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RE: A Closer Look at GNU AutoTools

From: David A. Wheeler
Subject: RE: A Closer Look at GNU AutoTools
Date: Sat, 13 Sep 2014 11:32:13 -0400 (EDT)

There *are* good tutorials available for the autotools.
John Calcote's book is awesome, I highly recommend it.
The "Goat book"  ("GNU Autoconf, Automake, and Libtool" by Gary V. Vaughn and 
Ben Elliston)
was great for its time; if updated that'd be great too.
For quick introductions, there are lots of OSS ones. I'll re-mention my video
at and there are many others.

I agree that it'd be nice to have, as OSS, an "official" tutorial (not 
reference) for the autotools.
I believe that the autoconf, automake, and libtool manuals are reasonable 
references, but
are difficult for people who "just want to use it"
for common simple cases and don't care about all the details.

I think there's an unusual complication that does NOT happen in many other 
there is no one master project.  The autotools are at least autoconf + automake 
+ libtool,
which are maintained as separate projects, yet they are typically used together.
A tutorial needs to clearly explain how to use them *together*, interleaving 
their discussion
as much as possible, and omitting a lot of details (at least at first).

Perhaps what is needed is a separate autotools-tutorial project, one that
*interleaves* the discussion of the tools.  It could start by using some 
existing material.
Or perhaps the autoconf website (etc.) could add links to some tutorials.

An aside: In the U.S., by law open source software is just a kind of commercial 
By law any item that is (1) customarily used for non-government purposes, and
(2) is sold, leased, or *licensed* to the general public, is a commercial item.
(41 USC 103,
That turns out to be really important when working with the U.S. government,
and in many other cases as well.  Billions of dollars are spent on open source 
software today.

--- David A. Wheeler

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