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Why does Bitcoin Core use Autotools instead of checking a Makefile into source?

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Because checking for compiler features, without Automake/CMake/Ninja/Bazel with only Makefile and C++ preprocessor is hard and unelegant.

And C++ preprocessor can't be used to make full-compile feature tests. If the compiler supports AVX256, a relatively new instruction set, that doesn't mean the assembler supports it too. There are "fail if can't compile completely"s in the autoconf file.

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