Make Unix Tool

Notebook

Introduction to make

Survival guide to make

COMPUTING-BLOG
scientific-computing make

What is make?

It is a command line tool to perform automatic tasks. Usually it is used on compilation of complex codes to ensure that all the dependencies are correcly included, but also it allows to perform other repetitive tasks efficently.

Often the kind of task we are doing in scientific computing are somehow hierarchical. So we extract some data information from a server using a program, we run a custom made model based on that data, we obtain new output datafiles that can be processed as an input of another program. For example a data analysis program or another code to perform additional simulations.

As we see in each step of the process we have a target with one or more dependencies that is using a program to build the target from them. Make helps you to create rules for that. The structure is more and less standard:

target: dependency1 dependency2 dependency3
    rule

Step by Step with examples

For example, the next rule compile a Fortran code with dependences: compute.f90 constants.f90 main.f90 and a target myprogram.out.

myprogram.out : compute.f90 cte.f90 main.f90
    gfortran compute.f90 cte.f90 main.f90 -o myprogram.out

Usually this information is stored in a file named: Makefile which contains all the rules. And we can compile just writting make. Let’s say that we want to compare results with several different contants.f90 files

myprogram1.out : compute.f90 cte1.f90 main.f90
    gfortran compute.f90 cte1.f90 main.f90 -o myprogram.out
    
myprogram2.out : compute.f90 cte2.f90 main.f90
    gfortran compute.f90 cte2.f90 main.f90 -o myprogram.out

We can invoke each rule by,

make myprogram1.out

or

make myprogram2.out

It is quite common include a clean rule as,

clean : 
    rm -f myprogram*.out

myprogram1.out : compute.f90 cte1.f90 main.f90
    gfortran compute.f90 cte1.f90 main.f90 -o myprogram.out
    
myprogram2.out : compute.f90 cte2.f90 main.f90
    gfortran compute.f90 cte2.f90 main.f90 -o myprogram.out

This clean rule has no dependencies, however if make finds a file or directory named clean then nothing is done. For this reason we include:

.PHONY : clean
clean : 
    rm -f myprogram*.out

Let’s say that our fortran code process some datafiles stores in a subdirectory data but this datafiles have to be downloaded from a server with the more recent information, we can include a rule for that.

.PHONY : download
download : 
    wget -O dataset.tar.gz http://mydataserver.com/nowcasting.tar.gz
prepare : dataset.tar.gz
    mv dataset.tar.gz data/
create : data/dataset.tar.gz
    tar -zxf data/dataset.tar.gz

With this kind of rules you have to,

> make download
> make prepare
> make create

After that you will have the file nowcasting.tar.gz decompresed on your directory and stored also in data/ as dataset.tar.gz. However is we don’t have yet downloaded the file or prepare it for extracting then make doesn’t know how to proceed. Basically make doesn’t know how to build the dependency **data/dataset.tar.gz. But we can try as,

.PHONY : download
download : 
    wget -O dataset.tar.gz http://mydataserver.com/nowcasting.tar.gz
prepare : download
    mv dataset.tar.gz data/
create : prepare
    tar -zxf data/dataset.tar.gz

And the commad make create will do all the previous rules to achieve the rule create. Note that if you type in bash shell make and tab you will see all the possible rules avaliables on the Makefile of your current directory, something very useful.