Ever since my friend Adrian posted up a slide at PyCon telling us that in Django
Trunk == hot_action, I’ve been getting lots of e-mails from various folks telling me about the hot_action that I could get from various python packages. But today, the hot action isn’t the contents of the packages, so much as the packaging systems.
The distribute project didn’t last long, as it’s already been declared officially dead.
But I still think it’s interesting, and it’s definitely spawned a lot of good discussion on the distutils-sig.
When I talked to Tarek’s last week his motivation behind starting distribute was always to help move setuptools forward, and his hope was that anything that happened there would be folded back into setuptools proper as time went on.
There were lots of people at PyCon this year who were both vocal about what was wrong with easy_install and motivated to help improve it. Beyond that some of them were people who do packaging all the time, and some of them had some previous experience writing packaging systems in python.
On of the most interesting tidbits from that discussion is this suggestion from Tarek and Guido’s response:
> My own inclination is that a scalable future for distutils means an improved
> sdist format, the end of setup.py as an command-line interface, and
> community-maintained platform-specific installation tools that process
> source or binary distributions. Most complaints about distutils (and
> setuptools, for that matter) are focused on installation policy&preference
> issues. Making it possible and practical for a variety of tools to flourish
> around a standardized format (ala WSGI) seems like the way to go.
Given the success of WSGI (which I use every day) this sounds like a
very good plan!
And like Guido I’m pretty enthusiastic about extending and standardizing the format while allowing a variety of tools to grow up around that new standard.
But I’m a bit skeptical about focusing only on sdist, since I think we do need some kind of way to distribute binary packages to Windows and OS X users, and while eggs work pretty well there, I don’t what that stuff to be left behind.
Which brings me back to pyinstall for pure python packages I really like pyinstall, because it has all of the key features that I think that a python package system should have (repeatable installs, single file installs, etc), but it”s focus on only source-level distribution makes penetration in the windows market harder. And I guess the same could be said of OS X where getting a compiler can be require a 1gig download.
Where do we go from here?
It’s fair to say that easy_install is not perfect, but it is much better than nothing, and last week’s news had made me excited about the future of python packaging again. My thanks to Philip, Ian, Tarek, and all the other people who have put in effort to make this part of the python better, and hopes are with you.
If you are interested in getting involved, and helping to make all this stuff better, there’s also going to be a sprint this weekend.