pox: utilities for filesystem exploration and automated builds

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About Pox

Pox provides a collection of utilities for navigating and manipulating filesystems. This module is designed to facilitate some of the low level operating system interactions that are useful when exploring a filesystem on a remote host, where queries such as "what is the root of the filesystem?", "what is the user's name?", and "what login shell is preferred?" become essential in allowing a remote user to function as if they were logged in locally. While pox is in the same vein of both the os and shutil builtin modules, the majority of its functionality is unique and compliments these two modules.

Pox provides python equivalents of several unix shell commands such as "which" and "find". These commands allow automated discovery of what has been installed on an operating system, and where the essential tools are located. This capability is useful not only for exploring remote hosts, but also locally as a helper utility for automated build and installation.

Several high-level operations on files and filesystems are also provided. Examples of which are: finding the location of an installed python package, determining if and where the source code resides on the filesystem, and determining what version the installed package is.

Pox also provides utilities to enable the abstraction of commands sent to a remote filesystem. In conjunction with a registry of environment variables and installed utilites, pox enables the user to interact with a remote filesystem as if they were logged in locally.

Pox is part of pathos, a python framework for heterogenous computing. Pox is in active development, so any user feedback, bug reports, comments, or suggestions are highly appreciated. A list of known issues is maintained at, with a public ticket list at

Major Features

Pox provides utilities for discovering the user's environment::

  • return the user's name, current shell, and path to user's home directory
  • strip duplicate entries from the user's $PATH
  • lookup and expand environment variables from ${VAR} to 'value'

Pox also provides utilities for filesystem exploration and manipulation::

  • discover the path to a file, exectuable, directory, or symbolic link
  • discover the path to an installed package
  • parse operating system commands for remote shell invocation
  • convert text files to platform-specific formatting

Current Release

This version is pox-0.2.2. You can download it here.
The latest stable release of pox is available from::


or also:

Pox is distributed under a modified BSD license.

    >>> import pox
    >>> print (pox.license())

Development Version

You can get the latest development version with all the shiny new features at::

Feel free to fork the github mirror of our svn trunk. If you have a new contribution, please submit a pull request.

More Information

Probably the best way to get started is to look at the tests that are provided within pox. See pox.tests for a set of scripts that demonstrate pox's ability to interact with the operating system. Pox utilities can also be run directly from an operating system terminal, using the script. The source code is also generally well documented, so further questions may be resolved by inspecting the code itself. Please also feel free to submit a ticket on github, or ask a question on stackoverflow (@Mike McKerns).

Pox is an active research tool. There are a growing number of publications and presentations that discuss real-world examples and new features of pox in greater detail than presented in the user's guide. If you would like to share how you use pox in your work, please post a link or send an email (to mmckerns at caltech dot edu).


If you use pox to do research that leads to publication, we ask that you
acknowledge use of pox by citing the following in your publication::

    M.M. McKerns, L. Strand, T. Sullivan, A. Fang, M.A.G. Aivazis,
    "Building a framework for predictive science", Proceedings of
    the 10th Python in Science Conference, 2011;

    Michael McKerns and Michael Aivazis,
    "pathos: a framework for heterogeneous computing", 2010- ;

Please see or for further information.