posted by Eugenia Loli on Wed 22nd Oct 2003 17:42 UTC
IconMy first experience with Linux on a PPC machine was Pegasos PPC and Debian. Last weekend I upgraded my Cube G4 450 Mhz and with a blazingly fast 120 GB 7200 RPM WD drive (for just $58!) to replace the default (and extremely slow) 20 GB Maxtor IDE drive. In this vast drive space, there is enough room for more than one operating system, so I decided to install Yellow Dog Linux 3.0 (and then upgrade to 3.0.1 via APT) as an addition to Mac OS X 10.3 Panther. Read more for my impressions of YDL 3.0.1 and check some screenshots too.

Why YDL
There are several choices for an alternative OS on the Mac platform, and that includes Linux and NetBSD among a few others. In Linux land, there are releases from Debian, Gentoo, SuSE, Mandrake and a few smaller distros not well maintained or tested. It's pretty time-consuming to figure out how to properly install Debian and Gentoo on a Mac - a bit more involved than their x86 versions. SuSE and Mandrake, on the other hand, seem to make PPC commercial releases on a "by the way" mode: their focus is not too much on the PPC platform. Enter Yellow Dog Linux, the only alternative OS with full focus and support on the PPC platform and the only Apple reseller that has the right to install a non-Apple OS on Apple machines!

Installation
Click for a larger version If you have seen Red Hat's Anaconda installer, you have esentially seen YDL's too. It is a pretty easy procedure to follow. Not many parts are different except maybe when you create the /boot partition you need to specifically choose an "Apple bootstrap" partition and not just a /boot one. Installation went fine, yaboot boot manager installed great too, only problem was that it thought that my nVidia GeForce2 MX was 16 MB instead of 32 MB. That was easily fixable by a drop down menu with more GRAM sizes. A more serious problem came later when my 19" monitor was set via the /etc/X11/XF86Config to do 1400x1050, while I had specifically asked it to do 1280x1024 during the X configuration in Anaconda. Editing the XF86Config file with a text editor fixed the problem. Overall, the installation is a nice experience and works well for the most part. I don't think that typical Mac users would have any problem with it.

Usage
YDL correctly found all hardware devices: the NIC, the Airport (802.11b) card (though read ahead to see some problems), the sound card, the 2D graphics card, the USB speakers, the Firewire driver is up and running.

YDL boots very fast with this new hard drive, even though the Cube is not a speedy machine anymore. In fact, YDL loads much faster in the Cube than Fedora/RHL9 loads on my AthlonXP 1600+ with a pretty modern IDE drive too. This was a pleasant surprise. After fixing the X problem I describe above, I was up and running with Gnome. All the well-known applications are there: Evolution, OOo, Gimp, Mozilla... KDE is also installed and while its apps load slower than the Gnome 2.2.0 ones, KDE overall seems to be snappier and consume less CPU time for simple tasks, compared to Gnome.

Installing new RPM applications has to be via the command line, as it seems that YDL doesn't include the Nautilus shell extension (like Red Hat Linux 9 does) to install RPMs via a GUI.

Yellow Dog Linux includes most of the programs that someone would require to run on a home PC and also as a home or small-business server. The office suite is there, a great email client and web browser and of course, Apache, PostgreSQL, mySQL and other servers are all available for the Unix geeks to fiddle with.

The OS does not differ substantially from any Linux distribution that you might have used and if you have used Red Hat Linux 8/9, it is pretty much the same experience. For those Mac users who have never used a Linux, expect to get an easy-to-use graphical environment, but with the occasional need to use the terminal to do a few common things, such as installing a new app.

A nice addition to the system is that XMMS supports mp3s, even if RHL's doesn't. The YDL guys have re-compiled the original XMMS package and its libraries and not the Red Hat SRPM. Of course, this has resulted in the loss of the nice Bluecurve XMMS skin that comes with RHL and adds to the overall desktop consistency. However, there is no Xine, Mplayer, Totem, Ogle or VideoLAN installed, so there is no way to run some video formats or playback DVD.

There are not many third-party RPMs to be found (/contrib and FreshRPMs have about 100-120 packages altogether), so the user might need to compile by hand some apps that x86 Linux users enjoy. Additionally, it would be nice to see more YDL system updates except bug fixes, for example, the option of the faster Gnome 2.4.

For those who buy the YDL 3.0.1 version, there is a new kernel that supports better the HFS+ Mac OS X partitions and you should be able to mount them and exchange data.

I personally feel that the strength of YDL is in the server space though, and there I didn't see any problems. Apache loaded and worked fine on my home network with PHP and MySQL, running a local copy of OSNews' code and doing some development with it. The fact that mySQL is installed by default on the system is a big plus over running OSX, because under OSX it is quite an involved process to get mySQL or PostgreSQL up and running.

Table of contents
  1. "Installation, Benefits"
  2. "Problems, Conclusion"
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