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Intrinsic references for Zope/ZODB applications.

Project Description

Copyright (c) 2007-2017 gocept gmbh & co. kg and contributors.

All Rights Reserved.

This software is subject to the provisions of the Zope Public License, Version 2.1 (ZPL). A copy of the ZPL should accompany this distribution. THIS SOFTWARE IS PROVIDED “AS IS” AND ANY AND ALL EXPRESS OR IMPLIED WARRANTIES ARE DISCLAIMED, INCLUDING, BUT NOT LIMITED TO, THE IMPLIED WARRANTIES OF TITLE, MERCHANTABILITY, AGAINST INFRINGEMENT, AND FITNESS FOR A PARTICULAR PURPOSE.

Introduction

This package provides a reference implementation.

The specific properties of this implementation are:

  • intended to be used for intrinsic references
  • provides integrity enforcement
  • modelled partially after relational foreign keys

Motivation

When developing an application we often find the need to reference objects that are stored as application data. Examples of such objects include centrally managed ‘master data’.

The reference to those objects is typically intrinsic to the application we develop so they should behave like normal Python object references while being under the control of our application.

Within the world of Zope and ZODB there are different ways to achieve this. The various approaches have different semantics and side effects. Our goal is to unify the way of intrinsically referencing objects and to provide the ability to switch between different semantics as needed without rewriting application code and without the need to migrate persistent data structures (at least from the application’s point of view).

Model comparison

Our goal was to determine the advantages and disadvantages of the different existing approaches. We included three general approaches from the world of Python/Zope/ZODB as well as the standard relational approach to normalisation tables.

We used four criteria to describe each solution:

Reference data
What data is stored to describe the reference?
Reference semantics
What meaning does the reference have? How can its meaning change?
Integrity
What might happen to the application if data that is involved in the reference changes or is deleted?
Set/Lookup
What does the application developer have to do to set a reference or look up a referenced object?
Property Python references Weak references Key reference Relational DBs
Reference data OID OID application-specific key application-specific (primary key + table name)
Reference semantics Refers to a specific Python object Refers to a specific Python object Refers to an object which is associated with the saved key at the time of the lookup. Refers to an object (row) that is associated with the primary key at the time of the lookup.
Integrity The reference stays valid, however, the target object might have lost its meaning for the application. The reference might have become stale and leave the referencing object in an invalid state. The reference might have become stale. Dependening on the use of foreign keys and the databases implementation of constraints. Can usually be forced to stay valid.
Set/Lookup Normal Python attribute access. Use WeakRef wrapper to store and __call__ to lookup. Might use properties for convenience. Depends on the implementation. Might use properties for convenience. Explicitly store the primary key. Use JOIN to look up.

Observations

  • Relational: every object (row) has a canonical place that defines a primary key.

    The ZODB (like a filesystem) can have multiple hard links to an object. Objects are deleted when the last hard link to an object is removed. This makes it impossible to use hard links for referencing an object because object deletion will not be noticed and the objects will continue to live. The ZODB itself does not have a notion of a canonical place where an object is defined.

  • Relational: When referencing an object we can enforce integrity by declaring a foreign key. This is orthogonal to the data stored.

  • Relational: As an application-level key is used for identifying the target of a reference, the application can choose to delete a row and re-add a row with the same primary key later. If the integrity is enforced this requires support on the database level to temporarily ignore broken foreign keys.

  • Normal Python references embed themselves naturally in the application. Properties allow hiding the implementation of looking up and storing references.

Conclusions & Requirements for the reference implementation

  • Allow configuration of foreign key constraints (none, always, at the end of the transaction). This configuration must be changable at any time with an automatic migration path provided.
  • Use application level keys to refer to an object.
  • Use a canonical location and a primary key to store objects and to determine whether an object was deleted.
  • Distinguish between two use cases when modifying an object’s key:
    1. The application references the right object but has the wrong key (as the key itself might have meaning for the application). In this case the object must be updated to receive the new, correct key and the references must be updated to refer to this new key.
    2. The application references the wrong object with the right key. In this case the object referenced by the key must be replaced with a different object.

