posted by Jon Atkinson on Tue 20th May 2003 18:14 UTC

"The Alternatives, The Installation"
The Alternatives

I think maybe I should clarify here that I'm not an Apple user for the software. I don't use Photoshop or Dreamweaver, and I don't heavily use a digital camera or video camera. I'm not one of the media types that traditionally made up the Macintosh market. I'm a web developer of the 'new school'; CSS, the W3C validators and a good terminal Vim session are my friends. I like to do everything by hand, and I'm most comfortable using Linux as it's what I run for my clients on their web servers. I've been using Linux on the desktop on and off since Redhat 5.2, and I've now been Microsoft free since 2001. My other laptop is currently a Dell Inspiron 2560 which has run Redhat 7.3, 8.0 and now 9 ever since I bought it. To be honest, I only really wanted to play with Apples for the hardware. Apple hardware is, in my opinion, the best manufactured and designed hardware bar-none. Macs are sexy, cool and hell, they last for years.

Yellow Dog Linux 3.0 - Click for larger version So, what were my options? It seems the PPC users options are certainly limited. I could downgrade to OS9, but that would mean learning a whole new system (again), and the OS9 architecture seems the be flawed and, well, decaying. Of course, I'd heard about PPC Linux, but never anything more that the occasional Slashdot announcement for a distro release, and that never seemed to happen particularly regularly anyway. I've used Redhat for most of my working life, I was comfortable with it, and so that was the basic blueprint I used when looking for a Linux PPC solution. I knew Debian PPC was available, but I've used Debian on x86 in the past and I don't like the idea of having to download and configure everything I wanted from scratch, least of all actually set it up into a usable state. I had a look at SuSE, but their PPC offerings haven't been updated since 7.3, and I wanted to be a little more current than that (From my use of Redhat on x86, I knew I had to have Gnome 2.0)! . How happy I was when I found Yellow Dog Linux 3.0.

Yellow Dog is, essentially, a port of Redhat 9 to PPC. It uses the excellent Redhat installer 'anaconda', keeps the same Bluecurve-esque theme ('Wonderland'), and streamlined GNOME 2.2 desktop. I gazed at the screenshots, read the marketroid spiel, and within 5 minutes I had gFTP downloading the 3.0 ISO images from my local mirror. Once received (about 4 hours later over my DSL) I burned the images and inserted the first disc into my iBook.

The Installation

I waited for the screen to light up, heard the familiar, reassuring Apple 'BONG', then watched in dismay as OS X booted normally. I had forgotten to hold down the 'C' key as the machine booted up. (did I mention I'd only been using my iBook three months? ;-)

A quick reboot, and now I watched as the installer started. I don't really have any comments about the installer (which is, of course, good thing), apart from that it worked really well. If you've used any of the recent Redhat releases you'll be right at home. Partitioning was a snap (I just selected the automatic option, I decided not to keep any OS X partitions), and I selected the custom package option. I elected to install GNOME over the default KDE (nothing personal, I'm just familiar with GNOME having never really used KDE), which wasn't the default setting, and I added a few extra packages I know I'd need. The overall install size with these options was around 2GB.

One thing I did notice is that I was being asked a few possibly redundant questions. The installer asks you for your mouse type, video card and monitor type. Because of Apple's standardised hardware, surely a lot of this should be avoided by simply selecting the type of machine at boot; if I could have just told the installer I have an iBook, surely it should then know what hardware I have. Maybe this wouldn't work so well for those people with a custom PPC system, but for the majority who have Apple hardware which remains pretty much unchanged from manufacture, this feature would make things nice and easy.

Table of contents
  1. "The problem"
  2. "The Alternatives, The Installation"
  3. "Using Yellow Dog, Conclusion"
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