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4 Usage for Beginners

4.1 The default setup

For beginners, a default setup known to work well for GNU Source Installer is the following:

  1. GNU Source Installer is installed system-wide as the root user in a different prefix than your OS distribution. For example /usr/local.
  2. You login normally as you always do with your user name, then start the GNU Source Installer using command sourceinstall, which starts the graphical interface. You do NOT login as root. At the appropriate times, during installation, you will be asked for the root password if necessary.
  3. The default prefix in your preferences is /usr/local, and thus you install your source packages in /usr/local
  4. You are the only one on the system that installs source packages, and always do that logging in as the same user.
  5. When you need to remove or upgrade sourceinstall, login as root and run the program. You will see GNU Source Installer listed in the root user's packages and will be able to manage it.

4.2 Looking for the right package

First of all, think about a software you want. It is highly probable that such a software package is available under a Free license somewhere.

You can search by simply using a web search engine.

Tip: add GPL or another Free license name to your search, so you are sure to find real Free Software, and not freeware, shareware or whatelse. You can also try the term “Open Source”.

The Free Software and Open Source movements have different goals, but search engines tend to find pages with the term “free” as in no-cost, while free software is about freedom. explains the relationship further.

You can choose another road, and use a Directory instead. Good places to start are the Free Software Directory and Savannah (home to the sourceinstall project development). Other good places to search are Freshmeat and Sourceforge, although you will find a lot of not really Free software there too.

Once you have found an interesting software, look for a SOURCE download (.tar.gz, .tar.bz2, ..) Proceed with the download, and mark where the file will be downloaded.

4.3 Adding a new source package

Once you have a new shiny source package, it is time to add it from the Source Installer. Run sourceinstall, then press the Add button.

In the Add dialog that appears, you can choose Browse to locate the package, and finally choose Ok to proceed. Let the other checkboxes be with their default values.

If everything runs smooth and the package has been built with the autotools, you will be presented with a configuration window, where all package options can be tweaked prior to installation.

If you have no idea about what those options mean, at least take a look at the option descriptions. You can then try 'Auto' to go on with the defaults.

The option --prefix will be highlighted. This is because it's a very useful and important option, that lets you specify where your install tree should start.

When you are satisfied with the options, choose Ok and wait for the software to be configured and compiled.

If no problems occur, you will be eventually asked for the root password (if needed), and then you will be informed about the result of the install operation.

4.4 Changing the Preferences

The default prefix to use for your installs can be changed, like other options, in the Preferences from the Edit menu, and it is initially set to /usr/local.

Here are the preferences you can change and their description:

“Default installation choices: Manual configuration, Install, Keep Source” These are the default values for the checkboxes when you trigger the Add action. Beginners should keep all those selected.

“Manual configuration” means that you will be able to see the software configuration window. It will get you aquainted with the common options supported by the packages, so it is recommended to keep this selected.

You can always choose Auto in the configuration window to stick with the defaults.

“Install” means that when you add new packages, they will be installed. Most beginners would want this.

“Keep Source” means that the configured source code is compressed, archived and stored for later use. This does waste some space, but ensures a cleaner uninstall process, and can provide a future easy reinstallation.

“Strip binaries (not recommended)”: this option should be off. It can cause a lot of trouble if you don't know what you are doing. It involves removing symbolic information from the installed programs.

“Default install prefix”: this is the default prefix to use when installing software packages. Programs and data will generally be installed in a subtree of the specified directory. The default value is /usr/local and is a good one for system-wide installs.

“Src compression”: this is the compression format to use when archiving source packages. By default it is .bz2 (which provides very space-efficient compression), but if you have plenty of space in your disk and prefer quicker installs and uninstalls you can change it to .gz

4.5 Querying package information

Clicking on the package will show all available information on that package, and will activate the actions for the installed package: Remove and Reinstall. This will also trigger a quick check to ensure that the package has all its needed files in place.

4.6 Removing a package

To remove a package, select it from the list and click the Remove button. When you Remove a package, you can decide to uninstall the package but keep it in compressed source form. This way, should you decide to install again later, you have the already configured source, and only need to select it from the list and choose Install.

These instructions should get you started. Read on if you want to know more.