what makes system admin so much fun

I am in the middle of a new project (more later) that has me doing some stuff at the command line. I do the bulk of my work at the command line, even on the mac, because it’s so much easier to do things with a command line than with point-and-click interfaces.

The command-line toolkit that comes with a mac is adequate (I suspect it comes from some version of BSD Unix) but I prefer the real deal, which is the GNU utilities. There are two ports of the gnu utilities to Mac OS X: fink and macports. (There are actually probably thirty-seven ports, but I only know about those two.) I used fink for two years before giving up on it and switching to darwinports, which has now become macports.

The beauty of these ports is they come with package management to sort out dependencies and so forth, but from time to time I try to install a port and I get a bunch of error messages instead. This happened with a tool I tried to install yesterday. I spent awhile trying to figure out what was going on, before figuring the best thing would be to nuke the whole installation and reinstall the ports from scratch. (Not the entire OS, just the command-line utilities.) Normally that isn’t a big deal, but I ran into problems this time.

I fiddled with it awhile before I remembered that the ports are dependent on the developer tools that come with the mac. What had happened was that — it would appear — the port-maintainers expect you to have installed all the updates to the developer tools. Which isn’t a problem. I’m not opposed to that. But I logged in to the Apple Developer Connection to get the latest updates to Xcode and found out that the latest update is 932 MB. That’s downloading as I speak, but it will be awhile even with DSL.

So now I have time to blog about this. Then I can rebuild macports and reinstall all the packages I clobbered and — assuming that it all builds properly — then I can get back to work on the main project I’m working on. Call it half a day.

I’m more than happy to devote half a day every year or so to system administration. Not really, but consider the alternative: half an hour a day with Hasta-La. Compared to that, this is a bargain.

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