my JHBuild setup

Tshepang Lekhonkhobe

JHBuild is a powerful and flexible build tool for GNOME. It does takes some getting used to in terms of set-up, but this wiki page is quite gentle, and it details how to get the code running on your machine.

If you use Debian (or Ubuntu), you can use run this command:

wajig --norecommends install build-essential docbook-xsl flex \
bison cvs gperf cmake  {uuid,ppp}-dev \
libx{composite,randr,damage,ft2,i,t}-dev \
libxcb-{event1,aux0,atom1}-dev \
lib{pam0g,iw,db,gdbm,png12,ffi,tiff,vorbis,gl1-mesa,unistring} \
lib{quvi,icu,neon27,usb-1.0-0,asound2,ncurses5,udev,usb,acl1} \

It's installs the development packages that will be needed by the build process. The --no-recommends option means I want to limit the installation to packages I really need, avoiding the extra stuff deemed by the packager to be useful for me.

My "~/.jhbuilrc" contains the following:

# build directory
checkoutroot = os.path.expanduser("~/src/gnome")

# don't spew lots of distracting status messages
notrayicon = True

# attempt to build modules even if their dependencies weren't successfully built
nopoison = True

# don't build these since they have issues; this implies that I must install my distro's development versions
skip = ['nss', 'nspr']

# dont fetch moduleset xml files from the web; use ones that are installed locally
use_local_modulesets = True

# where html-formatted logs are kept
tinderbox_outputdir = os.path.expanduser("~/temp/tinderbox")

See Configuration File Reference for a detailed explanation of these options.

After this, I run jhbuild bootstrap --ignore-system. This downloads, builds, and installs the basic tools for building packages (here's the xml file it uses to determine what these tools are, and where it downloads them from). To avoid issues with some incompatibility with my OS, I use --ignore-system, which ensures that the bootstrap command will use the blessed versions of these tools.

When the bootstrap process is complete, I run the not-so-descriptive command jhbuild tinderbox (See Command Reference for a detailed explanation of this and the other options). This is the same as build, except that the output is stored in html files, in a directory specified by tinderbox_outputdir in the config file.

Ideally, some hours later, the process should be complete. Reaching for "~/temp/tinderbox" will present you with a whole bunch of html files, one for each module. The file "index.html" will give a decent page that acts like a summary of the entire build process, showing which modules failed, and on what build stages. Gorgeous!


  • This process is rather simplified, for the sake of clarity.
  • I run Debian 6, codenamed Squeeze.
  • There is a more thorough tutorial elsewhere.

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