Apple’s X11 Beta and The Gimp

After installing Apple’s new X11 display server software (based on XFree86) and the Fink package manager, I was able to very easily install The Gimp (The Graphic Image Manipulation Program). This performs much better than previous installations of XFree86 I had tested, and The Gimp is finally a useable graphic design program on my PowerBook.

What really interests me though is, Apple’s X11 supports dual monitors. I can push all my Gimp palettes over to my second monitor and have my primary monitor dedicated to my illustration. I had tried to get this to work with previous XFree86 installations and had succeeded in getting it to crash consistently. With Apple’s X11, it just works, and works beautifully. The Quartz acceleration makes the graphic display nice and snappy, and every window is made to look and behave just like a Mac OS X window.

Fink still needs an equally sexy GUI implementation (I still cannot get FinkCommander to work reliably), but it is pretty solid now at version 0.5.0a. You will need to roll up your sleeves a bit and get dirty with some Unix commands and working within the Terminal, but I was able to use it to install The Gimp and a few other apps very quickly and with little hassle.

Here’s a high level overview of what I did to get The Gimp running on my PowerBook:

1. Download and install Apple’s X11 window server and Apple’s X11 SDK. Both must be installed for Fink to work.

2. Download and install Fink as per these instructions.

3. Once Fink was installed and configured, I used sudo dselect to install system-xfree86. This is a placeholder package that tells Fink that you have already installed an X11 server. If you press “/” in dselect, then you can search for a package by name. Once located, use “+” to mark the packages you want to download and install, and press Return when done with your selections. Be sure to run [I]nstall and [C]onfigure after selecting packages.

4. I then ran sudo dselect again and installed The Gimp. I went for the default list of dependent packages that dselect offered to install.

5. Then all you need to do is run Apple’s X11 and an xterm window will appear. Enter the command gimp and the Gimp configuration will begin. I accepted all default configurations and was on my way.

You really need a two button mouse for this to be useable, as most of the commands are accessed via a right click context menus rather than via a complete menu bar. The Gimp under Apple’s X11 is a pretty cool program and is actually rather useful. If you inherited a free Mac running 10.2.3 or better and are on a highly restricted budget, this is a viable option to get up and running with basic graphics editing capability.