When working with mod_python, it is important to be aware of a feature of Python that is normally not used when using the language for writing scripts to be run from command line. This feature is not available from within Python itself and can only be accessed through the C language API.
Python C API provides the ability to create subinterpreters. A more detailed description of a subinterpreter is given in the documentation for the Py_NewInterpreter() function. For this discussion, it will suffice to say that each subinterpreter has its own separate namespace, not accessible from other subinterpreters. Subinterpreters are very useful to make sure that separate programs running under the same Apache server do not interfere with one another.
At server start-up or mod_python initialization time, mod_python
initializes an interpreter called main interpreter. The main
interpreter contains a dictionary of subinterpreters. Initially, this
dictionary is empty. With every request, as needed, subinterpreters
are created, and references to them are stored in this dictionary. The
dictionary is keyed on a string, also known as interpreter
name. This name can be any string. The main interpreter is named
"main_interpreter". The way all other interpreters are named can
be controlled by
PythonInterp* directives. Default behaviour is
to name interpreters using the Apache virtual server name
ServerName directive). This means that all scripts in the same
virtual server execute in the same subinterpreter, but scripts in
different virtual servers execute in different subinterpreters with
completely separate namespaces.
directives alter the naming convention to use the absolute path of the
directory being accessed, or the directory in which the
Python*Handler was encountered, respectively.
PythonInterpreter can be used to
force the interpreter name to a specific string overriding any naming
Once created, a subinterpreter will be reused for subsequent requests. It is never destroyed and exists until the Apache process dies.
You can find out the name of the interpreter under which you're running by peeking at req.interpreter.
Note that if any third party module is being used which has a C code component that uses the simplified API for access to the Global Interpreter Lock (GIL) for Python extension modules, then the interpreter name must be forcibly set to be "main_interpreter". This is necessary as such a module will only work correctly if run within the context of the first Python interpreter created by the process. If not forced to run under the "main_interpreter", a range of Python errors can arise, each typically referring to code being run in restricted mode.