Implementation notes

  • Canonical location is determined by location/containment. The primary key for a reference is the referenced object’s location.
  • Constraints are enforced by monitoring containment events.
  • The different ways of updating/changing a key’s meaning are supported by an indirection that enumerates all keys and stores a reference id on the referencing object instead of the location. The two use cases for changing the meaning are implemented by:
    1. associating a new path with an existing reference id
    2. associating a new reference id with an existing path

Referencing objects

Simple references

For working with references you have to have a located site set:

>>> import zope.site.hooks
>>> root = getRootFolder()
>>> zope.site.hooks.setSite(root)

For demonstration purposes we define two classes, one for referenced objects, the other defining the reference. Classes using references have to implement IAttributeAnnotatable as references are stored as annotations:

>>> from zope.container.contained import Contained
>>> import gocept.reference
>>> import zope.interface
>>> from zope.annotation.interfaces import IAttributeAnnotatable
>>> class Address(Contained):
...     zope.interface.implements(IAttributeAnnotatable)
...     city = gocept.reference.Reference()
>>> class City(Contained):
...     pass

As instances of classes defined in a doctest cannot be persisted, we import implementations of the classes from a real Python module:

>>> from gocept.reference.testing import Address, City

The referenced objects must be stored in the ZODB and must be located:

>>> root['dessau'] = City()
>>> root['halle'] = City()
>>> root['jena'] = City()

In order to reference an object, the object only needs to be assigned to the attribute implemented as a reference descriptor:

>>> theuni = Address()
>>> theuni.city = root['dessau']
>>> theuni.city
<gocept.reference.testing.City object at 0x...>

It is also possible to assign None to let the reference point to no object:

>>> theuni.city = None
>>> print theuni.city
None

Values can be deleted, the descriptor raises an AttributeError then:

>>> del theuni.city
>>> theuni.city
Traceback (most recent call last):
AttributeError: city

Only contained objects can be assigned to a reference that has integrity ensurance enabled:

>>> theuni.city = 12
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: ...

Integrity-ensured references

>>> class Monument(Contained):
...      zope.interface.implements(IAttributeAnnotatable)
...      city = gocept.reference.Reference(ensure_integrity=True)
>>> from gocept.reference.testing import Monument

Located source

Referential integrity can be ensured if the source of the reference is located:

>>> root['fuchsturm'] = Monument()
>>> root['fuchsturm'].city = root['dessau']
>>> root['fuchsturm'].city is root['dessau']
True
>>> import transaction
>>> transaction.commit()
>>> del root['dessau']
Traceback (most recent call last):
IntegrityError: Can't delete or move
  <gocept.reference.testing.City object at 0x...>.
  The (sub-)object <gocept.reference.testing.City object at 0x...> is
  still being referenced.
>>> transaction.commit()
Traceback (most recent call last):
DoomedTransaction
>>> transaction.abort()
>>> 'dessau' in root
True

To check whether an object is referenced, it can be adapted to IReferenceTarget:

>>> from gocept.reference.interfaces import IReferenceTarget
>>> IReferenceTarget(root['dessau']).is_referenced()
True
>>> root['fuchsturm'].city = None
>>> IReferenceTarget(root['dessau']).is_referenced()
False
>>> del root['dessau']
>>> 'dessau' in root
False

XXX References will also be correctly cancelled when the attribute or the source is deleted.

>>> del root['fuchsturm']

Non-located source

If the source of a reference is not located, we can do anything we want with references, including breaking them:

>>> fuchsturm = Monument()
>>> fuchsturm.city =  root['jena']
>>> fuchsturm.city is root['jena']
True
>>> del fuchsturm.city
>>> fuchsturm.city
Traceback (most recent call last):
AttributeError: city
>>> fuchsturm.city = root['jena']
>>> fuchsturm.city is root['jena']
True
>>> del root['jena']
>>> fuchsturm.city
Traceback (most recent call last):
LookupError: Reference target u'/jena' no longer exists.

Changing the location state of the source

We cannot put an object with a broken reference back into containment since referential integrity is not given:

>>> transaction.commit()
>>> root['fuchsturm'] = fuchsturm
Traceback (most recent call last):
LookupError: Reference target u'/jena' no longer exists.

