{UPDATED} DEBIAN/UBUNTU on Powerbook G4 12" Nvidia FX5200

Discussion in 'PowerPC Macs' started by Lastic, Jul 31, 2016.

  1. Lastic, Jul 31, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 13, 2016

    Lastic macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    {EDIT 12-AUG-2016} Added nouveau.ko for Debian Testing in attachment
    {EDIT 09-AUG-2016} This is my conclusive update after 7 days of evaluating and installing .

    My test-setup Powerbooks G4's all using the Nvidia FX5200 :

    1 x Powerbook G4 12" , 1.5 Ghz, 1.25 GB RAM, PATA SSD
    1 x Powerbook G4 12" , 1.5 Ghz, 1.25 GB RAM, IDE/PATA HDD
    1 x Powerbook G4 12" , 1.33 Ghz, 1.25 GB RAM, IDE/PATA HD

    My criteria :
    • minimal configuration altering during or after setup

      Preferably no custom kernel image, driver downgrading, custom firmware installs

    • resource friendly
      ( no fans blowing full speed at 95% CPU so I can't hear the sound of the speakers anymore )
    • modern software

      recent Firefox
      Mplayer , MPV if possible x265 support out of the box and 480p playback

    • decent browsing experience

      buffering allowed, 360p Youtube playback , fullscreen not necessarily

    • Bluetooth working, WiFi working, Touchpad working

    • Screen Brightness working

    First , let me give big thank you to Tito910 .

    Not only did he dive in to resolve the screen brightness issue on nouveau for the FX5200 based on
    earlier discoveries here


    He also supplied his patches to the bugzilla list so hopefully they will be incorporated in a next release


    He has supplied the instructions on how to apply the patches and compile a nouveau.ko ( see post #28 ) which I've done succesfully on :

    I will attach them so you can use them without compiling them.
    You will have to rename them to nouveau.ko and follow the instructions on this post #19

    Now some initial setups :

    If you cannot use sudo , you will need to :

    su root
    <look for the line with root: ALL=(ALL:ALL)>
    <copy this line underneath but with <youruser> ALL=(ALL:ALL)

    For the Broadcom Wifi you need to :

    sudo apt-get install firmware-b43-installer

    If apt complains that it cannot find it , you will need to :

    sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list

    <add after the word main > contrib

    sudo apt-get update

    On all OS'es you will need to add these configs for battery status and audio :

    sudo nano /etc/modules


    You might have to run alsamixer and unmute your Speakers, Master channel and/or raise the volume on your PCM channel.

    On all OS'es :

    Youtube HTML5 playback works on 360p if you let it buffer a bit in the beginning and this on
    • Xombrero 1.6.4 (which I found the smoothest )
    • Midori 0.5.11
    • Qupzilla 1.8.9
    But it will max the CPU to 80%-95% .
    On Firefox ESR ( 45 ) or Firefox 47 it keeps loading but the video will never start .

    Movie 480p video playback using MPV works fine with x265, x264 even on fullscreen playback.

    Bluetooth worked out of the box for me .

    Touchpad , I have the one with the right-click and scrolling feature which worked best in
    Ubuntu Mate 16.04.1 LTS, you have a seperate Setting panel for touchpad.

    The tested OS'ses in my personal preference :

    1. Ubuntu Mate 16.04.1 LTS , best touchpad out of the box, and I really like Mate
    2. Debian Testing, lighter footprint than Mate , more lean and tweakable
    3. Lubuntu 16.04 LTS, very lightweight,super fast install but too sober for me
    All these have the newer 4.4 Linux Kernel , nouveau 1.3.1 , Xorg 2.1.18 and the mesa with 3D acceleration enabled.

    Hope this post helps others , but now I'm going to reinstall OS X 10.5.8 to try the new TenFourFox :)
    Also this inspired me to pick up on my C++ knowledge of 25 years ago, Tito910 I'm going to checkout your patches because I can surely learn from them.

    The nouveau.ko for Ubuntu Mate 16.04.1 LTS turns out to be 64Mb so even as a ZIP of 23Mb it's too big thus here it is via Dropbox


    Just realized that the nouveau.ko for Debian Testing was an older version not including the switching on the backlight after hibernation.

    I will compile it and add it again.

    {EDIT 12-AUG-2016} Added nouveau.ko for Debian Testing in attachment

    Attached Files:

  2. Tito910 macrumors member

    Jul 10, 2016
    Last I tried debian jessie on my 12 inch the brightness keys didn't work. From my understanding nouveau didn't support changing the screen brightness.

    Are you saying you have them working?
  3. Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Nope, unfortunately not, I know that nouveau doesn't support screen brightness.

    Just trying different Debian/Ubuntu installs on similar Nvidia machines and trying to find a way to match all my criteria including getting screen brightness to work.

