In my experience, the most redundant part of the Unix filesystem.

It's got exactly the same structure as /usr, and its directories (mostly) have the same purposes. So when something gets installed to /usr/local instead of /usr, it causes needless confusion, especially since I've never run a Linux distro that has /usr/local/bin in its path by default, or looked for libraries in /usr/local/lib.

So what's the point of having this be a seperate directory? Is there any reason why I can't just symlink it to /usr and resolve these problems forever?

I know that the difference is supposed to be that /usr is for programs that come with your distro and /usr/local is for stuff you install yourself, or something like that. Wishful thinking, I say, because everything installs to /usr anyway because at least it'll WORK there without the user having to move files around.

Recently, I tried to get Pike and pigtk set up. Both had to be compiled from source. When I finally found a version of Pike that would compile, it put itself in /usr/local/bin, while pigtk expected it to be in /usr/bin. So I moved it. After struggling with getting pigtk to compile also -- people release too damn many programs that don't compile - I went and ran the Pike script I'd been doing all this in order to run, and it didn't work. I looked at the script and it wanted Pike in /usr/local/bin. Aaaargh!

The Posix-correct place to put third-party software is now /opt.

The company I work for has traditionally used /usr/local for the *operational* versions of software developed in-house.

This includes binaries as well as shell scripts, and the original versions of OS scripts we have had to customize. Oh, and of course documentation.
It makes a lot of sense when you're frequently backing up and restoring stuff, or updating the OS. You know where all your weird stuff is.

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