Managing BRLTTY with Stow

Author: B Daix
Date: 2003-09-10



BRLTTY is a critical software for those who rely on it to access their box. Upgrading such a tool can't be done without paying some special attention.

What will be explained here is how to keep /usr/local/bin/brltty up to date without removing old versions. We decide to put BRLTTY in /usr/local as we don't want to break filesystem root distribution (i.e. /bin/brltty should only come from a packaged version of BRLTTY for your distribution. If you install software in respect with this rule, you'd install it in /usr/local). Also, we want not to have to keep source files to be able to remove things cleanly. After installing a software, you shouldn't have to rely on a by-software uninstallation suite.

You should install Stow to be able to run it and to find more details about it. It's a common utility:

On Debian:
apt-get install stow
On Fedora:
yum install stow

Why Stow can help

Stow allows to manage files like if they were packaged, by creating symlinks from by-directory grouped sets of files instead of copying them directly.

We recommend to attentively read Stow Info files, to realize what it can do, how, and specially why it is so useful when you have to manage personally compiled software you rely on.

The procedure

So we want to run a BRLTTY version, taken from a set of personally compiled ones, and safely keep all of them around. Current working release will be run from /usr/local root, while all releases files will be kept in the "safe place", the Stow directory /usr/local/stow/. For example, releases (bins/configs/libs/mans, not source trees) will be stored there like this:

Compiling/installing BRLTTY for Stow file management

We have to use configure flags to indicate we want BRLTTY to be run From /usr/local root, and installed in /usr/local/stow/brltty-3.2/ root. Stow will do symlinks for us then. The distinction between execution root and installation root is critical (c.f. Stow Info):

./configure --with-execute-root=/usr/local \

You may add whatever flags then, except those which change directories as we already managed this.

Then, simply:

make install

The command:

ls /usr/local/stow/brltty-3.2/

should show you all what would have been put in /usr/local if we haven't managed files with Stow.

Reproduce this for each version you want to install, for example, we built a brltty-3.3-with-api directory by applying above principles and adding dedicated flag for enabling API to configure command line. We did the same for a standard brltty-3.3 too, and so on, all stored in /usr/local/stow/. As you see, we cleanly separate things - one directory per version on one hand, building vs. using on the other. Testing is now far lighter.

Managing safely kept versions with Stow

Before asking for Stow to create symlinks, we have to be sure we won't get any conflicts, i.e. we haven't already asked for Stow to create symlinks on the same software without removing them first, or we don't forget we have already installed BRLTTY directly:

ls /usr/local/{bin,sbin}

should be enough to see if we have to clean things up before going any further. Note we'll see how to use Stow to remove created symlinks just after explaining how to ask for it to create them (we hope you read from up to below...):

cd /usr/local/stow
stow brltty-3.2

will create the symlinks, in parent directory. For example:

  • ln -s brltty-3.2/bin ../bin (if ../bin didn't exist)
  • ln -s brltty-3.2/bin/brltty ../bin/brltty (otherwise)
  • and so on

Now, running /usr/local/bin/brltty will work perfectly, looking for its config files in /usr/local/etc/brltty/ and so on, even if it's all symlinks - as if BRLTTY-3.2 was installed there.

When you want to switch to another version, you simply have to ask for Stow to remove symlinks it created:

cd /usr/local/stow/
stow -D brltty-3.2 # if current release points to this version

and then:

stow brltty-3.3-with-api

Doesn't it look powerful?!