That's it. I'm done with MacPorts. Fink is the Way To Go (tm).

One year ago or so, I had come to the conclusion that I needed both of them on my machine: Fink was not very up-to-date, but at least it could provide binary packages ready for my Mac. On the other hand, the MacPorts had some bleeding-edge techno that I needed from time to time, but I had to compile everything on my machine which is absolutely ridiculous (have you tried compiling ghc recently ?).

But let's face it. MacPorts maintenance is a nightmare. I think that in one year, I could never reach a fully functional MacPorts installation. Let alone the regular buggy ports which can't even compile, I'm talking about the variant/dependency mess: impossible to upgrade the whole thing because there's always one package that depends on something that conflicts with something else; impossible to remove anything, including obsolete package versions and worse, including inactive ports, because there's always one package that depends on what you want to remove, even if you just want to remove an inactive variant.

For me, the result was an ever-growing installation with duplicate packages everywhere (sometimes, 3 or 4 different and unremovable versions with only one active). Yesterday, I eventually blew my last MacPort fuze when it hanged while deactivating whatever version of aalib, effectively freezing my installation: impossible to upgrade, remove, activate or deactivate anything. I then ended up orgasmatically typing "rm -fr /opt/local/", and you know what ? It felt good !!

Maybe I've missed something from the start. Maybe it goes smoothly for everybody else but me. But this boils down to the same conclusion. If I have to read 3 tons of documentation, semi-obsolete obscure wiki, FAQ, or web forums (oh boy do I hate them) to have the MacPorts behave, the hell with them. I want something that just works.

So here's the thing: Fink is the way to go. As of June 2008, Fink is ready for Leopard and Fink "just works". Yes, you still have to compile things at home, but it's starting to provide binary packages for Leopard already. And what's more, you get the apt/dpkg machinery (for an old Debian user like me, this is cool) because the guys are clever, you know, like, they didn't reinvent the wheel and decided on a package management system that "just works".

Here's my little advice if you want recent free software from the Unix world on your Mac 10.5:
  • download the Fink 0.9.0 binary installer and run it.
  • run "fink configure" and be sure to tell it to use binary packages if available, and to activate the unstable branch as well.
  • run "fink selfupdate" to get the latest point release. That will also let you use the rsync updating method afterwards.
  • run "fink selfupdate-rsync" to get bleeding edge stuff. This will also let you switch to the rsync upgrading method by default.

That's it ! Watch it populate your /sw/ directory... If you have Apple's X11 installed, Fink even provides system-xfree86 packages automatically. These are virtual packages for satisfying applications that depend on X11. You don't have anything to do; you can go "fink install gimp" right away.

Ah yes, one last piece of advice: the binary distribution is far from complete, so when you're looking for something, you'd better get used to use fink instead of apt, because you'll get much more information on what's available that way.

Fink about it man, fink about it !