They say the best things in life are free, and for UNIX computers, open source software certainly goes a long way towards proving that statement. KStars, a planetarium program written for UNIX machines running the K Desktop Environment, has been ported to OS X via Fink and X11, and offers Mac users a sophisticated but free planetarium program. Neale Monks takes a closer look at KStars and sees how it stacks against the shareware and commercial Mac OS planetarium programs. Not directly an OS news item, but definately of general interest especially for our geek readers. At the end of the article, you will find links to five more reviews of astronomy applications for the Mac.
Review of KStars 0.9 under Mac OS X
2003-02-21 Geek stuff 8 Comments
Hm, I didn’t even realize I had this program Anyway, it is a pretty nice program, like the review said. I’d like to note that the performance problems the reviewer noticed are probably due to the fact that he’s running in OS X (and thus does not have the KDE libraries loaded already). It only takes about 10 seconds to start on my KDE setup.
I love KStars. In fact, I discovered it because it was included with Knoppix. It’s one of the few programs that really wow non-linux people, because it’s a great package (with a really cool web integration component, allowing you to view actual images of celestial objects) and because it’s free.
And btw, it runs fast as hell on my system, and on all the systems I’ve used it on, so I think the performance issues are Mac related.
Well, it’s not clear what version he’s using but he mentions “downloading files” so it sounds like he’s using the older (stable) packages. Currently in Fink stable, binary packages are only available for 3.0.7 (a beta of KDE 3.1). Fink unstable (which is currently source-packages only) contains KDE 3.1 final, which, among other things, fixes some very nasty dynamic loader issues that were in the 3.0.7 packages and earlier, and gives a significant speed boost to KDE under OSX.
It’s still by no means instant, but it’s reasonably close speed-wise to KDE on Linux on the same hardware nowadays (with a fast X11 server like Apple’s beta).
I enjoy playing with Celestia on Windows. Has anyone tried this(it is available for Linux) and can compare the two?
stellarium is a french programm which runs on ALL platforms (mac os x, too ). it uses open gl and looks pretty good.
you can find it at <a href=”http://stellarium.free.fr“>stellarium.free.fr
It has reignited an amateur interest in astronomy that I lost when I moved to a big city and couldn’t really see much in the sky at night other than the glow of streetlights. I forgot just how fascinating it was to look at the stars. KStars has given me my own little virtual sky to stare in awe at, and it makes me want to go live somewhere where I can see the starry sky properly.
So thanks, at least in part, go to KStars for making me move out of the city in a few months’ time, without it I’d have one less large reason to go.
Thanks also to KDE for including it in the kdeedu module – I don’t think I’d have stumbled across it, or similar programs otherwise.
I haven’t tried KStars yet, but I am currently having lots of fun playing with Celestia for Mac OS X. They recently released a native Cocoa version for OS X, and it’s quite rough–but there’s an alpha 2 update available on their SourceForge site that makes it tolerable. But as far as cool, fast OpenGL zooming around the galaxy and seeing 3D rendered asteroids, satellites, planets, stars & comets, it’s quite fun. Reminds me of some cool scenes from K-Pax.
I’m the lead developer for KStars. Thanks for the nice comments in this thread. I definitely think the performance issues he cites in the review must be OSX-related; we definitely have not seen the problems he’s having on our x86 machines. If anyone out there is using KStars on OSX and would like to help us figure out how to fix it, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org
BTW, celestia is in many ways much cooler than KStars; I really love zooming through the universe with that program! But, KStars has different goals and addresses those goals rather well, IMHO