Yellow Dog Linux on the iMac

A guide to installing and running YDL on a power PC.

I don't have a printer hard-wired to the Macintosh. Since I have so many machines, I've opted to move my printers to a print server that hangs on the network. The printtool setup gives options for setting up the printers, and an option is included for a remote host. I have two printers, an NEC Silentwriter95 (PostScript) and an HP DeskJet 693C. PostScript and ACSII printing worked fine on both.


YDL comes with the standard set of Linux applications. For the office worker or student, you have Abiword and Gnumeric for your word processor/spreadsheet combination. Not as full-featured as some of the commercial applications, but certainly capable of creating and printing a basic document. I did get an error related to gnome-print when running Gnumeric, but after re-installing the gnome-print RPM, the problem went away. Both applications printed fine. The GIMP is included for manipulating graphics files, as well as Electric Eyes. A number of games are also included. One I found particularly entertaining is Xboing, a spin on the old “Breakout” game with some slick effects and sound (unfortunately, the sound was a bit distorted on the iMac).


MOL stands for Mac-On-Linux and it is a wonderful contribution to PPC Linux, authored by Samuel Rydh. It can be run as a window in X or in console mode using fbdev (the frame buffer), and it allows you to use your existing Mac OS partition and applications from within Linux. Sound doesn't work, but you can set up a networking interface to access files and the Internet from MOL. I've used MOL before on my CS1.1 installation, and it worked quite well. For whatever reason, MOL on CS1.2 starts up but never finishes the boot process. I get a number of messages referring to an unsupported resource in the console from which it is launched. Thinking it may be an issue with the 2.2.14 kernel I'm using, I uninstalled the stock MOL and grabbed my copy from the other partition. It also failed, but with a different error. Looks like this one needs a little work. Again, it's most likely due to my being unable to use YDL's kernel (see Figure 9).

Figure 9. Mac-on-Linux


YUP stands for Yellow Dog Update Tool. It takes the RPM concept to the next level, querying an external network of databases to download and upgrade your software packages on demand, including itself, when necessary. From what I read on the mailing lists, there were some initial problems with YUP and it went through several rapid revisions, but in concept, it sounds like a neat tool. If you run yup update, it will go out and find the newest versions of your software on the Internet and update things for you. I prefer to control when and what I update, but for inexperienced users, this could be a nice option.


Linux, and in particular Linux on PPC, has come a long way. Yellow Dog Linux Champion Server 1.2 is a very good package. I did hit a couple of rough spots that may have stumped a first-time user, but fortunately, I have the experience to work around them. Were it not for my non-standard SCSI card in the iMac, things may have gone much smoother. In the end I had a very usable Linux system, not unlike what I use on x86 boxes (see Figure 10). I have used LinuxPPC and had even more problems with it before I went to Yellow Dog; however, that may have changed with LinuxPPC's newest release. Many resources are available on the Net, including mailing lists from both distributions as well as the mailing list/web site that I help maintain: If you've got a Mac and would like to give Linux a try, now is the time. With MOL, you can now have the best of both worlds! If you do decide to give Linux on PPC a try and get stuck, I'd be happy to help where I can; drop me a line.

Figure 10. YDL GNOME Desktop


Stew Benedict ( is a Systems Administrator for a manufacturing plant in Cleveland, Ohio. When not sitting with his eyes glued to a CRT, he enjoys spending time with his wife, daughter and dogs, and dreams of early retirement to a lakeside home in the mountains.



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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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