pyqt4 is deprecated, but is still required for some applications, like electrum.
homebrew says that it will not install. this is not possible without rewriting the program.
can anyone advise of a workaround to install pyqt4?
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Anaconda python (https://www.continuum.io/) provides binaries for a wide variety of packages including pyqt and all required support libraries. Similar to virtualenv, conda allows separate environments to be created with different versions of the packages; in your case, various versions of qt 4 and qt 5.
Download the 20MB bash installer for Python 2.7 http://conda.pydata.org/miniconda.html
The following packages are required for electrum:
conda create -n electrum python=2.7 pyqt=4.11.4 dnspython ecdsa pbkdf2 protobuf requests six source activate electrum
Additional dependencies not available in anaconda can be installed via pip:
pip install dnspython jsonrpclib qrcode slowaes
You can then install electrum as usual:
git clone https://github.com/spesmilo/electrum.git cd electrum pyrcc4 icons.qrc -o gui/qt/icons_rc.py python setup.py install
The resulting command will be in the bin directory of the electrum environment. This can be symlinked into ~/bin as follows:
ln -s ~/anaconda/envs/electrum/bin/electrum ~/bin
You can now run electrum from the terminal even when the anaconda environment is not loaded.