Distutils 2 - Summary of the GSOC

Man this has been an amazing summer. We had 5 students working on Distutils 2 and the work done was really great. Most important, I think we managed to find new contributors for the future.

Thanks to Josip, Alexis, Konrad, Eric and Zubin ! Also, thanks to their respective mentors: Michael, Fred, Titus and Lennart.

Let's have a very high-level summary of the tasks that were done. As a reminder, Distutils2 aims to provide two things: a toolbox for third party projects that want to provide packaging features, and a full-featured package installer/manager for Python.

What was done

Distutils2 has now an index package, containing tools to work with PyPI (or any PyPI-like server). This package contains classes to work with the Simple Index protocol as well as the XML-RPC APIs PyPI has. We think that the latter should be replaced by static REST calls, but that's another topic. If you want to build a tool that uses PyPI, that's the package you want to use. See this doc (temporary location) for more info.

Another thing we added is an installer script. This script is a very light script that uses the index package I've mentioned before, but also a dependency graph builder we now have. The graph builder allows you to analyze relations between installed projects, but also any project you want to install. See this doc. This installation script will be completed by an uninstallation feature very soon hopefully. You might wonder why we did this since there are existing scripts like Pip or easy_install. The reasons are quite simple:

1) we wanted to exercise all the modules Distutils2 provides to work with PyPI, metadata and installed projects in a high level script. The long-term goal is to have projects like Pip or Distribute use Distutils2-the-toolbox since they'll use the same standards in the future.

2) Distutils2-the-package-manager wants to provide a basic installer/uninstaller.

Oh by the way, the depgraph tool is PEP 376 compatible, as we have now a new version of pkgutil that supports PEP 376. See this doc. The next task will be to put this new version in Python 3.2, and that should happen fairly soon.

Speaking of which, we are not sure yet if we are going to include an plugin system like the entry points in Distutils2. Discussions on this has been controversial on Python-dev. In the meantime you can enjoy the extensions project, which is a quick hack to have entry points without depending on Setuptools or Distribute --and it's now Distutils2 and PEP 376 compatible--.

Distutils2 is almost Python 3 compatible. The student in charge is working hard to finish this task. See his repo. As usual, the last problems to be solved are about unicode, strings, bytes, you named it. But I expect to include this work in one of the alpha version of Distutils2 1.0.

Last but not least, we worked on the commands front of Distutils2:
- test was added -- a command to run the project tests, inspired from Setuptools - upload_docs was added -- a command to upload docs at packages.python.org. Originally created by Jannis Leidel and present in Distribute - check was added and improved -- a command that I created to check a project before releasing/uploading it. It checks its metadata, its description reST compliancy etc. - A command post/pre hook system -- similar to what RPM has so you can point code to be run before and after a Distutils command is run. Very powerful and useful -- but to be used with caution. You wouldn't want to add to the install process a code dependency you are not sure to have. But in the meantime, being able to run a code every time a project is installed on your system is sweet ;)

I am forgetting a million things, but I guess its not important, since all our students are blogging about it ;)

Thanks to Google, the GSOC is a great program. Distutils2 just got a really serious boost, we are very close to a good, useful release.

As a conclusion, to make things clear for the few people that still see all these efforts as reinventing the wheel since packaging has been kind-of-solved already elsewhere: Every extensible system, whether its an OS like Debian or Fedora, or a language like Python, will always provide its own custom packaging system, that is built on the top of the community experience and needs. The only thing that really matters is to have this work based on standards so inter-operability is manageable. That's the goal of some of the PEP we have written, like PEP 386 and PEP 345 and that will make OS packagers life easier in the future. An universal packaging system is an utopia.