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

Archive for the ‘MacPorts’

Experimenting with a little Homebrew 0

Posted on March 01, 2011 by Juan

Well, today it finally happened.  I got sick and tired of MacPorts behavior of replacing every binary already included in the Mac OS with its own version.  I don’t need two versions of perl or python installed on my Macs and I am getting tired that every time I try to install a port, it insists on installing a complete perl/python installation or its own set of libraries the MacOS already has built in,  in order to install a small utility.  I know that MacPorts has some justification for this, but it seems messy to me.

As such, I started looking for alternatives and came back to homebrew, which I had discovered a few months ago.  It is a package management system in which everything relies on already installed Mac binaries/libraries as much as possible.  By default, homebrew packages are installed into their own isolated directory (/usr/local/Library/Cellar/) and then symlinked into /usr/local/bin, /usr/local/sbin, or /usr/local/lib directories as needed. But it is flexible enough that you can install it where ever you want and it will still run.  Another nice feature, it doesn’t require you install it as root, it can run completely as the user permission level!

The negatives of homebrew:

  1. There are no where near as many packages (they call them “Formula”) are available for Homebrew as for MacPorts or Fink.
  2. For an astronomer, another big problem, there is no TeX under Homebrew.

It turned out the first negative was a bit of annoyance, but I was willing to live with it because the installation was so much cleaner and most of the important packages I needed MacPorts for were already there.  The second negative turned into a postive because I discovered here is a very easy to install MacTeX package available now that installs a complete TeXlive installation, including AASTeX, by default!  It even has some nice GUI controls included for keeping it up to date.

What follows is a description of what I did to transition from MacPorts to HomeBrew+MacTeX.

  1. Backing up MacPorts: No need to not have a way to change my mind if this blows up in my face.  I backed up my entire MacPorts installation by using the command

    tar czvf /opt_backup.tgz /opt

    and then when that was done, I had a 1.6 Gig tarball at the root level of my drive called opt_backup.tgz.

  2. Disable MacPorts: At this point, I deleted the /opt directory and commented out the commands in my ~/.tcshrc that added those directories to the PATH environmental variable.   If you use the default bash shell, you will need to edit ~/.bashrc to disable MacPorts.
  3. Install Homebrew: Following the directions on the Homebrew site. I originally wanted to place homebrew in its own custom install directory (/usr/local/homebrew).But after reviewing the Homebrew installation documentation, I came to realize that using the default /usr/local location for the install makes the most sense.

    I did this in the recommended manner, using the install script, which does some nice permission checking to make sure things will run nicely before installing. Since my default shell isn’t bash, I had to switch to it, then just run the install script from the command line:

    ruby -e "$(curl -fsSLk https://gist.github.com/raw/323731/install_homebrew.rb)"

    The first time I ran it, it failed because my permissions for /usr/local had been tweaked. So I had to run the command

    sudo chown -R root:staff /usr/local

    to get the permissions so the script could run.

  4. Activate Homebrew: Since I am not using a custom directory for the installation, there is not configuration needed in terms of setting up the environment. /usr/local/bin/ is in the default PATH, so as soon as I start up a new terminal window, homebrew is available! Otherwise, I would have to edit my default ~/.tcshrc or ~/.bashrc to add the homebrew binaries directories (bin and sbin) to the PATH environmental variable.
  5. Install my favorite packages using homebrew: Installing packages in homebrew is just a matter of making sure the Formula for the package exists (all the publicaly available Formula are here) and then typing

    brew install (formula name)

    So for example, installing CFITSIO was just a matter of typing:

    brew install cfitsio

    Actually, this was for the most part simple for my attempts to install git.  It kept crashing with an error that said:

    The current directory must be set to the ITT directory.

    Well, ITT is the vendor of IDL (a package commonly used by astronomers for data reduction) and I discovered that I had accidentally set the IDL binary directory to be in the PATH ahead of the default system directories.  This meant the IDL version of a binary called install was replacing the system default version of this.  Just the kind of problem I was trying to get away from in MacPorts.  I  changed to my ~/.tcshrc to make sure the IDL binaries directory was later in the PATH than the system directories fixed things.  The only package this affected the install of was git, all the other packages installed without a hitch thus far.  The other brew formulae I installed were installed with the following commands:

    brew install subversion  imagemagick ghostscript macvim lynx coreutils findutils plotutils

    I can get a list of all the packages I have installed using the command:

    brew list

  6. Installing MacTeX: This was extremely easy, I downloaded the MacTeX 2010 package (The version I got was dated 10 Sept 2010 and was 1.6 Gig) and then uncompressed it and double clicked it. It installs using the Mac Installer. I did make sure to customize the install to remove some of the stuff I didn’t feel I needed, but I kept the GUI tools. Turns out there is a nice TeX Live Utility installed in /Applications/TeX that lets you customize which TeX packages are installed and can automatically update things. Review of this tool also showed a very astronomer friendly decision to include AASTeX by default! The TeX installation is in the /usr/local/texlive/ directory and it installs a symlink at /usr/texbin/ to all the LaTeX binaries. I added the following lines to my ~/.tcshrc file to get the tex binaries in my PATH:

    # Set up MacTeX 2010 by including path to that installation of LaTeX
    setenv PATH ${PATH}:/usr/texbin

So there you have it, how I went from using MacPorts and the literally hundreds of packages to support the few I wanted to trimming things down to a few packages in homebrew and one double-clickable TeX installer.

[Edited on Mar. 2, 2011 11:04 am to update the instructions to the default homebrew instructions, which are cleaned and easier to implement.]

