A system administrators guide to installing and maintaining multiple python environments

Some operating systems depend on a specific version of python to function properly. For example, Yum on Redhat Enterprise Linux 5 (RHEL5) depends on python 2.4.3. This version of python lacks support from many utilities and 3rd party libraries. This guide will cover installing an alternative python instance while leaving the system’s python alone.

This guide supports the following operating systems: Redhat, CentOS, and Fedora. As of this publication the latest Python version was 2.7.2; You might want to determine if a newer version exists.

  1. Gather the dependencies:
  2.   yum install gcc zlib-devel python-setuptools readline-devel
    gcc is a compiler used to build python
    zlib-devel allows the python zlib module to be built
    python-setuptools provides the easy_install application
    readline-devel arrows readline and history handling in python shell

  3. Download and untar the python sourcecode:
  4.   wget http://www.python.org/ftp/python/2.7.2/Python-2.7.2.tgz
      tar -xzvf Python-2.7.2.tgz
      cd Python-2.7.2
  5. Compile the sourcecode:
  6.   ./configure
      make altinstall
  7. Test new alternative python:
  8. python2.7
  9. Now we can install third party libraries into our alternative python.
  10. python2.7 -m easy_install 


Optionally we can create a virtualenv (for development) based on the python 2.7 install. Virtual environments appear useful for testing packages and libraries without installing them to the system owned python site-packages directory.

  1. Install virtualenv using easy_install:
  2. easy_install virtualenv
  3. Create a new virtual python environment named virtpy:
  4. virtualenv --no-site-packages -p /usr/local/bin/python2.7 virtpy

    This will create a virtual python 2.7.2 environment named virtpy in your present working directory.

    To invoke this environment run source virtpy/bin/activate and your prompt should change to reflect the active virtualenv.

    Now you can run easy_install to install packages into virtpy/lib/python2.7/site-packages.

Thanks for reading, that’s all for now.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *