Examples not working?

Install Software from Source Code #

A lot of scientific software is developed using C, C++, and Fortran. Sometimes the maintainers provide prebuilt software binaries from Linux, but more often you have to compile their software from source code. Building from source might sound daunting, especially if it’s your first time - there is new terminology to understand, new tools to use, and sometimes hard-to-understand error messages.

This document gives the gist of one of to the most common way to build software from source code, namely the “configure -> make -> make install” approach. Please be aware that not all software tools use this approach, so it’s not universal, but it is by far the most common approach.

configure -> make -> make install #

Compiling software from source often involves three steps:

  1. Configuration - configure the following build step to work with your current set of tools and libraries

  2. Building - compiling the source code into binary executables

  3. Installation - install the compiled binaries to its final destination

Lets use the HTSeq software samtools as a real-world example to illustrate these steps.

Download and extract source code #

We start by downloading the latest software “tarball” from https://github.com/samtools/samtools/releases to a temporary working location:

[alice@dev2 ~]$ mkdir -p "/scratch/$USER"
[alice@dev2 ~]$ cd "/scratch/$USER"
[alice@dev2 alice]$ wget https://github.com/samtools/samtools/releases/download/1.14/samtools-1.14.tar.bz2
[alice@dev2 alice]$ ls -l samtools-1.14.tar.bz2 
-rw-r--r-- 1 alice boblab 7744794 Dec  7 14:41 samtools-1.14.tar.bz2

The next step is to extract the content of this tarball, which we can do using tar -x -f (“extract file”):

[alice@dev2 alice]$ tar -x -f samtools-1.14.tar.bz2
[alice@dev2 alice]$ ls -l
total 7568
drwxr-xr-x 9 alice boblab    4096 Oct 22 04:48 samtools-1.14
-rw-r--r-- 1 alice boblab 7744794 Dec  7 14:41 samtools-1.14.tar.bz2

As the we see, the content of the tarball was extracted into a subfolder samtools-1.14. The tarball file is no longer needed after this stage. Let’s enter that new folder and look at its content:

[alice@dev2 alice]$ cd samtools-1.14
[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ ls
amplicon_stats.c    bam_markdup.c       bedcov.c       Makefile
AUTHORS             bam_mate.c          bedidx.c       misc
bam2bcf.c           bam_md.c            bedidx.h       NEWS
bam2bcf.h           bam_plbuf.c         ChangeLog.old  padding.c
bam2bcf_indel.c     bam_plbuf.h         config.h.in    phase.c
bam2depth.c         bam_plcmd.c         config.mk.in   README
bam_addrprg.c       bam_quickcheck.c    configure      sam_opts.c
bam_ampliconclip.c  bam_reheader.c      configure.ac   sam_opts.h
bam.h               bamtk.c             INSTALL        stats_isize.h
bam_import.c        bam_tview.c         install-sh     test
bam_index.c         bam_tview_curses.c  LICENSE        tmp_file.c
bam_lpileup.c       bam_tview.h         lz4            tmp_file.h
bam_lpileup.h       bam_tview_html.c    m4             version.sh

We see that there are lots of files, but a few standard files stand out: configure, INSTALL, Makefile, NEWS, and README. The files README, NEWS and INSTALL are standard file names for human-readable text files. These are often useful to read when trying to understand what the software is about and how to install it. If there is an INSTALL file, as here, it most likely contain instructions on how to install the software. In our case, INSTALL contains a section:

Basic Installation

To build and install Samtools, 'cd' to the samtools-1.x directory containing
the package's source and type the following commands:

    make install

Familiar, eh?

Step 1 - Configuration #

Default installation instructions, like the ones above, often assume we will install the software as an administrator to a central location available to all users on the system. That is not possible to individual users on the cluster. Instead, we need to install it to a location where we have permission to create and write files and folders.

