Distutils 2 alpha 4 - work in progress

Time flies, and we did not hit the first beta of Distutils2 yet. It's quite clear now that we won't make it for Python 3.2. But that's not a big issue because people will be able to install Distutils2 from Python 2.4 to 3.x and use it until it gets back into Python standard library.

We are going to have a sprint next week-end and try to wrap up a new alpha.

It should contain:
- The work done by Eric on the configure command during the GSOC. The configure command let you create a config file that can be used by the build or the install command. This fixes one issue people have: the install command will not have to run the build command again, just to get the options that were used to build the project. - The work done by Alexis on the installation script. We are adding a 'pysetup' script people can use to drive installations, un-installations and running any command or feature Distutils2 has. One script to rule them all. - The work done by Zubin to make Distutils2 Python3-compatible.

Other stuff I've added

You can now configure the sub command list the install or the build command uses in distutils.cfg, or setup.cfg. -- Or any other subcommands in fact -- This means that people will be able to provide a new sub command that extends install or build, without having to override the hardcoded list of subcommands they contain. They will also be able to define the ordering of all subcommands.

The sdist command has a new option called manifest_builders, where you can provide hooks that will be called just after the sdist command has created the list of files to include in the distribution, and just before the manifest is written. In other words, you can use it to add or remove files through code.

Other stuff I am working on

The compilers in Distutils are still messy and did not get any attention yet. I'd like to clean them up, to make it easier to register a new compiler, and to add a tutorial on how to write a new compiler.

Compilers are something I am not very familiar with. Jeremy Kloth, who worked on 4Suite and on Distutils2 should be of a good help in this area. I wished we would get some help from other folks from the Python scientific community since they have specific compiling needs. But according to David Cournapeau, ["Several extremely talented people in the scipy community have indepedently attempted to improve this in the last decade or so, without any success"][] .. reading his whole blog I am quite surprised because part of the problems he described with Distutils are getting solved right now in Distutils2 --some of them during the GSOC after his criticisms on python-dev-- and other problems don't sound like unsolvable issues.

Oh well, I can understand that people got fed up with Distutils, it's a very long process to improve it. And it's a good thing that other people build other tools. The Python community can have as many build tool as it wants. The more tools the better. As long as we all share the same standards when it comes to publish things at PyPI or install projects in Python. Interoperability matters.

And that's where Distutils2 has an important role to play. Besides the command system it provides to build and package stuff, it also provides implementation of all the latest packaging standards we have built through PEPs. The one that will be used in the future at all levels in PyPI and Python. So if you plan on building yet another build tool, you should have a look at them.

Help us !

Distutils2 support can be added today in your project without interfering with the existing Distutils1/Setuptools/Distribute support. You can add in your project's setup.cfg new sections that are specific to Distutils2 and that will make your project Distutils2 compatible without any harm. This would be of a great help for us to get some feedback from real-world projects on Distutils2. If you are interested and want to help, let me know.

And, if you have any frustration with distutils, or feature request, we want to hear them. You can drop by #distutils on Freenode or drop a mail in our mailing list.

["Several extremely talented people in the scipy community have indepedently attempted to improve this in the last decade or so, without any success"]: http://cournape.wordpress.com/2010/10/13/271/

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