After much googling and apt-file searching, including trying to understand the human-unreadble ./configure script (man who wrote that? Skynet?), I finally found out the root of a problem I had:
I have several machines running different versions of Ubuntu linux. One a vanilla 9.04 installation and one ol’ upgraded to 8.10 who have pretty much everything installed (ok, slight exaggeration). Of course when I tried to ./configure, make, make install SDL on the 9.04 and make/run my small test application (made on the 8.10), it bombed with the SDL error “No video devices available”.
The FAQ did not quite give me the straight forward help I’d liked. The FAQ states “make sure that you have the X11 development libraries installed”. It would have saved me quite some time to know more specifically which one it was - as I am not a hard core linux hacker who instictively know these things. Now I know that on Ubuntu/Debian they are called libx11-dev and nothing else. Perhaps the FAQ could be updated with this information?
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