Mac Apps for the Professional Astronomer 2

Posted on June 01, 2010 by Juan

I was asked by one of my colleagues who was late to switching to a Mac (from linux) what the necessary software is for an astronomer to have on their Macintosh. Some lists of this sort have been assembled online, however most are no longer available. Some resources I was aware of that were still online as of this writing (Summer 2010) were

  • Jane Rigby’s (Carnegie Observatories) OS X for Astronomers: This site is a fairly complete listing of Mac software the Professional Astronomer would be listed in. However, she uses “Fink” whereas I prefer “MacPorts”. To each their own.
  • MacOS X for Astrophysicists: This site is a bit dated (last update 2007) but there is a lot good information about how to configure X11, LaTeX, etc. on the Mac.
  • MacResearch: Focused more generally on using a Mac for research (notably programming), this site is a good read even if not astronomy focused.

My approach here will be to list everything I use on a regularly basis in my research. I will warn you up front that I am an optical astronomer who as dabbled in some radio astronomy, but I don’t know anything about High-Energy packages. So that is one bias. Secondly, being a college professor at a smaller state institution, I tend to focus on free (as in beer) or inexpensive software although I will list a few programs that I think are definitely worth the money for professional astronomer.

Programming/Unix Environment

There is some stuff any astronomer using a Mac should install, because it is free and/or critical to using your computer as a competent astronomer (depending on your specialty)…

  • XCode: You will need the gcc compilers in many cases and they come with the OS, so you might as well install them. If you want to get the most current Xcode, you can download it from the Apple Developer Connection website (you will need a free account).
  • g77/gfortran compilers: If you need a g77 (for MacOS before 10.6) or gfortran compiler, the best place to get pre-built binaries is at the High Performance Computing of MacOS X website.
  • X11: X11 is an optional install under Tiger and is installed by default under Leopard. However, when in Leopard, Apple switched from Xfree86 to X.org, and this transition introduced some advantages (no DISPLAY environment setup necessary…. yeah!) and some bugs (Boo!). As such, I had been using XQuartz in Leopard, which remain a few steps ahead of Leopard’s X11 and easily installed over it. However, I have found Snow Leopard’s X11 installation stable and robust enough to not replace it with XQuartz any more.
  • MacPorts: The bane of many unix-style OSes these days is the package manager one uses to install the unix-style programs with all their dependencies. I have settled on MacPorts. I used it’s “competitor” Fink for a while, but I have found MacPorts to generally be a much more up-to-date package manager. I use it to install TeTeX and a multitude of CLI programs (PGPLOT, gs,gv,gsl,xephem).
    • Porticus: is a decent (free) GUI front end for MacPorts if you fear the command line.

For the Optical Astronomer

This is the data reduction software I use almost every time I work on my research…

  • Scisoft OSX (My Mirror): IMHO the simplest way to install IRAF and many other packages I use regularly (PGPLOT, WCSTools, Sextractor, CFITSIO, etc.) in one double-click of a mouse (and some editing of my .tcshrc file).
  • SAOImage DS9: I sometimes update the version of DS9 included in SciSoft OSX with the most current versions from the CfA.
  • HEASARC’s fv: They call it the “Interactive FITS File Editor” and frankly it sometimes is the easiest way to quickly see the contents of a complex FITS files.
  • JSkyCalc: This venerable observing planning software that used to be solely for the command line (when it was skycalc) has now been updated to a graphical user interface written in java, so it runs on almost any platform, including Mac OSX. For the Mac, just save the jskycalc.jar file someplace and double click on it to launch it.
  • IDL: Definitely not cheaper (but cheaper than it used to be). Some astronomers I know swear by it (I have been known to swear at it). Personally, I do need the power of IDL sometimes, especially when someone else provides me her/his IDL code. If you use it, you will probably want to grab the IDL Astronomy Users Library which provides a large number of pre-built IDL routines for the astronomer. If you are feeling cheap, you might be able to get away with GDL (from High Performance Computing)

For the Radio Astronomer

This is the data reduction software I played around with when reducing radio data. I can’t claim I am current on the state of the art, so let me know if you feel I am missing something here.

  • AIPS: When I was doing more radio astronomy, I was working with AIPS a lot. I helped in the process of getting it working under MacOS (as a guinea pig). It ran quite nicely under MacOS the last time I used it (about 2004).
  • CASA: CASA (formerly AIPS++) is a sort of successor to AIPS. Personally, I was never that impressed with it, but I know several people who like using it (such as folks involved with ALMA). It is available for Mac OS 10.5 and 10.6 (Intel Macs only).

Writing Tools for Astronomers

Writing either documentation or papers for peer-review publications can be a challenge. For informal work, I have quite happy using Apple’s Pages for written work or Apple’s Keynote when assembling a poster or set of slides. However, for peer-reviewed journals or NSF applications, I typically use latex, having installed tetex with MacPorts.

  • Texmaker: is a nice interface for writing LaTeX on the Mac. Certainly not perfect or as good as some commercial products I have seen, but it is free and it works well. I especially like it when used with the Skim PDF reader which allows in-window updating of the PDF.
  • Papers: This is an awesome package for organizing your personal library of publications. It provides (somewhat glitchy) ADS Abstracts and arXiv interfaces that allow you to match PDF files to their metadata. Once you have done this, you can search for you local library by the words in the title, abstract, author’s name, year of publication, etc. And you can keep your PDFs organized. It has been a wonderful way for me to keep track of everything I have been reading when I have to prepare a paper.
  • iWork: is a very useful package from Apple that acts as a lower cost replacement to Microsoft Office (if all I cared about were cost, I would use OpenOffice.org). However, I use it because it includes:
    • Keynote: Keynote is a much more polished presentation manager than PowerPoint.
    • Pages: I prefer pages for my word processing and MacResearch had a compelling article on why you might use Pages for grant applications.
  • MathType 6: I would recommend also getting MathType 6, which let’s you insert equations into Pages or Keynote with ease (and it accepts LaTeX as a way of building equations). Make sure to update to the current version, it avoids a lot of crashing bugs.
  • LaTeXit: If you don’t want to pay for a commercial program, LaTeXit is a great option for typeseting formulas with LaTeX. It allows you typeset and then drag the results into Keynote or Pages documents where they are inserted as PDF images.
  • Evernote: I don’t use Evernote solely for writing papers, it is just a place to toss little notes I used to keep on post-it notes. But if I want to save some webpage or some text for later use, it is a perfect tool for that. It can sync between Mac and iPhone/iPod touch and it is free for up to 40 MB of notes a month.

