Linux on Powermac G4

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by monkeytap, Dec 14, 2007.

  1. monkeytap macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Saint Paul, MN
    Hi all, FYI I have a powermac G4 dual proccessor with mirror drive doors. im running mac os x 10.4.

    I am wondering if anyone has installed linux on a similar machine, I would like to know more before I try it. what version is best (ubuntu I heard is good?)? Must you reformat a drive or can you install in on a new internal drive? any information really.

    Thanks in advance to anyone who can give me some info on the subject.
  2. wrldwzrd89 macrumors G5


    Jun 6, 2003
    Solon, OH
    There's a very helpful comparison of Linux distributions here. Make sure you use one of the ones that is supported on PowerPC machines.

    Note: Yellow Dog Linux is one of the best supported Linux variants on PowerPC computers - however, it only gets a passing mention on that page.
  3. monkeytap thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Saint Paul, MN

    holy balls. thanks for the link, although im not sure if it will help me in this case.

    im looking for subjective opinions on which of the varaints works best on a mac and which is the easiest to install. is it possible to have linux as a bootable drive, like I have OS9?

    ive heard good things from yellow dog, just cant find any details on the installation process
  4. mac4drew macrumors regular


    Mar 4, 2003
    I haven't tried Yellow Dog yet, but I have installed Ubuntu on a Dell P4 1.3Ghz with 384MB RAM and Xubuntu on a Rev A iMac with 160MB RAM.

    Ubuntu on a pentium took a little tweaking (mostly my fault, didn't upgrade the BIOS and so the BIOS couldn't get to my new 500 GB hard drive, which it had been told to boot off of). Once I dug a floppy disk out of my garage and got the BIOS upgraded it was a snap to install.

    Xubuntu for PowerPC was a little harder but it eventually worked out. The hardest thing to find was the actual link to download it. The new version (7.10) of Ubuntu/Kubuntu/Xubuntu is not "officially supported" by Canonical, it is "community supported." Meaning they fix things and update, just not as fast and in some cases not unless someone complains. The last officially supported version is 6.10 but I was able to get Xubuntu 7.04 running just fine, which I'll probably eventually upgrade to 7.10 (there is a one-button upgrade feature).

    The most experience I've had is with the i386 version but I love it. Definitely the best OS I've ever run on the Dell (before that was Windows XP). Everything is so fast and the computer is now infinitely useful instead of a spyware infested slimebucket slowly eating away at itself. I'm even thinking of sinking more money into it.

    Xbuntu picked up the performance on the iMac a bit, and it's definitely more modern and snappy of an OS than 10.3.9.

    I'd say just put another drive in your power mac if you can afford one, otherwise you'll have to repartition your disk. If you have 10.5 and HFS+ Journaling on that might not be a problem though.

    You should give Ubuntu a try. Your computer will probably install 7.10 with no problem considering it's relatively common
    so just grab the PowerPC build, burn it at a low speed, and install...
  5. Synthabusion macrumors newbie

    Nov 2, 2007
    I would definitely recommend Ubuntu over Yellow Dog. Yellow Dog is ok, but Ubuntu uses the Debian package manager. So there is a lot more software that you can install easier in Ubuntu. I've run Ubuntu on my old g4 and it works great!
  6. mkrishnan Moderator emeritus


    Jan 9, 2004
    Grand Rapids, MI, USA
    Yes, Compiz looks very nice on G4s. The one major caveat is that if your Mac uses Bluetooth for its primary keyboard and mouse, AFAIK, you are SOL -- I don't know of any Linux distribution that can do its initial install off bluetooth input devices.
  7. monkeytap thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Saint Paul, MN
    i just recently threw a 500 GB harddrive in, so reformatting/partitioning that drive won't be a problem (only like 60 GB being used). Im running 10.4, fyi. I guess I wasnt aware it was as easy as downloading and installing :D

    is rebooting in Ubuntu the same process as rebotting in OS 9? (>startup disc) Im glad to finnally hear of someone else who has done this, Ive been searching the net for descriptions (install, usability,compatibility) but havent found anything! maybe because its so simple :eek:

    I think i have a few USB keyboards laying around :-D

    Im completely naive to linux, but besides buying a cheap PC or a new intel mac, it is my only solution for blu-ray support on mac. So...
    Thanks to you all for your help, I think I will be giving Ubuntu a try. if you have any other recommendations please share!
  8. kenmasters macrumors newbie

    Nov 28, 2007
    trust me on this you dont want to install linux i know linux is free and all but remember you get what you pay and thats..

