I’ve now been actively using my (Beyond) Linux from Scratch installation for about a week now, and it’s actually pretty neat to have something working that I built with just a general outline. Granted, the LFS guide is very well put together, but going beyond the basic console of a system requires a bit of time and effort.
In really any other distro, the package manager should really be your best friend (except when it breaks.) Even in a source-based Linux like Gentoo, Portage gives you a pretty decent idea of what’s installed and is able to keep track of dependencies. With LFS, there are really some times where I don’t want to have to locate and download seventeen .tar.bz2 files, and ./configure –prefix=/usr; make; make install to each one in sequence. What’s worse is when you run into three dependencies for a particular piece of software, and the first two install properly, but the third one depends on ten additional packages.
There are also some libraries that despite being built on an x86_64 system will come out as 32-bit, and require special compiler or configure flags in order to build a pure 64-bit version. LFS x86_64 does not really have patience for anything 32-bit. This is generally fine because you’re building most of the applications yourself, but you can’t “just run” any typical application unless it’s taken the architecture into account.
In summary, while it’s awesome to go to SourceForge and have the very latest version of a package, sometimes I just don’t feel like going through all those hoops and satisfying twenty conditions for a compile to take place. Perhaps I’m OK if your application uses a built-in library rather than relying on whatever happens to be installed in /usr/lib.
The takeaway from this is that besides providing the source, considerate developers should try and build an i686 and x86_64 binary from that same source. If your build system has issues or you find it painful to produce binary releases, remember that anyone attempting to follow the INSTALL file will run into the same pain points. Firefox, for example, has both i686 and x86_64 release tarchives. The 64-bit version works quite well on my LFS installation and it’s how I’m writing this post.