June 23, 2005

installing from source under UNIX made easier

Claudio writes "GNU/Linux distributions and other UNIX and UNIX-likes already offer tools for installing software.

However, sometimes it's better to install directly from the source packages provided by the developers. The OS might not include a port/package yet or some optional feature might be needed and compiled-in;

the GNU autotools have done much to ensure portability of UNIX (and even non-UNIX) code, and offer a familiar procedure (./configure && make && make install) that must be run from the command line.

In order to further incentive developers to prepare their source packages in a standardized way, and in order to initiate new users to the misteries (?) of source installation, a new GNU project has been launched: GNU Source Installer.

The goal of the project is not to hide all the details of source installation. Instead, they are presented in a way that can be easier understood by new users, and that can be more handy even for experienced people.


For example, what about a configuration window, where all package features and options (those that appear in./configure --help) can be examined and tweaked? What about per package file consistency checks, package tracking and enhanced uninstallation? All this can be obtained without having to design a new package format. The tarball released by the original developers sufficies, provided they honour some de-facto standards about UNIX package installations.

GNU Source Installer shows all commands it executes in the background, and comments them, so a new user will be able to slowly notice the patterns during installation, and eventually gain more knowledge and confidence in the UNIX commands in general.

If processors and compilers continue to improve, maybe in the future we will not need binary packages at all?"

Link: gnu.org


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