[Distutils] Some negative press for easy_install

Phillip J. Eby pje at telecommunity.com
Thu Feb 9 18:04:06 CET 2006

At 07:59 AM 2/9/2006 +0000, Michael Twomey wrote:
>Joe Gregorio has a fairly negative experience with easy_install here:
>I think his points boil roughly down to these:
>1. (not directly related to his first comment, but I think this might
>be a source of problems) easy_install isn't always called
>easy_install. In my case I've wound up with easy_install.py on some
>systems at some point in the past. Would a possible solution be to
>allow "python -m easy_install"? Then again I think it's pretty
>consistent these days.

It has been consistent throughout 0.6, and I think it was even at some 
point in 0.5.  There is still an "easy_install" module whose sole purpose 
is to tell you that "python -m easy_install" doesn't work any more, and 
that will go away in 0.7.

>2. No --prefix option. I think this is a case of RTFM, since it's not
>normally as simple as specifying a prefix. Maybe a help message which
>explains why --prefix isn't supported might be useful?

After thinking this over, I've decided that by 0.6b1 (yes, I'm going beta) 
easy_install should be able to detect that it's self-installing and should 
verify that your system is adequately prepared for installation, and if 
not, display helpful hints about what's wrong and links to the docs.  That 
should fix the RTFM issue here, and bypass the concern about whether 
package authors are informing people about TFM.  :)

In the interim, I think I should probably create a user-targeted quickstart 
page, along the lines of "If you've never used EasyInstall, here's what you 
should know", and ask package authors to link to it.

>3. In the error message he gets it shows bog standard distutils help,
>so he tries --help-commands and gets an error. I think this is a
>definite source of frustration.

Yeah, I've been putting off fixing that because customizing that message is 
basically impossible without copying a crapload of code.  But it's 
definitely a requirement for 0.6b1.

>4. He tries the --install-dir option which installs the package but of
>course this leads to a multi-install so he can't do a plain import
>foo. It might be good to link to
>for an explanation here.

Yeah, and a shorter URL would help, too.  :)  But mainly, checking the 
configuration on an initial install to make sure the system's configured to 
begin with would be helpful.   Maybe eventually an interactive 
configuration mode that edits your config files for you would be even better.

>5. At this point he gives up and copies the source from svn.
>I think in all the above there is an element of RTFM but he does have
>a legitimate point when it comes to the command line help, based off
>that alone you aren't likely to figure out the best way to use
>easy_install if you are doing a non-system python install. I think a
>link to http://peak.telecommunity.com/DevCenter/EasyInstall in the
>help would work wonders.

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