Quoth Gregor Hoffleit, on 11 April 1999:
Just a quick question: Does the package support something like autoconf's DESTDIR ? I.e. installing the built package in a directory different from the actual target ? I'm not sure if that's in the scope of `build --dir' or `install --prefix'.
The installation directories are up to the 'install' command. The most convenient way to set them is by setting the prefix, but you can (or will be able to) set every target directory individually. RTFS for the options that control this -- I haven't documented anything yet because I'm not sure the option names are final.
DESTDIR is necessary for building Debian packages: Debian's packaging tools work on files in `pwd`/debian/tmp. Generally, something like "./configure --prefix /usr; make; make DESTDIR=`pwd`/debian/tmp install" is used. Note that this is different from setting prefix to `pwd`/debian/tmp!
In general, that's true -- but as the Distutils currently stand, the prefix is used *solely* to generate the installation directories. So it doesn't (yet) matter which one you set. I'm not sure if that will remain true forever, though.