Fail early, fail often, but please fail quickly – MacPorts and Linux on a PowerMac G4


I first heard the term “fail early, fail often” in a talk by one of the lead animators on Disney-Pixar’s “Ratatouille” (2007, dir Brad Bird, Jan Pinkova), when he explained that they went back to the drawing board with the characterisation and animation nearly a third of the way into the production schedule. If you google the term you can find lots of variations on the same phrase including “fail often, fail fast, fail cheap”, but no definitive attribution. Google fail.

Undeterred after my failure (also known as a “successful test”) installing MacPorts on a old blue-and-white G3 (see below), I installed 10.04 Lucid Lynx on the second drive of a well-cared-for 400 MHz G4. I had already installed MacPorts on the OS X drive but interrupted installation of FFMpeg after two hours.

I managed to limp it over one hurdle by cleaning glib2 with the command

sudo port clean glib2

After that it installed glib2 successfully.

The following day I tried installing FFMpeg again on the OS X and it took all day. No really, ALL DAY. I didn’t time it exactly, but I started it at about 9am and it was still going when I went out at about 3pm.

I returned about 5.30pm to find that it had fallen at the last fence and failed to install FFMpeg itself. I tried the same trick again:

sudo port clean ffmpeg

But it did not solve the problem.

I booted the same machine into Ubuntu Linux 10.04 and it took about a minute to download and install FFMpeg and a few seconds each for gPhoto2 and ImageMagick.

I really don’t know enough about this to know why there seems to be such a bottleneck on the Mac side, after all they are the same libraries, running on the same processor.

What I do know is that MacPorts does not appear to be viable on old G3s or G4s, although I have it running very successfully on more recent Intel Core Duo and Core 2 Duo systems running OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard, yet to be performance tested.

After the above shenanigans, I found the following resource online about installing on FFMpeg on Mac OS X, but I don’t think I’m going to pursue this given simpler routes through.


For my purposes, Linux is the way forward on G3s and G4s. Mac OS X 10.4.11 Tiger works fine on these machines, but I couldn’t get MacPorts to work satisfactorily.

I didn’t fail fast, but at least I’m failing often and cheap. More economical failures soon…

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