Anyone interested in Open Source and powerpc?

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by Sorcerer1, Sep 11, 2012.

  1. Sorcerer1, Sep 11, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 11, 2012

    Sorcerer1 macrumors newbie

    Sep 7, 2012
    I am making an effort to get lubuntu to work. It is mostly the iBook G4 I have used and fully dedicated it to lubuntu. It could easily have been a different distro like debian, fedora or mintppc, but I ended up working with lubuntu mostly because I got more feedback and support from other Ubuntu ppc users. You would get support for any distro you choose, but I happen to talk to a Ubuntu G5 powerpc user when I installed lubuntu, and I got really into it. All the main linux distros have much the same challenges like graphic drivers that needed to be sorted out and browser embedded media streams needing work-arounds.

    I know Debian and Ubuntu both have a team that keeps up their powerpc versions. If you are interested in open source and happen to have an old iBook, or old G3, 4 or 5. I would happily suggest trying a linux distro.

    I have tried all the four distros I mention, and they all need attetion to a few challenges to get powerpc to work well. Open source is rather vulnerable regarding powerpc, mainly because of few users, and little feedback during alpha and beta testing before it is launched. If you are interested in linux and open source there is a chance to test for the Beta 2 which will be launched later this month. Beta 1 is already available, at least the alternate version for ppc.

    What I want from my powerpc is:

    - Stable system and easy booting

    - A fully working Office like OpenOffice, LibreOffice or SoftMaker.

    - Updated browser compatible with latest BankID, Java, and alternatives for media / video streams I use.

    - A fully working mail client, like Thunderbird or similar.

    - Support for all hardware like graphics card, CD/DVD/burner, WiFi, microphone, sound.

    - Full support for any regular use and applicatin I happen to need.

    I have made all if this work fine on my iBook G4. It does look like Gnash media player requires around 1.42GHz or better CPU to work. It is the closest thing to real flash and shock wave there is for powerpc. I don`t even attempt video editing, but simple video editing is possible. For browser embeded play there is a few challenges with the best media players like Gnome Mplayer, VLC and Totem. I have no problem streaming Youtube, web version of local TV channel, both live and archived shows.

    These applications and flash alternative are soooo close to work all fine on powerpc. Most are already available but with a few bugs needed to be sorted out.

    If you are interested in open source on powerpc, it is availble, and all it needs is for you to make an effort and stick with it for a while to find all the fixes. If you could spend time testing for alpha and beta releases, or generally report back on the bugs you find in the stable releases, these issues will get attetion.

    To sum it all up, linux for powerpc is still there and available. My experience is that with a bit of effort linux can work just as well as osx. The devs and package builders are keeping the powerpc versions updated. All they need are users who are willing to stick with the distro for a while and give feedback. If there are powerpc owners interested in linux who can test and report back to Ubuntu and Debian these issues will be sorted out.

    Linux and open source powerpc are alive and work!
  2. orestes1984 macrumors 65816

    Jun 10, 2005
    The issues I have is with Debian are as follows:

    1. Open source video drivers that don't really work. It made me go back from Debian on my Xserve to OS X 10.5... Open Source video drivers really are are the case of developers poking around in the dark without a flashlight. I don't blame them, they do the best with what they have, but it doesn't work well enough.
    2. Software Centre and lack of apps/repositories... Comparing the x86/AMD64 software centre to the PPC one.
    3. File fragmentation... EXT3 brings it to a whole new level.

    I'm sure I'll think of more later, but these issues made me go back to OS X Leopard and delete my Linux partition on my G5.

    But if you want to run the latest version of Firefox and Thunderbird rather than Camino then Linux is an answer. There again Office 2008 is still better than Libre Office/Open Office.

    The real area where this will make a difference is a smaller footprint with low power machines.
  3. Sorcerer1 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 7, 2012
    I agree, it is not ideal, but I have had no problem with video drivers when I have found some that worked. I haven`t tried every video card there is, only two on ppc really. Video drivers are probably the only thing that will not work well if you have tried the options available. Graphic drivers are not a lost cause categorically.

    I have libre office working fine in Writer and Impress which I am using regularly several days a week. The only issues I have is with some signs that are spesific in academic referance standards, still it performes adaquately. Jumping from one make of Office to another takes some getting used to, at least for me.

    Neither have I left osx, but I don`t need it on the hardware. This is my linux ppc experiment, and I am giving it a real go. You could try a different filesystem, these days it is ext4 and file fragmentation should be a rare occurence. Ubuntu and lubuntu installs fine on btrfs, but hard to tell how well it work in the long run. The only time I have trouble with a fragmetation, was on a failing harddrive.
  4. Imixmuan macrumors 6502

    Dec 18, 2010
    the ideal ppc linux....

