Question @ 10,000 feet

DJ Lucas dj at
Wed Nov 19 01:03:10 PST 2008

Alan Lord wrote:
> 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.

The disadvantage is that if you move from the DESTDIR, you have to be 
aware of things like the info dir, gconf updates, .desktop or icon 
additions, etc.  Pretty much any update to an existing file will have to 
recreated manually.  In the end, this is probably much better for 
learning exactly what is going on, and this is also how the big distros 
do it.

-- DJ Lucas

More information about the lfs-support mailing list