The Trials and Tribulations of Installing LinuxPPC 2000 Q4

Read the manual before turning your Mac over to Linux.
The LinuxPPC Perl Shocker

I logged in as root and created an account for myself. Under user “barryp”, I ran a small set of commands to see what was installed. Typing uname -a confirmed that LPPC2000 was shipped with version 2.2.18 of the kernel. I checked to see if vi, latex and ispell were installed. As expected, they were. I then issued the perl -v command to see which version of Perl was running. What I saw shocked me. LPPC2000 ships with release 5.005_03 of Perl, not the 5.6.0 release which has been available (and stable) since mid-2000! It turns out that LPPC2000 is based on the software packages shipped with Release 6.1 of Red Hat. And of course, Red Hat 6.1 shipped with release 5.005_03 of Perl. Since 6.1, the folks at Red Hat have gone through 6.2, 7.0 and are now shipping release 7.1 of their distribution (as of April 2001). Even though LPPC2000 was new, it was already quite outdated. As a Mac user, this is something that I had become accustomed to: seeing new versions of software appear first on the Intel platform and then waiting for updates to appear on the Mac (if ever). I thought that moving to Linux on the Mac hardware platform would protect me from this. I was annoyed and disappointed.

Now as any Linux user knows, the latest release of open-source software is never more than a download and a “tar -zxvf” command away. However, for the vast majority of Mac users (who must constitute a large chunk of LinuxPPC's target market), this is already too much to ask of them.

The Challenge of Printing

My next task was to install and configure a printer. This is easily accomplished using the Printer Configuration control panel from within X. I'd done this before, and it has always worked fine. But not this time. Everything looked as it should, but printing did not work. I checked the LinuxPPC web site for any help and found a support item stating that LPRng needed to be installed. I downloaded LPRng and tried to install it. It complained that the rhs-printfilters package was missing. I found an RPM for this package on the Net, and after installing it I was able to complete the install of LPRng. Unfortunately, printing still did not work. I searched my hard disk for copies of the printcap file. It turned out I had two: one in /etc and another in /usr/etc. Checking the contents of these files confirmed that LPRng was using the empty printcap file in /usr/etc, while the Printer Configuration Control Panel was using the file in /etc. As root, I copied the printcap from /etc over the file in /usr/etc, restarted LPRng and, lo and behold, printing worked! Of course, it would have been nicer to have printing work out-of-the-box.

Other Included Software

The Extra Software CD has a load of LinuxPPC-ready RPMs of many different software packages. I was initially very interested in the Bochs x86 emulator and thought I might install the RPM to see what the emulator was capable of. Using the graphical RPM installer, I located the RPM on the CD. When I clicked to install, I got a message telling me that user/group jcarr was missing from my system and that I couldn't install the RPM as a result (Jeff Carr is a key player at LinuxPPC). I added an entry for jcarr to the /etc/passwd and /etc/group files, and the RPM installation problem went away. Really though, the techies at LinuxPPC should be catching things like this long before CDs make their way into the hands of users.

I was interested in the x86 emulator, but not as much as I was in the Mac OS emulator, Mac-On-Linux (MOL). Having gone to the trouble of installing Bochs, I have yet to look at it in any detail. The same cannot be said for Mac-On-Linux. Here is a piece of software that lets you run a copy of Mac OS (pre-X) within an X window. MOL does a better job of this than the similar technology built into Mac OS X. It supports more versions of classic Mac OS, including those based on releases 8 and 9. Mac OS X's classic emulation only works with the 9.1 release. MOL also has great support for AppleTalk—I was able to work with drives on remote Macintoshes within MOL, something that is not possible with Mac OS X. Printing was better integrated, too. All in all, MOL is another great advertisement for why open source is a better way.

There's Just No Shrinking a Cherry iMac

I was worried about installing onto the cherry iMac, primarily due to the fact that the kids would never forgive me if I upset their Mac OS installation.

It was time to take a look at FWB Software's Hard Disk Toolkit-PE. The cherry iMac used to run LinuxPPC 1999 Q3, but I had never really used it. So the 6GB was already partitioned as 4GB for Mac OS and 2GB for LinuxPPC. As one of the Toolkit-PE's main features is to rearrange existing partitions, I wanted to shrink the 4GB Mac OS partition to 3GB and use the extra 1GB as the cherry iMac's /root . The other 2GB would be used by /home. As no instructions on the use of FWB's tools came with LPPC2000, I downloaded an article from I followed the instructions but could not shrink the partition. The software complained that the driver needed to be updated and suggested I choose the Update Driver option from the FWB menu. Every time I tried, Toolkit-PE crashed with a Mac OS error “of type 2”. When I tried to install the software onto the Mac OS partition, I was asked for a serial number. I did not get a serial number with LPPC2000, and no mention of the serial number was to be found on the web site. The FWB article did mention that the serial number wasn't needed if the software was used directly from FWB's bootable CD. This was how I was using it, and it was crashing every time.

I had to make do with installing on the old LinuxPPC partition, and the install went smoothly. I'm not sure what I would have done had I needed to shrink the partition before the install, as reformatting, repartitioning and re-installing the Mac OS setup was not something I wanted to do. Luckily for me, the partitions already existed.