    2.No support for games
    3.No support for printers
    4.No support for digital camera's unless formatted to the lame linux format
    5.even though its free all versions of linux are really terrrible.
    6.linux is NOT and i repeat Not user friendly.
    7.there is a reason why mac osx and windows are the number one contenders they are EASY TO USE! support for webcams

    and i know some linux reject is going to come an out say linux rocks..yeah right for what internet browsing and no support??

    while i am gaming or using my mac linux users will be scratching theirs finding how how build kernels and stupid stuff like that.

    again the reason why linux is free is because it sucks!

    i know because i have used.

    mandirva formally mandrake linux

    at first it may seem fun you will eventually see the stupidity of the linux OS..

    until linux makes exe's and no command prompt requests i will stay far far away.
  9. Synthabusion macrumors newbie

    Nov 2, 2007
    ubuntu will let you dual boot, it installs a utility to let you select which os you want to boot into when you turn on or restart the computer. as for just rebooting linux, it works like any other operating system for the most part.
  10. VoidBoi macrumors regular

    Feb 5, 2007
    Ubuntu's served me nicely for programming in Java with Eclipse/Netbeans. It can't be that stupid if you can use it in a productive work environment. ;)

    If it doesn't work for you, just reinstall your other OS of choice. :)
  11. monkeytap thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Saint Paul, MN
    well I am looking for a solution for blu-ray playback on my mac (G4 powermac)

    basically its come down to installing linux on my G4 and having to learn how to use that OS to at least install the programs to play and backup movies


    buy a brand new mac pro and get parallels/buy a cheap PC

  12. VoidBoi macrumors regular

    Feb 5, 2007
    monkeytap: I'm not sure, but I don't think a G4 would have the necessary horsepower needed for blu-ray playback. Might be worth checking out the Mac Pro.
  13. monkeytap thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Saint Paul, MN
    yes, I've thought about that as well, but figured I could at least backup my blu-rays. maybe I couldnt even do that! Its a G4 mirror door (dual 1.25 GHz)

    I've been looking at Mac Pros, but since they are due for a major revisision soon im gonna wait for that, or just buy a $700 dell or something and get to work. I never thought I would buy another PC.

    boooooo apple, wheres HD support?

    thanks for the advice!
  14. wightstraker macrumors regular

    Dec 18, 2007
    I have 1GHz G4 iMac set up with a Mac OS X partition and a Linux partition. Cut your HD in half, format one for Mac OS (HFS+), and leave the other as free space. This will make installation a lot easier, as the Linux installer will partition and format the free space automatically (you don't really want to configure your root, swap, and bootstrap partitions yourself).

    As far as distros go, I have tried Ubuntu and OpenSUSE. OpenSUSE supposedly has better PowerPC and Mac hardware support thanks to YaST, but after downloading both versions 10.2 and 10.3, neither disk would boot. Don't waste your time with OpenSUSE, it's a 4 gig download anyway.

    I've had much more luck with Ubuntu. Installation was quick and easy, and most of my hardware worked fine. A key question is, what graphics card do you have? Note that Nvidia does not make Linux drivers for the PowerPC, so if you have an nvidia card you're out of luck. ATI is a little more Linux friendly, but I don't have an ATI card.