The transaction was doomed, let’s recover the last working state:

>>> transaction.commit()
Traceback (most recent call last):
DoomedTransaction
>>> transaction.abort()

We have to repair the fuchsturm object by hand as it was not part of the transaction:

>>> fuchsturm.__parent__ = fuchsturm.__name__ = None
>>> from gocept.reference.interfaces import IReferenceSource
>>> IReferenceSource(fuchsturm).verify_integrity()
False
>>> IReferenceTarget(root['halle']).is_referenced()
False
>>> fuchsturm.city = root['halle']
>>> IReferenceSource(fuchsturm).verify_integrity()
True
>>> IReferenceTarget(root['halle']).is_referenced()
False
>>> root['fuchsturm'] = fuchsturm
>>> IReferenceTarget(root['halle']).is_referenced()
True
>>> fuchsturm = root['fuchsturm']
>>> del root['fuchsturm']
>>> fuchsturm.city is root['halle']
True
>>> del root['halle']
>>> 'halle' in root
False

Hierarchical structures

Trying to delete objects that contain referenced objects with ensured integrity is also forbidden:

>>> import zope.container.sample
>>> root['folder'] = zope.container.sample.SampleContainer()
>>> root['folder']['frankfurt'] = City()
>>> messeturm = Monument()
>>> messeturm.city = root['folder']['frankfurt']
>>> root['messeturm'] = messeturm

Deleting the folder will fail now, because a subobject is being referenced. The reference target API (IReferenceTarget) allows us to inspect it beforehand:

>>> from gocept.reference.interfaces import IReferenceTarget
>>> folder_target = IReferenceTarget(root['folder'])
>>> folder_target.is_referenced()
True
>>> folder_target.is_referenced(recursive=False)
False
>>> del root['folder']
Traceback (most recent call last):
IntegrityError: Can't delete or move
  <zope.container.sample.SampleContainer object at 0x...>.
  The (sub-)object <gocept.reference.testing.City object at 0x...> is still
  being referenced.

Reference collections

To have an attribute of an object reference multiple other objects using a collection you can use a ReferenceCollection property.

A collection behaves like a set and manages references while objects are added or removed from the set:

>>> import zope.site.hooks
>>> root = getRootFolder()
>>> zope.site.hooks.setSite(root)

We need a class defining a ReferenceCollection. (Importing the class from the test module is necassary to persist instances of the class):

>>> from zope.container.contained import Contained
>>> import gocept.reference
>>> import zope.interface
>>> from zope.annotation.interfaces import IAttributeAnnotatable
>>> class City(Contained):
...     zope.interface.implements(IAttributeAnnotatable)
...     cultural_institutions = gocept.reference.ReferenceCollection(
...         ensure_integrity=True)
>>> from gocept.reference.testing import City

Initially, the collection isn’t set and accessing it causes an AttributeError:

>>> halle = City()
>>> halle.cultural_institutions
Traceback (most recent call last):
AttributeError: cultural_institutions

So we define some cultural institutions:

>>> class CulturalInstitution(Contained):
...     title = None
>>> from gocept.reference.testing import CulturalInstitution
>>> root['theatre'] = CulturalInstitution()
>>> root['cinema'] = CulturalInstitution()
>>> root['park'] = CulturalInstitution()
>>> import transaction
>>> transaction.commit()

Trying to set an individual value instead of a collection, raises a TypeError:

>>> halle.cultural_institutions = root['park']
Traceback (most recent call last):
TypeError: <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...> can't be assigned as a reference collection: only sets are allowed.

Managing whole sets

Assigning a set works:

>>> halle.cultural_institutions = set([root['park'], root['cinema']])
>>> len(halle.cultural_institutions)
2
>>> list(halle.cultural_institutions)
[<gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>,
 <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>]

As halle isn’t located yet, the integrity ensurance doesn’t notice referenced objects being deleted:

>>> del root['cinema']

The result is a broken reference:

>>> list(halle.cultural_institutions)
Traceback (most recent call last):
LookupError: Reference target u'/cinema' no longer exists.

