Getting Elixir to run on my OsX (init terminating in do_boot)

· June 29, 2015

I hear more and more about Elixir from some people that I really trust and respect. That means checking-out-new-technology-time for Marcus.

Luckily installing Elixir on Os X (Yosemite 10.10, that I’m running) is super simple with Homebrew:

brew update
brew install elixir

Or is it …

Not for me as it turns out. I hope you had a better fate. This is my story.

Becasue when that was all done I ran elixir -v to check my version number and got:

"{"init terminating in do_boot",{undef,[{elixir,start_cli,[],[]},{init,start_it,1,[]},{init,start_em,1,[]}]}}"

In the output from Homebrew I saw just a little warning but nothing that was particularly scary. So I did what every professional programmer does; searched the Internets. And on GitHub I found this issue for Elixir, which sounds exactly like that I was looking for.

Yak-shaving: Erlang

Ok… it seems like my version of Erlang, since Elixir “leverages the Erlang VM” was out of date.

But when I ran (in all honestly after I’ve spent ca 45 minutes finding out how to start anything Erlang): erl, to run the Erlang interperator, it looked great:

Marcus-Bandung-MBP:~ marcus$ erl
Erlang R15B02 (erts-5.9.2) [source] [smp:4:4] [async-threads:0] [hipe] [kernel-poll:false]

Eshell V5.9.2  (abort with ^G)

Erlang is doing great. Hmmm… Could it be a old version of Erlang? Erlang is also installed with Homebrew, so I tried to install it again and hopefully update it: brew install erlang. Now it got interesting:

Marcus-Bandung-MBP:~ marcus$ brew install erlang
Warning: erlang-17.5 already installed, it's just not linked

Yak-shaving: Homebrew

Installing a package with Homebrew consists of several step: download, install and linking (I think). One of the steps has failed. This was the little warning I got when I installed Elixir as I mentioned above.

Luckily you can link a package after it’s been downloaded. For example brew link erlang, or to force it brew link --overwrite erlang.

Marcus-Bandung-MBP:~ marcus$ brew link --overwrite erlang
Linking /usr/local/Cellar/erlang/17.5... 
Error: Could not symlink lib/erlang/Install
/usr/local/lib/erlang is not writable.

And do not try sudo in front of it. Homebrew doesn’t think that’s a good idea and tells you with a hilarious error message…

But what did it say? /usr/local/lib/erlang is not writable. Maybe I can help it?

Yak-shaving: Os X

Ha! Writable my aXX! I can fix that: sudo chmod -R 777 /usr/local/lib/erlang.

Sadly that didn’t help much. The linking command from above ( brew link --overwrite erlang), still failed with the same error (/usr/local/lib/erlang is not writable).

And the folder, and sub-folders (the -R-switch), was indeed writable.

Yak = shaved clean

What to do? Well, out of a whiff I just tried: brew reinstall erlang again. And it worked.

When you do a brew reinstall the old installation is removed first. This basically just uninstall and then directly install a formula.

My thinking is that I had, for some reason, an older version of Erlang installed. Maybe even failed install. When Homebrew tried to install a new version of Erlang it failed, since the folders was not writable. When I made them writable the reinstall worked.


Just for good measures I actually did a brew reinstall elixir too. Just to make sure that the dependencies was in good order.

After that I could start coding Elixir. This is the full extent of my Elixir knowledge. Strap in:

Marcus-Bandung-MBP:~ marcus$ elixir -v
Elixir 1.0.4
Marcus-Bandung-MBP:~ marcus$ iex
Erlang/OTP 17 [erts-6.4] [source] [64-bit] [smp:4:4] [async-threads:10] [hipe] [kernel-poll:false] [dtrace]

Interactive Elixir (1.0.4) - press Ctrl+C to exit (type h() ENTER for help)
iex(1)> 4+4

Yeah. This tool looks amazing!

Thanks to the Stockholm Elixir Slack-group that listen to me while I hammered away to fix this.

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