How to install Linux applications in OS X – a complete walkthrough

by Ross McKillop on May 9, 2007

Linux Mac

This tutorial will take you each and every step of the way through installing Linux programs in OS X – using Fink and FinkCommander.

Something I should mention up front – during this process you’ll be asked to enter your password about a half-million times. I left those ‘steps’ out to keep this shorter.


  1. Installing Fink and Fink Commander
  2. Configuring Fink
  3. Installing Linux applications
  4. Launching Linux applications with Quicksilver

Installing Fink and Fink Commander

  1. The first step in getting Linux programs running in OS X is to install X11, if it isn’t already. To check if it’s installed, open Finder, select Applications and then Utilities. If you don’t see X11 (or X11.app depending on your view settings) it’s not installed. Fortunately, I have a complete walkthrough for that as well.
  2. Once you’ve got X11 installed, visit http://www.finkproject.org/download/ and download the appropriate version of Fink for your Mac. Once the download has completed, open the .dmg file and run Fink xx-xx installer.pkg.

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  4. The Fink installer will launch. Click Continue and I Agree a bunch of times. You’ll be prompted for your password at least once during the installation.

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  6. Towards the end of the installation, a Setting up your Fink environment window will pop up. Make sure to click Yes.

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  8. Assuming all went well, a confirmation window should appear.

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  10. Click Close to finish the Fink installer.

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  12. Now, back in that .dmg file, locate the folder titled FinkCommander and open it.

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  14. Drag the FinkCommander file to your Applications folder. This is an important step – FinkCommander will not work properly if you run it from inside the .dmg file.

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Configuring Fink

  1. From your Applications, locate FinkCommander and launch it.

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  3. You’ll be presented with a rather large list of Linux packages – but before you go crazy installing them, you’ll need to run a few updates first.

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  5. Select Source from the top menu and then Scanpackages from the drop-down list.

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  7. Do not be surprised if you’re prompted to enter your password – twice, and then get a message (see screenshot below) saying you need to run Scanpackages again.

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  9. Repeat the Source -> Scanpackages process and the 2nd time it’ll work.

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  11. Now select Source from the top menu, Utilities and then Index.

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  13. Watch as FinkCommander runs some updates, and once that has completed…

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  15. Select Binary and then Update descriptions

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  17. Now locate Fink in the list of packages. You can sort the packages by Name to quickly locate it, or use the Search feature. Select Fink by clicking on it once.

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  19. With Fink highlighted, select Binary and then Install

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  21. And once again, watch as Fink updates itself.

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Installing Linux applications

  1. Now it’s time for some fun. Locate a Linux program/package that you want to install. I used trackballs (a silly but fun game) as an example. Once you’ve found the program you want to install, highlight it by clicking it once.

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  3. Select Binary and then Install

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  5. During the installation, you may get a pop-up window asking for you to respond to something (see screenshot below). Generally it’s looking for a Y/n (yes/no) answer – but check the status part of FinkCommander. In this case, the default is Y (yes), so you can select Accept default response and click Submit.

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  7. That’s it. Fink will automatically determine any packages that are required to run whatever program you chose to install, and install them as well. To launch your recently installed program, open up a Terminal and type in the programs name. If you’re a Quicksilver user (and you should be!) – keep reading for instructions on how to launch Linux programs with it.

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Launching Linux applications with Quicksilver

  1. Once you’ve installed a Linux app or two using Fink, you can launch them with Quicksilver if you add the folder they’re stored in to Quicksilver’s catalog. Bring up the Quicksilver preferences by invoking Quicksilver and click the Apple key + ,

    Select Catalog from the top menu


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  3. Click the + (plus sign) and select File & Folder Scanner
  4. Navigate to Macintosh HD -> sw -> bin and click Open

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  6. Make sure the bin folder was added to the Sources list.

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  8. From the side drawer, change the Include Contents: entry to Folder Contents
  9. Back in the Catalog window, click the Refresh button (the swirl arrow)
  10. The bin entry in the Sources list should now have 80+ items (give or take) indexed. Exit out of the Quicksilver preferences.

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  12. Invoke Quicksilver and test it out.

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