A common pattern is to install into a subfolder in our home folder that reflects the name of the software and its version. This way we can have multiple versions of the same software installed at the same time. Let install samtools to the following folder:

[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ mkdir -p $HOME/software/samtools-1.14

Now we can configure the build to install to this folder:

[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ ./configure --prefix=$HOME/software/samtools-1.14
configure: running /bin/sh ./configure --disable-option-checking '--prefix=/wynton/home/boblab/alice/software/samtools-1.14'  --cache-file=/dev/null --srcdir=.
checking for gcc... gcc
checking whether the C compiler works... yes
checking for C compiler default output file name... a.out
checking for suffix of executables... 
checking whether we are cross compiling... no
checking for suffix of object files... o
checking whether we are using the GNU C compiler... yes
checking whether gcc accepts -g... yes
checking for gcc option to accept ISO C89... none needed
checking for ranlib... ranlib
checking for grep that handles long lines and -e... /usr/bin/grep
checking for C compiler warning flags... -Wall
checking for pkg-config... /usr/bin/pkg-config
checking pkg-config is at least version 0.9.0... yes
checking for special C compiler options needed for large files... no
checking for _FILE_OFFSET_BITS value needed for large files... no
checking shared library type for unknown-Linux... plain .so
checking whether the compiler accepts -fvisibility=hidden... yes
checking how to run the C preprocessor... gcc -E
checking for egrep... /usr/bin/grep -E
checking for ANSI C header files... yes
checking for sys/types.h... yes
checking for sys/stat.h... yes
checking for stdlib.h... yes
checking for string.h... yes
checking for memory.h... yes
checking for strings.h... yes
checking for inttypes.h... yes
checking for stdint.h... yes
checking for unistd.h... yes
checking for stdlib.h... (cached) yes
checking for unistd.h... (cached) yes
checking for sys/param.h... yes
checking for getpagesize... yes
checking for working mmap... yes
checking for gmtime_r... yes
checking for fsync... yes
checking for drand48... yes
checking for srand48_deterministic... no
checking whether fdatasync is declared... yes
checking for fdatasync... yes
checking for library containing log... -lm
checking for zlib.h... yes
checking for inflate in -lz... yes
checking for library containing recv... none required
checking for bzlib.h... yes
checking for BZ2_bzBuffToBuffCompress in -lbz2... yes
checking for lzma.h... yes
checking for lzma_easy_buffer_encode in -llzma... yes
checking whether htscodecs files are present... yes
checking for libdeflate.h... no
checking for libdeflate_deflate_compress in -ldeflate... no
checking for curl/curl.h... yes
checking for curl_easy_pause in -lcurl... yes
checking for CCHmac... no
checking for library containing HMAC... -lcrypto
checking for library containing regcomp... none required
checking whether PTHREAD_MUTEX_RECURSIVE is declared... yes
configure: creating ./config.status
config.status: creating config.mk
config.status: creating htslib.pc.tmp
config.status: creating config.h
config.status: linking htscodecs_bundled.mk to htscodecs.mk
[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$  

Importantly, make sure there are no errors reported. If there are, they need to be resolved before continuing. This document does not explain how to resolve configuration errors. If you cannot figure it out yourself, please reach out on one of our Support Channels.

Step 2 - Building #

If the configuration steps completes without errors, it is often straightforward to build (“compile”) the software my calling make. The make command will use formal build instruction in the Makefile, but we don’t have to know about those details. Just call make as in:

[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ make
config.mk:46: htslib-1.14/htslib_static.mk: No such file or directory
cd htslib-1.14 && make htslib_static.mk
make[1]: Entering directory `/scratch/alice/samtools-1.14/htslib-1.14'
sed -n '/^static_libs=/s/[^=]*=/HTSLIB_static_LIBS = /p;/^static_ldflags=/s/[^=]*=/HTSLIB_static_LDFLAGS = /p' htslib.pc.tmp > htslib_static.mk
make[1]: Leaving directory `/scratch/alice/samtools-1.14/htslib-1.14'
gcc -Wall -g -O2 -I. -Ihtslib-1.14 -I./lz4  -c -o bam.o bam.c
gcc -Wall -g -O2 -I. -Ihtslib-1.14 -I./lz4  -c -o bam_aux.o bam_aux.c

[ ... lots of output ... ]

gcc -Wall -g -O2 -I. -Ihtslib-1.14 -I./lz4  -c -o test/vcf-miniview.o test/vcf-miniview.c
gcc  -L./lz4  -o test/vcf-miniview test/vcf-miniview.o htslib-1.14/libhts.a -lpthread -lz -lm -lbz2 -llzma -lcurl -lcrypto -lz  -lpthread
[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ 

Make sure there are no compilation errors. If you get errors at this stage, it could be because the gcc compiler is too old. If that happens, try using a newer compiler version following the instructions in Section ‘Too old compiler?’ below.

