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fetch stuff from the interwebs

Project description

fetch stuff from the interwebs is a single-file python module bundled as a package for easy installation and python importing. The purpose of fetch is to mirror remote resources (URLs) to a local filesystem in order to synchronize and update dependencies that are desired to be mirrored in this way.


fetch fetches from a manifest of the format:

[URL] [Destination] [Type]

A URL can contain a hash tag (e.g. which is used to extract the subdirectories from a multi-directory resource.

The Type of the resource is used to dispatch to the included Fetchers that take care of fetching the object.

Manifests are used so that a number of resources may be fetched from a particular fetch run.


After you checkout the repository and run python develop, you should be able to run fetch on the example manifest:

fetch example.txt

This will create a tmp directory relative to the manifest and pull down several resources to it.


fetch includes several objects for fetching resources:

file : fetch a single file
tar : fetch and extract a tarball
hg : checkout a mercurial repository
git : checkout a git repository

The file fetcher cannot have a hash tag subpath since it is a single resource.

Though fetch has a set of fetchers included, you can pass an arbitrary list into fetch.Fetch’s constructor.

Version Control

The hg and the git fetchers fetch from version control systems and have additional options. The only current option to the constructor is export, which is by default True. If export is True, then the repository will be exported into a non-versioned structure. If a subpath is specified with a # in the URL, the repository will also be exported.


  • use manifestparser .ini files versus another manifest format: when I started work on fetch, I thought a domain-specific manifest would be a big win. But, now, maybe a .ini type manifest looks about the same, and is something that is already used. The switch internally wouldn’t be that bad, but if is used as a single file, it cannot have “traditional” python dependencies. Since is also a single file, and fetch is only usable with internet access anyway, maybe the require pattern could be used for this purpose

  • clobber: generally, you will want the existing resource to be clobbered, avoiding renames regarding upstream dependencies

  • outputting only subpaths: often, you will not to fetch from the whole manifest, only from certain subpaths of the manifest. You should be able to output a subset of what is to be mirrored based on destination subpaths. The CLI option --dest is intended for this purpose but currently unused.

  • fetcher options: currently read_manifests reads an unused column into options when present in the form of a string like foo=one,bar=two into a dict like {'foo': 'one', 'bar': 'two'}. This hasn’t been needed yet and is unused. If we want to have resource-specific options, we should use this and make it work. Otherwise it can be deleted.

  • python package fetcher: often you will want to fetch a python package as a resource. This would essentially fetch the object (using another fetcher) and take the (untarred) result of python sdist as a resource. This will strip out files that aren’t part of the python package. Unknowns include how to specify the sub-fetcher. You could also include other domain-specific fetchers as needed.

  • note python 2.5+ specifics: fetch currently uses at least os.path.relpath from python 2.5 and perhaps other 2.5+isms as well. These should at least be documented and checked for if not obviated. One such reimplementation is at

Unsolved Problems

A common story for fetch is mirroring files into a VCS repository because the remote resources are needed as part of the repository and there is no better way to retrieve and/or update them. However, what do you do if these remote resources are altered? In an ideal ecosystem, the fixes would be automatically triaged and triggered for upstream inclusion, or the diffs from the upstream are kept in local modifications (although vendor branches, etc, are more suitable for the latter class of problems, and in general discouraged when a less intrusive system of consuming upstream dependencies are available).

Jeff Hammel

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