The Wonderful Wizard of O'zip

Published: 06/22/2020

Never give up… No one knows what's going to happen next.


Greetings and best wishes! I had a lot of fun during the last week, although admittedly nothing was really finished. In summary, these are the works I carried out in the last seven days:

The multiprocessing[.dummy] wrapper

Yes, you read it right, this is the same section as last fortnight's blog. My mentor Pradyun Gedam gave me a green light to have GH-8411 merged without support for Python 2 and the non-lazy map variant, which turns out to be troublesome for multithreading.

The tests still needs to pass of course and the flaky tests (see failing tests over Azure Pipeline in the past) really gave me a panic attack earlier today. We probably need to mark them as xfail or investigate why they are undeterministic specifically on Azure, but the real reason I was all caught up and confused was that the unit tests I added mess with the cached imports and as pip's tests are run in parallel, who knows what it might affect. I was so relieved to not discover any new set of tests made flaky by ones I'm trying to add!

The file-like object mapping ZIP over HTTP

This is where the fun starts. Before we dive in, let's recall some background information on this. As discovered by Danny McClanahan in GH-7819, it is possible to only download a potion of a wheel and it's still valid for pip to get the distribution's metadata. In the same thread, Daniel Holth suggested that one may use HTTP range requests to specifically ask for the tail of the wheel, where the ZIP's central directory record as well as where usually dist-info (the directory containing METADATA) can be found.

Well, usually. While PEP 427 does indeed recommend

Archivers are encouraged to place the .dist-info files physically at the end of the archive. This enables some potentially interesting ZIP tricks including the ability to amend the metadata without rewriting the entire archive.

one of the mentioned tricks is adding shared libraries to wheels of extension modules (using e.g. auditwheel or delocate). Thus for non-pure Python wheels, it is unlikely that the metadata lie in the last few megabytes. Ignoring source distributions is bad enough, we can't afford making an optimization that doesn't work for extension modules, which are still an integral part of the Python ecosystem )-:

But hey, the ZIP's directory record is warrantied to be at the end of the file! Couldn't we do something about that? The short answer is yes. The long answer is, well, yessssssss! That, plus magic provided by most operating systems, this is what we figured out:

  1. We can download a realatively small chunk at the end of the wheel until it is recognizable as a valid ZIP file.
  2. In order for the end of the archive to actually appear as the end to zipfile, we feed to it an object with seek and read defined. As navigating to the rear of the file is performed by calling seek with relative offset and whence=SEEK_END (see man 3 fseek for more details), we are completely able to make the wheels in the cloud to behave as if it were available locally.
  3. A wheels in the cloud
  4. For large wheels, it is better to store them in hard disks instead of memory. For smaller ones, it is also preferable to store it as a file to avoid (error-prony and often not really efficient) manual tracking and joining of downloaded segments. We only use a small potion of the wheel, however just in case one is wonderring, we have very little control over when tempfile.SpooledTemporaryFile rolls over, so the memory-disk hybrid is not exactly working as expected.
  5. With all these in mind, all we have to do is to define an intermediate object check for local availability and download if needed on calls to read, to lazily provide the data over HTTP and reduce execution time.

The only theoretical challenge left is to keep track of downloaded intervals, which I finally figured out after a few trials and errors. The code was submitted as a pull request to pip at GH-8467. A more modern (read: Python 3-only) variant was packaged and uploaded to PyPI under the name of lazip. I am unaware of any use case for it outside of pip, but it's certainly fun to play with d-:

What's next?

I have been falling short of getting the PRs mention above merged for quite a while. With pip's next beta coming really soon, I have to somehow make the patches reach a certain standard and enough attention to be part of the pre-release—beta-testing would greatly help the success of the GSoC project. To other GSoC students and mentors reading this, I also hope your projects to turn out successful!

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