[Python-Dev] Status of C compilers for Python on Windows

Ray Donnelly mingw.android at gmail.com
Sun Oct 26 16:43:28 CET 2014

On Sun, Oct 26, 2014 at 2:28 PM, Ray Donnelly <mingw.android at gmail.com> wrote:
> On Sun, Oct 26, 2014 at 1:12 PM, Tony Kelman <kelman at berkeley.edu> wrote:
>> Thanks all for the responses. Clearly this is a subject about which
>> people feel strongly, so that's good at least. David Murray's guidance
>> in particular points to the most likely path to get improvements to
>> really happen.
>> Steve Dower:
>>> Building CPython for Windows is not something that needs solving.
>> Not in your opinion, but numerous packagers of MinGW-based native or
>> cross-compiled package sets would love to include Python. The fact
>> that they currently can't, without many patches, is a problem.
>>> The culture on Windows is to redistribute binaries, not source,
>> There are many cultures using Windows. Including open-source ones.
>>> and both the core team and a number of redistributors have this figured
>>> out (and it will only become easier with VC14 and Python 3.5).
>> With MSVC. It doesn't work with MinGW, it likely doesn't work with Clang.
>> MSVC is not the only compiler on Windows. There are many use cases for
>> preferring other compilers. Have you read this wiki page for example?
>> https://github.com/numpy/numpy/wiki/Numerical-software-on-Windows
>> In my personal experience, having recently gotten Julia to compile using
>> MSVC for the first time, MSVC as a compiler is highly deficient for many
>> needs especially in the scientific software community:
>> - C99 (getting better recently, but still not done)
>> - AT&T syntax assembly
>> - C++11 features (also mostly okay now, but not if you're using an older
>>   MSVC version with Python 2.7, which many people still have to do)
>> - 128-bit integer intrinsics
>> - cannot cross-compile from anything that isn't Windows
>> - build systems foreign relative to shell/makefile systems used by most
>>   open-source projects, few projects have time to maintain 2 separate build
>>   systems (cmake helps but takes a lot of initial effort to convert to)
>> - no free-as-in-beer Fortran compiler available
>> I have none of these problems when I use MinGW-w64. Hence the desire to
>> be able to curate an all-MinGW software stack. It's not a matter of open-
>> source ideology for me, it's brass tacks "can I do the work I need to do."
>> With MSVC I can't, with MinGW-w64 I can. Not being able to include CPython
>> in an all-MinGW stack hurts, a lot.
>> Only cross-compilation and the build system in the above list are relevant
>> to CPython, but I hope I have convinced you, Paul Moore, etc. that there are
>> real reasons for some groups of users and developers to prefer MinGW-w64
>> over MSVC.
>>> I'd rather see this effort thrown behind compiling extensions,
>>> including cross compilation.
>> There are patches awaiting review that improve this as well. Efforts to
>> improve CPython's build system and the handling of extensions are not
>> completely independent, in many cases the patches are written by the same
>> set of MinGW users. One of these sets of patches is not inherently evil,
>> you understandably have less interest in them but it's still disappointing
>> to see so little movement on either.
>>> Having different builds of CPython out there will only fragment the
>>> community and hurt extension authors far more than it may seem to help.
>> The community of people developing and using open-source projects, either
>> CPython or otherwise, is already highly fragmented. Ignoring it makes it
>> worse. python.org does not have to distribute or endorse MinGW-compiled
>> builds of CPython. If the build option never gets incorporated, then it
>> will continue to be reverse-engineered.
>> Guido van Rossum:
>>> Here's the crux of the matter. We want compiled extension modules
>>> distributed via PyPI to work with the binaries distributed from
>>> python.org.
>> Absolutely. I don't think additional options in the build system would
>> change this.
>> R. David Murray:
>>> And, at this point, we would NEED A BUILDBOT.  That is, a machine that
>>> has whatever tools are required installed such that tests added to the
>>> test suite to test MinGW support in distutils would run, so we can be
>>> sure we don't break anything when making other changes.
>> That's not too hard. I've done this for other projects. AppVeyor works if
>> your build is short enough, and I've done cross-compilation from Travis
>> CI for other projects. Or Jenkins, or a Vagrant VM. I don't know PSF's
>> infrastructure, but I can offer guidance if it would help.
>> Steve Dower:
>>> I'm afraid of users having numpy crash because they're using an MSVC
>>> CPython instead of a mingw CPython. I'm afraid of users not being able
>>> to use library A and library B at the same time because A requires MSVC
>>> CPython and B requires mingw CPython. (I can produce more examples if you
>>> like, but the general concern is having a fragmented community, as I said
>>> in my previous post.)
>> A valid fear. Mixing C runtimes can cause problems, I've seen this myself.
>> Correct me if I'm wrong, but this is nearly as much of an issue if someone
>> wants to use a different version of MSVC to compile CPython than the version
>> used to build the official binaries. It requires care, but you can't deny
>> that there are use cases where people will want and need to do such things.
>> Is possible fragmentation a good enough reason to resist making it possible
>> in the build system?
>>> though I suspect most would like to see some traction achieved on a fork
>>> first
>> Those of us who consider this important should probably just do this. Ray,
>> Roumen, the maintainer of the Arch MinGW packages, myself and others could
>> look into making an actual fork on Github or Bitbucket where we merge the
>> various patches and come up with an out-of-the-box MinGW-[cross-]compilable
>> version of CPython. I'll happily write the spec files to get this building
>> from Fedora or openSUSE. That would help us test the feasibility from a
>> centralized repository. Ray, what do you think? Do you know xantares' email
>> address to ask if he'd be interested in helping or using the result?
> I like this idea. To reduce the workload, we should probably pick
> Python3 (at least initially)?
> I have collaborated with xantares on the ArchLinux AUR
> mingw-w64-python2 package (whom I've bcc'ed). In fact, as of now, our
> patches are exactly the same except ArchLinux is missing one new
> patch. Looking at
> https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/mingw-w64-python2/ it seems
> xantares handed over maintainer-ship to Dr Shadow. I've left a comment
> asking for the new maintainer to email me.
> If we pick Python3 instead of 2 then bringing up an ArchLinux AUR
> package for that would be my next course of action. Cross-compilation
> of mingw-w64-python3 will no doubt need some fixes as I've not done it
> for a while.

