Octave 5.x on MacPorts

Andrew Janke floss at apjanke.net
Sun May 12 22:40:36 UTC 2019

Hi, MacPorts devs,

I'm a GNU Octave user and co-maintainer of Octave.app, a "Mac native"
distribution of Octave. I'd like to discuss the situation for the
current version of Octave on MacPorts.

MacPorts currently provides Octave 5.x.

Octave runs in two modes: GUI and CLI (a terminal application). Both
work fine in Octave 4.4.x, but with Octave 5.1.0, the GUI mode has
developed significant stability issues on Mac specifically. It freezes
frequently, often upon initial application startup. It's bad enough that
the Octave 5.1 GUI is pretty unusable on Mac.

This seems to be an issue with Octave itself, and not particular
packaging or distribution mechanisms. It affects Octave.app,
Homebrew-installed Octave, and Octave built manually from source. I've
tested it using a MacPorts installation, and that seems to have the same
stability problems.

Here are upstream/sidestream bug reports for this, for reference:

GNU Octave: https://savannah.gnu.org/bugs/?56270
Octave.app: https://github.com/octave-app/octave-app/issues/24

In Octave.app, we're tentatively planning to continue shipping Octave
4.4.1 as our GUI-mode Octave, and ship a CLI-only version of Octave 5.1.
It's not a trivial bug, so we don't expect it to be resolved upstream
any time soon.

Would you be willing to do something to improve the situation on
MacPorts? As things stand right now, I don't think MacPorts is shipping
a usable GUI-mode Octave. And there are GUI-mode users out there. This
could include:

* Adding an Octave 4.4.x port alongside the main Octave 5.x port
* Adding an option or default to build Octave 5.x against Qt 5.11
instead of Qt 5.12 (which seems to improve, but not fully fix, the problem)
* ??? other ideas your Octave port maintainers have ???

Andrew Janke

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