstance' method
    return = {
        getInstance: function(){
            return instance;
        }
   };
})();

_Resource (line-04) is your function of interest, and you want to make it singleton. So, you create another function ‘Resource‘ which wraps over _Resource and returns an object with method ‘getInstance‘ which would return the same instance of _Resource every time it will be called.

Let’s try to use it now:

// get resource r1
r1 = Resource.getInstance();
// get resource r2  (since Resource is singleton, r1 == r2)
r2 = Resource.getInstance();
// to verify, let's set 'name' onto r1
r1.setName("Animesh Kumar");
console.log(r1.getName());
// and the same 'name' appears in r2 as well!
console.log(r2.getName());

So it was easy. No? Great.

Now, Java. I know every one of you would already know it. I would write about it anyway, just for the sake of completeness. In Java, you create a private static instance of the class, and use that instance wherever necessary.

public class Resource {
	// static instance (Note: Resource instantiation is done here, not in getInstance)
	private static Resource instance = new Resource();
	// property
	private String name;
	// private constructor to disable 'new'
	private Resource() {
	}
	// public staic method to get an instance of this class
	public static Resource getInstance() {
		return instance;
	}
	// getter
	public String getName() {
		return name;
	}
	// setter
	public void setName(String name) {
		this.name = name;
	}
}

Now, let’s use it.

	public static void main(String[] args) {
		// get resource r1
		Resource r1 = Resource.getInstance();
		// get resource r2  (since Resource is singleton, r1 == r2)
		Resource r2 = Resource.getInstance();
		// to verify, let's set 'name' onto r1
		r1.setName("Animesh Kumar");
		System.out.println(r1.getName());
		// and the same 'name' appears in r2 as well!
		System.out.println(r2.getName());
	}

Loud and clear. And this also stops you from instantiating ‘Resource‘ with ‘new‘ operator. Try this:

	Resource r1 = new Resource();  // java.lang.Error: Unresolved compilation problem:

Your code will not compile. I know you know why. I will write anyways: because the constructor is private! So, there is no way to get an instance of Resource class but through ‘getInstance’ method which ensures single instance of the class. Also, If you noticed: I have instantiated ‘instance’ during declaration itself, not in ‘getInstance’ method. This way, the object gets created at the time of class loading, and you save yourself from a lot of issues that creeps in because of Java Just in Time.

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Written by Animesh

May 27, 2011 at 3:59 pm

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