PPC Linux

Why Linux and which one? Let me take a second to review:

Debian Stable 4.0 – Too old! You can’t expect me to be spoiled on my x86 architecture with the latest GNOME and Firefox and then jump back to Debian stable

Debian Testing “Lenny” – Too new! The kernel is a step ahead of the Mac-On-Linux folks and therefore negates my ability to still run MacOS in Linux. Also had a heck of a time with my 6200 Nvidia Card in framebuffer.

Fedora 9 – Will not boot the yaboot directory under \ppc\mac\yaboot from OpenFirmware. I am not usually a Fedora fan but was willing to give it a whirl. Didn’t work

openSUSE 11 – Great looking distro that took FOREVER to install. Also it is very heavy for older G4. The NetInst is a worthless adventure if you plan to go this route; download the DVD. It pains me to not continually be unhappy with SuSE. I still have a 4.8 box in my office here. Boy times have changed…To their credit, the only reason MOL is running on 2.6.24+ is one of their developers. Thanks to them for that!

Ubuntu 8.04 – Not an official architecture supported by Ubuntu. As much as I love Ubuntu, I refuse to run an unsupported arch  as I would just end up compiling all the updates which brings me to my next choice

Gentoo 2007.0 – I have been a Gentoo guy for years. I still have a burn of 1.4 2003 release somewhere. The compiling  by source is a real bear, but that was until GRP was created. Think of GRP as a shortcut. These are common packages already compiled and ready to go. They can get you running quick. This will not save you time when you want to compile something off the wall but it does get you a system up quick.

OpenBSD 4.3 – By trade I am an Information Assurance guy. If Mac-On-Linux ran on OpenBSD this tutorial would be dramatically different :)

My main drivers were:

  • Ability to run Mac-On-Linux
  • Current main support architecture
  • As light or heavy as I wanted
  • Secure

So in the end I decided on Debian Testing. What?! The reason being is that the only thing it didn’t do well was MOL and I can bypass that by running the kernel from Debian Stable. At the end of the day a good few distro’s can’t deal with the CD being Master in an MCE setup. Debian also has far reaching community support and is an official architecture. Off we go!

1. Download the first ISO. Debian will let you download all 9 of them if you are going off the net to install. I am going to guess that someone reading this has broadband.

Debian PPC Lenny Install

2. Burn the ISO. You will then place the Install CD in first and reboot the machine.

3. On reboot if you have the original OEM drive hold the “c” key and off you go. If you have upgraded to a SuperDrive (MCE or others) hold Apple+Option+O+F and you will be dropped into the OpenFirmware. Play carefully :) Enter:

boot hd:,\install\yaboot

4. Off to the races! At this point just follow the debian install screens. I wipped the whole drive as with MOL I can just run Mac in linux rather than rebooting.

5. After installing the X configuration will most likely not work. Login as root and type:

X -configure

mv /root/xorg.conf.new /etc/X11/xorg.conf

6. Next we need to add stable to the sources so we can grab a MOL compatiable kernel:

vi /etc/apt/sources.list


deb http://mirrors.xmission.com/debian/ etch main

7. Next lets update everything:

apt-get update

8. Now we need to install MOL:

apt-get install mol-modules-2.6-powerpc build-essential

9. Reboot!

10. After the reboot Hit CTRL+ALT+F1 and drop to a console. At this point login as root and stop gdm:

/etc/init.d/gdm stop

11. We will run the commands to get MOL working now:

apt-get install mol

12. After the install go ahead and configure MOL


Accept all the defaults for video modes unless you have some crazy CRT on your desk

13. MOL will now work! Go read their HOWTO for getting Mac Running! Congrats!

So Nick, what works and what doesn’t on a G4 Cube? So far, everything works. Including the Airport, sleeping, and iSight. It is a great load and Linux is MUCH MUCH quicker on the original 450 than OSX ever was.