    Desktop Environments are a more personal choice. I've tried both Xubuntu (xfce) and Kubuntu (KDE). Never tried standard Ubuntu; I don't like Gnome. Xubuntu is lightweight and fast, but unstable. KDE is more feature rich and worked beautifully in Kubuntu 7.04, but after a recent upgrade to 7.10 it wouldn't recognize my sound card.

    What am I using now? X11. ; )

    In sum, Linux on a PowerPC is not the best experience you'll get with the OS. There has been shrinking support for the architecture since Apple made the Intel switch. Linux is a lot of fun though, and you'll get addicted to the power it gives you over your machine. If you're up for the challenge, I say go for it.
  15. monkeytap thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Saint Paul, MN
    thanks for the advice, but to be honest I was kinda hoping that it wouldnt be challenge. Fortunately, I did seek all of your advice before going down this road.

    ultimately my goal is to have blu-ray playback/backup capability, and after reading your thoughts on graphics card compatibility, processor speed, linux on powerpc, ect. I am starting to think linux on my mac will not be the best solution.

    I will now weigh out the options of: a) buying a cheap pc or b) splurging on the new mac pros (when released) and get vista :eek:

    plus, I always have my ps3 to mess with linux.
  16. SthrnCmfrtr macrumors 6502

    Aug 20, 2007
    Las Vegas, NV
    Disclaimer: I've used Linux and FreeBSD since 1999.

    I wouldn't suggest installing Linux for the first time on an important machine. As kenmasters demonstrated, it's not entirely idiot-proof yet. It's a fantastic OS, inarguably on a rough level with Windows and OS X depending on your criteria, but it has a stiff learning curve unless you are lucky enough to have everything "just work" -- which might not be the case with a Mac install.

    Once all that's done, you'll never need to do any significant maintenance. Its stability is untouchable (except perhaps by FreeBSD, which admittedly has been sagging of late), its functionality is mind-boggling, and the general open-source infoanarchism is a refreshing change from the corporatonomy of Apple's and Microsoft's apps. Linux media centers can be extremely sweet.

    So it just depends on how important that G4 is to you right now.

    On the subject of distributions, my personal suggestion is Gentoo. Gentoo's probably the best-maintained "power user" distribution out there. It's pretty hardcore for a non-programmer and very hardcore for a non-Linux user. However, I find it to be a great distribution for newbies because it involves building your own Linux system one little step at a time, and essentially learning about the structure of UNIX and Linux as you install. A full-blown distribution like Ubuntu or Yellow Dog can be overwhelming, especially since you as the user are immediately made aware that the "depth" of Linux is bottomless. With Gentoo you start at the bottom, with very few programs and choices available, and configure your system to run exactly and only what you need. The result is a very fast system that is tailored precisely to your needs. As an added bonus, the support forums are second to none in this universe.

    Again, that's not something to use a working box for. But if you're curious in pursuing this project, drop $50 bucks on a cheap old Athlon PC or something. It'll take a few days to install Gentoo, and it'll be infuriating and hellish and exhilarating, and you'll come out of it with a good starting knowledge of the UNIX way of doing things. It'll not only be a fun waste of time and money, but it'll also deepen your knowledge of OS X internals and possibly make you overall a happier and more confident computer user.

    Just something to think about.
  17. monkeytap thread starter macrumors regular

    Jun 28, 2007
    Saint Paul, MN
    well, the g4 is pretty important to me so i appreciate your advice. all things considered I don't think i'll mess with it.

    depending on what happens in january I might be upgrading to a mac pro, in which case I can run boot camp and all problems solved.

    otherwise I might get a cheap dell or something (needs to be blu-ray capable) and if I still want linux, try it on that.
  18. ronss macrumors member

    Nov 1, 2007
    i think you would be better off playing high-def on intel or amd pc,s..that is what i am going to do, bought the xbox dvd player yesterday from amazon for $179,,,, then i found out my hp w2207 was onlly average for watching high-def, and reviewers would rather watch them on a tv...after 5minutes, and went back to amazon to cancel...they said it was being prepared for shipping 5 minutes??? well, it coming ,and i quess i will give it a try..if nothing eles, and can buy a lcd tv i quess,,,sooner or later we all will have to unless you want to rent a box.
  19. wts macrumors member


    Oct 3, 2009
    Which Linux should I download to try from a DVD to have a taste before i install and use in my PowerMac G4 if that is possible ?

