The Trials and Tribulations of Installing LinuxPPC 2000 Q4

Read the manual before turning your Mac over to Linux.
Direct Booting the Green iMac

The program that controls booting into LPPC2000 is called yaboot. The users' guide does a good job of describing how to use this program, but check the LinuxPPC web site for a fix to a small but important typo on page 40.

From the users' guide, I followed the instructions for selecting LPPC2000 as the green iMac's default OS. This involved booting from a Mac OS CD and then running the Startup Disk control panel. I selected /boot as my default choice and then restarted. The iMac continued to refuse to boot. I checked the documentation for clues as to why this was happening and was told that /boot should contain a “fake” Mac OS system folder copied there during installation. But this had not happened. On the green iMac, /boot contained the yaboot binary and a collection of kernel files but no system folder. I thought I was stumped until I remembered that the Install CD was itself bootable. I found a Mac system folder on the CD, copied it from the Install CD onto /boot, edited yaboot.conf, restarted the green iMac and watched while the iMac booted directly into Linux. Cool.

The G3 Install

Despite having gone through a successful, if somewhat involved, installation on the green iMac, installing on the G3 was to present even more hurdles. For starters, the holding down the C key while booting trick did not work. Only Macs with a “New World ROM” can boot directly from the Install CD. If your Mac is an iMac or newer, you are probably going to be fine. If it isn't, you won't be. The problem for me was that the G3 can boot from Mac OS bootable CDs, so I was initially confused as to why the Install CD did not boot. Of course, if I'd read the entire printed manual I would have seen that the G3 had problems in this area.

It certainly pays to read through the entire printed manual prior to attempting to do anything. Although the install process is made easier by the graphical installer, it is not straightforward, and this can result in a number of false starts. This is what happened to me with the G3.

As the G3 could not boot from the CD, the manual suggests booting into Mac OS and running the Mac-based Installer application from the Install CD. I had already booted from a bootable Mac OS CD and partitioned the G3's hard disk into two Mac OS partitions (750MB and 250MB), /boot (20MB), swap space (128MB) and /root (3.1GB). I installed a minimal subset of Mac OS 9.0 onto the Mac OS system partition, as my intention was to keep the OS available should I wish to access any legacy data from when I was using Mac OS exclusively. With Mac OS 9 installed and running, I popped the Install CD into the CD drive, double-clicked on it and looked for the Installer icon. To my dismay, the Installer application wasn't on the CD. I checked the manual and was told that it should have been there. It wasn't. Heading rapidly toward panic, I searched the other three CDs in the set, all to no avail. The Installer application was missing from the distribution CDs! Of course, the Installer application is available for download from the LinuxPPC web site, but as I'd only installed the minimal Mac OS setup, the internet connectivity software wasn't available to me.

The printed manual came to my rescue. Page 45 details the steps to perform if the Installer program doesn't work. I copied a selection of files and folders from the Install CD to various locations on the hard-disk and then restarted the G3. Up popped the Mac OS-based BootX OS chooser. I was in business.

I configured BootX to start the graphical installer and then clicked on the Boot button. Things went pretty smoothly from here on in. After about 90 minutes, I had a working installation of LPPC2000 running on my G3.

Booting on the G3

I decided to opt for a direct boot on the G3 as opposed to configuring BootX to provide a choice between Mac OS 9 and LPPC2000. I would never have considered this 18 months ago. But now, with more and more of my daily activities handled by Linux, I was ready to let go of the Mac OS crutch and run Linux as my main desktop OS. For those times when I needed to access Mac OS 9, I planned to run the Mac-On-Linux emulator within an X window.

As with the green iMac, I had to copy the system folder from the Install CD onto /boot and edit the yaboot.conf file. Upon rebooting, yaboot brought me directly to a graphical Linux login. LPPC2000 defaults to GNOME as the preferred desktop with KDE installed as an option. I left GNOME as the default.