Also, we can not locate halle right now, as long as the reference is broken:

>>> root['halle'] = halle
Traceback (most recent call last):
LookupError: Reference target u'/cinema' no longer exists.

The transaction was doomed, so we abort:

>>> transaction.abort()

Unfortunately, the abort doesn’t roll-back the attributes of Halle because it wasn’t part of the transaction yet (as it couldn’t be added to the database). We need to clean up manually, otherwise the next assignment won’t raise any events:

>>> halle.__name__ = None
>>> halle.__parent__ = None

The cinema is back now, and Halle is in an operational state again:

>>> list(halle.cultural_institutions)
[<gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>,
 <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>]

Now we can add it to the database:

>>> root['halle'] = halle

And deleting a referenced object will cause an error:

>>> del root['cinema']
Traceback (most recent call last):
IntegrityError: Can't delete or move <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>. The (sub-)object <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...> is still being referenced.

When we remove the referencing collection, the target can be deleted again:

>>> halle.cultural_institutions = None
>>> del root['cinema']

Managing individual items of sets

Note: We did not implement the set API 100%. We’ll add methods as we need them.

In addition to changing sets by assigning complete new sets, we can modify the sets with individual items just as the normal set API allows us to do.

We’ll start out with an empty set:

>>> root['jena'] = City()
>>> root['jena'].cultural_institutions = set()

Our reference engine turns this set into a different object which manages the references:

>>> ci = root['jena'].cultural_institutions
>>> ci
InstrumentedSet([])

We can add new references, by adding objects to this set and the referenced integrity is ensured:

>>> ci.add(root['park'])
>>> del root['park']
Traceback (most recent call last):
IntegrityError: Can't delete or move <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>. The (sub-)object <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...> is still being referenced.

Removing and discarding works:

>>> ci.remove(root['park'])
>>> del root['park']
>>> root['park'] = CulturalInstitution()
>>> ci.add(root['park'])
>>> del root['park']
Traceback (most recent call last):
IntegrityError: Can't delete or move <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>. The (sub-)object <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...> is still being referenced.
>>> ci.discard(root['park'])
>>> del root['park']
>>> ci.discard(root['halle'])

Clearing works:

>>> ci.add(root['theatre'])
>>> del root['theatre']
Traceback (most recent call last):
IntegrityError: Can't delete or move <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>. The (sub-)object <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...> is still being referenced.
>>> ci.clear()
>>> len(ci)
0
>>> del root['theatre']
>>> root['cinema'] = CulturalInstitution()
>>> root['cinema'].title = 'Cinema'
>>> ci.add(root['cinema'])
>>> del root['cinema']
Traceback (most recent call last):
IntegrityError: Can't delete or move <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>. The (sub-)object <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...> is still being referenced.
>>> ci.pop().title
'Cinema'
>>> del root['cinema']

Updating works:

>>> root['cinema'] = CulturalInstitution()
>>> root['theatre'] = CulturalInstitution()
>>> ci.update([root['cinema'], root['theatre']])
>>> len(ci)
2
>>> del root['cinema']
Traceback (most recent call last):
IntegrityError: Can't delete or move <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>. The (sub-)object <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...> is still being referenced.
>>> del root['theatre']
Traceback (most recent call last):
IntegrityError: Can't delete or move <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...>. The (sub-)object <gocept.reference.testing.CulturalInstitution object at 0x...> is still being referenced.

Verifying reference existence

It is not so easy to verify a class implements an attribute as a reference as their usage is transparent.

References

Let’s build an example interface and class using a reference:

>>> import zope.interface
>>> import gocept.reference
>>> import zope.annotation.interfaces
>>> class IAddress(zope.interface.Interface):
...     city = zope.interface.Attribute("City the address belonges to.")
>>> class Address(object):
...     zope.interface.implements(
...         zope.annotation.interfaces.IAttributeAnnotatable, IAddress)
...     city = gocept.reference.Reference()

verifyClass does not check for attributes:

>>> import zope.interface.verify
>>> zope.interface.verify.verifyClass(IAddress, Address)
True

verifyObject tells that the object does not completly fulfill the interface:

>>> zope.interface.verify.verifyObject(IAddress, Address())
Traceback (most recent call last):
BrokenImplementation: An object has failed to implement interface <InterfaceClass __builtin__.IAddress>
The city attribute was not provided.

