One caveat I'd like to add. Sometimes there isn't a configure script but there is a config.in script. If this is the case, su to root and enter the command 'autoconf'. This command will generate a 'configure' script.
Also, make sure that you extract the project directory in a directory where you have both write and execute permissions. I created a downloads subdirectory in my home directory, and extract them in place. Before executing the 'make install' command, you need to su to root also.