Yellow Dog Linux on the iMac

A guide to installing and running YDL on a power PC.
X Marks the Spot

First, I tried startx with the default settings, but all I got was my monitor in standby mode and had to CTRL-COMMAND-BACKSPACE to get out.

In the old days of Linux, you had to either edit your XF86Config file by hand or find someone on the Net with the same video card as you who had already done so. Today, some nice tools can get you set up in X fairly quickly. Xautoconfig runs from the command line, and oddly enough, silently creates an appropriate XF86Config file based on your hardware. (If it seems like nothing happens, it worked. If you get a message of any sort, it probably didn't.) Xconfigurator is a text menu-based configuration tool, and the choices included the integrated video card and monitor of the iMac, as well as an appropriate choice for my three-button USB wheel mouse. I chose a 1024x768x16bpp setup, as I knew from previous experience that 32bpp has some issues in the latest fbdev X driver.

Now for the defining moment. I type startx -- -bpp 16 and I get the blue desktop and the X cursor, then back to the command prompt. I try again with bpp 15, and I go straight into X with a default KDE desktop. There are some snappy YDL links on the desktop leading to the YDL web site for documentation and updates. Another minor annoyance is the “Home” link generates an error that says “config file has no `Type=...' line”. The “Support” link does launch Netscape and triggers my demand-dialing connection on the server and takes me to Yellow Dog's support page—yay, networking works! (See Figure 3.)

Figure 3. YDL Support Page

Window motion is smooth, and no artifacts are generated while dragging windows on the desktop. It appears I have accelerated video. I pulled up the KDE control panel and played around a bit with the various settings. Things look typical here, with the requisite lists of themes, colors and window manager options. The included X server has support for DPMS, which has been wanting on the iMac. It seemed to work fine in testing. I tried enabling the system sounds in the control panel, but all I got is one “eep”, then nothing until I restarted X. (I also knew in advance that sound has been an ongoing problem for Mac users. My previous install has working sound only when I go right into Linux at boot. If I do something in Mac OS first, no sound.)

My reading on the mailing lists indicates that esd is the best working sound server for PPC, so I launch “switchdesk”, change my desktop environment to GNOME and restart X. GNOME now comes configured to use sawmill, rather than Enlightenment, but there is an option in the GNOME Toolbox to change to Enlightenment. (Watch it here, because it says Enlightenment is the current window manager. I actually had to select sawmill, save the changes, then select Enlightenment to make it take. See Figure 5.) I do this, enable system sounds and set up my preferred desktop theme, colors, etc., then shut down and restart X. I've got system sounds and am greeted by a female voice welcoming me to Enlightenment (see Figure 6). I pop in my favorite David Torn CD and run the GNOME CD player applet, and I'm one happy camper. One annoyance is that restarting X seems to place the blue desktop background over my chosen pattern until I reset it. I found I had to go into GNOME's settings rather than Enlightenment's to turn the blue background off.

Figure 5. GNOME Control Center

Figure 6. Enlightenment Screen


The install process asked me about my local Ethernet configuration, so I assigned the domain name, machine name and fixed IP address I use for this machine. After rebooting, my Ethernet connection was fine, and I edited the /etc/hosts file to identify the other machines on my network by name. I could use TELNET, rsh, FTP, etc. to get to my main server. By default, incoming TELNET and FTP are disabled, which is a good thing, especially if you are going to be connected to the Internet.

For PPP, I used the Red Hat Internet Configuration tool, assigning the proper phone number, domain name and DNS information for my ISP. I was able to connect on the first try. This area of Linux has definitely improved for the first-time user. No more editing PPP configuration files and dial-up scripts by hand. The usual assortment of Internet applications are installed including Pine, Netscape, slrn (this failed, with a library error), Kmail, xchat, archie and ncftp (see Figures 7 and 8).

Figure 7

Figure 8



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YDL commands

Paul J.'s picture


I'm no linux expert by far but for Yellow Dog, I don't even know the commands to determine the software level. Something like the oslevel command for AIX. Can someone please send me a cheat sheet with some of these commands?

Thanks, Paul J.

Enlightenment of Yellow Dog Linux

Deacon Nikolai's picture

It is funny seeing Enlightenment 0.16 on that since the new Yellow Dog Linux 5.0 has the Enlightenment 17 Desktop Environment!

Re: Yellow Dog Linux on the iMac

Anonymous's picture

Good article but I have been informed that you cannot port Linux to a Mac without first partitioning the hard drive and thus losing all your files. Later you would reinstall Mac OS along with Linux. This article makes no mention of this fact -- is the writer assuming that the disk is already partitioned? Or am I misinformed? Or did I read incorrectly?

Re: Yellow Dog Linux on the iMac

Deacon Nikolai's picture

Ever since version 4.1 of YDL it can partition it and keep your Mac OS X partition untouched, allowing you to install without worries!

Re: Yellow Dog Linux on the iMac

Anonymous's picture

Yes, it's a whole OS and needs its own space. Coming from the PC world I'm used to leaving free space or expendable partitions for future expansion or I cut the disk in half from the start and when Linux came along I installed it to the unused space (2nd partition). What might work better if you just want to test drive things is what I did at work. Just add another hard disk and install it to that disk. My G3 at work had plenty of bays so I slapped an IDE drive in, picked it in the YD install procedure, and works great. You might be able to do that with an external drive too. (firewire or USB.) The bootloader that was included with YD didn't seem to work...but with the G4 I just hold down option and it lets me select which device (Linux or Mac) that it's going to boot from.

For the PC there are some utilities that will re-size or partition the disk without data loss...not sure if the same exists for the Mac.

Re: Yellow Dog Linux on the iMac

Anonymous's picture

You don't have to lose all your files. Just back up what's important to you. Firewire hard drives are cheap these days.

Re: Yellow Dog Linux on the iMac

Anonymous's picture

Better yet, partition a Firewire drive--install Linux on one partition, and back up your computer on another. Then when you want you use Linux, you can boot from the Firewire drive.

Yellow Dog Linux on the iMac

Anonymous's picture


ydl is only $59

black lab linux is $589


Re: Yellow Dog Linux on the iMac

Anonymous's picture

The 9 is right close to the 8 on a keyboard. Thus it would be a likly typo.

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