Python in Linux - barrier to Python 3.x

Diez B. Roggisch deets at
Tue Sep 21 17:59:27 CEST 2010

David Cournapeau <cournape at> writes:

> On Tue, Sep 21, 2010 at 10:23 PM, Diez B. Roggisch <deets at> wrote:
>> Ant <antroy at> writes:
>>> Hi all,
>>> I've just seen this:
>>> Whatever you think of Zed Shaw (author of the Mongrel Ruby server and
>>> relatively recent Python convert), he has a very good point in this. I
>>> run Fedora 12 on my home computers, and find it far too much hassle to
>>> try to get Python 3 installed. Even the 2.x's are behind - IIRC think
>>> it currently uses 2.5.
>>> So I really think this is a barrier to entry to Python 3 that we could
>>> do without - it's the only reason I do all of my Python work in 2.x, I
>>> would jump at migrating to Python 3 if it was easily available on
>>> Fedora.
>>> Is there a solution to this that anyone knows of? Has Zed jumped to
>>> conclusions? Have I?
>> I think he has a very valid point. I've been arguing quite a few times
>> here that e.g. the stupid splitting up of python and python-dev packages
>> that a great deal of people trip over should go away.
> It is not stupid, it makes a lot of sense when you know the
> distributions in question. It means you have a consistent behavior
> independently of the language. So of course if you don't care about
> the rest of the ecosystem, you will think it is useless overhead.

The point is that the distro doesn't care about the python eco
system. Which is what I care about, and a lot of people who want to ship

Don't get me wrong: I'm a Linux user for way over a decade, I enjoy the
package management in providing a consistent distribution.

What I'm talking about here are 3rd-party
developers/companies/whatever, and people who want to install software
that requires recent versions of packages *not* provided by their
distros. I should have made that point clearer I guess.

> Also, I doubt that the issue is python vs python-dev - of course,
> given that the exact issues are not explained, we can only play guess
> games.

The problems explained are simply outdated and crippled python

And to me, a python version installed that has not the
distutils module is *crippled*. You can rationalize that as much as you
want through some package philosophy saying "we don't ship development
related files", but to me a simple installation instruction that says

"run 'python install'"

which fails because of such a (debatable) decision sucks. Yes, there are
corner-cases when you need GCC to compile an extension. But that's still
catering to the 80% or even more (I'm guessing here) of pure-python packages.

Of course, in a ideal world, distutils would hook into the distros
dependency system + simply say "please install python-dev first". 

But I'm not convinced that putting the weight here on the shoulders of
the python-communtiy to deal with arbirtray decisions of the dozen or
how many distros + packaging schemes out there is possible - and helpful.

>> But usually people here seem to think that other package management
>> systems are the way to go, and python itself must integrate with
>> them. E.g. providing dependency information compatible to them and their policies.
>> I think that's bonkers. You can't support every new kid on the block
>> claiming to be the shizzle in package management. Or the next distro
>> with it's own packaging policies. And of course the overall release
>> planning that says "we use that ancient stable version not supported for
>> years anymore, because it's true & tested for us".
>> IMHO the solution to this is the way Apple does it: they have a System
>> Python. Don't mess with it. Seriously. Don't.
> Apple's python have caused more issues than all distributions
> altogether for Numpy and scipy, at least as far as python itself is
> concerned. It is very confusing for many end-users.

Exactly. My point is that I can safely install a second version besides
it, and don't use the system's python that is there and kept stable for
the system's own belongings.

>> So, in summary, I think if anything, Python should liberate itself from
>> the reigns of distro package management, and fix whatever issues there
>> are with setuptools (or distutils or pip or distribute or whatever the
>> cool kids use these days). And then make people use that to work with
>> Python-packages, potentially even in individual, isolated VirtualEnvs
>> because of package version conflicts.
> This kind of thinking mostly shows a poor understanding of complex
> deployment scenario. If everybody worked like that, you would quickly
> be unable to build anything stable. True, conflicts are sometimes
> unavoidable, but if every library keeps changing your only solution is
> isolated environments, you quickly have a mess of a system where many
> combinations of libraries are not possible.

And now you are already in a mess of a system where many combinations of
libraries are not possible. And the thinking of "one version set to rule
them all" shows a poor understanding of the need for legacy code's
specific version requirements, as well as the need for fluctuating,
(sometimes cutting edge) libraries. 

Does that suck? Sure. But the answer can't be a system that ties you in
with *outdated* software for *years*. And it can't be Python's or it's
communities burden to provide the solutions for the mass of distro providers.

I *am* in the situation to need to deploy
a TurboGears2 application every day on a debian lenny machine. Guess
what that means:

root at web01 / 15:55:43 # aptitude install python-turbogears -Vs
Reading package lists... Done
Building dependency tree       
Reading state information... Done
Reading extended state information      
Initializing package states... Done
Reading task descriptions... Done  
The following NEW packages will be installed:
  python-cheetah{a} [2.0.1-2]  python-cherrypy{a} [2.3.0-1]  python-configobj{a} [4.5.2-1]  python-crypto{a} [2.0.1+dfsg1-2.3+lenny0]  python-decoratortools{a} [1.7-1]  
  python-dispatch{a} [0.5a.svn20080510-1]  python-dns{a} [2.3.3-2]  python-elementtree{a} [1.2.6-12]  python-elixir{a} [0.6.0-1]  python-flup{a} [1.0-1]  python-formencode{a} [1.0.1-1]  
  python-kid{a} [0.9.6-1]  python-mysqldb{a} [1.2.2-7]  python-nose{a} [0.10.3-1]  python-openid{a} [2.2.1-2]  python-openssl{a} [0.7-2]  python-paste{a} [1.7.1-1]  python-pastedeploy{a} [1.3.2-1]  
  python-pastescript{a} [1.6.3-1]  python-pkg-resources{a} [0.6c8-4]  python-protocols{a} [1.0a.svn20070625-2]  python-pysqlite2{a} [2.4.1-1]  python-scgi{a} [1.12-0.2]  
  python-setuptools{a} [0.6c8-4]  python-simplejson{a} [1.9.2-1]  python-sqlalchemy{a} [0.4.7p1-2]  python-sqlobject{a} [0.10.2-3]  python-turbogears []  python-turbojson{a} [1.1.2-1]  
  python-turbokid{a} [1.0.4-2]  python-webpy{a} [0.230-1]  
0 packages upgraded, 31 newly installed, 0 to remove and 0 not upgraded.
Need to get 4936kB/5188kB of archives. After unpacking 29.3MB will be used.

Turbogears 1.0.4? Thank you - can't use that.

> The fact is that if you need to assemble softwares from many sources,
> you need proper engineering. Isolated environments do not help you
> much with that. Maybe you should consider that distros have an
> experience that  you don't,

I don't deny them their experience. Do you deny the experience of other
people with *other* needs? As I already said: I don't propose to ditch
the package management. I'm all fine with a distro that carefully
selects it's packages and dependencies.

I'm proposing that it should be able to have "system_python" and
"current_python" or whatever you call it on one machine, and then let
them live as happy co-existing eco-systems.

This is not a well planned out thing. And it would certainly help to
have a central meta-information registry to know exactly *where* and
*which* version of all dependend libraries are installed. And thus make
it possible to say "ok, we upgrade all system copies of openssl, and
btw. you have these additional locations where you should do that as
well." Or something like this.

But the current state of affairs forces me to use customized versions of
python on my machines, with virtualenvs including specific versions of
libraries, bypassing the distro anyway. 

Why not try and make this more standardized & thus manageable?


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