It seems that Dr Shadow has already done this:
https://aur.archlinux.org/packages/mingw-w64-python/ and, happily, the
used patches are the exact same ones as used on MSYS2.

> Ideally, we'd hook this repository up to as complete a CI system as
> possible and introduce each patch one at a time so that any and every
> breakage or regression on the currently supported systems gets fixed
> immediately. Also having reviews from some core Python developers (if
> we can get motivated supporters from that group) would be immensely
> helpful. My fear is that without such core involvement, the attempt to
> upstream the final patch-set would be overwhelming.
>> Zachary Ware:
>>> I'm failing to see where that's simpler :)
>> If it were hypothetically merged instead of out in an external fork, it
>> could be ./configure --host=x86_64-w64-mingw32 && make to cross-compile
>> from Linux or Cygwin, or just ./configure && make after installing MSYS2
>> (which is just about as easy as installing MSVC) on Windows.
>> Paul Moore:
>>> If it were possible to cross-compile compatible extensions on Linux,
>>> projects developed on Linux could supply Windows binaries much more
>>> easily, which would be a huge benefit to the whole Windows Python
>>> community.
>> I want to do exactly this in an automated repeatable way, preferably on
>> a build service. This seems harder to do when CPython cannot itself be
>> built and handled as a dependency by that same automated, repeatable
>> build service. Unless it becomes possible to cross-compile extensions
>> using the build machine's own version of Python, which might be the right
>> approach.
>>> acutely aware of the common pain points for Python users on Windows.
>>> And they are all about binary extensions, and none at all about
>>> building Python itself.
>> I've done a lot of recent work keeping Julia working well on Windows, and
>> the interoperability we have with Python packages has propagated most of
>> these pain points to us as well. We have to rely on Conda in order to have
>> a reliable way of installing, as an example, IPython with the notebook
>> interface, in order for IJulia to work. This is not an ideal solution as it
>> requires a great deal of user intervention and manual steps to get up and
>> running (and it would be far worse without Conda). We are, so far, built
>> around MinGW-w64 on Windows, for the reasons I listed above. Having cross-
>> compiled builds of CPython and binary extensions available from the same
>> build services we already use to install other binary packages (Gtk, Cairo,
>> Tk, Nettle, HDF5, etc) on Windows would be enormously helpful for us.
>> There's a real use case. Its size and importance can be debated. For now
>> I'll take David Murray's post to heart and see where I have time or ability
>> to help things along.
>> Sincerely,
>> Tony

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