Google Summer of Code 2017

This is the MacPorts Project’s page for Google Summer of Code.

Information about the past years can be found at SummerOfCodeArchive.

Applications for GSoC

Mentoring organizations can submit organization applications from 19 January at 16:00 UTC until 9 February at 16:00 UTC. The list of accepted organizations will be published 27 February 16:00 UTC. Students will be able to apply from 20 March 16:00 UTC until 3 April 16:00 UTC.

If you're interested in working with MacPorts for Google Summer of Code 2017, you don't have to wait until the application period for students starts. Introduce yourself on the macports-dev mailing list today or drop by in IRC by joining #macports on Freenode. See Ways to Contact Us for more information.

General info

For future reference you may check the Google Summer of Code website. The GSoC Student Guide is also worth reading and explains what GSoC is about and how it works in detail. We suggest you take a few minutes and read this guide.

For the official schedule and deadlines, consult the timeline.

For the MacPorts Project

We are eager to support and mentor students who want to gain experience by working on the MacPorts Project. We have many ideas for potential internship subjects, yet we are open to anything that is both interesting and relevant to MacPorts. If you have an idea of your own, feel free to contact us to discuss it.

MacPorts is written in the Tcl scripting language with some low-level parts implemented in C. Most students that have previously applied and successfully completed Google Summer of Code with us did not know Tcl when they applied. Feel free to apply if you don't know Tcl yet, especially if you're willing to learn and already know several scripting languages such as Python, Ruby, PHP or Perl.

The best way to apply is to first make contact with us, either by sending a mail to the mailing list, to potential mentors listed below, or to IRC member on #macports on Freenode. See also Ways to Contact Us for in-depth information on how to reach us.

What we expect from students for their applications

  • Write your own abstract and proposal, copying text from this idea page is not enough.
  • Show us that you fully understand your task and know what you want to do over the summer.
  • At best, include a short weekly roadmap covering how you would work on the task.
  • Please use our application template.

What you should do before handing in an application


The following committers have agreed to be mentors for GSoC 2017 (append for email)

Name Email Area
Jackson Isaac ijackson Administrator
Clemens Lang cal Backup Administrator
Michael Dickens michaelld Mentor
Bradley Giesbrecht pixilla Mentor


For the students and projects in the 2017 edition of GSoC with MacPorts, see SummerOfCode2017.


This is a list of some potential tasks that student GSoC members could undertake. These are just ideas, and while they express our current concerns, we are open to blue-sky projects related to MacPorts.

Please note that this list is absolutely not exclusive! If you have any idea about what you want to see improved in MacPorts, you are free to propose this as your own project. In any case, we recommend you talk to mentors before writing your application.

Core tasks

Add migrate action to port command

Currently when MacPorts users upgrade to a new OS or hardware they are advised to follow a set of manual migration instructions. These instructions can be challenging for casual users to follow and in some cases more difficult if executed after the OS upgrade or hardware change.

The goal of the new port migrate action is to automate the processes described in the migration documentation. The steps to migrate would be roughly:

  1. Rebuild MacPorts itself (e.g. by invoking selfupdate) if it has not been rebuilt for the new OS already. MacPorts has a version field compiled in that allows tracking this.
  2. Store a copy of all installed ports with their variants so the same exact set can be re-installed.
  3. Deactivate all installed ports.
  4. Re-install all ports from the stored list of ports. Properly deal with interruptions and resuming so that failures during this procedure can be separately debugged and the migration re-attempted.
  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Languages: Tcl, SQL
  • Potential mentors: pixilla

Phase out dependency on Xcode

MacPorts currently requires a full Xcode installation, even though a lot of ports will install just fine with the Command Line Tools package only. Since we also have a number of ports that need Xcode to build, we cannot completely remove the Xcode dependency. Your task would be to provide a way for maintainers to easily identify ports that depend on Xcode and mark them as such, so MacPorts can warn users without Xcode installed that a port they want to install needs the full Xcode package.

