Ubuntu 20.04 LTS “Focal Fossa” set to remove Python 2

As much of the world was celebrating a new year on January 1, 2020, Python 2 reached end-of-life.  Python 2’s EOL, although expected since the official announcement from Guido van Russom, Python’s principal author and creator back in 2014, has Ubuntu and Debian developers scrambling to end their distros dependencies on Python 2.

The Ubuntu 20.04 LTS development team is the latest to announce that their goal is to remove Python 2 from their long-expected Ubuntu “Focal Fossa” 20.04 LTS release scheduled just four short months from now in April.

The Challenge Ahead

The Python 2 removal project is daunting for the Ubuntu development team, along with scores of other Linux distro development teams, as there are still many Python 2-dependent packages that remain in “Focal Fossa” beta and other beta distros in development throughout the Linux community.

This is a big issue since Python 3 is not backward compatible.  This means that Python 2-dependent applications may not work with Python 3.  This is not a massive issue with packages actively maintained.  The problem is that many packages are not.

To help meet the Ubuntu development team’s goal to convert as many packages as possible from Python 2 to Python 3, it’s likely that packages no longer being maintained face removal from the Ubuntu archival if no one steps up to do the necessary porting.

The real challenge facing the Ubuntu 20.04 LTS development team is how to deal with packages crucial to Ubuntu that only support Python 2.

The latest word from Matthias Klose, the Debian developer who has been coordinating much of the Python 2 removal effort, is that libpython-dev, python, python-minimal, and other packages no longer exist as part of the python-defaults package in the Ubuntu 20.04 archive.

The official Ubuntu 20.04 LTS release slated for April will not include these packages.  For other packages, python2-minimal along with another python* packages exist to satisfy Python 2 dependencies.  A new python-pointing-topython2 package that points to python is anticipated for the Ubuntu “Focal” repository.

Conclusion

Preparing an LTS release is challenging for any distro development team.  One can only imagine that the challenge is immensely more significant for developers of such a popular, premium distro like Ubuntu.  However, the Ubuntu development team has a history of overcoming such problems in its storied 15-plus year history.  The release of Ubuntu 20.04 “Focal Fossa” will be no different.

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