    I should note that this G4 only runs at 933Mhz if that matters or is it just too slow.
  20. disconap macrumors 68000


    Oct 29, 2005
    Portland, OR
    I've tried out a ton of distributions and my thoughts:

    Ubuntu is great on x86, but not so much PPC. It's currently community supported and runs well enough, but a lot of the packages conflict or simply aren't available. Gentoo is decent but kind of a pain. Don't even bother with any e17 built PPC distro on the G4, never had any luck. The best I've ever had running on a G3 or G4 was a Debian install with a BlackBox shell--simple, basic, and fast for the hardware...
  21. lannister80 macrumors 6502


    Apr 7, 2009
    Wow, Newbie indeed. Some of actually know what we're doing. If you're afraid of the command line, you really shouldn't be commenting on the topic of Linux use...
  22. MacsRgr8 macrumors 604


    Sep 8, 2002
    The Netherlands
    I mostly went with Yellow Dog Linux for PPC Macs.
    I run YDL 6.2 now on a Quad G5.
  23. JacaByte macrumors 6502

    Dec 26, 2009
    Ubuntu 8.04 (Hardy Heron) works like a champ on my MDD G4, but it's not 100% for productivity (e.g. something that I would actually use) and sleep mode doesn’t work either.

    I wouldn't recommend Linux unless you know exactly what you are doing. There are too many unknowns present when installing any Linus distro on any kind of machine, and Hardy Heron is way behind the current Ubuntu lineup. (9.10, which doesn't work on my MDD G4, by the way.) Flash isn't supported on any PPC Linux distro as well, a potential pain in the butt.

    So the course of action? Buy a Leopard install disk and use it.
  24. wts macrumors member


    Oct 3, 2009
    As i pursue which LINUX to use on a PowerMac G4 it is my impression at this time that there seems to be more then a million different flavours to pick from.

    Why, is beyond my comprehension except to believe that anyone with programming ability in LINUX simply writes the programme and there you have another LINUX programme added to the pile.

    Sorry if make any LINUX person upset but that's my impression at this time.

    It's no wonder when i ask my friends about LINUX they nearly go in convulsions and come up with the same thought.

    However i will continue to figure out which LINUX will work on my Mac G4.
  25. Dark Dragoon macrumors 6502a

    Dark Dragoon

    Jul 28, 2006
    Are you talking about the programs that run on Linux or the Linux distributions?

    Programming wise yes there are often many different programs that can perform the same task, for example there are web browsers like Firefox, Opera, Epiphany, Konqueror etc.. though this situation isn't really any different from other platforms like Windows and Mac OS X.

    If you mean the distributions themselves then they do not have programs written specifically for them (ok well this isn't entirely true, there are things like config utilities etc... which are distribution specific), they use the same programs as each other. Though of course the selection of programs they choose to include are different, e.g. one disto may come with Firefox whilst another may come with Konqueror.

    The various distributions are often aimed at different uses, for example
    - Moblin is aimed at netbooks.
    - Red Hat and Centos are meant for servers.
    - Ubuntu is aimed more at people who are new to Linux.
    - Fedora is more cutting edge and only uses free and open source software.
    - Arch and Gentoo are rolling releases so there are no new versions released, you just keep updating it. They are also highly versatile.
    - Damn Small Linux is very lightweight and is designed to work well on older machines.

    There are many other distro aimed at an even more specific tasks such as NAS or a firewall box. Others are aimed at running on specific hardware such as Yellow Dog linux which is aimed at running on the PowerPC architecture.

    As for there being a million different flavours to pick from, if you are going to be running Linux on a PowerPC system then you have significantly less choice.
    Distro Watch PowerPC architecture.

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