To achieve this, you can modify "trace mode", a DYLD_INSERT_LIBRARIES-based sandbox to track whether a port has accessed files belonging to the Xcode package. If it does, your modifications should cause a warning to be printed suggesting the port maintainers to add use_xcode yes to the Portfile (unless of course, it is already there). You should also implement an error message if a user without Xcode installed tries to install a port that has use_xcode yes set.

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: cal

MacPorts port for self-management

The MacPorts port should be the source for updating a user’s MacPorts installation.

Currently the MacPorts port is used to build the .pkg installer for MacPorts that is used for the initial installation of MacPorts, and port uses the “selfupdate” mechanism for maintaining the MacPorts installation. The selfupdate mechanism is (at least not documented as such) not accessible through the MacPorts API and does not use the MacPorts mechanisms for maintaining ports.

  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: TBD

Implement fakeroot functionality for destroot phase

Currently MacPorts uses root privileges in the destroot phase. That should be replaced by a system that runs as the macports user, but intercepts all operations that would require root privileges (chown/chmod/etc.) and record the resulting permissions in a database.

The existing functionality of trace mode in darwintracelib1.0 could be leveraged for this task.

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: jeremyhu

Generating Portfiles

There are multiple tasks related to the generation of Portfiles. Some of these may not be enough work for a full summer project, so they could be combined for proposals freely when the applying student wants to.

Perl modules integration from CPAN

There has been an attempt to write a script for automatic generation of Portfiles from CPAN. This would simplify the maintenance of Perl modules in MacPorts. Revive this project and finish the script or rewrite it.


  • Difficulty: Easy to medium
  • Languages: Perl, probably Tcl
  • Potential mentors: pixilla
Read packages from other various package managers

As with the cpan2port proposal above, and with the previous pypi2port GSoC entry, except with other package managers, such as opam for ocaml packages, cabal for haskell, luarocks for lua, npm for node.js, and so on.

  • Classification: Medium
  • Languages: Tcl, C, OCaml, Haskell, Lua, Node.js, etc.
  • Potential mentors: pixilla

Speed up trace mode

Trace mode is a library preloading-based sandbox used to hide files that a port does not depend on or that are not part of a standard system's installation (such as /usr/local). This can avoid problems due to incompatible user-installed software and avoid "automagic" dependencies and increase the reproducibility of builds.

Unfortunately, enabling trace mode adds a significant performance penalty to the build process. However, the trace mode code can certainly be optimized using appropriate cache data structures, such as a modified Trie. Your task would be to identify the performance bottle necks, draft appropriate caching data structures and implement them.

  • Difficulty: Medium to Easy
  • Programming languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: cal
Auto-detection of build dependencies

When creating a new portfile one of the problems is always the specification of the complete (and preferably minimal) list of build dependencies, especially when one starts with a rather complete install where most dependencies are already available.

It is possible to invert the trace mode logic so that it detects all files a configure and/or build process accesses, in ${prefix} but outside of the port's build directory. This information can then be used to generate a dependency tree and information from the registry can then be used to simplify that tree so that it only lists direct dependencies.

  • Difficulty: Medium to Easy
  • Programming languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: cal

Improve startupitem code

MacPorts has the ability to automatically generate startup items for the current platform. For OS X, these are plist files for launchd which will be installed as /Library/LaunchDaemons/org.macports.*.plist. The current code would need a little care and could make use of options which have been added in recent releases of launchd.

Features that could be useful include (but are not limited to):

  • Not using daemondo if the daemon works fine under launchd without it
  • Ability to install multiple plists
  • Support for LaunchAgents as well as LaunchDaemons
  • Installing plists in ~/Library for non-root installs if the user wants
  • only modify specific XML tags to avoid clobbering additions by user
  • Support startupitems in standalone binary packages (currently a brutal hack is used to include daemondo in such packages, see #43648)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: larryv, pixilla

Parallel execution

When an action will run targets on multiple ports, run them in parallel when possible and sensible (requires tracking dependencies between both targets and ports and figuring out the maximum reasonable parallelism, e.g. several ports can fetch at once on a fast connection but you only want one 'make -j8' at a time).

