February 23, 2019

.comment: Road Building

Compiling on the Fly

  • May 30, 2001
  • By Dennis E. Powell

You may be among those tormented by the question: Which takes longer, compiling the KDE-2.2 beta on a Pentium 166 with 104 megs of memory or driving from Western Connecticut to Key West, Florida, on a busy holiday weekend?

If you are, your anguish is soon to be relieved. I've tried, over time, to resolve the burning issues that don't quite make it to the FAQ lists because it would involve too much work to provide an accurate answer. It was me, for instance, who proved that it is possible to run Microsoft Bob in a VMware virtual machine. This is not the kind of information you can get anywhere else. It is a valuable service, understanding that value is a continuum that begins immediately above zero.

Motivated to add primary research to the world's store of knowledge and thereby uplift all persons, last week I hopped into the rental car, fired up the motor, typed "./configure", and headed down the road.

Actually, I needed to drive to Florida for family events and I also needed to compile the KDE-2.2 beta so as to look it over. So I got a little Tripplite inverter to plug into the cigarette lighter, plugged my Thinkpad's power supply into the inverter, and plugged the Thinkpad into its power supply. Admittedly, the juice from a cigarette lighter isn't the cleanest stuff in the world, but I figured that there were sufficient protections in the heat-generating boxes between the lighter and the computer to arrive at useful volts, and I was right. I ended up with my little computer sitting on the passenger seat, screen and keyboard facing me.

Also facing me was 1,600 miles of Interstate highway and, at the end, some winding and dangerous two-lane stuff -- U.S. 1 from the end of I-95 to the end of the U.S.

Compiling KDE involves building 12 packages. The first is kdesupport, which I understand is due to be deprecated, but if it comes with the CVS harvest I build it, and this time it did so I did. It doesn't take long -- it was done by the time I hit the I-84 construction delay at 5:05 a.m., 15 miles from my house. This gave me time to change directories and start the build of kdelibs, the second package to compile when you're growing KDE from seed. And it proved that the command buffer in bash is more than a convenience. Building each of the packages involves these commands:

ln -s ../kde-common/admin ./

make -f Makefile.cvs

./configure --prefix=/opt/kde


make install

cd ./kde[next package]

With the scrollable buffer, only the directory change requires and real attention; for everything else, it's simply six taps of the up arrow and hitting the enter key. This is a considerable advantage when doing important research while also trying to avoid wrecking the car, in that several of the commands take a little time to complete. I was able to get by just fine, eyes on the road and hand firmly on the wheel, except when changing directories, for which I determined I would stop. It turned out to be no problem, because it didn't come up all that often.

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