Jun 25, 2013
Recently I developed a piece of software for administering speech intelligibility listening tests and discovered a small issue: I am not an administrator of the computer that I am going to use for the tests, so I cannot install any software. Since the computer is running Windows, there is no standard Python distribution there. I already knew Portable Python, which is (surprise!) a portable Python distribution that can be run from a USB storage device. However, the first version of my code was using PyAudio, which was not included in this distribution. Since this module uses binary wrappers to PortAudio, installation is not as straightforward as copying a bunch of .py files, and I could not find out how to install it to my USB drive... but then, WinPython came to the rescue!
WinPython is a complete NumPy/SciPy portable development environment, which also includes an IDE (Spyder), my favorite version control system (Mercurial) and Qt tools for GUI development. However, what made me like it so much is the WinPython Package Manager (WPPM), which allows one to install any packages that can be installed with easy_install, pip, or distutils standard installers. The latter is specially interesting because distutils installers include binary dependencies, so you do not need a C/C++ compiler. If scientific computing is your thing, maybe the library you need is just a visit to Christoph Gohlke's page away (which was my case with PyAudio).
Another interesting feature is the possibility of converting your portable distribution to a more "conventional" Python installation on Windows by adding some keys to the registry (this is also done through the WinPython Control Panel). Also, both Python 2.7 and Python 3.3 are available, with support to 32 and 64 bit Windows XP/7/8.