Apr 27 2009
Fink: more than a funny name, it is a gateway to the best free software the GNU/Linux community has to offer. With the help of FinkCommander, you can use Fink without touching the Terminal.
What is Fink? To answer that question, we’ll have to delve a little into the world of Linux. Each distribution of Linux has a package manager that works like OS X’s Software Update. However, Linux package managers track and install third party GNU applications as well.
Fink acts as a package manager for OS X, providing access to a library of GNU programs and libraries that have been ported to OS X by the Fink Project. To get your own Fink, download the installer, run it and then install FinkCommander (included with the Fink installer) to install a GUI.
I should mention that applications downloaded through Fink will require a form of X Windows on your system. Don’t worry, this isn’t as complicated as it sounds. X11 for 10.3 is an easy download from Apple. If you’re a Jaguar user and didn’t download Apple’s X11 beta, you can install X11 using XonX.
Update: Thanks to James for this download link to the Apple X11 beta for 10.2 here.
Once you have Fink and Fink Commander installed, you can fire up Fink and go shopping for GNU apps. There are two ways you can install an application with Fink – install a precompiled binary or compile the source code yourself. For the later you’ll need to install developer tools from Apple.
So, is there anything worth downloading from Fink? You bet. I’d recommend grabbing the KDE window manager. KDE is, simply stated, the Aqua of Linux. It is easily installed through a convenience package in Fink that bundles all the required files together. If you install the full bundle of KDE, you’ll have added a full GUI including games, office, internet and utility applications.
Once you have a window manager in place, you’ll probably want to grab the Gimp. This free Photoshop rival is also available via Fink. Now this is a good time to talk about versions. Fink supports 10.1,10.2 and 10.3 in varying degrees. The most interesting and recent packages are available to Panther users. Based on your OS and Fink versions, you’ll have access to a different set of ported software. If you like to keep things simple, stick with the default stable binary builds. If you like to live on the edge, you can take on the newest unstable versions.
There are too many cool free applications available through Fink to mention them all here. But, once you have your installation going, you can have your crack at anything from IRC clients to genealogy tools. And for veterans of the Classic Environment, you’ll find the ability to run programs from another OS easy and useful.
That’s all for this week. Have fun with Fink!