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This macro finds the latest version of Berkeley DB on the system, and ensures that the header file and library versions match. If MINIMUM-VERSION is specified, it will ensure that the library found is at least that version.

It determines the name of the library as well as the path to the header file and library. It will check both the default environment as well as the default Berkeley DB install location. When found, it sets BDB_LIBS, BDB_CPPFLAGS, and BDB_LDFLAGS to the necessary values to add to LIBS, CPPFLAGS, and LDFLAGS, as well as setting BDB_VERSION to the version found. HAVE_DB_H is defined also.

The option –with-bdb-dir=DIR can be used to specify a specific Berkeley DB installation to use.

An example of it’s use is:


which will locate the latest version of Berkeley DB on the system, and ensure that it is version 3.0 or higher.

Details: This macro does not use either AC_CHECK_HEADERS or AC_CHECK_LIB because, first, the functions inside the library are sometimes renamed to contain a version code that is only available from the db.h on the system, and second, because it is common to have multiple db.h and libdb files on a system it is important to make sure the ones being used correspond to the same version. Additionally, there are many different possible names for libdb when installed by an OS distribution, and these need to be checked if db.h does not correspond to libdb.

When cross compiling, only header versions are verified since it would be difficult to check the library version. Additionally the default Berkeley DB installation locations /usr/local/BerkeleyDB* are not searched for higher versions of the library.

The format for the list of library names to search came from the Cyrus IMAP distribution, although they are generated dynamically here, and only for the version found in db.h.

The macro AX_COMPARE_VERSION is required to use this macro, and should be available from the Autoconf Macro Archive.

The author would like to acknowledge the generous and valuable feedback from Guido Draheim, without which this macro would be far less robust, and have poor and inconsistent cross compilation support.


   1/5/05 applied patch from Rafal Rzepecki to eliminate compiler
        warning about unused variable, argv

Source Code

Download the latest version of ax_path_bdb.m4 or browse the macro’s revision history.


Copyright © 2008 Tim Toolan

Copying and distribution of this file, with or without modification, are permitted in any medium without royalty provided the copyright notice and this notice are preserved. This file is offered as-is, without any warranty.

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