How to install Unix-like software

How to install Unix-like software: A text adventure transcript.

Based on a true story. Or rather, several remarkably similar true stories.

You are sitting in front of a computer running OS X. You've decided that it's time to finally learn to use a tool you've been hearing a lot about: Glitzwhacker.

> Google Glitzwhacker

You find the Glitzwhacker home page. It says:

Glitzwhacker is the best tool for whacking glitzes. And it's easy to install! Just use the Phenoteletypist installer, like so, and you'll be up and running in seconds:

% phenot glitzwhacker -qrs -tuv

> type command line

phenot: Command not found.

> follow link to Phenoteletypist

The Phenoteletypist home page says:

Congratulations on your choice! Phenoteletypist is an awesome open-source package for installing glitzwhacking technologies. It will make your life incomparably easier! To set it up, just make sure you're running PHP 2.1 (or and Python 5, and that you have the entire GNU suite installed in your /usr/local/phenot/tarantula directory; then you can use the excellent Mac OS X GUI interface.

> follow link to GUI interface

The link is broken.

> copy and paste link but change it to be absolute rather than relative

You have now downloaded the Mac installer for the GUI interface.

> run installer

The installer only works on the latest version of OS X, with makemixmasher and X11 installed.

> Google makemixmasher

makemixmasher is an OS X package manager package manager, for managing package manager packages.

> install makemixmasher

You follow the simple easy-to-understand makemixmasher installation procedure.

Ninety-eight lines of cryptic status messages scroll past.

The last line says "Error: Directory not writeable."

> sudo install makemixmasher

(After entering superuser password.) You follow the simple easy-to-understand makemixmasher installation procedure.

One hundred and two lines of cryptic status messages scroll past.

There is an error message here.

> read error message

It says "Installation failed. /bin/devel/nemo/whist/boojum, line 528: cmd() requires two arguments, not one. Error not found."

> Google error message

With quotation marks around it or without?

> with

No pages found.

> without


> Google error message without quotation marks

There are five Stack Overflow pages here.

> read Stack Overflow pages

All of them describe error messages vaguely similar to yours but not quite the same.

> read answers

After half an hour of reading all of the proposed answers and painstakingly trying to follow their instructions, you have tried to install three other possibly-required systems with unusual names, but you have been unsuccessful at all of them.

None of the proposed answers seem likely to address your issue anyway.

It's possible that the main problem is that you have multiple versions of Python installed on your system and you're using the wrong one.

> examine Python installations

It's possible that the main problem is that you have multiple versions of Python installed on your system and you're using the wrong one.

> how would I find out?


> run Python command to check which versions are installed

There is an error message here.

> read error message

It says "Stack trace: line overflow in /usr/share/mimsy/, line 32,768: unable to begin underflow processing. Please file a bug!"

> give up


> quit

Would you indeed like to quit now?

> y

You have given up. Your score is 0 out of a total of 350 points, earning you the title of Rank Beginner. Come back and try again soon!

Postscript: I feel like I should explicitly note that I love open-source Linux-like software and I have a great deal of respect for the people who write it and who write instructions for using it, both of which I suspect are pretty thankless tasks. I suspect that the problems that I run into whenever I try to do this kind of thing are probably largely due to the vast number of different configurations that are out there; it's hard to write instructions and code that will really work everywhere. Some of the problems may also be due to my ignorance; there's obviously a lot that I don't know about this stuff.

Postpostscript: Given how many difficult installation processes I've encountered lately, I think it's worth specially mentioning one good experience: I had an astonishingly painless and fast Drupal installation experience recently, after I figured out that I could use the in-browser setup tool rather than reading through all of the unfortunately-hard-to-navigate setup instructions on the Drupal site. During the Drupal installation process, I didn't have to install anything else as a prereq, and other than having to set some permissions to globally writeable, I encountered no significant setbacks or errors. Yay, Drupal!

2 Responses to “How to install Unix-like software”

  1. jimmosk

    I laughed ’til I cried.
    Or is it, I laughed because I cried, each time this happened to me over the years?

    Either way, bravo, thanks, and empathy!

    • Jed

      🙂 Thanks for the comment, Jim! Also, I think I probably learned the fake-text-adventure format from you and David (and maybe Elliott?) long and long ago, so thanks for that too!


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