A blog named for the muse of Astronomy containing musings by an astronomer

Leopard Issues for the Astronomer (a.k.a. I’m not sure X11 is better)

Posted on November 25, 2007 by Juan

So this weekend I decided to take advantage of the long weekend and between bites of turkey with the family, I decided to upgrade my laptop to Leopard (MacOS 10.5). I had been reading about the various issues with Leopard before the upgrade, so among the things I did in anticipation of Leopard was

  • I uninstalled Unsanity’s Application Enhancer.
  • I removed X11.app from my automatic launch items in the Accounts Preferences Pane Login Items. X11 is extensively refreshed under MacOS 10.5, so you don’t want to autolaunch X11.app any more.
  • I upgraded Cisco’s VPN software to the latest version distributed by my campus (you want Cisco VPN Client 4.9.01 (0090)).
  • I did a quick search of the various applications I run and looked for “Leopard” upgrades via MacUpdate.
  • Finally, I researched the incompatibility of Adobe Acrobat with MacOS X 10.5. I discovered that while the AdobePDF printer driver broken under the new OS, you can use Apple’s built in PDF capability (specifically “Save as PDF-X”) capability to create the PDF, which can then import and edit just fine in Acrobat.

Having done all that, I decided to bite the bullet and install the upgrade. First thing I did was back up the entire internal drive to an external drive (which I had formatted with Disk Utility to make sure it was capable of booting an Intel Mac) using Carbon Copy Cloner. Once the drive was cloned, I ignored the overhyped warnings from MacFixIt.com (who I won’t link to, because they were bought out, they definitely sold out as a source of accurate help) and instead followed the Apple recommended procedure of just doing an upgrade to my previous Tiger installation. I figured if worst came to worse, I would recover from the backup drive (in my mind, the backup is the critical step, not how you choose to upgrade). So approximately 80 minutes later my laptop finished its upgrade and rebooted. Some notes on my initial issues with the new OS.

  • The new dock doesn’t bug me as much as some (John Siracusa does the best analysis of the problems with the new Dock in his extensive ArsTechnica review of Leopard), but maybe its because I thought the old dock was broken enough as a launcher that I use QuickSilver instead (which works fine under Leopard).
  • Leopard finally handles virtual memory use nicely, removing old files in the /var/vm directory once the memory has been released.
  • I don’t like the translucent menubar, but there exist various free applications to get rid of those and the changed dock.
  • The new OS nuked all my installed printers. Not a huge deal, but I have to re-install all my printers again. I kind of understand why this might of happened, but it was a pain.
  • I had to use Disk Utility to Repair Permissions before my Widgets behaved properly, but now, they actually seem to run better than before (less delay in accessing them).
  • I patched IDL to version 6.4.1, seems to work now.
  • I knew from Ben Bayer’s (Apple’s X11 guy) postings on the matter that

    Biggest architectural change in Leopard for X11: Switched from XFree86 codebase (based on, IIRC, X11R6.8) to X.org codebase (X11R7.2)

    Biggest user-visible change: launchd support for X11. The only situation where you should need to manually start X11.app is if you are only running remote X11 applications.

    The way that this is accomplished is by some slight-of-hand with the $DISPLAY variable — if you look, it should be something like “/tmp/ launch-vbXRyu/:0″. If an X client connects to this, it will actually connect to launchd, which will start Xquartz if needed and pass the client’s socket to the server.

    All of that should be invisible to you; the X client library (libX11.dylib) was modified to support this, and all X11 applications link against this library. “DISPLAY=:0″ would still work if X11.app is already running, but it will not trigger X11 to launch.

    So in other words, we are not supposed to set the shell environmental variable DISPLAY to “:0”. Well, I removed all the times I set it from .tcshrc, .bashrc, .login, etc and it still remained stubbornly set until I remembered trying to get Carbon Emacs working a few months back required my setting environmental variables to my entire session using the ~/.MacOSX/environment.plist file. I opened it, removed the DISPLAY variable from the list of those set for the entire session, and viola. Almost everything worked as advertised except:

  • SAOImage DS9 refused to launch because of the non-standard DISPLAY variable. I initially hacked around this by launching an xgterm (from IRAF) and setting the DISPLAY variable in it to “:0” then launching ds9 within that xgterm session. I did this all in one line via: 
    xgterm -geometry 80x45+40+30 -sb -e 'setenv DISPLAY :0; ds9 -fifo ~/iraf/dev/imt1 -geometry 800x800+600+30 &'
    where I was connecting to my IRAF pipes (thus the ‘fifo’ command line entry). However, I emailed the SAOImage DS9 folks on Thanksgiving and they replied same day to tell me about the new ds9 darwin 5.1beta. That fixed the launch issues with ds9. Apparently getting the Aqua version updated is a bit trickier, so its not done yet.
  • I had to uninstall the MacPorts version of xephem, but installing it manually from the source worked just fine.
  • I installed the unofficial updates to X11 from Xdarwin (see MacSingularity for some notes). The biggest issues this fixes are (1) the focusing problem of X11 windows behind Aqua windows not always being “focusable” and a (b) bug in X11 that caused several programs using the Gimp Toolkit (aka gtk) to crash. NOTE: These updates have been superceeded by those on the MacForce XQuartz updates site.

All in all, I like the new upgrade, the most useful feature for me being the QuickLook interface and the just generally better networking behavior. I also think there has been a lot of thought put into nips and tucks (such as where the Firewall controls are now, in the “security” prefpane instead of “sharing”). More reports from the field as my usage of IRAF and ds9 under Leopard continues.

2 Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 26 11 07 16:30

    Some more notes on Leopard at Mac Singularity

  2. 14 01 08 11:36

    Urania » Blog Archive » SAOImage DS9 5.1 released

Leave a Reply

  • Translate

  • Astro Pic o' the Day

  • Archives

  • Admin

↑ Top