Setting a value on the reference attribute does not help because after that it ist not possible to check if there is a reference as the reference is transparent. Even worse, a class which does not define the required attribute and an instance thereof with the attribute set, lets the test pass without defining the reference at all:

>>> class AddressWithoutReference(object):
...     zope.interface.implements(IAddress)
>>> address_without_ref = AddressWithoutReference()
>>> address_without_ref.city = None
>>> zope.interface.verify.verifyObject(IAddress, address_without_ref)
True

So we need a special verifyObject function which does a check on the class if there is a missing attribute:

>>> import gocept.reference.verify
>>> gocept.reference.verify.verifyObject(IAddress, Address())
True

This function is not fully fool proof because it also works with the instance which has the attribute set. The reason for this behavior is that the interface does not tell that the attribute must be implemented as a reference:

>>> gocept.reference.verify.verifyObject(IAddress, address_without_ref)
True

But if the attribute which does not exist on the instance does not have a reference descriptior on the class the gocept.reference’s verifyObject can detect this:

>>> class StrangeAddress(object):
...     zope.interface.implements(IAddress)
...     @property
...     def city(self):
...         raise AttributeError
>>> strange_address = StrangeAddress()
>>> gocept.reference.verify.verifyObject(IAddress, strange_address)
Traceback (most recent call last):
BrokenImplementation: An object has failed to implement interface <InterfaceClass __builtin__.IAddress>
The city attribute was not provided.

Like zope.interface.verify.verifyObject detects, too:

>>> zope.interface.verify.verifyObject(IAddress, strange_address)
Traceback (most recent call last):
BrokenImplementation: An object has failed to implement interface <InterfaceClass __builtin__.IAddress>
The city attribute was not provided.

Reference collections

Reference collections suffer the same problem when checked with zope.inferface.verify.verfyObject:

>>> class ICity(zope.interface.Interface):
...     cultural_institutions = zope.interface.Attribute(
...         "Cultural institutions the city has.")
>>> class City(object):
...     zope.interface.implements(
...         zope.annotation.interfaces.IAttributeAnnotatable, ICity)
...     cultural_institutions = gocept.reference.ReferenceCollection()
>>> zope.interface.verify.verifyObject(ICity, City())
Traceback (most recent call last):
BrokenImplementation: An object has failed to implement interface <InterfaceClass __builtin__.ICity>
The cultural_institutions attribute was not provided.

But the special variant in gocept.reference works for collections, too:

>>> gocept.reference.verify.verifyObject(ICity, City())
True

zope.schema field

To comply with zope.schema, gocept.reference has an own set field which has the internally used InstrumentedSet class as type.

For demonstration purposes we create an interface which uses both gocept.reference.field.Set and zope.schema.Set:

>>> import gocept.reference
>>> import gocept.reference.field
>>> import zope.annotation.interfaces
>>> import zope.interface
>>> import zope.schema
>>> import zope.schema.vocabulary
>>> dumb_vocab = zope.schema.vocabulary.SimpleVocabulary.fromItems(())
>>> class ICollector(zope.interface.Interface):
...     gr_items = gocept.reference.field.Set(
...         title=u'collected items using gocept.reference.field',
...         value_type=zope.schema.Choice(title=u'items', vocabulary=dumb_vocab)
...     )
...     zs_items = zope.schema.Set(
...         title=u'collected items using zope.schema',
...         value_type=zope.schema.Choice(title=u'items', vocabulary=dumb_vocab)
...     )
>>> class Collector(object):
...     zope.interface.implements(
...         ICollector, zope.annotation.interfaces.IAttributeAnnotatable)
...     gr_items = gocept.reference.ReferenceCollection()
...     zs_items = gocept.reference.ReferenceCollection()
>>> collector = Collector()
>>> collector.gr_items = set()
>>> collector.gr_items
InstrumentedSet([])
>>> collector.zs_items = set()
>>> collector.zs_items
InstrumentedSet([])

gocept.reference.field.Set validates both set and InstrumentedSet and correctly, but raises an exception if something else is validated:

