Ruminations on the Digital Realm

Jan Stedehouder

Back to the iMac: open source software

With all the problems I experienced with the X-server when installing Linux I decided to take a different route. How far can I go with open source software on Mac OSX. Our great friend, Google, revealed some interesting websites that led me to the conclusion that I can go far, very far.

One interesting website is Open Source Mac, which contains a fairly complete list of software for the Mac OS X. A lot of familiar software and some interesting new material like Centerstage with which you can turn the iMac into a media center. A little less slick looking, but well equipped is FreeSMUG, which focuses on free software (as opposed to, distinctive from open source software). A complete CD can be downloaded here. Nothickmanuals is even more austere looking website, but -again- the list of software is promising and fills some gaps.

But what really got me excited was the Fink Project. Fink can almost be compared to Synaptic in that it provides a graphical interface to apt-get and -dpkg to install Unix open source software on the Mac OS X.

Why use Fink?

Five reasons to use Fink to install Unix software on your Mac:

Power. Mac OS X includes only a basic set of command line tools. Fink brings you enhancements for these tools as well as a selection of graphical applications developed for Linux and other Unix variants.

Convenience. With Fink the compile process is fully automated; you’ll never have to worry about Makefiles or configure scripts and their parameters again. The dependency system automatically takes care that all required libraries are present. Our packages are usually set up for their maximum feature set.

Safety. Fink’s strict non-interference policy makes sure that the vulnerable parts of you Mac OS X system are not touched. You can update Mac OS X without fear that it will step on Fink’s toes and vice versa. Also, the packaging system lets you safely remove software you no longer need.

Coherence. Fink is not just a random collection of packages, it is a coherent distribution. Installed files are placed in predictable locations. Documentation listings are kept up to date. There’s a unified interface to control server processes. And there’s more, most of it working for you under the hood.

Flexibility. You only download and install the programs you need. Fink gives you the freedom to install XFree86 or other X11 solutions in any way you like. If you don’t want X11 at all, that’s okay too.

It is available for both the PPC and Intel platforms and the list of packages is soooooooo Linux.

    • base – Core packages
    • crypto – Cryptographic software (subject to national regulations)
    • database – SQL and other database software
    • devel – Software for software development
    • editors – Text editors
    • games – Games and other fun stuff
    • gnome – The GNOME desktop environment (hybrid of versions 2.6-2.16)
    • graphics – Graphics applications and libraries
    • kde – K Desktop Environment (version 3.5.4)
    • languages – Programming languages (compilers, interpreters)
    • libs – General purpose libraries
    • libs/perlmods – Perl libraries
    • libs/pythonmods – Python libraries
    • libs/rubymods – Ruby libraries
    • net – Network-related applications and libraries
    • sci – Scientific applications
    • shells – Shells a.k.a. command line interpreters
    • sound – Audio software
    • text – Text-processing software
    • utils – Utilities that do not fit elsewhere
    • web – Web-related software
    • x11 – General X11 packages – toolkits and utilities
    • x11-system – X Window System core packages
    • x11-wm – Window managers for the X Window System

Before I can continue with Fink I need to install two things on the iMac: the XCode Tools/Developer Tools and X11, but once that is done it it time to compile all the software I would like to see on my iMac. This should be fun 😉

Tags: Mac OSX, open source, Linux

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