Installing a compiler by default

Matt Zimmerman mdz at
Thu Jun 8 20:17:31 BST 2006

On Thu, Jun 08, 2006 at 03:02:07PM -0400, Andrew Zajac wrote:
> On 6/8/06, Matt Zimmerman <mdz at> wrote:
> >* The most common way to obtain a new driver for a Linux system is
> >  to compile it from C source code
> >
> >* A common reason to install a new driver on a Linux system is to gain
> >  access to the Internet, so support can be difficult to obtain in such a
> >  scenario
> >
> >* A great deal of distribution-agnostic documentation assumes the
> >  availability of gcc
> >
> >* Users who are new to Ubuntu have no idea how to install the necessary
> >  packages for building a kernel module
> User who are new to linux and are using ubuntu will use the ubuntu
> documentation.  In it, installing build-essential is properly described.

Playing the role of a user looking for gcc, I searched the offline
documentation (yelp) for "gcc", and did not find such instructions.  Even
so, I don't think that adding instructions would fully address the problem.

> It is another step in the process of:
> 1- finding out that they need to compile a kernel module to fix a specific
> problem.
> 2- finding out what kernel module to build
> 3- obtaining it (if it is the only way to conect to the net, this is a
> catch-22)
> 4- installing the toolchain and linux-headers package
> 5- building and installing the module.

All of these except step 4 are usually answered by a single document which
applies to all distributions equally.

> Providing build-essential preinstalled will only help users who are familiar
> with linux but not with ubuntu.  Users who expect gcc to be installed may be
> surprised to find it absent, but I am sure they expect it to be easily
> installed, which it is as well as the process being properly documented -
> it's not that big an endeavour for them.
> Is this such an important amount of users?  Ubuntu makes a better effort to
> target non-linux-geek users, in comparison to other distros.

I think it is important enough to justify the cost, which is practically
zero.  What reason is there *not* to install it?

> Users who are not familiar with linux will not really expect gcc to be
> present.  The command-line is cryptic enough and they typically will not try
> to grok upstream documentation, but simply cut-and-paste instructions from a
> source of documentation.

Agreed, but having gcc makes those cut-and-paste instructions more portable.

> Can the above five steps be made trivial in some way, either by
> documentation or some sort of frontend to module-assistant?  Would that be a
> better solution to the actual problem?

There are some steps we could take, but it's a complex problem and we won't
solve it completely in the near future.  Meanwhile...

 - mdz

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