Astronomically Useful Widgets

Widgets have been in MacOS since version 10.4 (Tiger), and while I don’t find them terribly useful, there are some free Widgets can be useful to have on observing runs:

  • Clear Sky Clock Widget: I may be biased since I helped re-work this widget and am responsible for the current version, but is useful as a way of displaying the current Clear Sky Chart (formerly called “Clear Sky Clock”) on your desktop. Clear Sky Chart is only useful for astronomers in North America.
  • AstroTimes Widget: I am not sure if this widget is still available, but it was a quick way to see the Local Sidereal Time when observing.

Astronomically Useful Spotlight Plugins

Spotlight is a feature that has been built-in to MacOS X since version 10.4 (Tiger). It indexes the contents of files to allow for almost instantaneous searches of the contents of a hard drive. The built-in plugins search many file types, but the following additional plugins are useful for file formats astronomers commonly run into.

  • FITSImporter: This plugin allows Spotlight to index FITS file headers.

Astronomically Useful QuickLook Plugins

QuickLook is a feature that has been built-in to MacOS X since version 10.5 (Leopard). When in the Finder, selecting a file and tapping on the spacebar displays a preview of the file. As with Spotlight plugins, many common file formats are supported with the built-in plugins, but for file formats astronomers commonly run into some plugins can be useful.

  • QLFits: This QuickLook plugin allows easy previewing of FITS file headers and images/spectra from the Finder.
  • QLColorCode: This QuickLook plugin displays source code files with syntax highlighting making QuickLook a much more powerful way of previewing code.
  • EPSQuickLookPlugIn: Allows viewing of encapsulated PostScript files via QuickLook. Since most figures I embed in my papers start as EPS files, this is very useful to me.

The Less Obvious Stuff

Some software doesn’t fit well into a particular broad class of work astronomers do, but can come in useful all the same for specific tasks.

  • User Interface Enhancements:
    • ShellHere.app: Drag this to your Finder winder and from now on, if you want to open the Terminal at a location corresponding to a given Finder winder, all you you need to do is click on the ShellHere icon. Works great, sort of the counterpart to “open .” in the terminal opening up a Finder window.
    • QuickSilver: Why waste your time digging through the Finder? I use QuickSilver to launch programs, access frequently used documents, and basically streamline my use of my Mac. Its the swiss army chainsaw of launchers.
    • GeekTool: This is an awesome little tool that allows you to display almost anything on your desktop. I use it to display my weblogs and system logs to my desktop, along with the local weather conditions and Doppler radar image. Anything you can display in the shell can display on the desktop.
  • A backup solution beyond Time Machine! Time Machine (part of Mac OS since version 10.5) is wonderful for incremental backups, but if your boot drive fries, you can’t boot from your Time Machine backup. This is why I also clone my boot drive regularly.
    • Carbon Copy Cloner: This is a free way to clone your boot drive on the Mac.
    • DejaVu: If you want an more automated solution, I prefer DejaVu, which runs scheduled rsync sessions in the background. That way, my backup drive is constantly updated and when my boot drive fails, I can just switch over to the backup without losing a beat.
  • Versions: Actually, I can’t say I ‘recommend’ Versions per se. I would strongly recommend subversion or some other version tracking system for anyone who writes code regularly. It makes tracking edits to source code (and latex documents) a breeze. I happen to use Versions as a very nice GUI that allows quick examination of differences between different versions of the source code you have tracked. That said, it is not cheap and I think SynX is a perfectly adequate free GUI front-end for code version tracking with similar functionality, if not as polished.
  • Parallels/VMWare Fusion/VirtualBox: If you occasionally have to run software that only runs on that other platform (you know, Linux), virtualization software is quite useful. I have found both Parallels 5 and VMWare Fusion 3 to be quite good (I found Parallels to be faster, but I heard VMWare was catching up). VirtualBox is free (as in beer) and may be an option to try before shelling out money for commercial virtualization software.
  • Chicken of the VNC: At several observatories, I am required to use VNC to interface with the computers. Chicken of the VNC works as a client. There are commercial VNC clients that are a bit faster, but if you have decent bandwidth, this works fine.
  • Wx: As an frequently optical astronomer, I sometimes obsess about the weather. Of all the weather programs out there, I have found this one to be the most stable and flexible. Its relatively inexpensive ($16.95 US), but as a warning, it is limited to the United States.
  • OmniFocus: This program is probably the single most useful program I have for managing my time. It implements David Allen’s Getting Things Done approach to time management. Its not cheap, nor is it completely intuitive… but it is absolutely necessary for me. A iPhone version also exists, which allows syncing of your OmniFocus sessions between your Mac and iPhone/iPod Touch.
  • DropBox: If you look at DropBox for the first time, it just looks like a way to sync files between computers. That is, until you realize you can allow specific users to share specific directories. I use it to share files to big to email with collaborators all the time. The only warning, it currently doesn’t map out extended attributes of files (like the executable settings) between computers, so it is not good for shell scripts. This failing is supposed to be fixed in the current version 0.8 beta.
  • fseventer is useful for diagnosing programs that create files. It tracks all file system events as long as it is on. So if you want to know where an installer is tossing files around your system, this will help you see what is happening. Its rare that I need it, but when I do, it is a Godsend.

