Last updated:  July 2008

How to start a new person on Mac OS X

Things you need that aren't there --- emacs (native), seamonkey, tetex, X.

Before you do anything though, be sure to install the developers tools, which only come when you install XDevTools (meaning OS X, not the real X...)

LaTeX (MacTeX)

I have to admit I don't use this, but what I use has been depricated.  I have downloaded it and may use it eventually.

Whatever you get, be sure to get the mac os x latex equation editor.

Mozilla SeaMonkey

Better than Firefox!  This will give you spell checking, an HTML composer etc.
You have to download British spelling every time you upgrade though...

Fixing default applications

If you get sick of Safari, Firefox or Preview popping up when you doubleclick on a file type, you can fix this to the applications you want (e.g. SeaMonkey) with rubicode's RCDefaultApp. Thank you rubicode, and creativetechs.

Subversion (SVN)

Anyone sharing code with me needs to install subversion.

If you aren't a mac person, the main reason that we chose that distribution is because it has java bindings (javaHL) so you can use it with eclipse, so you want to find a version that does the same.  (Debian apt-get install subversion gets the right thing.)

I'm actually a big believer in command lines.  Here's the SVN cheat sheet of stuff you actually need to know.  See also the BOD Developer Notes.   But you may want to get this working with eclipse...

SVN in Eclipse

To get SVN working with eclipse you need a plugin.  Currently we're using subversive (here's why).

Instructions for installing it are here:

These are pretty good, except once you get to do the uploading, be sure only to take only the first sublibrary  (SVN Team Provider) as shown here:

picture of all tick boxes deselected except the top sub library
All you need is the SVN Team Provider Plugin. This seems to currently (May 12 2008) include the OS X java compatability stuff again.

You then need to set the SVN client under your eclipse preferences, see the instructions at the bottom of the Polarian web page.

Now to check out a project from eclipse, click File->Import, and choose "Checkout Projects From SVN", at which point you'll be prompted to add a repository.   Ours are all under here:

Use the approprate URL and your alis / svn login, and check out the trunk of the project you want.


Ok, maybe you can get away without this,  Mozilla will edit your web pages & TexShop will edit your latex.  But it's the ultimate editing tool, and a significant standard for navigating around text on unix (e.g. bourne shell supports its commands for moving the cursor & cutting & pasting text.)

OS 10.4

If you have a brand new mac, you probably want to use aquamacs.  Its a bit gloopy, but almost a standard emacs.

OS 10.3 or 10.2

Be sure to get the one for your OS.  This one is more like trad emacs, but they don't have a 10.4 version so we're forced into the future... (or present or something.)

Whatever OS (even non mac)

You will also need a .emacs file in your home directory that finds the right damned font & gives you colour highlighting.  Here's mine...


Be sure to save that as .emacs -- I had to change the name of the file for mozilla to open it properly.

You are also going to want ispell -- which is easy to get with FinkCommander (er, download that too -- google Fink) then make a link so emacs can find it.

  sudo ln -s /sw/bin/ispell /usr/bin/ispell

If you are in Bath, you will also want to get ispell to spell like a Brit.  For some reason fink doesn't currently include the British library, so folow the instructions on that link.  My .emacs file invokes the british dictionary, you may want to comment that line out if you don't use it...


X is the windowing system linux and other unixes use.  Some applications only run if you have it.   It's easiest to install when you first install your OS, but if you didn't, don't do it now unless you know you need it...

You used to have to install this by going to apple and downloading it.  As of Tiger (10.4) this doesn't work even if you do it (it gives a cryptic and false message about a newer version already being installed), but X11 is now an install option from the install DVD.  If you have a university-purchased computer and somebody else failed to install X11 for you, you can currently go to Chris Martin's blog and download the dmgs you need.  Since X11 is free software developed at MIT, don't feel bad about this.

You need X to get a lot of postscript stuff to work, e.g. to get eps figures to include right with dvipdfm.  To get the X applications you know and love, you need to install macports.

Other & Better Pages

Getting Mac OS X 10.3 to Behave Almost Like My Linux Boxes

Mac OS X tips from UCSD  these are amazing and very up to date.

Other linux things

My .bashrc file worked fine when I brought it over, but was ignored on startup.  I had to change my .profile by adding a line in that read the .bashrc.  This is was harder than you'd think because of some permissions, but not impossible.

Other Bath CS things

To add a printer, you have to go IP Printing, then in printer address then you have to find out the queue name of the printer you want to use.

Other might wants

printing powerpoint posters to PDF

I normally avoid M$ at all cost, but Hagen has brought the best poster style to the group with him. But to make sure it prints out OK you can't trust powerpoint to work across macs to PCs, or even vista to non vista. So print the powerpoint poster to PDF, and hand that file to the printers.

multiple desktops

Sadly, you have to use the one that comes with 10.5, the others have given up, even though they were better.


Because I have a typing injury, and because I login from around the world, & because I have decades of email files in standard unix mail format, I'd like to get pine working.  But I haven't yet.  First trick -- I needed pine-ssl, not just pine, from fink to connect to our server securely.  Some help with attachments on OS X but I haven't got that working yet.

If you choose to use a different userid for the mac than you do for the main department (something I recommend so that you can tell which machine you are on easily!) you'll need to add the '/user=' qualifier to all your server specifications in your .pinerc file. For example, if your user name on the system is jjb, you need:


Also, bring this into line with your real name:

  customized-hdrs=From: Joanna J. Bryson <>


Random notes about ABODE (cut from subversion instructions)

and choose ABODE->trunk->src_netbeans. 
Be sure when you are accepting this to add it as a java project --- you will see the dialogs for this.  You probably want to call the project ABODE, not src_netbeans.  Eclipse will ask if you should overwrite the .project file --- yes, you should (you want your own!)

When you get the project options, make sure you opt to split the source and build files into separate directories, otherwise the Java packages won't match up with the file structure. The source folder must be called "src", a suggested name for the build is "bin" - don't use "dist" since this is only for release (or release candidate) .jar files, and is only kept up to date when there's a significant increase in functionality or serious bug fixes.

Joanna Bryson
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