A Distutils Regression Test System ?

I am making some progress in Distutils. I closed something like 10 bugs last week, and I am reaching issues that were added 8 months ago. Not that everything is entirely cleaned up in the newest issues, but they're almost all being processed. Every commit comes with at least a test, to get the code base back into a state were it is easier to make things evolve without the risk of breaking it up.

It comes through tiny little changes, with tests and an eye on the coverage.

Now I am facing an unpleasant situation : since the test coverage is still low, I am always scared of breaking something in Distutils when I am fixing a bug or making a change.Buildbots are watching, and I run some of my own packaging work with the current trunk.

But still, this is an unpleasant situation, and I don't want to cause the package to be broken in the next Python version...

But the regression tests exists ! They are there, hidden, in the community. It's everyone package.
1. Joe adds an issue in the Python bug tracker, because Distutils didn't work as expected on his package because of a bug 2. At some point the bug is (was) fixed. 3. The test to make sure the bug is fixed is "Joe is running Distutils over his package again, and makes sure it is properly installed, compiled, etc". 4. The bug is closed.

So how can I get back this test to make sure Joe's package is still working properly, so he doesn't hate us at the next major Python release ?

A Distutils Regression Test Server

If Joe's package is on PyPI, we can set something up. A dedicated server that watches the PyPI changelog and triggers a buildbot when:
- a new release of Joe's Package comes out - we change something in Distutils code

The precise test to be run is still unclear to me but, I am thinking about some generic strategies and I think it's possible. Let's call this test a distutils regression test. (If you have a better name, I'll buy it)

Of course it doesn't have to be on all the packages that are uploaded out there at PyPI. Just Joe's one, because he came up with a problem we fixed. And we would be ashamed if the bug comes back on Joe's package.

This requires of course a server, and probably a vmware-like system if Joe runs Windows or Solaris, to make buildbot slaves etc. It also requires that Joe uses the right metadata in his package so we know if it works under Python 2, Python 3, etc. MvL added enough classifiers lately for this.

A Distributed Distutils Regression Test

But some package are not on PyPI, for privacy or conveniency in the packaging process of the person in charge. So, what if the distutils regression test is provided in a Distutils command ? It can run the same test the server runs, and come up with a report that is sendable or sent by mail to a special mailing list or so.

This supposes that the developer is cooperative. So maybe it can even be automatically triggered in case of any failure on any Distutils command, and ask the user if he would like to send a report ?

The good thing here is that it doesn't require CPU power on the test server, and that anyone can run that test.

So what ?

Well I am just throwing an idea here, because I am really concerned about the potential regression problems. Even if Distutils is 100% covered with tests, it's not possible to test all combinations. The real world environment is the only test that can be trusted at the end in the packaging area.

I'll throw this idea at the Language Summit in March, and if it catches people interest, maybe a Google Summer of Code task could be done for that topic ? Can't implement it myself, I am overwhelmed already in Distutils maintenance :D

Just out of curiosity, how do *you* test your packages to make sure they get installed correctly ?