Dealing with autotools

Robert Collins robertc at
Wed Apr 15 11:01:55 UTC 2009

On Wed, 2009-04-15 at 12:07 +0200, martin f krafft wrote:
> also sprach Russ Allbery <rra at> [2009.03.10.2247 +0100]:
> > > When packaging, I'm undecided on these two options:
> > >  1. Build-depend on automake and let it rebuilt itself at 'make' time
> > 
> > Definitely the right solution IMO.  This is what I do with all of my
> > packages.
> Wasn't this heavily frowned upon in Debian for many years?

Opinions have varied.

> I just read again /usr/share/doc/autotools-dev/README.Debian
> (unfortunately, I cannot find a VCS link to that file, so I put it
> up here: [0]), and it contains a lot of valuable information on the
> issue.
> Maybe the most important message from it is that the use of patch
> systems (and this includes vcs-pkg, at least in spirit) requires one
> to do either
>   - build-depend on automake/autoconf and make those steps part of
>     the build process
>   - work with upstream to fix their build systems so they can be
>     tweaked for distros with command-line options instead of
>     patches.

Or both :).

> To me, it sounds like those are exactly our goals, so it seems as if
> build-depending on the autotools is the right way forward.

Absolutely; not build-deping on autotools is a fundamental mistake IMO:
it makes packages bigger (you have to carry a configure script delta),
harder to review (generated content is in the diff).

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