December 7, 2010

Bringing Linux to Mac OS X

Mac OS X includes a lot of the programs and utilities you'd expect to find in your basic Linux or Unix system. But what about those open source programs you've come to depend on or prefer using from Linux? Sure you could compile them from source, and honestly sometimes that's the only way to do it. But, why compile it yourself when there's an automatic installation system available.

There are two systems available to help you do this, MacPorts and the Fink project. While they aren't technically incompatible it's a good idea to pick one system and stick with it so you don't forget which you used to install a particular program. What both of these programs do is compile and install the programs from source for you and help out with the dependency nightmare.

Dependencies are other programs, normally libraries, required by a program before it can be installed. If you decide to compile from source yourself, then you'll need to worry about installing all the dependencies. Both MacPorts and Fink will automatically install dependencies for you.

Upgrades are also simplified with this system. Instead of manually compiling and installing a new version, you can upgrade all your programs with a single MacPorts or Fink command. Set it up to run automatically so you can forget about upgrades.

Finally, if you do need to compile something, for example because it's not available in your source system of choice, things are still easier. Instead of compiling dependencies by hand, you can use MacPorts or Fink to install the dependencies, then compile the program. In the next series of articles we'll cover how to download, install and use MacPorts and Fink.

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