kde and gnome are merely windows managers, they have nothing to do with compiling.
Yes, make and make install, means youre compiling.
In most cases you can't just compile that easy. Thats why most distributions have repos with packages allready in binary. When you want to install something they calculate the dependencies and install the software after downloading the binaries.
When you compile you are going to transform the sources (the actual code the coder wrote) into binaries (something the computer will understand) but you still have a problem, you will still need the dependencies!
Before you compile you will ned to install the other dependencies and most of the time kernel headers.. In mint before you compile just make sure you install the build-essential package.
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sudo apt-get install build-essential
Then take care of your dependencies, then compile.
In backtrack its the same thing, but i'm assuming you have allready what you need installed. That means you should only take care of the dependencies and then compile (i'm not 100% sure since i never tried to compile anything on bactrack... Could someone confirm that?)
Good luck with the rest