For a long time I have been wanting to learn how to compile Inkscape on Linux. It usually isn’t necessary to do this on popular Linux distributions, such as, Ubuntu, openSUSE, and Fedora, since recent stable versions are usually sitting in the repositories ready for us to install. So you might be wondering why I would be interested in compiling. Well, I have a couple reasons. One of them being that I want to take a look at the latest and greatest developments with the software (which isn’t even necessary because we already get development releases already compiled for testing). The other reason is that I just have this burning itch to successfully compile Inkscape on my own. So in other words, I want to compile only out of curiosity or to at least say to myself that I know how to do it.
Many of us Linux users are spoiled by ready to install packages that are similar to executable files found on Windows. Thank God for those. Whether they are DEB or RPM, for instance, usually a single or double-click starts the install process. Although, on occasion, we have to compile something from source. It sounds much harder than it really is. Typically, it amounts to downloading an archive of the source, uncompressing it, entering the directory of the source via the terminal, and issuing ./configure, make, and (sudo)make install. Big flippin’ deal, right? Eh, makes you feel a little geeky anyway.
So if it’s that simple to compile a program from source why then is Inkscape difficult for me? Good question, heathenx. I ask myself that often. Maybe because Inkscape is a big program compared to something smaller like BillReminder, for instance. If the goal was to compile an application only to get it to segfault when attempting to run it for the first time then I would be king. But I would be a nice king. I would share my wealth…really I would. Everyone would have plenty of freely available segfaults and my kingdom would rule in peace for ages…
Okay, back to reality. What makes Inkscape a little harder to compile is that it has many dependencies. You have to have the right stuff in place before you can compile successfully. I’m sure this is where I have failed over and over again. Plus, let’s be honest here. I don’t friggin’ know what I’m doing half of the time. I read…I try…I read…I try. Story of my life (hey, isn’t that in a Smiths song?). I haven’t bothered trying to contact anyone for some advice because it’s usually my nature to completely set myself on fire before asking for help. I guess I feel like I’m bothering people, I don’t know.
So after making a complete mess of things on my Linux box, I thought why not try to compile on my Windows machine at work. Nothing to loose, right? I cruised over to the Inkscape Wiki and followed the directions just like I would if I were making some Hamburger Helper (puke in my mouth). I downloaded all of the required packages and installed TortoiseSVN like it recommended. I am also interested in SVN as a means to update WordPress but that’s a different story.
Unfortunately, having just written all of the above, I am still having trouble getting a decent compiled version on Windows. Notice a pattern here? Myabe I should try a Mac next. Anyway, it took about 40 minutes to compile on my machine and I didn’t see anything in the /inkscape directory when it was done. That can’t be a good sign but typical of what I am capable of. Doesn’t really matter which OS I get it working on because it isn’t like I will intend to use that version full time. That’s what the stable 0.46 release is for. Nope, this is just for the exercise. Even though I keep failing at this I am going to keep at it. I hope I will figure it out eventually. Although getting frustrated by not producing anything usable, I am enjoying the experience. On the other hand, if I’m beaten by the compile thugs I can at least hold my head in shame and walk away quietly like none of it ever happened…and save the task for another day.