New Mac Setup

I recently bought a new MacBook Pro to replace my aging Macbook.  If you have a recent SuperDuper backup, it is very easy to directly sync the new system to the old.  My old setup was a bit of a mess, however, so I took the opportunity to do a fresh setup of all of the system settings and astronomy-related software.


The first order of business is getting rid of the default reflective dock:

defaults write no-glass -boolean YES; killall Dock

Then turn on magnifying the dock and make it very small to save screen real estate.  Remove all applications that you don’t use frequently from the dock (iChat, iDVD, …).  They can all be accessed easily with Spotlight (⌘+Space) anyway.  Add “Terminal” and “Activity Monitor” to the dock.

If you want to keep the Applications and Documents stacks in the dock, change their view mode to “list”.

Other System Preferences

Expose & Spaces: Turn on Spaces, Expose (UL – all windows, LL – Desktop, UR – start screen saver)

Security: Turn on the Firewall

Keyboard: Turn up the keyboard repeat rate and delay

Accounts: Turn off automatic login, display login options as name and password, turn off password hints

Setup BASH environment

In ~/.bashrc:

Set up smaller terminal prompt:

PS1="\u@macBook \W$ "

Turn on Terminal colors for directories, etc.:

export CLICOLOR=1
export LSCOLORS=exfxcxdxbxegedabagacad

If ~/.bashrc isn’t being processed when you start a new terminal, add the following to ~/.profile:

if [ -f ~/.bashrc ]; then
. ~/.bashrc

Download and install Xcode

(Free registration required.

Run Software Update for the first time

Xcode and other things that come pre-installed (Safari) will need to be updated.

Install other useful Mac applications

NoteBook – Organization and note-taking

Textmate – Great text editor.  Also download the IDL language module.

iWork – Use instead of MS Office

Papers – Organize scientific papers

SuperDuper – Great backup software based on rsync.  You can even boot from the backup itself in the case of a hard-disk failure.

VLC – general purpose media player.  Works for every media format I’ve ever tried.

EPSQuickLook Plugin – View postscript files in Quicklook

DiskInventoryX – Nice graphical display for finding out what’s taking up all of your HD space

MacPorts – Easy interface for installing UNIX applications.

To get information on a package, e.g. gv, type port info gv.

To install a package, sudo port install gv

Useful packages: gnuplot, bzip2, ImageMagick (convert), ghostscript, gv, cfitsio, gsl, wget, libpng

Astronomy software

SAOImage DS9 – Display FITS files

XPA – command-line interface to DS9

LaTeXit – Generate equations for presentations (requires LaTeX installation, see below)

gfortran – Fortran compiler.  This is built-in to later versions of GCC, but not the one that currently ships with new Macs


This is now relatively painless thanks to the MacTeX project.  Download the most recent MacTex (2009) distribution.  I turned off the GUI applications in provided by the MacTex installer, “convert” and Ghostscript.  Those can be installed by hand with MacPorts.


The easiest way to get everything right is by downloading and installing STScI Python from here. This includes the most recent IRAF/STDAS versions, as well as many of the Python libraries one would need (numpy, matplotlib, scipy).

Download the full installation stsci_iraf_intel_2.10.dmg (as of June 2010) and install from the package.

The STScI Python packages seems to require csh, which is a bit of a pain since the Mac defaults to bash. Put the following in ${HOME}/.cshrc:

if ( -f /usr/stsci/envconfig.mac/cshrc ) source /usr/stsci/envconfig.mac/cshrc

After the installation, generate a file in ${HOME}/iraf:

$ csh
% cd ~
% mkdir iraf
% mkiraf # generate, answer other prompts
% pyraf


1) Download and untar the source code and user manuals.

2) Install package dependencies with MacPorts:

sudo port install fftw-3
sudo port install atlas ## Takes a while

3) Compile and install

./configure --with-threads --prefix=/opt/local --with-fftw=/opt/local/lib --with-fftw-incdir=/opt/local/include --with-atlas=/opt/local/lib --with-atlas-incdir=/opt/local/include --prefix=/usr/local

Compiling the software with the above statement broke for me the first time around, which I resolved with the following workaround:

cd src
cc -DHAVE_CONFIG_H -I. -I.. -I/opt/local/include -O3 -g -funroll-loops -fomit-frame-pointer -Wall  -D_REENTRANT -MT fft.o -MD -MP -MF .deps/fft.Tpo -c -o fft.o fft.c
cd ..
sudo make install


tar xzvf swarp-2.17.6.tar.gz
cd swarp-2.17.6
./configure --prefix=/usr/local
sudo make install


sudo port install jpeg
sudo port install libpng
sudo port install tiff

tar xzvf stiff-2.1.2.tar.gz
cd stiff-2.1.2
./configure --prefix=/usr/local --with-tiff-libdir=/opt/local/lib --with-tiff-incdir=/opt/local/include --with-jpeg-libdir=/opt/local/lib
sudo make install
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