    I should note that I've installed FreeBSD which has a working mesa and brightness control up to completely switching the screen off , off course on FreeBSD PPC is Tier-2 so you have to compile everything from source.

    On OpenBSD brightness also works but you cannot switch off the screen, just dim it ( like 10% brightness in OS X ).
  4. Tito910 macrumors member

    Jul 10, 2016
    Ah sorry I misread your post.

    I remember reading that someone got brightness to work by using a modified version of radeontool with nvidia support hacked in and manually modifying the brightness registers on the card.

    I've no idea how committed you are, but it seems as if a script/app/kernel module could be written to support this under nouveau.
  5. Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    If you could link me that post, can use all the help I can get
  6. gavinstubbs09 macrumors 65816


    Feb 17, 2013
    NorCal boonies ~~~by Reno sorta
    What do you guys think the best/newest linux OS is for PPC with the least amount of issues? I may want to give it a shot and see how it compares to Leopard in a usability aspect.
  7. hellothere231 macrumors regular

    Sep 13, 2012
    In my opinion, probably Ubuntu MATE or Lubuntu. But if you wanna tweak your setup a bit more/get more speed out of your hardware, I would go with Debian, although it can be tricky to setup. It's really your hardware that matters though, some work great with PowerPC Linux but some are rather fiddly (such as my Mobility 9700, or the FX5200).
  8. crammedberry macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2011
    The Golden State
    I've sure you've come across this guide already – it makes installing Debian a breeze and walks you through every step. If you have a laptop without the problematic graphics cards it should be relatively easy.


    I do a little twist to the guide since I prefer xfce to open box so I just download the xfce install disks – it gets put on the system by default and then I just concentrate on tweaks to make it lean. If you want tweakability and power of Debian combined with relative ease, you can just download the particular DE specific images and save yourself some work.
  9. Lastic, Aug 1, 2016
    Last edited: Aug 1, 2016

    Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Like the guys before said :

    Debian is the most leanest in system resources and the most tweakable , but has the older Linux kernel and probably no 3D acceleration support in mesa .

    Lubuntu is moderate and lightweight has a newer Linux kernel and a newer mesa .

    Ubuntu Mate also has the newer Linux kernel , the most recent mesa which supports Nvidia FX5200 3D acceleration and also for certain Radeon models but uses more resources and leaves a bigger installation footprint.

    In general ATI Radeon cards have the better support , Nvidia is now forced to use nouveau which can have it's advantages or disavantages.
  10. Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Just a quick update on my progress , got around the installation bug on Debian Testing Daily by manualling partitioning
    and realized that it has the same Linux kernel, Xorg, nouveau , Qupzilla versions as Ubuntu Mate 16.04 LTS.

    On the Youtube HTML5 feedback, looks like nouveau really stresses the CPU with the newer mesa and 3d acceleration enabled.

    Firefox ESR (45/47) doesn't even load a 360p video, it just keeps loading and CPU is at 91% .

    Qupzilla 1.8.9 is a bit leanier on CPU but also goes into the 80-90% CPU usage when playing a 360p video which stutters even when I let it pre-buffer.

    But the revelation of this day : xombrero , also a HTML5 browser starts Youtube 360p video playback instantly , no stuttering.

    Next browser to check Luakit.
  11. crammedberry macrumors regular

    Jan 5, 2011
    The Golden State

    It's good that at least once browser seems to work. Do you have 3D acceleration enabled systemwide? Does it strain the CPU as well on idle just rendering the rest of the system/desktop/etc?
  12. swamprock macrumors 6502a


    Aug 2, 2015
    You can always install Midori 0.5.11 from Jessie Backports as well. It's not a crashy mess like the old version on the repository was. For audio playback within Midori, install gstreamer as well. Firefox-ESR refuses to play most videos for some reason (on PowerPC; Intel Macs will play them just fine), but will play some. I haven't figured out why yet.

    EDIT: Oh... you're running Testing. Not sure if Midori is available for that.
  13. Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Debian Testing daily netinst and Ubuntu Mate 16.04 LTS have the newer 4.x.x kernel, nouveau 1.3.1 and the same Xorg.

    Debian Testing has Firefox 45 ESR , Ubuntu Mate has Firefox 47.
    Both have Xombrero 1.6.4 and Luakit and Midori.

    MPV on both has X265 support and seems to play 480p with no issues.

    I'm focussing on these 2 as OS currently ,still have to check Midori.

    If I run a LXTerminal with top running, dragging this window around spikes Xorg to 6-11% CPU which drops immediately when halting my window manipulation.

    In overall Firefox starts to eat CPU quickly up to 96% when playing HTML5 360p (which it will never start playing ) or even just trying to logon to my work VPN which uses Javascript for the Juniper VPN applets so that looks to be more of a Firefox issue.