[I made some minor edits adding some links I had forgotten about. – June 1, 2010 11:45 am CDT]

SSH2 extension activation in PHP 5.3.0 4

Posted on October 13, 2009 by admin

This is an upgraded tutorial to getting SSH2 support under PHP 5.3.0 that I wrote a while back. Getting SSH2 support in PHP is useful for maintaining WordPress blogs. It would be nice if such an extension were not necessary, but this is the only way WordPress supports SSH administration through their web interface.

The big difference is that I will now be using the built-in Apache2 and PHP 5.3.0 under MacOS 10.6.1. I have gotten tired of the fact that everytime MacPorts updates it PHP installation, it tends to clobber the php.ini file for the site, requiring me to re-setup everything. Furthermore, I am also a bit tired of having MacPorts install its own version of everything I already have under MacOS X (such as Apache2, PHP, and MySQL). I understand their philosophy (and the practicality of it), but I am trying to keep my computer as clean as possible. As such, I am only using MacPorts to provide libssh2 to the SSH2 extension for PHP.

I noticed that the WordPress code had ssh2 support built-in, so all I need to is activate SSH2 support in the MacPorts installed PHP and I should be able to use SFTP in WordPress to handle the upgrades. I poked around and found this posting outlining the process for adding ssh2 support to Ubuntu. It guided me in developing this list of hints:

  1. If you haven’t already, start by installing libssh2 via MacPorts using the command:
    sudo port install libssh2
  2. Download the necessary SSH2 PHP extension using the build in PECL command
    sudo pecl download channel://pecl.php.net/ssh2-0.11.0
    The sudo is necessary because a lock file needs to be created during the download in /usr/lib/php, which is a protected directory. However, the file is downloaded to the current directory. Once the download is complete, we will need to unpack the SSH2 extension and go into its directory:
    tar xzvf ssh2-0.11.0.tgz
    cd ssh2-0.11.0
    If you try to do the normal phpize/configure/make sequence for compiling PHP extensions at this point, you will get a string of error messages ending with something like
    /private/var/tmp/apache_mod_php/apache_mod_php-53~1/Build/tmp/pear/download/ssh2-0.11.0/ssh2.c:1105: warning: passing argument 4 of 'add_assoc_stringl_ex' discards qualifiers from pointer target type

    This is occuring because there is an incompatibility between this ssh2 extension code and PHP 5.3.0. It can be patched by downloading the ssh2-php53.patch file from http://remi.fedorapeople.org/ssh2-php53.patch and applying the patch from the command line in the ssh2-0.11.0 directory
    curl -o ssh2-php53.patch http://remi.fedorapeople.org/ssh2-php53.patch
    patch < ssh2-patch53.patch
    Once you have done that, you can finish the SSH2 PHP extension compilation using
    ./configure --with-ssh2=/opt/local
    sudo make install
    The final command informed me the ssh2.so library was placed in /usr/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20090626/

  3. Now you need to make sure PHP loads the new module, so we open the PHP configuration file /etc/php.ini and edit the extension_dir line to point the extension directory above:
    extension_dir = "/usr/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20090626/"

    and then add the following line to the end of the section on “Dynamic Extensions”:
    If you edited everything properly, a simple php -v from the command line should NOT trigger any errors.

  4. Finally, I restart the apache2 server so that the reconfigured PHP is loaded using
    sudo apachectl restart
    At this point, I checked (via the phpinfo(); command to see if the web server was supporting SSH. Near the bottom of the phpinfo(); listing is a listed of “Registered PHP Streams”. As noted here, it should incude “ssh2.shell”, “ssh2.exec”, “ssh2.tunnel”, “ssh2.scp”, and “ssh2.sftp”. If it does, you have enabled SSH support for Apache2 driven PHP pages under MacPorts.

  5. If you are doing this to get WordPress 2.7 automatic installation working, you will notice now when the automatic installation dialog box pops up, in addition to ftp and ftps, you now have an ssh option.

Activating SSH support in MacPorts PHP 6

Posted on December 11, 2008 by Juan

[I have made an updated version of these instructions for adding the SSH2 PHP extension to the pre-installed PHP 5.3.0 installation on MacOS 10.6 available here.]

I just upgraded the software on this blog to WordPress 2.7. The major new feature I am interested in is automatic upgrading, which could prove quite a time saver. Unfortunately, this automatic upgrading uses only FTP (which is totally insecure) or FTPS (which requires me to set up an SSL certificate).

I noticed that the WordPress code had ssh2 support built-in, so all I need to is activate SSH2 support in the MacPorts installed PHP and I should be able to use SFTP in WordPress to handle the upgrades. I poked around and found this posting outlining the process for adding ssh2 support to Ubuntu. It guided me in developing this list of hints:

