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Portability all depends on what libraries you use. If I write an application that uses nothing more than native C++ functions, such as from the standard library, then I can take that exact same source code, and compile it on any OS that supports a C++ compiler.
When I start using libraries, those libraries must work on the target system. Such as SDL, that is made specifically to work on windows, linux, mac, bsd, and many other OSs. I can write an application using nothing but native C++ and SDL, download the libraries on each system (windows has it's own library binaries, osx its own, linux its own,) and as long as my compiler is configured to recognize the libraries, my source will compile fine.
Autotools and the like are useful for if you have to use different libraries based on different conditions, then you can have it compile 1 of several different sources to accomplish some goal.
Something else that's common is if you want to allow people to build software with / without certain features. If I have an optional GUI interface, but know that many people will not want to compile it into their binary (for space / performance reasons) then I can allow a --disable=feature in the config to exclude it from the binary.
as a general rule, a binary file (output of compiled sourcecode, the executable) can only run on 1 platform (system architecture + operating system, like windows on intel x86, or Linux on ARM, Solaris on SPARC).
If a developer wanted to limit his application to run on only 1 platform, he'd just release a binary file compiled for that platform. If you release sourcecode, you're not going to be able to prevent it from running anywhere, but isn't that the point?New to the internet, technical forums, or the hacker / open source community??
Read this to learn good posting habits http://www.catb.org/~esr/faqs/smart-questions.html
RHCE for RHEL version 5
RHCT for RHEL version 4
Thanks for the replies!
On linux trying to install source I encountered AutoTools. I did not get an application to build; (4) failures , but did get a lot of error messages that made no sense. I really never did much more than read about a language so I'm sort of reverse engineering AutoTools as this point from a Linux users perspective and not from a programmers perspective.
Here is another good AutoTools Link.
Chapter 1: Autotools Introduction - markuskimius: The Wiki Edition
I like to add redundancy to my own computing difficulties because I can't be the only one having these issues so I'm leaving the links so that they are more in circulation.
Thanks again to the both of you for the great replies. Now most of the hard work is out of the way and I should be able to make a lot of progress.