The Future Is Now

Introducing Tigerbrew

Some of you may know that my other gig is Homebrew, the package manager for Mac OS X. Over the last few months, I’ve been spending some time on a fork of Homebrew that’s starting to become usable enough that I think it’s ready to be announced.

When I was attending the AMIA1 conference in December, my partner and I were travelling together; while I was at the conference during the day, she worked from various places in Seattle on her laptop. Since it’s practically impossible to attend a modern conference without a laptop, and she uses a desktop at home, I dug out my 2005-era PowerBook G4 to take notes. It may be eight years old, but as soon as I opened it up I remembered why I loved that laptop so much. It’s still in great shape, and it feels like a crime to leave it sitting unused so much of the time.

It’s slow by modern standards, of course, but the thing really keeping it from being usable all the time is software. Apple’s left PowerPC behind as of Mac OS X Leopard2, and so have nearly all developers at this point. There are still a few developers carrying the torch (shoutouts to TenFourFox), but as a commandline junkie what I really need is an up-to-date shell[^2] and CLI software3. And as big Homebrew fan, as well as a developer, MacPorts just wasn’t going to cut it. Tigerbrew was born.

The first version of Tigerbrew was pulled together over an evening at the hotel after the first day of the conference, and I’ve been plugging away at it regularly since. At this point I’m proud to say that a significant number of packages build flawlessly,4 and thanks to some backports from newer versions of OS X5 Tigerbrew can supply a much more modern set of essential development tools than Apple provides.

Tigerbrew’s still very much an alpha, and there’s some more work needed until it’s mature, but at this point I consider it ready enough to announce to the world.6 If you have a PowerPC Mac yearning to be used again, why not give it a go?

  1. Association of Moving Image Archivists

  2. And many hardcore PowerPC users stick with their old Macs for OS 9 compatibility, which was last supported in Tiger.

  3. bash 2.5 doesn’t cut it.

  4. Even complex software with a lot of moving parts, like FFmpeg.

  5. I’m very indebted to the MacPorts developers, whose portfiles served as a reference for the buildsystems for several of these.

  6. Development’s been happening in the public for months, of course, and there are already a few other users out there.