I just spent an hour trying to figure this out, AGAIN! To compile Zlib support into your Python interpreter, do this:
1. Install the Zlib-dev package for your distribution. (you probably have zlib already, but not the dev package)
On Ubuntu it’s called ‘zlib1g-dev’, on others it might just be: zlib-dev or zlib-devel. Do a search on your distro package lists to find it.
You should end up with a ‘zlib.h’ file in your system. In mine, Ubuntu, I have /usr/include/zlib.h
2. Get your python sources to compile and run the configure script like so:
See there that I included the ‘/usr/include’ directory to find zlib.h in? After the make && make install it worked great!
Keep in mind your mileage may vary, but this might help I hope. More importantly, now I can remember how I did this! :)
MINOR UPDATE (3-29-2013):
Its been almost 8 years since I wrote this, and people still don’t have zlib in python by default. I noticed several comments below about some distros requiring a change in python/modules/setup to add the zlib module. Below is the text from comment below by “kernc” (about 2 years ago):
./Python2.5/Modules/Setup and uncomment the line starting with:
zlib zlibmodule.c …
I don’t seem to have this in Ubuntu, so not sure which distro’s requires this.