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Introductory Remarks

Opposed to other, well established UNIX flavors, Mac OS X is as well rather young as less mainstream than all of these others. Personally speaking, I think with versions below 10.1 it was technically like GNU/Linux with a Linux kernel less than 2.0 (which means not useful for daily use at all, but for cracks), and has reached the 2.0 equivalence just with 10.1 (currently 10.1.4 subrelease). To get to the 2.2 level, it will need to go to 10.2, I guess. The following account is primarily for power/UNIX users and I hope it is useful, despite I tell therefore nothing about rather simple tasks performed by most users on most desktop systems nowadays. In future this page is likely to be split in several ones.

Proposed Schedule for Transformation into a "Pure UNIX"

This is my personal suggestion only, feel free to deviate from it!

  1. Get an X server to get mainstream UNIX compatibility on the GUI side. Preferably XFree86 projects' version for OS X, currently XDarwin 4.2 (hand-installing is generally considered preferably to a fink install, see below, and fink is pretty aware of an hand install by you!.

  2. Get an X window system manager too (see also below), mostly recommended are Orobor and even better WindowMaker, which integrates greatly within XDarwins rootless mode on top of Aqua.

  3. Make sure, that you have the development tools installed and available, espeically the GNU compiler (currently used is 2.95.2, maybe 2.95.3 in future or even later a 3.0x version?). You can either download them with a sufficient fast and/or cheap connection, or get the CD as add-on or buy it --- I got it in Germany just a week after ordering it from the USA.

  4. Install the fink package management utility and prepare for CVS usage to make updates to its database. Like the Debian GNU/Linux apt-get manager, on which it is technically based, it enables you an easy, generally depency safe installation of typical open source software for UNIX systems, mainly, but not restricted to, GNU packages.

  5. Recommeded: the bash as most widespread shell: while for simple command invocation purposes the tcsh works out about equally well, it is due to lacking portability like any c shell not well suited for scripting purposes.

  6. Be aware, that the currently maintained branches of fink contains for Mac OS X just about 200 packages for the stable, but more than 900 for the unstable branch --- if you want to make good use of it, you are virtually forced to use the unstable branch (exclusively, for consistency purposes). Fink can update itself (with the help of a sourceforge CVS server, see above), this should be done in a regular manner, roughly once a month...

  7. Now you are set to use all the good stuff: some examples of what you can already install this way follow... (be aware, that you get essentially sources, so there will be a lot of compiling happening!)

Examples for packages you might want to install: a2ps (standard text to postscript printing), abiword (the leading open source text processor, based on GTK+ and GNOME), AfterStep (another GNUstep window manager, a little older than WindowMaker and similar to fvwm(2)), bind9 if you want to run DNS, bzip2 for highly compressed packages (for example Linux kernels and Mozilla sources too can be downloaded this way), cdrtools (for reliably burning standard compliant CDs and DVDs, opposed to the shitty, proprietary HFS(+) approach, with which Apple is excluding all standard UNIX folks and the even more shitty Redmond OS from reading CDs with their own tools), ethereal (GTK+ based tool for in-depth network port/packet analysis), fileutils (to replace the OS X command versions with superior GNU versions), Galeon and Mozilla (X based standard UNIX versions, will run even on UFS at now, opposed to Aqua Mozilla), GIMP (even acknowledged by stock Mac users as useful image processing tool), gnupg (for ensuring your (email) privacy), Gnumeric (the leading GTK+ open source spreadsheet solution), Gtop (system monitor alternative to the rather simple Apple tools and the non-X shareware solution XMonitor), gv (the leading free GhostView derivative, capable of displaying PostScript and even encrypted PDF without decryption key, opposed to AcrobatReader), imagemagick (command line image manipulation toolbox), junkbuster (advertisement and cookie blocker), jwhois (the fine GNU version of the whois questionary tool), links (no prerequisites requiring simple, but table-rendering text browser), mplayer (the leading open source solution to play video, CDs and DVDs, is able even to play media, which can't be denied by the monopoly player; but keep in mind, that on non-i32 platforms like the PowerPC Mac the capability of video play is limited due to the lack of wine support thereon), pine (the Washington University text mail client, capable of nearly all, on X even with helpers it can launch a viewer like xv or imagemagick directly), postfix (the fine, fast and secure replacement for the dated, insecure and notoriously difficult to configure sendmail MTA included in Mac OS X), qcad (a free 2D CAD program), recode (the virtuall all codepage/character set conversion capable command line utility), rrdtool (for graphical analysis of network and related service usage), stunnel (for VPN encryption transfer of unsecure services via untrusted networks like the Internet), evolution (a secure and free M$ OutShit clone), vim (the Vi IMproved editor, even with the graphical gvim add-on under X), xv (a very mature and capable image viewer with some simple change features too) and xwrits (warning after to many keystrokes done in a short time to bring your hands to rest for a while); this is to name some packages which I find especially worth to being noticed.

