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Notes on distributing cython code

One of the conveniences of Python is the package system which allows you to install your program and any dependencies smoothly. The package system works very well when the code is pure Python, but can run into trouble when code written in cython or c is part of the program.

I will illustrate some mis-steps I made while writing a install script for an example program that is a mixture of Python and Cython. I've put the code up on github and each step is a commit tag. You can follow along by setting up a virtual environment using virtualenvwrapper:

mkvirtualenv cy-test

And then trying to install the appropriate tag, e.g:

git clone
cd cython-example
git checkout ex2


The module installs without errors, but because of me not indicating the paths of the cython files properly (I omit the kgcyex directory in the path) the cython files do not compile. You will note this because there are no compilation messages during the install, though the failure is otherwise silent
kghose$ kgcyex
Traceback (most recent call last):
  File "/Users/kghose/.venvs/blog/bin/kgcyex", line 9, in <module>
    load_entry_point('kgcyex==1.0.0', 'console_scripts', 'kgcyex')()
  File "/Users/kghose/.venvs/blog/lib/python2.7/site-packages/", line 356, in load_entry_point
    return get_distribution(dist).load_entry_point(group, name)
  File "/Users/kghose/.venvs/blog/lib/python2.7/site-packages/", line 2431, in load_entry_point
    return ep.load()
  File "/Users/kghose/.venvs/blog/lib/python2.7/site-packages/", line 2147, in load
  File "/Users/kghose/.venvs/blog/lib/python2.7/site-packages/kgcyex/", line 2, in <module>
    import kgcyex.cy1 as cy1
ImportError: No module named cy1


I correctly write out the full paths of the cython modules, and everything installs and runs fine.
kghose$ kgcyex
foo from kgcyex.mod1
foo from kgcyex.cy1
foo from kgcyex.lib.mod2
foo from kgcyex.lib.cy2


Suppose the other user does not have Cython? The cython documentation suggests that we distribute the generated c code with the source. There is some debate as to whether this is "proper" since the .c files are actually generated from the .pyx files and in principle we should only really be distributing files which can not be auto-generated from the "real" source. For now, we put pragmatism over principle. Note that the changes a bit
If you read the you will note that I have used a check to test if the user has Cython or not. This check then tells setup to either use the .pyx files or the .c files. This is standard stuff recommended by the Cython folks. Look carefully at the where I add the extensions.
extensions = [Extension("cy1", ["kgcyex/cy1"+ext]), Extension("cy2", ["kgcyex/lib/cy2"+ext])]
Things compile properly because I've remembered to indicate the peoper path to the .pyx (or .c) files. When we run we can see the modules being compiled. But what the #$%@! when we go to run the code it again complains that it can find the compiled modules! In real life this error caused me to lose about an hour :(
My error was that though I had correctly indicated the path to the source (the second parameter forExtension) I had not given the proper dotted path for the modules themselves. If you look undersite-packages of your installation you will note that there are two compiled modules directly under site-packages rather than in their proper places under kgcyex andkgcyex/lib. The correct form of this line is ...


extensions = [Extension("kgcyex.cy1", ["kgcyex/cy1"+ext]), Extension("kgcyex.lib.cy2", ["kgcyex/lib/cy2"+ext])]


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