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Using Panther and XWindows

Using Panther and XWindows

Set up the Mac OS X environmet

Panther (Mac OS X version 10.3.x) is assumed here. For old notes pertaining to pre-Panther Mac OS X, see here.

Several little things have improved in Panther, compared to previous versions. One thing I noticed is that the Preview application has become a lot more useful. In particular, it can be used to display Postscript files. The number of other usefull OS X applications out there has increased far beyond what I can list here.

Check for example for things you may need.

As my web browser,
I have decided to use Camino. It draws windows very fast and makes it possible to click through the computer's file system from within the browser. Apple's Safari, on the other hand, opens Finder windows when I type something like
I personally find that annoying.
As a PDF viewer,
I use Preview. For PDf presentations, I use Adobe Reader, because it is currently the only viewer able to display embedded movies and 3D graphics, and play sounds.
For bibliography archiving,
check out BibDesk. It works nicely with LaTeX (see below).
The Terminal Application
is indispensable for the following installations. It can now display colors. For example, if you type ls -lG, a color-coded directory listing appears. Another use of colors in Terminal is the emacs editor that comes pre-installed in OS X.

Install Developer Tools

This is on the CD XCode Tools that comes with Panther. On my newest computer, the Developer Tools were not yet pre-installed but the necessary installers already resided on the Harddisk out of the box. I went to
/Applications/Installers/Developer Tools
and first installed Developer.mpkg. This installs, among other things, the XCode development environment including the all-important C compiler. When I type cc --version, I get 3.3.

Alternatively, download the packages from the Apple site: You have to log in (or first sign up) as a member of the ADC (Apple Developer Connection). All this is free of charge. Make sure you don't get an older version of this software!

Install XFree86

This is the XWindows server which you need in order to run things like Xemacs/emacs etc. Download it from Apple

Install XWindows developer kit

Once X11 is installed, you may want to compile programs that use X11 features. The installations below may require this. For that purpose, go back to the Folder
/Applications/Installers/Developer Tools/Packages/
and installed X11SDK.pkg.
Again, you can also download the package from the Apple site:

Get the Fink porting software

This allows you to download all the UNIX applications you'll ever need. Get the file "Fink 0.7.0 Binary Installer" from the page and install it, following the instruction on that page. There are different instructions on that page, depending on whether you are a new fink user or have used fink before upgrading to Panther. Make sure you follow the appropriate link!

If you are new to fink, it may be useful to use a graphical user interface rather than the command-line version which I am using. The GUI, called Fink Commander, is available from

Login shell and initialization script

One departure from the fink instructions: I actually included "source /sw/bin/init.csh" in my .cshrc and also in my .tcshrc file. The default UNIX shell I am using is tcsh; this is different from the bash shell that is initially selected as the startup shell.

I changed this setting using the application
/Applications/Utilities/Netinfo Manager. Under "users", look for your login name and check the list of properties for your account. There is an item "shell", which I modified to /bin/tcsh.

This choice of shell is mostly a matter of taste, but also of historical compatibility with earlier versions of OS X. In OS X before Panther, tcsh was the default. I have switched back and forth between csh, ksh and tcsh over the years, and I see no reason to abandon tcsh again.

Install software

In the Terminal application, open a new window to initialize the shell. Then start by typing the following commands:
fink list | grep system-xfree86
On my machine, this outputs the following:
i    system-xfree86 2:4.3-2 [placeholder for user installed x11]
i    system-xfree86-dev 2:4.3-2 [placeholder for user installed x11 development tools]
i    system-xfree86-shlibs 2:4.3-2 [placeholder for user installed x11 shared libraries]
At least the first line should be there if fink is to be aware of your existing XWindow installation.

Now you're ready to install other software: type fink install tetex-texmf
The sudo command is essential (it requires you to enter your password) so that the installations are done with root privileges.
This installs a full-featured LaTeX system.

Next come the other useful installations which depend on individual needs. In order to get the BLAS and LAPACK libraries optimized, I now do the following:

fink install atlas

You will be asked several questions which can be acknowledged by simply hitting return, except when asked for the type of processor. There, choose the appropriate one! Also, if you are compiling the libraries from fink's unstable tree, make sure you actually read the file it prompts you to check. This may in fact contain important bug information. Everything else is then automatic (there is another dialog later on asking you to enter the number at the top of the screen - that means the biggest part of the compilations are done...)

Many packages in fink now use Apple's veclib library when possible, so that ATLAS may not be necessary for you.

More fink installations

The information about packages that can be installed is found on the fink pages,
It is crucial to read the Documentation and FAQ in order to avoid installation problems. I myself installed many packages, among them xemacs-sumo and GIMP, without problems.

For more tips and tricks, look through my earlier installation notes.

Jens Nöckel <>
Last modified: Fri Nov 12 14:45:14 PST 2004