Today I Learned: that you can set a default for a missing Environment Variable and that an empty string is not the best default.

I’d been blissfully performing the following sort of passage when dealing with envvars:

if os.environ.get('FOO'):
    foo_setting = os.envrion['FOO']
    foo_setting = ''

This is pretty wrong-headed in a few ways, including the fact that some things expect a setting to be None instead to ensure they work correctly. In particular, we were using this sort of thing to set the profile name for boto3. If the profile name is None, it doesn’t try to connect, but if it’s the empty string '' it uses that for the profile name, which of course will never work.

So the proper construction is:

foo_setting = os.environ.get('FOO', None)

saving us from an extraneous retrieval and test for a value.

See more information here: dict.get() in the Standard Type documentation.

I should note that I only got there from finding this: Issue 28242 os.environ.get documentation missing - Python tracker via googling for “python3 os.environ get”, so it’s not exactly obvious to the newcomer, like me. And this after the lead on the team fixed my oh so broken code. Yay for code reviews!