  1. Start by installing libssh2 via MacPorts using the command:
    sudo port install libssh2
  2. Once it is activated, link the libssh and PHP together using the PECL module SSH2. Unfortunately, directly installing the module with PECL under MacPorts is troublesome, so I just used PECL to download the module.
    pecl download ssh2
    triggered the following error (since ssh2 is apparently beta),
    Failed to download pecl/ssh2 within preferred state "stable", latest release is version 0.11.0, stability "beta", use "channel://pecl.php.net/ssh2-0.11.0" to install
    Cannot initialize 'ssh2', invalid or missing package file
    Package "ssh2" is not valid
    download failed
    so I used
    pecl download channel://pecl.php.net/ssh2-0.11.0
    as suggested and was able to download the PHP library for SSH2. Once the download was complete, I started on the standard compilation sequence for a PHP library
    tar xzvf ssh2-0.11.0.tgz
    cd ssh2-0.11.0
    ./configure --with-ssh2=/opt/local
    sudo make install
    The final command informed me the ssh2.so library was placed in /opt/local/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20060613/
  3. Now you need to make sure PHP loads the new module, so we open the PHP configuration file /opt/local/etc/php.ini and edit the extension_dir line to point the extension directory above:
    extension_dir = "/opt/local/lib/php/extensions/no-debug-non-zts-20060613/"
    and then add the following line to the end of the section on “Dynamic Extensions”:
    If you edited everything properly, a simple php -v from the command line should NOT trigger any errors.
  4. Finally, I restart the apache2 server so that the reconfigured PHP is loaded using
    sudo /opt/local/etc/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.apache2/apache2.wrapper restart
    At this point, I checked (via the phpinfo(); command to see if the web server was supporting SSH. Near the bottom of the phpinfo(); listing is a listed of “Registered PHP Streams”. As noted here, it should incude “ssh2.shell”, “ssh2.exec”, “ssh2.tunnel”, “ssh2.scp”, and “ssh2.sftp”. If it does, you have enabled SSH support for Apache2 driven PHP pages under MacPorts.
  5. If you are doing this to get WordPress 2.7 automatic installation working, you will notice now when the automatic installation dialog box pops up, in addition to ftp and ftps, you now have an ssh option.
  6. Now that I got this working, I’ll just have to keep an eye out for any future MacPort updates to PHP and make sure they don’t overwrite the


    file or the extensions directory where I installed ssh2.

Installing old libxml2 ports with MacPorts 0

Posted on December 05, 2008 by Juan

There is a problem with libxml2 from version 2.7.1 onward where it completely deletes any greater than (&gt;) and less than symbols (&lt;) sent to it. This is messing up my blog posting unless I do it within the WordPress interface since attempts to use xmlrpc.php use PHP, which is compiled against libxml2, and thus the posting gets mangled.

The solution suggested on the PHP boards is to compile PHP against expat. This would be kind of a pain for me since I am using the MacPorts install of PHP. So I looked into rolling back to an earlier version of libxml2 using MacPorts. The solution was originally outlined in this blog post by Stephen Chu on how to install earlier versions of ruby under DarwinPorts, I have updated it for MacPorts. The key is to create a local MacPorts repository with the version of the port you want copied over to it.

  1. First I identified the version of the libxml2 portfile I wanted by going to http://trac.macports.org/browser/trunk/dports/textproc/libxml2/Portfile and entering revisions into the “View revision” box until I found the appropriate version of the Portfile linking to libxml2 2.6.32 instead of 2.7.1. This turned out to be revision 40211 (actually 39551).
  2. I created a directory to contain my MacPorts repository at /Users/Shared/dports/ and after creating that directory, I edited the MacPorts configuration file /opt/local/etc/macports/sources.conf to include the line:


    and you should make this line appear before the “rsync” or svn” port listing in the config file, otherwise it defaults to using that version of the port during the install.

  3. I then installed the old libxml2 port into my local MacPorts respository using subversion:

    svn co --revision 40211 http://trac.macports.org/browser/trunk/dports/textproc/libxml2/ textproc/libxml2/
    and then I updated the MacPorts index:

    portindex /Users/Shared/dports

    With this done, I can see the two versions of libxml2 in my ports list, when I issue a

    port list libxml2

    the result is:

    libxml2 @2.7.2 textproc/libxml2 libxml2 @2.6.32 textproc/libxml2

    showing the current libxml2 version in MacPorts and the older one in my repository.

  4. Now I can install the older version of libxml2 by first forcing removal of the current version and then installing the old version:

    sudo port -f uninstall libxml2 @2.7.2_1+darwin_9 sudo port install libxml2 @2.6.32

    [Warning: Unless you place the file:///Users/Shared/dports line before any rsync/svn lines of the config file noted in step 2, this port install command installs the current version instead of the old version]

  5. I had to forcible uninstall and then reinstall libxslt but then my reinstall of php within MacPorts went fine. And I can now use WordPress again without any issues when using a remote blog editor.

I just figured in case anyone else wanted to use an older MacPort port they could use this to figure out how.

MacPorts Misbehavior Update 0

Posted on December 05, 2008 by Juan

FreeType issues under Leopard Resolved: The MacPorts installation of FreeType will now compile a version under Leopard that does NOT throw a

The process has forked and you cannot use this CoreFoundation functionality safely. You MUST exec().

error when fonts are used in PHP routines (fuller notes on this problem here although with my “hacked” fix, which is no longer needed). This problem as originally reported under Trouble Ticket #15909 on MacPorts.

Careful with that Apache2 upgrade, Eugene: I also discovered I have to be careful when updating apache2 under MacPorts in that it actually wiped out some of the configuration files stored in /opt/local/apache2/conf/, specifically it overwrote my modified versions of the /opt/local/apache2/conf/extra/httpd-dav.conf file and /opt/local/apache2/conf/extra/http-userdir.conf files. So now I am keeping copies of everything in /opt/local/apache2/conf backed up so I can roll back my changes after an upgrade of apache2 in MacPorts.

Fork()ing Problems with FreeType solved 0

Posted on September 05, 2008 by Juan

[The hack reported here for getting FreeType compiled under MacPorts in a fully Leopard-compatible way is no longer necessary as current versions of MacPorts properly handle this now.]

