Python on Fedora

Making the default Python configurable


From Fedora 23 to Fedora 27, Fedora has offered two community supported configurations for the /usr/bin/python symlink:

  • absent (giving the default “interpreter not found” error from the shebang handler)
  • installed and refers to /usr/bin/python2 (as part of the python2 package)

For Fedora 28, the aim will instead be to offer the following 3 options:

  • reports a custom error message explaining how to select either the Python 2 stack or the Python 3 stack via either the script shebang line or the system configuration
  • refers to /usr/bin/python2 (requires installation of the python2 package)
  • refers to /usr/bin/python3 (requires installation of the python3 package)

For immutable OSTree and container images, the selection between these alternatives will be made when choosing the module streams to include in the image.

For mutable modular systems, the selection between these alternatives will be made using the module system.

For mutable traditional systems, the selection between these alternatives be made using (TBD between plain old mutually conflicting RPMs and the alternatives system)

Key assumptions

  • User level activation of different Python versions will be handled through existing mechanisms (virtual environments, conda, pyenv, environment modules, Software Collections, etc)
  • As a result of F27 Modular Server development, we’ll have a python2 module that has at least a Python 2.7 stream, and probably a legacy 2.6 stream to enable RHEL/CentOS 6 integration testing (for folks that care about that)
  • As a result of F27 Modular Server development, we’ll have a python3 module that has streams for 3.4, 3.5, and 3.6
  • Unlike the /usr/bin/python link, we probably won’t offer free choice of what /usr/bin/python2 and /usr/bin/python3 mean, since those are defined as targets for system packages in the packaging policy
  • At a modularity tooling feature level, this suggests a couple of things:
    • whether or not streams are parallel installable will likely need to be a module level setting (the different python2 and python3 streams will be parallel installable on a single system, while the default-python streams will conflict with each other)
    • we will need a way for modules and/or packages to say “only install this file if this stream is the default stream for the current platform” (for example, /usr/bin/python3 should refer to /usr/bin/python3.5 on Fedora 25, but /usr/bin/python3.6 on Fedora 26)

Fedora 27 plans

For Fedora 27, it’s expected that /usr/bin/python and /usr/bin/python2 will be owned specifically by the 2.7 stream of the python2 module.

Similarly, it’s expected that /usr/bin/python3 will be owned specifically by the 3.6 stream of the python3 module.

These simplifications are possible because those allocations are consistent with the base platform in both F26 and F27, so there’s no need to support dynamically reconfiguring them (yet).

It isn’t clear yet how the parallel installability for the 2.6, 3.4, and 3.5 streams will be handled - the general assumption so far has been that module streams don’t support parallel installation, which doesn’t account for stacks which are deliberately designed to use version-dependent filesystem paths.

Default Python module

The key technical enabler for this proposal will be a new default-python module with three defined streams:

  • no-default
  • python2-default
  • python3-default

The no-default stream will depend solely on the Platform module, and define /usr/bin/python as a script that reports an error like the following:

/usr/bin/python is not configured on this system. Please specify either /usr/bin/python2 or /usr/bin/python3 as appropriate in the script header, or else reconfigure the system to use one of those by default.

The python2-default stream will depend on the platform’s default Python 2 stream, and define /usr/bin/python as a symlink to /usr/bin/python2.

The python3-default stream will depend on the platform’s default Python 3 stream, and define /usr/bin/python as a symlink to /usr/bin/python3.

Handling non-modular systems

For immutable OSTree and container images, and for mutable modular systems, the desired /usr/bin/python behaviour can be chosen by selecting the appropriate stream for the default-python module.

However, there still needs to be a suitable way of enabling this configurability for systems that are using a traditional “flat” RPM management approach.

Mutually conflicting RPMs

The simplest option to generate would likely be mutually conflicting RPMs, with default-python-no-default, default-python-python2-default, and default-python-python3-default all added to the flat repository.

Only one of these RPMs could be installed at a time. Switching the configured default would be a matter of uninstalling the current default (if any), and then installing the appropriate RPM for the desired target.

New default Python options (e.g. PyPy, PyPy3) would be added by defining appropriate update streams in the default-python module and regenerating the flattened traditional repo.

Alternatives system

Supporting the alternatives system instead of relying solely on mutually conflicting RPMs would require additional work when generating the traditional flat repo, but would likely provide a superior user experience in the mutable system case, since alternatives provides mechanisms for users to have multiple providers installed at the same time and switch between them, as well as being able to obtain a list of all currently installed candidate providers.

It should be possible to start out with the simpler mutually conflicting RPMs approach to handling the flattened repo case, and then explore possible integration with the alternatives system as a subsequent enhancement.