    Qupzilla looks less CPU hungry except when starting HTML5 Youtube 360p playing , it plays but stutters and CPU is up to 96%.

    Xombrero starts playing Youtube HTML5 360p instantly but again CPU rises to 96%.
    Javascript however on Xombrero went butter smooth, almost as fast as on an Intel browser.

    Unrelated but also tested no Silverlight in Firefox offcourse , and in general no Citrix Receiver ICA client.

    And no screen brightness on both of them :(

    Signing off , have to get up in 6 hours, will be off from Thursday until Monday but then I'll continue
  14. Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Yep running Debian Testing because it's kernel is the same as Ubuntu Mate 16.04 LTS and Lubuntu 16.04 LTS as well as
    nouveau to have an equal comparison.

    Installed Midori 0.5.11 on both Debian Testing and Ubuntu Mate 16.04 LTS, once I buffer a bit Youtube 360p playback works but again CPU usage rises to the 90-95% region, guess it's either mesa or Youtube.

    Next week I'll start again with Debian Jessie because it lacks the 3D acceleration and Lubuntu 16.04 LTS to check wether Youtube playback is the cause of the high CPU or mesa 3D acceleration.

    Currently Firefox is the big loser on either OS.

    On Debian Jessie/Testing I also have a weird thing where pulseaudio is shown first in Alsamixer and I must select F6 Sound By Layout to get to the headphones,speakers,PCM mixer settings .

    On Ubuntu Mate I just have SoundbyLayout default with all the mixer settings.
  15. flyrod macrumors 6502


    Jan 12, 2015
  16. Tito910 macrumors member

    Jul 10, 2016
    Well I was inspired by this post and dual boot installed debian testing on my 12in aibook.

    I can confirm the backlight can be changed by using that radeontool workaround. The only deviation from the steps is radeontool.c needs to have "nVidia" changed to "NVIDIA" to reflect lspci's current output. Otherwise the tool won't be able to detect the gpu.

    radeontool can easily be packaged up into a script ("./backlight.sh 3") , although it needs to be run as root which is annoying. ideally though it'd be implemented in nouveau directly. Maybe one day I'll make the attempt.

    The trackpad is very sensitive and seems to prefer moving vertically or horizontally but not at an angle. The mouse properties sensitivity and acceleration settings seems to have no effect. I haven't tried the cli method yet.
  17. Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Thanks for checking the brightness work-around , will look into that also once I have more time.

    I noticed indeed that under Debian Jessie/Testing the trackpad is hyper sensitive whereas under Ubuntu Mate 16.40 LTS
    it is useable and adjusting the properties works.
    --- Post Merged, Aug 4, 2016 ---
    Not yet, it's on my todo-list but since Gentoo means lots of compiling from source I will do it together with FreeBSD 11
    (which I have installed once after 3 days of compiling packages ) and maybe OpenBSD 6.0.

    I'm focussing on the easy stuff for the moment.
  18. Tito910 macrumors member

    Jul 10, 2016
    Well I went ahead and gave patching nouveau a go and I got it working :D

    It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and now I have to figure out how to make my patch less ugly and get it accepted into the project.

    But for now I attached the compiled kernel module. I compiled it under debian testing running 4.6.0-1-powerpc. It might work under ubuntu.

    Backup the existing module at /lib/modules/(kernel version)/kernel/drivers/gpu/drm/nouveau/nouveau.ko and replace it with the attachment. run depmod as root, reboot, and cross your fingers!

    Attached Files:

  19. Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Wow, amazing work.

    Care to describe the process how you created the patch ?
  20. Tito910 macrumors member

    Jul 10, 2016
    I just followed the suggestions and built off the existing detective work in that bug report I linked earlier.

    I used the NV40 initialization and get/set functions as a template but made modifications for the different registers and differences in how the values are read. Most of my time was actually setting up the build environment.

    I'll post a diff file when I get a chance to clean it up if you want to see it.
  21. Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Just tried it also on Debian Testing and YES , brightness works.
    I'm gone from home for the weekend so I'll check on Ubuntu Mate and Debian Jessie on Monday.
  22. Dronecatcher macrumors 68030


    Jun 17, 2014
    Lincolnshire, UK
    I've just had a play around with the Lubuntu 16.04 live disk on my iBook and Powerbooks and it looks promising - 720P video on the iBook with stock Gnome player (whilst running top in Terminal).
    There's lots of glitches to iron out though so for the moment I'm not going to dive in with a full install but the new kernel looks promising albeit tasking the CPU more.
  23. Lastic thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Mar 19, 2016
    North of the HellHole
    Tito910 Is this your work ?

  24. Dronecatcher macrumors 68030


    Jun 17, 2014
    Lincolnshire, UK
    This chap here has installed Lubuntu 16.04 on a G3 iBook - amazingly wifi and audio work straight out of the box:


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