    ...would be portable, lightweight, no, very lightweight. PPC macs aren't getting any younger or faster. MintPPC (which is Debian with the LXDE desktop chopped off Mint and slapped on) comes close to being lightweight, but not really.

    We really need a Puppy or Bohdi on our side of the fence. Puppy has many different distros (Saluki, macpup, Wary, Racy, Slacko etc) for older vs newer hardware, a very talented and active user base and forum that is constantly making new "pets". For the uninitated pets are software installs of the very latest Chrome, the latest Opera, the latest flash, or youtube browsing apps, custom built for older hardware and kernels. There is nothing remotely comparable to Puppy.

    Bodhi Linux PPC would be almost ideal for G3 and G4 macs. E17 runs extremely well on old hardware, and is even vaguely mac like. a sweet, sweet little webkit browser. The Bohdi website based software installer is so brilliant its a wonder no one has done it before. You can install an entire lightweight suite of apps for older hardware, and a heavier suite for newer, faster hardware. Brilliant, fracking briliant.

    I know, I should do it, but I don't have the time or skillz to put together a PPC linux distro. I've tried. Its WAY harder than it looks. Hats off to linuxjopemac and OS911 over at for keeping that distro going.
  5. Sorcerer1 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 7, 2012
    I have noticed Bohdi too, but not tired it yet on any hardware.

    I am certain a lot of slowness on ppc comes from badly managed drivers and xorg issues that are possible to iron out. I`ve noticed if you happen to have exactly the same hardware as debian ppc devs and testers, it runs fine. Noone seems to have my model iBook though, still it works fairly well. The most important thing is to keep at it and not give up on the options that are available.
  6. orestes1984, Sep 12, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 12, 2012

    orestes1984 macrumors 65816

    Jun 10, 2005
    As I noted, video drivers for the most part are reverse engineered so it really is developers poking around in the dark without a flashlight in order to get things to work. This is why the ATi/Nvidia Open Source drivers are not brilliant. They will do what you need to do, which is fine for the most part where Linux is used... servers... A server admin will put up with poorly implemented drivers if it displays screen content.

    Unless you know someone who is going to release the source code for old ATi/Nvidia drivers then it really is working with the people who develop the free drivers to come up with a better solution and sharing with everyone your /etc/xorg.conf files that work the best for your setup and really developing a tight database of this for every Mac you can.

    Other than that if you run a desktop Mac its time to upgrade to a card that is better supported in the Linux community, but this may be harder than you think due to being on the PPC arch. Both AMD's (ATi) and Nvidia's drivers are closed source so they can't be ported to PPC. Your stuck between a rock and a hard place unless you can find a video card with open source drivers you can compile for PPC.

    I know of exactly zero video cards with PPC drivers from the card manufacturer, but if you find one then I'm all ears. Unfortunately, however... hardware support is largely ignored outside of the x86/AMD64 realms unless its open source.

    This is why I stated I'm still using OS X, because despite the drivers being closed source, there are actually binary drivers out there that do work and can handle just about everything you need to do. Until OS X support really tails off the issues with Linux drivers make it a difficult proposition to use Linux as a daily usage OS.

    Don't get wrong, I wish the case was different, but with the way AMD and Nvidia work with Linux this is never going to be the case.
  7. orestes1984 macrumors 65816

    Jun 10, 2005
    Hmm... Apparently 3DFX cards may work and give you accelerated support, although I don't have a 3DFX card to test.
  8. skinniezinho macrumors 65816

    Jan 1, 2009
    I guess newer kernels don't have accelerated drivers for 3Dfx cards.
    3Dfx cards are "rare" and pricey this days,and most of the "good ones" (Voodoo 5 gen) mac cards have been converted to pc.
    I have 2 Voodoo 2 12Mb and a Voodoo 3 3000 (pc).OSX doesn't have "accelerated" drivers for them, only OS9.
    I guess more than a linux distro, we need opensource software for mac.
  9. orestes1984 macrumors 65816

    Jun 10, 2005
    That is another issue when you compare the software centre for PPC vs that for x86/AMD64 BUT then theres all the open source stuff that by rights you should be able to compile unless its poorly coded and relies on some specific API from another CPU arch.

    So despite the limited amount of binaries there are out there for PPC there is a world of open source packages out there. You've just got to learn how to make them...
  10. MacinDan macrumors regular

    Jun 26, 2010
    The open source radeon driver works well for ATI cards. It's the Nvidia drivers that are a problem.

    You don't have to make anything. They're already pre-compiled as .deb packages.
  11. orestes1984 macrumors 65816

    Jun 10, 2005
    Not everything again you missed my point.

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