User's Guide - 1. Introduction
Fink is a distribution of Unix Open Source software for Mac OS X and Darwin. It brings a wide range of free command-line and graphical software developed for Linux and similar operating systems to your Mac.
In any case you will need:
An installed Mac OS X system, version 10.4 or later, or equivalent Darwin releases. Earlier versions of both will not work. See below for more information about supported systems.
Internet access. Both source code and binary packages are downloaded from Internet download sites.
If you intend to use the source distribution (see below), you will also need:
Developer tools. On Mac OS X, install the XcodeTools.mpkg package from the installation DVD, or download the latest version--this is often desirable, as later versions frequently fix issues (though admittedly sometimes they break things). Note that the tools must match your Mac OS X version.
It's a good idea to have XCode installed even if you don't intend to build packages from source. Some of the programs installed by the package are actually general purpose command line tools. Some packages may depend on those to run.
Patience. Compiling several big packages takes time. I'm talking hours or even days here.
Mac OS X 10.6 is the leading-edge platform, and is considered to be
fully supported and tested, though as a newer operating system there are still some issues. Most of the developers run it, and those who are running 10.4 have 10.5 users test their work.
Mac OS X 10.5 is considered to be
fully supported and tested, although there may still be stray compile problems with single packages. Many of the developers run it, and those who don't have 10.4 users test their work.
Mac OS X 10.4 will be deprecated soon. It is considered to be
fully supported and tested.
Software is written ("developed") in human-readable programming languages; this form is called the "source code". Before a computer can actually run a program, it must be transformed into low-level machine code instructions (unreadable by most humans). That process is called "compiling" and the resulting program is called "executable" or "binary". (The process is also referred to as "building", because it usually involves more steps than just compiling.)
When you buy commercial software you don't get to see the source code, though - companies treat it as a trade secret. You only get the ready-to-run executable, which means you have no way to modify the program or even find out what it actually does when it's run.
Not so with Open Source software. As the name implies, the source code is open for anyone to see and modify. In fact, most Open Source software is only distributed as source code by its authors, and you must compile it on your computer to get a program that can be run.
Fink lets you choose between the two models. The "source" distribution will download the original source, adapt it to Mac OS X and to Fink's policy, and compile it on your computer. That process is fully automated, but takes some time. The "binary" distribution on the other hand will download pre-compiled packages from the Fink site and install those, saving you the time for compiling. It is actually possible to mix the two models at will. The rest of this manual will show you how.