BRL-CAD source files contain an INSTALL file with general instructions. This page contains simplified tips for building quickly.
Obtain Dev Tools
BRL-CAD uses the CMake build system and will compile with most compilers, so first up is to download and install it. If needed, compiling from their source distribution is actually very easy.
If you're on a Debian/Ubuntu system, you can install pretty much everything you might want with aptitude:
aptitude install build-essential cmake aptitude install libxi-dev libncursesw5-dev libxt-dev libxslt1-dev libxmu-dev libxmu-headers byacc flex libtnt-dev libxext-dev libpng12-dev zlib1g-dev libsm-dev libx11-dev libxau-dev tk8.5-dev tcl8.5-dev tk8.4-dev tcl8.4-dev itcl3-dev
Release sources may be obtained from Sourceforge or directory from Subversion:
svn checkout https://brlcad.svn.sourceforge.net/svnroot/brlcad/brlcad/trunk brlcad cd brlcad
Next, we set up a build directory and configure our compilation. BRL-CAD adhere's to a high conformance standard and considers most warnings as errors, so we turn off that strict behavior just so the build doesn't halt on trivialities.
We could add -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Release to get an optimized build or -DCMAKE_BUILD_TYPE=Debug to get one better suited for development work.
mkdir .build cd .build cmake .. -DBRLCAD_ENABLE_STRICT=OFF
Compilation will usually take anywhere from a couple minutes to an hour depending on your hardware. If you had a quad-core CPU, you might run '"make -j4" to request compiling in parallel.
make make test
We run make test to see if all went well. If the build fails, it can be helpful to run make again capturing output to a log file. E.g., make > build.log 2>&1
Depending on the version of sources you start with, BRL-CAD should install into /usr/brlcad/SUBDIR where SUBDIR is rel-VERSION or dev-VERSION.
sudo make install /usr/brlcad/rel-VERSION/bin/mged
You don't have to install, though, and can just run binaries that are in the brlcad/.build/bin directory.
That's it! If you have a Release compile, you can submit your benchmark results to benchmark at brlcad dot org. Be sure to check out the extensive Documentation and Main_Page for tutorials and Contributor Quickies for ways to get involved!