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November 2003 Newsletter of the
Front Range UNIX Users Group

Cndnsd Vrsn: 4 PM Thursday 11/20 ACS Room 123- SCons


Life After Make - Building Software with SCons

The next meeting of the Front Range UNIX Users Group (FRUUG) will be held at 4:00 P.M. on Thursday, November 20. Joe VanAndel, a member of the FRUUG Executive Committee, will talk about how SCons provides a much easier way to build large, multi-platform software distributions than today's make.

The Autoconf/automake/make trio is commonly used to build software on UNIX and Linux. Because of its various deficiencies, several variants of 'make' have been built, each with slightly incompatible features. Therefore, certain types of complex software require a specific variant of make.

The Autoconf/automake tools were written to enhance portability of software, by automatically generating the appropriate makefile(s) for a given system. Autoconf, automake, and configure use a mixture of Perl, Bourne Shell, and the 'm4' macro-preprocessor to build makefiles. The Bourne shell and 'm4' were chosen because they are available on every UNIX/Linux system. However, the Bourne shell is NOT well suited for building large ( 1000+ line) programs, since it lacks many of the features of a true high level language. Because of the complexity of these tools, building the proper configuration files can be difficult and time-consuming.

Although using an existing autoconf/automake configuration or makefile may not be difficult, programmers who are developing new software spend far too much time maintaining autoconf/automake configuration files and/or makefiles. The typical build system based on autoconf/automake and make is inflexible, and unreliable (How frequently do you type 'make clean', just to be safe!). Most programmers tolerate the many "quirks" of these tools simply because they haven't encountered a good alternative.

Scons provides a modern, powerful alternative tool for building software. SCons automatically scans source files for dependencies, and uses MD5 checksums (rather that timestamps) to determine whether an object needs rebuilding. It integrates autoconf-like functionality. Scons is cross-platform (including Microsoft Windows). Written in Python, it can easily be extended and enhanced. It is simple to use for small projects but also handles complex projects that build multiple libraries and use many include files.

About The Speaker

Joe VanAndel is a programmer in the Atmospheric Technology Division of the National Center for Atmospheric Research. He writes software to process and display the data from weather radars. He enjoys programming in Python.

Joe is a member of the FRUUG Executive Committee. In his spare time, he enjoys bicycling, digital photography, and working with Flatirons Habitat for Humanity.

Meeting Location

This meeting will be in room 123 of the CU Academic Computing Center building at Arapahoe and Marine Streets in Boulder. Marine St intersects Arapahoe at 38th St; the Computing Center is on the southwest corner.

See <> for map

Our Last Meeting

At our October 2003 meeting, John Terpstra did a quick drive-by of the new features in the Samba 3.0 release, and went into some detail on how it helps interoperate in Microsoft Windows Active Directory environments. At the end of the meeting, John demonstrated how software from Vintela, one of his clients, fills the gaps between what Samba 3.0 provides and what is really needed.

Announcements, presentation slides, and writeups for past meetings are be available in the FRUUG Meeting Archive.

Future Meetings

Some of the meetings we're setting up for the future include:

  • A review of the MacOS X 10.3 (a.k.a. Panther) release
  • Voice over IP in real-life use
  • Sun Microsystem's new Java desktop environment

FRUUG Giveaways

FRUUG Library Merit Badge holders can sign up for give-away books by visiting the FRUUG Web site and clicking on the give-away item in the sidebar. FRUUG merit badge holders are eligible for our frequent book give-aways, and all you have to do for a lifetime membership is to review any book from the FRUUG library and send the review to gaede at

This month we have two books from Addison Wesley to give away, The Art of UNIX Programming, and Next Generation Application Integration.

If you're a FRUUG Library Merit Badge holder and would like one of the books, please sign up at If you're not, you may check one of these two books out of the FRUUG library, submit a book review for it, and then keep the book!

Finally, we once again have a Gift Certificate to SoftPro Books to give away to a FRUUG member at the meeting.

FRUUG Library Notes

New books for the FRUUG library that have arrived in the last month include:

  • Cisco Cookbook, from O'Reilly
  • The Effective Incident Response Team, from Addison Wesley
  • .NET Security and Cryptography, from Prentice Hall PTR
  • Real 802.11 Security, from Addison Wesley
  • Secure XML, from Addison Wesley
  • XQuery from the Experts, from Addison Wesley
  • The XML Schema Complete Reference, from Addison Wesley
  • Wireless Hacks, from O'Reilly

You may check out books using your business card as your library card; you must be on the membership list to check books out. Books are due at the meeting following the one in which they are checked out.

Remember that your FRUUG membership entitles you to discounts on your book orders from both New Riders Publishing and O'Reilly & Associates; refer to the FRUUG Web site for details.

Site Map Recruiter Info
February 15, 2009

February 2008: FRUUG Enters Quiescent Phase
After 27 years running, we're suspending operations.

Future Meetings:
None planned

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