Time for a Python distribution? take two.

Chris Barker chrishbarker at home.net
Fri Jul 6 22:05:49 CEST 2001

I posted yesterday with a proposal to put together a "comprehensive"
Python distribution. I got a number of replies, which a can break down
into a couple of categories:

1) Good idea, how can I help?

Not as many of these as I would have liked.

2) ActiveState is already doing that

Yes, it appears they are, but they have done an unusually bad job of
advertising it! When I recently upgraded to 2.1, I went to their web
page, got excited, then saw no mention of Numeric, or PIL, or mxTools,
or wxPython, so I went and installed these things myself. It turns out
that I could have installed all of these (except wx) with the pyppm
tool. Unfortunately, I still haven't found a list of available packages,
or any docs on how to find that list. Perhaps if I actually installed
ActiveState Python I could figure it out. In any case, They are on the
the right track, and I hope they get some better docs, and a larger list
of packages.

3) It would be much better to have an automated package installer,
complete with dependencies, etc., or a CPAN like thing, etc.

That would be great too, but as we all know, Pythonistas have more great
ideas than time to implement them.

After considering this, I still think it's a good idea to put together a
distribution. As I said, ActiveState is coming close (no Macintosh
anything there, however), but in the meantime, I think there is a real
benefit to the community to do this. Also, having it done by a
non-commercial entity would be a good thing as well.

I propose to start this out in a multi-tiered way, so that we can get
something useful soon, rather than trying to come up with a full
featured version right away:

Version 1)

A one-stop shopping web site. This would be a matter of putting copies
of the packages on the site that each individual package maintainer has
already put together. There would be no guarantee that everything would
be easy to install, or work together, but at least you could go to one
place to get it, and it would be organized according to peoples needs,
rather than by package: i.e. All the packages for Python 2.1 for Windows
would be in one place.

I think at this phase it would be helpful to also start a catalogue of
packages, sorted according to general usefulness, quality, cross
platform compatibility, etc. This way you could easily specify or get
"Basic Python" (the current standard lib), Comprehensive Python Level 1,
2 or 3 for Windows, etc. Perhaps it would be sorted according to usage:
Web development, Comutational programming, Database programming, etc. I
realize that there would be a lot of subjectivity to this, but if we
were to base it on demand, we could get a start.

Version 2)

Re-packaging all the above packages so that they all install the same
way, in the same place, etc. This would mean Windows installers for
Windows, rpms, debs and tarballs for Linux, whatever is most appropriate
for other platforms

Version 3)

Putting together each of the above proposed categories as single

Version 4)

Perhaps a way to select the packages you want on the web site, and then
have a custom installer built for you. (I'm not so sure about this one,
but it's ways out there anyway)

Now is the time for a call for volunteers. To do this we would need at
least one person to support each platform. I can do Linux (RedHat: when
we get to building packages, it would be nice to have at least a debian
person involved) we'll need a Windows person at least, and ideally OS/2,
Solaris, Macintosh, etc., as well. We also need people to build and
maintain a web site.

If you are interested in helping out, please send me a note, and I'll
start a little private mailing list. 

NOTE: I'm really looking to do something pretty simple here. When I
started using Python, I found the "Python on Linux" web page, and just
downloaded all the rpms. It was great! I was very disappointed that
there is no longer any such thing, so that's what I am going for here,
but hopefully supporting more platforms, and more packages (of course,
there are more to support now).

Continuing discussion is a good thing, but if I can get a few helpers,
I'm going to get this started, so please keep your "you shouldn't
bother" or " we need something completely different, like..." comments
to the newsgroup. Please feel free to mail me directly with suggestions
about the details, or offers for help. 


Christopher Barker,
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