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Bring Out The GIMP

Running the venerable open-source image editor on Mac OS X By Kevin Schmitt
Even if you've never been in the same ZIP code as a Unix-based PC, you may have heard some of the buzz surrounding the GIMP. If you haven't, here's the scoop in a very small nutshell: the GIMP (which stands for GNU Image Manipulation Program, by the way) is a free image editor. While early versions of the GIMP left much to be desired, not the least of which was the fact that it ran solely on various flavors of Unix, the GIMP has matured into - dare I say - a viable alternative to Photoshop. Even better, the GIMP has been ported to other operating systems, Mac OS X included. Even more betterer, did I mention that it's free? So in these times of economic strife, when it may be hard to scrape up even an extra $99 to get yourself a copy of Photoshop Elements, taking the time and the bit of elbow grease necessary to get the GIMP up and functioning on OS X may be well worth the effort.

Before I get too far into things, let me preface this tutorial by saying that I'm not actually going to provide any knowledge about how to use the GIMP. The GIMP is actually pretty easy to get up to speed with, especially if you're already familiar with Photoshop, and there's some excellent documentation available at the GIMP.org web site to help you along. So without any further ado...

Now, if you're a Windows user, what are you doing here? Didn't the title of this article turn you away? Just kidding. Initially, you're actually in better shape to run the GIMP than Mac OS X users, because it's been packaged up into a tidy little Win32 installer, requiring no extra work. Head on over to the WinGIMP web site, where you can grab everything you need in a single download. Point, click, and you're up and running. So Windows users, you're done. Have fun using the GIMP.

Things aren't so straightforward for Mac OS X users, unfortunately. Getting the GIMP running on OS X requires us to dive headfirst into the shallow end of the Unix pool, but relax. Believe me, if I can do this, so can you. Some of the friendly folks in the open-source community have been working tirelessly to make downloading, compiling, and installing Unix applications into Mac OS X's Unix environment relatively painless, and we're going to be taking advantage of the fruits of their labors to make the experience as Mac-like as possible. While we are going to be getting our hands dirty in the Terminal, the upshot of all this is that by the time we're done not only will you be running the GIMP, you'll also have all the tools in place to begin to branch out and start messing with all kinds of open-source Unix packages, from MS Word-compatible word processors to text-only browsers to Gnutella clients, etc. Ready? Good.

Step 1: Install OS X's Developer Tools
What we're going to be doing requires that you have the various software development apps Apple has made available in its optional Developer Tools package. If you don't have these tools installed already, they should be on one of the CDs that came with your version of OS X. If you don't have this CD, or if you prefer to have the latest (December 2002, as of this writing) version, head over to the Apple Developer Connection, where you can register (for free) and download the installer for the Developer Tools. Once you've got the installer, just launch the install package, pick the Easy Install option, and when everything finishes up you'll be ready to roll.

Step 2: Enable Superuser
If you and the Terminal have never been acquainted, chances are probably near 100% that you have not enabled root access to your machine. You'll need to do this or nothing we're going to do henceforth will work. There are a few ways to do this, but I'm going to show you the one I find most straightforward. Fire up the Terminal (located inside the Utilities folder in your Applications directory), and at the command prompt enter the following:

sudo passwd root [return]

In case you were wondering what's going on here, "sudo" means "perform what I'm about to tell you as the superuser;" "passwd" is a command that creates passwords; "root" is the account you're creating the password for; and [return] means to press the return key to enter the command. I'll be using this convention for other Terminal commands we're going to input later, incidentally. Anyway, you'll first be read the riot act about how enabling root access can really mess up your machine. Please, heed that warning! While we're going to use the awesome power of root access responsibly in the following steps, you really can foul things up if you go using it all willy-nilly and stuff. Anyway, lecture over. After the warning, you'll then need to enter a password for the root account, confirm it, and then you'll be ready to move on. You can go ahead and quit the Terminal for now.

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