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23 – Compiling Programs‌

In this chapter, we will look at how to build programs by compiling source code. The availability of source code is the essential freedom that makes Linux possible. The entire ecosystem of Linux development relies on free exchange between developers. For many desktop users, compiling is a lost art. It used to be quite common, but today, distribution providers maintain huge repositories of precompiled binaries, ready to download and use. At the time of this writing, the Debian repository (one of the largest of any of the distri- butions) contains almost 23,000 packages.

So why compile software? There are two reasons:

1. Availability. Despite the number of precompiled programs in distribution reposi- tories, some distributions may not include all the desired applications. In this case, the only way to get the desired program is to compile it from source.

2. Timeliness. While some distributions specialize in cutting edge versions of pro- grams, many do not. This means that in order to have the very latest version of a program, compiling is necessary.

Compiling software from source code can become very complex and technical; well be- yond the reach of many users. However, many compiling tasks are quite easy and involve only a few steps. It all depends on the package. We will look at a very simple case in or- der to provide an overview of the process and as a starting point for those who wish to undertake further study.

We will introduce one new command:

make – Utility to maintain programs


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