Some more (short) Proposals and Hints

This is just an unordered collection so far. If you won't read all, just make a browser search in the text!

  • Filesystem: the dated Mac OS up to version 9.22 is a thing, people like us can do without. So dismiss the totally shitty, highly insecure and anti-UNIX default non-partition (one big chunk HFS+, which fs is very unreliable due to enterprise measures) and replace it with a reasonable number of UFS partitions (and free ones too for GNU/Linux, I would propose as senseful approach) --- don't be afraid, like on Solaris since v7 it is secured with a log against endless fsck actions after electrical failures or accidental power-offs. Be aware, that the click tool Apple provides us with is very problematic and not sufficient to get a true UNIX style partition scheme, you may try it with simple command line tools like fdisk, but have to create in the first place a bootable medium with it because of some insane (not experienced users aimed, I think) restrictions Apple built in. If you want to seperate in the usual manner the /var filesystem from the root one, you have to do pretty much yourself afterwards, because Apple lets install Mac OS X on one volume only, and only data volumes (without any UNIX related primary parts) can be seperated from it easily.

  • Never burn CDs with Apples integrated tools! Because they offend the ISO9660 standard with an insane HFS+ filesystem, nothing but another Mac will be able to read such a CD --- see above, the command line package cdrtools is the choice number one to avoid this problem, and the problem of lack of reliability too. (don't dare to try to read a HFS+ file system with a Linux kernel supporting HFS, because it will make a mount hang --- HFS+ is similar enough to start the trial, but too different from HFS to make the mount successful, which renders a CD drive useless until the next reboot!)

  • Run XDarwin in rootless mode only --- this gives you the most benefit, common usage of Aqua and X based software and much better performance(!) than the completely X window system mode (at least when using WindowMaker, but this should be the same with other window managers); to run both window managers together, you will need to install the xquartz package additionally to the base packages of XDarwin, and for above mentioned X based software compilation you need the xprog package too to install from XFree86.

  • Be always aware, that by far the most OS X configurations are done exclusively in the NetInfo center inherited (like Aqua) from NextStep (even the user management aside from an usual bunch of UNIX system users like root), with very few exceptions. So you need to write a /etc/resolv.conf (too), for making DNS resolution working always; the /etc/hostconfig solely is used to set the hostname (HOSTNAME), and be aware that you could in principal deactivate the lookupd daemon and disabling NetInfo support at all, leaving the usual /etc configuration alone. But this is a challanging and time consuming change...

  • Be aware of the for UNIX systems alway dangerous power management function, which can interrupt productive use when it is not discerned as such (you know, all computers and OSs are essentially absolutely stupid).

  • Manually (or script or fstab) only mount NFS shares, because the preferences have huge problems with doing so.


 

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remarks etc. to: stefan.urbat@apastron.lb.shuttle.de

(URL:  http://www.lb.shuttle.de/apastron/osxhints.htm)