Wandering Thoughts archives


What is our Python 2 endgame going to be?

Every so often I think about the issue of what our eventual Python 2 endgame is going to be at work. We're going to reach some sort of endgame situation sooner or later; for example, Ubuntu has already removed support for /usr/bin/python being Python 2, although you can still do it by hand. Someday they (and other people) may mandate that /usr/bin/python is Python 3, or remove Python 2 packages entirely, or both. What are we going to do when things reach that state?

There are two sides of this; what we're going to do about our own scripts that are still using Python 2, and what will happen with our users and their scripts. For our own scripts, they could could be rewritten to Python 3 or changed to use a different Python interpreter path in their #! line, including PyPy. Since we're in control of them and the timing of any use of an operating system without Python 2, we're at least not going to be blindsided. My tentative guess at our endgame for our own scripts is that we'd probably use PyPy, although we might opt to move them to Python 3 instead.

(There's very little chance that our remaining Python 2 scripts will all conveniently be obsolete by the time CPython 2 is disappearing from Ubuntu and other operating systems. Making them obsolete would probably take a completely rebuilt from scratch new infrastructure.)

For our users, there is both good news and bad news. The good news is that as a university department, we have a certain natural degree of turnover in user population; when someone graduates and leaves, they mostly stop caring about their Python 2 scripts they had here (or moves on to a different postdoc position, or any number of other things). The bad news is that we seem to have a reasonably significant current use of '/usr/bin/python' and we haven't even looked for people who are running '/usr/bin/python2' or some other alias. Some of that usage is probably automated (in cron jobs and the like), and some of it is probably from people who will be around for years to come. In addition, not all usage of Python 2 will be in regularly run scripts (that we can catch through mechanisms like Linux's auditing framework); some of it is probably in scripts that are only run once in a while.

Unless we get lucky and things are deferred for a significant amount of time, changing /usr/bin/python (to remove it or to be Python 3) or removing Python 2 seems likely to catch a number of our users out. We probably can't find all of them in advance, or get all of them to change things even if we do find them and notify them. Some number of them will probably have long-standing scripts blow up. To reduce problems here we should probably start moving now to discourage use of Python 2 (and identify people using it).

If it's possible, the least disruptive endgame would be to continue having /usr/bin/python and CPython 2 (in the usual places), even if we provide it ourselves. However, keeping the '/usr/bin/python' name working may hamper efforts to herd people away from Python 2; at some point in the endgame, we may want to remove it or let it become Python 3. While we can use PyPy 2 for our own scripts, it's not a drop in replacement for CPython and some programs definitely fail with PyPy when they'd work with CPython.

(Also, I'm not absolutely sure that PyPy will still have a Python 2 version in, say, ten years. Yes I am considering that far into the future.)

A more disruptive endgame would be Ubuntu insisting that /usr/bin/python be Python 3 and no longer supplying Python 2 at all. If we have relatively few people using an explicit '/usr/bin/python2', we might drop our official support for CPython 2 entirely. Hopefully Ubuntu would still supply a PyPy 2, so people would have some option other than migrating their scripts to Python 3.

A third endgame would be the 'excise the remnants' option. When Ubuntu drops Python 2 entirely, we would as well regardless of the remaining use; we wouldn't hand build CPython 2 ourselves or anything. We would handle our own scripts in some way, and other people would be left on their own, with at best us installing the Ubuntu version of PyPy 2 if one existed. This endgame is the most disruptive to people but in some way the most coherent and least work for us in the long run.

PS: Fedora forced /usr/bin/python to be Python 3 a while back, and honestly it's been a good thing overall for me. I had to change some scripts in a hurry, but after that it's nice that running 'python' gets me the version I want and so on. And it's a good way to push me to use Python 3 instead of Python 2.

ConsideringOurPython2Endgame written at 22:36:56; Add Comment

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