>>> ICollector['gr_items'].bind(collector).validate(collector.gr_items) is None
True
>>> ICollector['gr_items'].bind(collector).validate(set([])) is None
True
>>> ICollector['gr_items'].bind(collector).validate([])
Traceback (most recent call last):
WrongType: ([], (<type 'set'>,
                 <class 'gocept.reference.collection.InstrumentedSet'>))

While zope.schema.Set fails at InstrumentedSet as expected:

>>> ICollector['zs_items'].bind(collector).validate(collector.zs_items)
Traceback (most recent call last):
WrongType: (InstrumentedSet([]), <type 'set'>, 'zs_items')
>>> ICollector['zs_items'].bind(collector).validate(set([])) is None
True
>>> ICollector['zs_items'].bind(collector).validate([])
Traceback (most recent call last):
WrongType: ([], <type 'set'>, 'zs_items')

Changes

0.9.4 (2017-05-15)

  • Version 0.9.3 did not include all files. Fixing this by adding a MANIFEST.in.

0.9.3 (2017-05-14)

  • Use pytest as test runner.

0.9.1 (2011-02-02)

  • Bug fixed: reference descriptors could not find out their attribute names when read from the class.
  • Bug fixed: the algorithm for digging up the attribute name of a reference descriptor on a class would not handle inherited references.

0.9.0 (2010-09-18)

  • Depending on zope.generations instead of zope.app.generations.

0.8.0 (2010-08-20)

  • Updated tests to work with zope.schema 3.6.
  • Removed unused parameter of InstrumentedSet.__init__.
  • Avoid sets module as it got deprecated in Python 2.6.

0.7.2 (2009-06-30)

  • Fixed generation added in previous version.

0.7.1 (2009-04-28)

  • Fixed reference counting for reference collections by keeping a usage counter for InstrumentedSets.
  • Added a tool that rebuilds all reference counts. Added a database generation that uses this tool to set up the new usage counts for InstrumentedSets.

0.7.0 (2009-04-06)

  • Require newer zope.app.generations version to get rid of dependency on zope.app.zopeappgenerations.

0.6.2 (2009-03-27)

  • Validation of gocept.reference.field.Set now allows both InstrumentedSet and set in field validation, as both variants occur.

0.6.1 (2009-03-27)

  • zope.app.form breaks encapsulation of the fields by using the _type attribute to convert form values to field values. Using InstrumentedSet as _type was a bad idea, as only the reference collection knows how to instantiate an InstrumentedSet. Now the trick is done on validation where the _type gets set to InstrumentedSet temporarily.

0.6 (2009-03-26)

  • Take advantage of the simpler zope package dependencies achieved at the Grok cave sprint in January 2009.
  • Added zope.schema field gocept.reference.field.Set which has the internally used InstrumentedSet as field type, so validation does not fail.
  • gocept.reference 0.5.2 had a consistency bug: Causing a TypeError by trying to assign a non-collection to a ReferenceCollection attribute would break integrity enforcement for that attribute while keeping its previously assigned value.

0.5.2 (2008-10-16)

  • Fixed: When upgrading gocept.reference to version 0.5.1, a duplication error was raised.

0.5.1 (2008-10-10)

  • Made sure that the reference manager is installed using zope.app.generations before other packages depending on gocept.reference.

0.5 (2008-09-11)

  • Added specialized variant of zope.interface.verify.verifyObject which can handle references and reference collections correctly.

0.4 (2008-09-08)

  • Moved InstrumentedSet to use BTree data structures for better performance.
  • Added update method to InstrumentedSet.
  • Updated documentation.

0.3 (2008-04-22)

  • Added a set implementation for referencing collections of objects.

0.2 (2007-12-21)

  • Extended the API for IReferenceTarget.is_referenced to allow specifying whether to query for references recursively or only on a specific object. By default the query is recursive.
  • Fixed bug in the event handler for enforcing ensured constraints: referenced objects could be deleted if they were deleted together with a parent location.

0.1 (2007-12-20)

Initial release.

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