  • Difficulty: Challenging
  • Languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: TBD

Migrate muniversal into base (lipo merging)

Integrate the muniversal portgroup into base. Not just a direct copy-and-paste, but in a way that makes sense and preserves the way portfiles are expected to behave (which the current portgroup doesn't).

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: TBD

Improve fetching from version control

Make cvs/svn/git/hg/bzr fetch types checkout into the distfiles dir and then export into the work dir, to avoid having to re-fetch after cleaning the work directory.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: larryv

Implement a Trac plugin to auto-assign tickets to port maintainers

Write a Trac plugin that uses an existing PostgreSQL database of ports and their maintainers (used for and automatically assigns new tickets that have the port field set to the maintainer(s) of the ports listed in the field.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Languages: Python, SQL
  • Potential mentors: TBD

Already implemented. See #40987.

App portgoup

Enhance the launching of GUI apps packaged by MacPorts:

  • Fix app icon bouncing on Dock after app launched (#40110)
  • Support multiple apps per port (#41681)
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Languages: TCL, XML
  • Potential mentors: TBD


Qt 5

Fix issues in open tickets for Qt 3, Qt 4, and Qt 5, in particular allowing for concurrent installation of the various Qt versions (note: co-installable ports for Qt 4.8.6, 5.3.2 and 5.4.1 have already been submitted to trac).

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Language: Tcl, C++
  • Potential mentors: michaelld, pixilla

Secondary tasks


Sweep through all Portfiles and look for useful opportunities to add more built-in Tcl functions that make Portfiles more (usefully) terse, powerful, flexible or easier to write. I'm sure there is an entirely family of helper functions yet to be written here. This might also include porting additional packages to MacPorts and cleaning up or removing obsolete ports.

  • Classification: Medium
  • Language: Tcl
  • Potential mentors: larryv

Documentation and website

Improve MacPorts documentation, website and Trac system. Note that pure documentation proposals are not allowed by Google.

  • Difficulty: Easy to difficult
  • Languages: PHP, Python
  • Potential mentors: larryv

Shell environment

Add support for providing basic and port-provided environmental services to users in the ~/.profile, ~/.cshrc, and ~/.xinitrc files, so that instead of manipulating the user's .profile to modify certain paths, the installer could append "source /opt/local/etc/bash.rc" to the end of a user's .profile file and that bash.rc would source all the files in /opt/local/etc/bash.d.

This task alone is most probably not enough for the whole Summer Of Code.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Potential mentors: raimue

Bump version and checksum of existing port

See #53851 for details.

  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Languages: Tcl, C
  • Potential mentors: TBD

MacPorts statistics

Enhance collection and reporting of inventory of ports installed by participating users: StatisticsIdeas

  • Difficulty: Medium
  • Language: TBD
  • Potential mentors: TBD

Contacting us

There are several ways to contact us:

  • Dropping a mail to the MacPorts-dev mailing list will get you most attention. Note that you have to be subscribed to the list in order to send mail to it. We recommend you create a filter matching the header line List-Id: and sort all mails matching this filter into a separate folder. When sending inquiries about Google Summer of Code, we would welcome if you included "GSoC" in the subject of your mail.
  • You can get quick feedback and less formal discussion by joining the #macports channel on the Freenode IRC network. You'll need an IRC client to do so – Colloquy is a popular choice on OS X. Please note that due to timezones and day jobs you might not receive an answer right away. Most users will read your messages when they return and answer as soon as they can. Be prepared to wait a few hours.
  • Feel free to contact any potential mentor via email directly. You can get the email address by appending to the handle listed in #Mentors above.

In general, don't hesitate to contact us – we're here to help you and eager to mentor motivated students in this year's GSoC!

Last modified 34 hours ago Last modified on May 26, 2017, 1:54:56 AM