I first stumbled on Xplanet in August, 2005. I didn’t pay too much attention at first. Like all good things, I suppose. It wasn’t until Hurricane Katrina made landfall in Louisiana on August 29, that I remembered seeing this haunting and beautiful rendering of earth showing the storm’s path crossing the Atlantic.
I love all types of maps: hyper-local to universal; ancient to modern. Maps aren’t solely a navigational tool. They tell a story – someone’s interpretation of a place during a particular point in time based on information and data. And if the map-maker is able to balance the art and the science of the map’s details, then the final result isn’t just a beautiful map, but a beautiful story of a place in time.
Xplanet isn’t a map. Certainly not within any traditional definition. It starts with an image of the Earth with the locations of the great cities of the world; combines dynamic elements like earthquakes, storms, volcanoes, and clouds; and adds a layer of depth with light and topographical imagery.
I think more importantly it highlights our technical achievements while reminding us how much more there is to learn. Xplanet shows Earth as our ever-changing home. Not just from the changing hues of our planet throughout the year, but also from the concentration of electric light that highlight our advancements and their, sometimes, unintended consequences.
So, why this guide? Primarily, it’s my way of thanking Hari, Michael, and the broader community that is extending out Xplanet with projects such as xplanetFX and The Living Earth. Secondly, there isn’t a lot of up to date information on getting Xplanet to run optimally on Mac OS X given some of Apple’s underlying OS changes. Most scripts on the Internet have either been built on the GNU/Linux platform or are now outdated. I wanted to consolidate and update the existing information and share what I’ve done.
I break up this guide into individual sections where I explain my rationale into the decisions that I’ve made to run Xplanet on my OS X environment. I talk about other options that I looked into where appropriate, e.g., compiling Xplanet natively or using a package manager. Where inappropriate, I do not offer any opinion, e.g., I have only worked with images of the Earth and have never utilized Xplanet to provide a view of the Solar System. It certainly wouldn’t be difficult to build upon and extend what I’ve documented in this guide and further customize Xplanet for yourself.
And away we go… – Hari Nair, the developer of Xplanet.  – Michael Dear, the developer of TotalMarker.