Wednesday, March 15, 2006


I've had some new toys to play with in the last few days, so my documentation of Kowari has slowed down. I expect to be back to it in a couple of days (though not tonight, and tomorrow is Anne's birthday).

In the meantime, I've been looking at compiling things in Eclipse on the Mac.

For a start, our new Mac Mini (which runs Java code 4 times faster than my PowerBook!) can't run Eclipse. The lack of an Intel version is listed as a bug, but it hasn't been addressed yet. As I type this I have a set of scripts downloading ALL the Eclipse source code, in the hope that I can find the JNI libraries I need. So far I've found one of the 6 I need.

This was all so I could try compiling a big project from work in an Eclipse environment.

Finding Files

While setting up the files for this project from work, I discovered that a Jar file was missing from the build path. I still like to use locate to look for files by name, as Spotlight only seems to be any good when looking for files by content. However, since the file had only just come in through CVS, it wasn't going to be in the locate database.

Of course, the simple thing to do here was to run find, but it reminded me that I wanted to update the locate database. Of course, I couldn't remember the name, as it's different to the simple updatedb found on Linux. Fortunately "locate updatedb" helped be remember that I was looking for locate.updatedb.

This led me to wonder why the update doesn't happen much on this machine. The computer is often on overnight, yet locate regularly fails to find files I know I've had for a while. I know that something has supplanted cron on the Mac, so I did a man locate.updatedb. This pointed me to the cron directory of /etc/weekly, so I decided to check who was supposed to call it and when.

/etc/weekly is a symlink to /etc/periodic/500.weekly, so I grepped through /etc and discovered:
    crontab:# The periodic and atrun jobs have moved to launchd jobs
Now this looks like the cron replacement! Running which launchd returned /sbin/launchd, which did little more than tell me it is an admin command (obviously). So I checked out the man pages.

The man pages explain that launchd is a new system to replace rc, though there are still a couple of elements going through the old rc system. launchd is configured with XML (as are most of the modern features in OSX), using files found in the following directories:
     ~/Library/LaunchAgents         Per-user agents provided by the user.
/Library/LaunchAgents Per-user agents provided by the administrator.
/Library/LaunchDaemons System wide daemons provided by the administrator.
/System/Library/LaunchAgents Mac OS X Per-user agents.
/System/Library/LaunchDaemons Mac OS X System wide daemons.
Examples are quicker to look at than documentation, so I checked these out, and discovered that all but the final directory was empty. However, the contents here included a file called which appeared to be what I was after. Looking inside I found that it was all XML, as advertised, including the following fragment:
Explanations of this and the rest of the file are found in man launchd.plist. But even without looking in the man pages I could see that it was calling a program called periodic to do the work when the time arrived.

So now I knew that launchd did the scheduling, and I could change the time if necessary by using the XML file /System/Library/LaunchDaemons/

But what if I wanted to run the process manually (like, right now)? So I ran file /usr/sbin/periodic, and was told:
/usr/sbin/periodic: Bourne shell script text executable
A quick look inside this script showed that it takes an argument of "daily", "weekly" or "monthly", with predictable results.

So I could run periodic directly, but the man pages from earlier made me wonder if I can do this with a "control" program for launchd called launchctl?

Looking at the man pages again told me that launchctl could be run interactively, which sounded like a better way to test things out. The program seemed unresponsive until I told it to "load /System/Library/LaunchDaemons", which got things moving along nicely. I'm still not sure if these processes were loaded before I put them in, and I didn't want to reboot to see if the clean machine had them.

I started a few of the processes, but 3 of them would not launch, and the system kept respawning them. I was worried that this try/die loop was going to go on indefinitely (or until I learned how to stop it), but fortunately the system worked out what was happening, and stopped them all.

In summary, it seems that launchd turns non-terminating programs that communicate with stdin/stdout, and turns them into logged daemons. Having a process that finishes quickly (like periodic) doesn't seem to be what it's for. So to run periodic manually I needed to call it directly.

That was a long winded way of making sure my locate database stays up to date, but I'm pleased I learned something about the system while I was at it. :-)


Reilly Hayes said...

Your Mac Mini absolutely can run eclipse. I'm running it just fine on my Intel Macbook Pro. The binaries for 3.2M5 and later have universal binaries for the launcher. Use the 1.5 Java from Apple.

Quoll said...

I grabbed this on the night you posted the message. I had just gone to the "current release" and it wasn't available there. I should have checked the nightly builds.

I should have thanked you before this. Building Eclipse from source is painful, as I had no idea which packages I needed.