Universal Python Build

Bob Ippolito and Ronald Oussoren have been working on a branch of Python 2.4 with the intention of creating a universal build of Python.

They have done that and more. A lot more. In the process, many other aspects of Python on Mac OS X have been fixed or optimized. Furthermore, the Python build now uses SDKs as a part of the build. This lays the framework for being able to do development on one version of the OS while targeting older versions with Python. Very nice.

This is one of the areas of the world of universal binaries that few people really understand.

Building a correct universal binary of most open source projects is exceedingly hard.

Simply passing CFLAGS=-arch i386 -arch ppc will generally not yield a correct binary. Worse, if the project uses autoconf, you can rest assured that the result of ./configure ; sudo make install will only yield a correct result for the architecture the build is created on. While autoconf can support cross-compilation, very few developers using autoconf will jump through the hoops necessary to do so.

And that is really what this boils down to. Cross compilation is hard to get right. Xcode makes building universal binaries easy because the entire high level Mac OS X development model and all of the predecessor technology has been focused on cross-compilation for well over a decade.

If you are planning on developing or maintaining a body of source targeted to Mac OS X that cannot use the Xcode native build system — and there are certainly many reasons to do so — I would highly recommend that you go have a close look at Ronald’s and Bob’s work.

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One Response to “Universal Python Build”

  1. Brian says:

    For what it’s worth (very little), I’d like to place my vote for Apple officially supporting PyObjC as a higher level interface to Cocoa.

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