Linux software on Mac OS X

Pack Your Mac

© Franck Boston, 123RF

© Franck Boston, 123RF

Article from Issue 106/2009

An increasing number of Linux desktop users also run a Mac, and although the Mac has a lot of great programs, Linux has a lot of apps you can't get natively for the Mac.

Fink and MacPorts are projects that focus on porting open source software to Mac systems. Both projects also provide a packaging system and an interface for command-line installation.

Pick a Project

MacPorts [1] is the more comprehensive project, with 5,807 packages (at time of writing) to Fink's 3,015. However, Fink [2] still offers certain packages that aren't in MacPorts. If you have a short list of packages you want to move to your Mac, check out both package lists to see which will work the best.

Or Mix and Match

Also, it's possible to mix and match: I run packages from both MacPorts and Fink on the same machine quite happily. This approach might cause conflicts, however; make sure you don't install the same program via both projects.

X11 and Xcode

The majority of packages in Fink and MacPorts that use a GUI will need X11 to run. (If all you're going to run is command-line software, you don't need X11; neither Fink nor MacPorts use it per se.) X11 is available on the Apple DVD that came with your Mac, and as of the Leopard (10.5) release, it is installed automatically.

If you're running 10.4 (Tiger), you need to put your installation DVD into your Mac, click the Optional Installs package, then choose X11 when you get to the appropriate screen of the installer.

For MacPorts, you'll also need Xcode, which you can install either from the Mac OS X installation DVD or from the Apple Developer website [3].

Although you can install binary packages in Fink without Xcode, you'll need it if you want to install from source.

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