As I reported on my blog here, here, and here, I have been having problems with my PHP programs on my web server that use fonts crashing with errors of the form:

The process has forked and you cannot use this CoreFoundation functionality safely. You MUST exec().

The problem turns out to not lie in PHP, but in Apple’s pre-installed FreeType which is compiled with “old font” support. This old font support is apparently old Carbon code instead of Cocoa (if I understand correctly, which I may not) and thus requires a forking of the process… which triggers this fault.

If you use MacPorts version of Apache and PHP (as I am now doing), you can fix this problem by editing the Portfile for freetype to disable old font support, recompiling it, and restarting your apache server. So following the hints in the MacPorts Bug Report #15909 I did the following:

Edit the Portfile located at /opt/local/var/macports/sources/rsync.macports.org/release/ports/print/freetype/Portfile changing line 50 to

#    --with-old-mac-fonts 
--with-fsspec=no --with-fsref=no --with-quickdraw-toolbox=no --with-quickdraw-carbon=no 

Now recompile freetype in MacPorts. To do this you have to force the uninstallation of freetype (which will cause much gnashing of teeth by MacPorts since freetype is required for several other ports.

sudo port -f uninstall freetype

Then recompile and reinstall freetype:

sudo port install freetype

And finally, give the apache server used by MacPorts a fresh restart to get it going with the new freetype libraries loaded.

sudo /opt/local/etc/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.apache2/apache2.wrapper restart

Doing this fixed all my freetype issues and I was able to use my FinderChart program again. The only disadvantage is that if freetype is updated from version 2.3.7 in MacPorts (and no no-old-font variant appears), I will have to re-apply this hack.

These Fork()ing PHP Woes continue 2

Posted on August 18, 2008 by Juan
What do you know, one reboot later and MacPorts Apache2 server with MacPorts PHP is throwing the same errors as the built-in PHP server. When I try to create a graphic using typography, I get
The process has forked and you cannot use this CoreFoundation functionality safely. You MUST exec().
It wasn’t complaining before the reboot. Maybe Apple’s security kicked in after the reboot although for the life of me I can’t understand why. I’ve continued investigating and in Apple’s Discussion boards I found there was a string of comments about this problem. One user, Bill Eccles, seemed to isolate the problem and his description matches the symptoms I am seeing:
Finally, there’s a big problem with FreeType. As I discovered, anytime FreeType fonts are used by GD, they apparently make a Carbon API call of some sort. Problem is, Apache2 uses fork() without a corresponding exec() and, upon calling PHP/GD/FreeType, the Carbon call in FreeType causes Apache2 to crash. It shows up in the error_log as
The process has forked and you cannot use this CoreFoundation functionality safely. You MUST exec().
Mon Nov 26 12:38:11 2007 notice child pid 304 exit signal Trace/BPT trap (5)
and in the system.log as
Nov 26 13:12:00 shr-g5 ReportCrash664: Formulating crash report for process httpd659
Nov 26 13:12:02 shr-g5 ReportCrash664: Saved crashreport to /Library/Logs/CrashReporter/httpd_2007-11-26-131145_shr-g5.crash using uid: 0 gid: 0, euid: 0 egid: 0
I didn’t discover the cause–I can’t take credit for this one.
At this point he provides a link to a blog that was just reposting mailing list digests and as such got pulled down. I think I have found the original thread about the problem on the FreeType mailing lists here. Bill then suggests the following solution (this is not complete):
[I]nstall FreeType 2 without the Mac-specific extensions. These extensions make it possible for FT2 to access fonts stored in a font suitcase, something which is unnecessary if you use plain “.ttf” fonts from other sources. Here’s how I did that: Get FT2 and expand the tarball: (in Sources–my version of /SourceCache):
curl -O http://download.savannah.gnu.org/releases/freetype/freetype-2.3.5.tar.gz
cd ..
tar xvfp Sources/freetype-2.3.5.tar.gz
Configure FT2 and make it:
MACOSX_DEPLOYMENT_TARGET=10.5 CFLAGS="-arch ppc -arch ppc64 -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -g -Os -pipe -no-cpp-precomp" CCFLAGS="-arch ppc -arch ppc64 -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -g -Os -pipe" CXXFLAGS="-arch ppc -arch ppc64 -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -g -Os -pipe" LDFLAGS="-arch ppc -arch ppc64 -arch i386 -arch x86_64 -bind_at_load" ./configure --with-fsspec=no --with-fsref=no --with-quickdraw-toolbox=no --with-quickdraw-carbon=no
sudo make install
Libraries end up in /usr/local/lib.
The funny thing is I have FreeType 2.3.7 courtesy of MacPorts, so I don’t know why the MacPorts installation of PHP is throwing the error unless it is not accessing the MacPorts version of GD. Actually, it makes complete sense. FreeType 2.3.7 in MacPorts is compiled with old font support (which is what triggers the problem). I submitted a trouble ticket requesting a variant of freetype be made available to disable old font support (which won’t work in Leopard anyway).

Fixing my PHP woes with MacPorts 2

Posted on August 14, 2008 by Juan

As I mentioned in my blog post earlier today, I have been having issues using the JpGraph graphing package for PHP with Apple’s built-in PHP under MacOS 10.5. It appears Apple’s security efforts have “secured” PHP to the point where JpGraph (and PDFLib) will not function properly under the built-in PHP. [Note added after initial post: The rest of this post describes installing Apache 2 and PHP under MacPorts and configuring it to be similar to Apple’s built-in servers.  This appeared to solve my problems, but then my Mac locked-up [possibly related] and on reboot, the new MacPorts-based PHP installation started throwing the same errors as Apple’s built-in PHP.  More information on this problem is located in my newer post on the issue.]

