Question @ 10,000 feet

Alan Lord alanslists at
Wed Nov 19 00:45:23 PST 2008

Alexander Haley wrote:
<snip />
> Basically, the fundamental thing that bugs me is ... I type 'make
> install' and scads of files arrive on the file system ... and I really
> don't quite know their role, purpose or importance ... Do I really
> need to know the purpose of each and every library file that is
> installed? Probably not .. but, I am irked that I'm typing 'make
> install' and just crossing my fingers that the system is getting it
> right .... (of course the system often gets it right .. but does it
> teach me? no. or at least, not yet.)

Here's a way (hopefully) to help you understand what is being installed 
at least.

Use the DESTDIR* prefix with make install:

So you can create a ~/tmp/packages area or some such, and install the 
package into there first. You can then see which files are really 
installed (for many, I think you'll find a lot are text files, e.g. 
docs, man pages, config files etc...).

Another really useful tool for viewing all this stuff is the "tree" 
command which can display the contents of your installed package in a 
nice, well, tree fashion ;-)

Finding the source for tree can be tricky but a few pages down in Google 
I came across this link: for it.

(Of course you could try installing it with the DESTDIR variable and 
check what it does before installing properly.

* I gather that DESTDIR is not supported by *all* packages but by most. 
(An alternative is to do a build changing the "--prefix=/path" switch on 
your first configure run. But then you will need to rebuild again when 
you are happy.

The advantage of DESTDIR is it doesn't require you to change the 
"--prefix" switch.



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