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Building source code is a task that is uncommon in the Windows environment.  Not so in Linux.  The more familiar one is with building programs from source, the more programs seem to get built.  Here is a simple trick that has helped me.

Set up an area to build Source Code

I build all of my source code in the directory /usr/local/src.  To set up the directory for building code, run these two commands.

$ sudo chown $USER /usr/local/src 
$ sudo chmod u+rwx /usr/local/src

Extract tarballs

I've made a directory within /usr/local/src named tarball to store source code.  To extract a gz or bz2 file run the following

 $ tar -zxvf tarball.tar.gz
 $ tar -jxvf tarball.tar.bz2

Once extracted in the /usr/local/src/tarball directory, I extract the files to /usr/local/src

Be sure and read the README and INSTALL files located in the extracted directory.