Computers & Tech

Macports – Back to an Old Friend

In the world of Macs and MacOS, you will notice the talk of Homebrew. Some users have even coined a phrase of it – “brew”.
They would say things like, “just brew in <insert package name here>”..

Needless to say, I’m not a fan of Homebrew. Although it is becoming the norm in getting packages that are Mac-Centric from the open source side of things.

One of the reasons is because of this article.

how Homebrew invites users to get pwned

There are people that I have conversed with on forums that say that the article doesn’t make sense and most of them are ‘brew’ enthusiasts. So beware of fanboys. Hehehe…

Of course why bring up Homebrew when the title says “MacPorts”. If you know anything about Homebrew, then you know something about MacPorts as well.

For those who are unfamiliar with MacPorts, there is a great article here.

MacPorts Brings the Best Open Source Software to Your Mac

I have been using MacPorts ever since I discovered package management for Mac. Homebrew was great and I debated about it (MacPorts vs Homebrew) for a while. But I preferred MacPorts and when I saw the article, I was assured that I made the right choice. One of the benefits of MacPorts is that it was officially supported by Apple for a long time.

I’m not a developer so I don’t install a large number of packages, but whatever I do install works well and is available. From all the package managers that are available for MacOS, MacPorts has the most packages or ports. Because what good is a package manager when you can’t find the package you need; which neatly brings me back to the entire reason for this article.

For a time being, in seeing much of the stuff moving over to the Homebrew side of things, I was wondering what is the future of MacPorts?

Deliberating made me think about whether it would go the way of Fink – another package manager that is relatively unheard of these days.

Well my research brought me to Pkgsrc.

Pkgsrc – The Unknown Gem

I loved the way that Pkgsrc worked. Having its origins work in the same way as the ports system from FreeBSD, I liked how exact it is with BSD packing and the speed at which it worked. It was the fastest. If you don’t like MacPorts, I urge you to give Pkgsrc a try.

But my honeymoon period with Pkgsrc was not to last. I’ve tried it twice and it failed to have or install a package that was important to my needs. In my case it was ntfs-3g. I needed this package to be able to read and write to NTFS formatted drives. In my home, it is a necessary, because I am surrounded by Windows systems. I could use 3rd party apps to do this but why buy and pay for an app when you can have this for free and have it work reliably.

Pkgsrc didn’t have a binary and it wasn’t able to build from source through the ports tree. I wish that I was a developer then I could get involved and commit fixes and changes that would resolve this. But since I don’t have the knowledge or skills, I have to say good bye.

This is no way a dissing of Pkgsrc. I’m not the only one who has this experience. Many a article on using Pkgsrc on the Mac, gives Pkgsrc great ratings. Those who use it, love it; provided it has what they are looking for. In my research, most of the authors now have moved on to something else – Homebrew in most cases or MacPorts.

So while it is an amazing package manager, Pkgsrc falls short for my needs. Perhaps in future if they ever get a working binary of NTFS-3G, I will give it another go. But for now, I am happy with MacPorts.

I could have both Pkgsrc and MacPorts installed on my system. If there was a package that Pkgsrc has, that MacPorts doesn’t (which I am sure there is), then it would make sense, but seeing that MacPorts has everything I need, I just don’t see the point.

So now I’m back to an old friend. MacPorts has been pretty much “ol’ reliable” is this whole package manager adventure and stays true to the Mac philosophy that we love – “it just works”.



3 replies »

    • It has been a while since I opened that link, so looking at it now, it would seem that that the whole site itself has gone offline. Hopefully it comes back up OR perhaps, the blogger has moved on and no longer needs to keep the site active.

  1. I moved from new to MacPorts for two reasons: security and the fact that brew cannot install postfix (and anything that requires file system level security is problematic, I think, as home-brew doesn’t use root for that).

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