I had tried to alleviate the solution previously by compiling a version of PHP myself that would be compatible with Apple’s built-in Apache 2 web server. This turned out to be difficult because Apple’s Apache 2 web server is a “universal” binary, meaning it contains four seperate binaries (for 32-bit PowerPC, 64-bit PowerPC, 32-bit Intel, and 64-bit Intel processors). As such I needed to compile a “universal” PHP binary and since I wanted MySQL support, I needed a “universal” MySQL binary. This turned out to be too much for this astronomer, so I gave up on making a new PHP that was compatible with Apple’s built-in web server.

So I bit the bullet and after reviewing the options, I decided to install Apache 2 and PHP under MacPorts. If you have read the other posts on this site, you know I really like MacPorts as the quick and dirty way to get many things running on the Mac. However, despite this, I don’t like installing MacPorts for items Apple provides, instead generally preferring to use Apple’s “pre-installed” versions. Furthermore, there have been a lot of complaints on the MacPorts mailing lists about various issues compiling PHP5. So I wasn’t as quick to jump onto the MacPorts bandwagon for PHP as I am for other problems. However, since I am familiar with MacPorts, I decided this was the best approach for getting my online Finder Charts to work again.

The process proved reasonably painless, especially since I was able to review this blog post, where he lays out pretty much what to do. However, since I wanted to achieve maximum compatibility with Apple’s built-in web server and PHP setup, in case I wanted to switch back, I ended up doing things a little bit differently, so I am outlining my steps here.

  1. I started by installing the MacPorts version of Apache 2 using the command sudo port install apache2
  2. Next, I had to create the Apache 2 configuration files and edit them. I started by copying the sample configuration file
    sudo cp /opt/local/apache2/conf/httpd.conf.sample /opt/local/apache2/conf/httpd.conf
    and then editing /opt/local/apache2/conf/httpd.conf with my favorite text editor to change the configuration to match the that of the built-in Apache 2 server a closely as possible. My matching the configuration of Apple’s built-in server, I can switch back to it with relative ease if I choose to do so later. So I made the following changes to /opt/local/apache2/conf/httpd.conf:
    1. I changed DocumentRoot to "/Library/WebServer/Documents" as is the case with Apple’s built-in server.
    2. To allow index.php files to be used as directory indexes, I changed
      DirectoryIndex index.html
      DirectoryIndex index.html index.php
      (I don’t know why this isn’t necessary with Apple’s built-in server, but it was necessary here).
    3. I changed to and in that directory block of code, I added “MultiViews” to the Options line.
    4. I changed to in order to prevent the listing of .DS_Store files in directory listings by the web server.
    5. Before the ErrorLog block of code in this file, I added the following lines copied from Apple’s default Apache 2 configuration:
      # Apple specific filesystem protection.
      Order allow,deny
      Deny from all
      Satisfy All
      Order allow,deny
      Deny from all
      Satisfy All
    6. I changed ErrorLog to "/private/var/log/apache2/error_log"
    7. I changed CustomLog to "/private/var/log/apache2/access_log common"
    8. To match Apple’s Apache 2 server configuration, I changed ScriptAliasMatch to
      ^/cgi-bin/((?!(?i:webobjects)).*$) "/Library/WebServer/CGI-Executables/$1"
    9. I changed back to
    10. I added the following Handles to the “To use CGI Scripts” block of code:
      AddHandler imap-file .map
      AddHandler cgi-script .cgi
      AddHandler cgi-script .pl
    11. I uncommended the following lines near the end of the file:
      Include conf/extra/httpd-autoindex.conf
      Include conf/extra/httpd-userdir.conf
    12. [OPTIONAL] Because I use the WebDAV server on my server, I also uncommented Include conf/extra/httpd-dav.conf
    13. Finally, I added the following lines to the end of the file in order to allow loading of the PHP5 configuration
      # Load PHP5 configuration
      Include conf/extras-conf/*.conf
  3. Next, I editted /opt/local/apache2/conf/extra/httpd-userdir.conf and added the following to the end of the file
    # Users might not be in /Users/*/Sites, so use user-specific config files.
    Include /private/etc/apache2/users/*.conf
  4. [OPTIONAL] Since I use the built-in WebDAV server, I made a backup of the WebDAV configuration, then copied the Default MacOS X one, because I have spent a lot of time tweaking it previously and I didn’t want to have to reinvent the wheel. 
    sudo cp /opt/local/apache2/conf/extra/httpd-dav.conf /opt/local/apache2/conf/extra/httpd-dav.conf.orig
    sudo cp /etc/apache2/extra/httpd-dav.conf /opt/local/apache2/conf/extra/httpd-dav.conf
  5. I had to install PHP5 with MacPorts. Since I wanted to add support for Apache 2 and MySQL, I entered the command: sudo port install php5 +apache2 +mysql5 +pear which has the side effect of installing MacPorts version of MySQL as well. Assuming everything goes well, after a few minutes (this takes longer than the apache2 install earlier), the installation will end. At this point we can configure the Apache 2 mod_php module by typing: 
    cd /opt/local/apache2/modules/opt/local/apache2/bin/apxs -a -e -n "php5" libphp5.so
  6. [OPTIONAL] Next, I had to create the PHP5 configuration file and edit it. I started by copying the sample configuration file sudo cp /opt/local/etc/php.ini-dist /opt/local/etc/php.ini and then editing /opt/local/etc/php.ini to make it match /etc/php.ini (which Apple’s built-in PHP uses). All the changes I made were optional and related to the specifics of my setup. The only interesting one was that I wanted to continue to use the MySQL.com binary distribution of MySQL server, so I set the following variables in /opt/local/etc/php.ini
    1. mysql.default_port from “” to 3306
    2. mysql.default_socket from “” to /private/tmp/mysql.sock
    3. mysqli.default_socket from “” to /private/tmp/mysql.sock
  7. I deactivated Apple’s built-in web server by turning off Web Sharing in the Sharing.prefPane.
  8. Finally, I launched the new webserver (and set it up for launching on boot-up in the future) by typing
    sudo launchctl load -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.apache2.plist
    If this breaks anything, I can reverse the process by typing
    sudo launchctl unload -w /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.apache2.plist
  9. [OPTIONAL] I like the ability to turn on and off the Apache webserver from the command line using apachectl. I can “emulate” this in /bin/tcsh (my prefered shell) by adding the following command to the ~/.tcshrc file:
    alias apache2ctl 'sudo /opt/local/etc/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.apache2/apache2.wrapper'
    After which I can bring down the server by typing apache2ctl stop and restart it by typing apache2ctl start.