Step 3 - Installation #

If we got this far, all we have to do is to install the software we just configured and built to its final destination, which was specified in the configure step. All we have to do now is:

[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ make install
mkdir -p -m 755 /wynton/home/boblab/alice/software/samtools-1.14/bin /wynton/home/boblab/alice/software/samtools-1.14/bin /wynton/home/boblab/alice/software/samtools-1.14/share/man/man1
install -p samtools /wynton/home/boblab/alice/software/samtools-1.14/bin
install -p misc/ace2sam misc/maq2sam-long misc/maq2sam-short misc/md5fa misc/md5sum-lite misc/wgsim /wynton/home/boblab/alice/software/samtools-1.14/bin
install -p misc/blast2sam.pl misc/bowtie2sam.pl misc/export2sam.pl misc/fasta-sanitize.pl misc/interpolate_sam.pl misc/novo2sam.pl misc/plot-ampliconstats misc/plot-bamstats misc/psl2sam.pl misc/sam2vcf.pl misc/samtools.pl misc/seq_cache_populate.pl misc/soap2sam.pl misc/wgsim_eval.pl misc/zoom2sam.pl /wynton/home/boblab/alice/software/samtools-1.14/bin
install -p -m 644 doc/samtools*.1 misc/wgsim.1 /wynton/home/boblab/alice/software/samtools-1.14/share/man/man1
[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ 

Testing #

If we pay attention to the make install output, we see that the samtools executable was installed in the bin/ subfolder of our installation directory ~/software/samtools-1.14/. Since this is not yet on the search path, we have to specify the full path for our initial test:

[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ $HOME/software/samtools-1.14/bin/samtools --version | head -3
samtools 1.14
Using htslib 1.14
Copyright (C) 2021 Genome Research Ltd.

In order to call this samtools executable without having to specify the full path each time, prepend its path to the PATH environment variable, e.g.

[alice@dev2 ~]$ export PATH=~/software/samtools-1.14/bin:$PATH
[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ which samtools
[alice@dev2 samtools-1.14]$ samtools --version | head -3
samtools 1.14
Using htslib 1.14
Copyright (C) 2021 Genome Research Ltd.

For convenience, you might want to add:

export PATH=~/software/samtools-1.14/bin:$PATH

to your ~/.bashrc file.

Too old compiler? #

The GCC development tools that comes built-in on our CentOS 7 system are quite old. For example, the default gcc version is from 2015;

[alice@dev2 ~]$ gcc --version
gcc (GCC) 4.8.5 20150623 (Red Hat 4.8.5-44)
Copyright (C) 2015 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.  There is NO

This GCC 4.8.5 compiler supports older C++ standards such as C++11, but none of the newer standards, including C++14 and C++17, cf. https://gcc.gnu.org/projects/cxx-status.html. Most software are configured to validate that we have a sufficient compiler version when built, and if a too old version is used, there is often an informative error message. Examples might be:

g++: error: unrecognized command line option '-std=gnu++17'

From this error message (-std=c++17), we can see that we need a compiler that requires C++17, From https://gcc.gnu.org/projects/cxx-status.html#cxx17, we see that we need at least GCC 7, or possibly even GCC 8. Newer version of compilers are available via the ‘devtoolset’ CentOS Software Collections (SCLs). The easiest way to access these is via the scl-devtoolset modules in the CBI software repository, e.g.

[alice@dev2 ~]$ module load CBI scl-devtoolset/8
[alice@dev2 ~]$ gcc --version
gcc (GCC) 8.3.1 20190311 (Red Hat 8.3.1-3)
Copyright (C) 2018 Free Software Foundation, Inc.
This is free software; see the source for copying conditions.  There is NO

You only need to load these compiler tools prior to installing the software. With very few exception, they are not needed for running the installed software later on.