David A. Wheeler's Blog

Thu, 22 Jan 2009

Automating DESTDIR for Packaging

Today’s users of Linux and Unix systems (including emulation systems like Cygwin) don’t want to manually install programs - they want to easily install pre-packaged software. But that means that someone has to create those packages.

When you’re creating packages, an annoying step is handling “make install” if the original software developer doesn’t support the DESTDIR convention. DESTDIR support is very important, because two of the most common packaging formats - Debian’s .deb (used by Debian and Ubuntu) and RPM (used by Fedora, Red Hat, and SuSE/Novell) - both require actions (redirection of writes) that DESTDIR enables. Unfortunately, many software developers don’t include support for DESTDIR, and it’s sometimes a pain to add DESTDIR support. Indeed, it’s often trivial to create packages except for having to make the modifications for DESTDIR support. Yes, adding DESTDIR support isn’t hard compared to many other tasks, but since it applies to every program, why not automate this instead?

So, I’ve written a little essay about Automating DESTDIR for Packaging. In it, I identify some of the ways I’ve identified for automating DESTDIR. If there are more - great! (Please let me know!). In any case, I’d love to see more automation, so that software will become easier to package and install.

Here’s the link, again: Automating DESTDIR for Packaging.

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