Xquartz 2.2.3 released 0

Posted on June 26, 2008 by Juan

I was trying to upgrade wine within MacPorts when I realized I had forgotten to upgrade Xquartz after my upgrade to MacOS 10.5.3 on my Mac Pro. So I checked, Xquartz has been upgraded to version 2.2.3. Since version 2.2.1 (which I talked about in my blog here).

  • Upgraded the freetype library to version 2.3.6, which fixes “A bunch of potential security problems have been found [and fixed in this release”
  • Upgraded to pixman library to version 0.11.4.
  • Xquartz fixes from xorg-server-1.3.0-apple21, the key fix being support for monitor hotplugging, although several security fixes also occurred.

Again, if you upgrade MacOS (say to version 10.5.4, which is supposed to be released soon in order to support iPhone G3 and MobileMe), you will likely need to reinstall Xquartz (unless Apple has upgraded their X11 installation to match Xquartz).

osxutils now fixed on MacPorts under Leopard 1

Posted on April 10, 2008 by Juan

I got an email today noting that osxutils now installs correctly in MacPorts under MacOS 10.5 Leopard.  I have tested it and this appears to be correct, the commands:

sudo port -d selfupdate
sudo port -d sync
sudo port install osxutils 

did indeed install osxutils as promised.   I also noticed they upgraded from version 1.6 to 1.7, maybe that was all that was necessary.  All the MacPorts packages I used in Tiger now work in Leopard. Now if I could only get a proper recompile of PHP working under Leopard.

Site upgrade to Leopard 0

Posted on March 04, 2008 by Juan

I have taken part of my day to get my main web server upgraded to MacOS X 10.5 (aka Leopard). I spent quite a bit of time waiting, removing programs I knew were incompatible, and so on. Still, this upgrade was not without a few bumps:

  • Check Hardware Compatibility: My Sonnet Tempo SATA X4P card (which I use to provide an external SATA [eSATA] interface for my RAID of data drives) was incompatible with Leopard and would cause the installer to hang. I finally discovered a firmware upgrade was available that fixed this. This was a stupid rookie mistake. Rule of Thumb: Always check the non-Apple hardware for updates before making a major OS X upgrade.
  • Watch out for /home: I had been using a symbolic link from /home to /Users because in my old Unix days, I hardcoded a lot of my software to look for my home directory in /home. Leopard expects /home to be available as mount point for the automount service, so getting with the modern era and not relying on /home to point to /User is required if you adopt Leopard.
  • Rebuild Web Server Configuration: One problem I was prepared for is that the web server was updated to Apache2. This in itself was not bad, but the configuration files for Apache (version 1) were stored in /etc/httpd and the new configuration files for Apache2 are in /etc/apache2 and they were NOT migrated. I don’t fault Apple for not migrating the files, but I kicked this around on my laptop quite a bit in order to tweak the configuration files back to something I liked. One thing I immediately did was that this MacOS comes with PHP 5.2.4 preinstalled, but not enabled in Apache2. I enabled it by editting the /etc/apache2/httpd.conf file (which you might have to create) and uncommenting the line with # LoadModule php5_module (by removing the ‘#’ symbol from the beginning of the line). Once that was done, I restarted the Apache2 server and all my PHP code (including this blog) was running again.
  • Tweak MySQL for Leopard: The PHP 5.2.4 included with MacOS X is compiled with support for MySQL. This is nice in that you can just download the MySQL package installer and quickly get a LAMP server running. However, it was set up with the MacOS X Server version of MySQL in mind, which means it expects the socket to be in a different location than the vanilla MySQL. This can be solved by either tweaking the MySQL configuration (as outlined in the MySQL section of the blog post at http://remysharp.com/2007/10/27/lamp-in-leopard-osx-105-php5-and-apache-22/ ) or by tweaking the PHP configuration by editing the /etc/php.ini file (if it doesn’t exist, first copy /etc/php.ini.default to /etc/php.ini) and search for the line containing mysqli.default_socket = to read
    mysqli.default_socket = /private/tmp/mysql.sock
    This solution seemed more straight forward, so I did this.
  • Reinstall MacPorts: Since I am aficionado of MacPorts, I reinstalled it and rebuilt all the ports. Some of the issues I had before with MacPorts on Leopard on my MacBook Pro cropped up again on my PowerMac G5, notably
    • gv still needs to be patched as I noted here.
    • sqlite3 still does know about its dependence on nawk.
    • xterm doesn’t install unless you update your X11 installation using the latest version of Xquartz (currently at version 2.1.4).
  • Update to latest version of Xquartz: Since I don’t like X11 headaches, I updated to the latest version of Xquartz (currently at version 2.1.4).

So the adventure continues. Back to research, I have invested about 5 hours of my spring break into this upgrade, that is enough for now.

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