Ubuntu has made installing Linux so trivial that I almost don’t need to write anything. However, if you’re like me you may have tried getting Linux up on this particular hardware and had dismal results, especially with the wireless card. But not anymore! Wireless, among other things, now has full support.
The very first thing I did was backup all my files off of the laptop. I planned to do a complete wipe. Even if you plan to try to repartition, I recommend this step. You never know what can go wrong.
Second thing I had to do was grab the 9.04 Jaunty Jackalope iso from here. Why not the 9.10? Well, for some reason, the 9.10 disk is 705MB, and the biggest CD I had around could only be overburnt to 702MB. Dang! So 9.04 it is. I burnt the ISO with Toast, popped it in the CD drive, and rebooted the laptop. You may have to hold down the ‘c’ key when the laptop reboots to get it to boot from CD. [Note: If you can get a CD that will hold 9.10, go ahead and try it!]
I would like to stop for a second and point out that the main resource I used for this can be found here. It’s fairly out of date and some of the things it just don’t apply anymore, but if you find yourself having some difficulties the author links to some good resources for specific problems.
Moving on: The CD will boot and you’ll come to a prompt asking you to either hit ‘enter’ or type a boot command and hit ‘enter’. Some iBooks will get a black screen if you just hit ‘enter’, so to avoid that, type “live-nosplash-powerpc” at the prompt, no quotes. I didn’t try it without using that command, but you don’t really need a splash screen anyway. Once you do that, it may give an error about ROM. Ignore it. It may also hang for a very long (5 mins?) time, once again, just let it do it’s thing. After quite a while, you’ll see the usual Ubuntu login screen, and you’ll be dumped to a live desktop. Sweet!
Uh-oh! Remember how I said wireless works now? Well… I only sort of lied. Wireless doesn’t work in the live CD environment. My theory is that they don’t put proprietary drivers on live CDs, but that’s speculation. Either way, I hope you brought a network cable. This step is the same as any other install: You click the “Install” icon, pick your options, go through the whole wizard, and let it install. For me there were zero hiccups, although it did take a while to install. While you’re waiting, have a beer.
If all has gone well up to this point, Ubuntu should prompt you to remove the CD and reboot. Do that and after it reboots log in. Have a network cable? Good, because you’re going to need it. Plug it in, or ideally already have it plugged in when you rebooted. After a short period of time, Ubuntu should alert you that there are new drivers available. Click the dialog box that alerts you of this and you should be prompted with a Hardware Drivers window that allows you to add the Broadcom wireless driver. I don’t recall the exact things to click, but I do remember it being extremely obvious (I think you select the driver and click “activate). Yay wireless!
Now at this point you’re probably thinking “sweet, Ubuntu and wireless, but this isn’t 9.10!” Go to System -> Administration -> Synaptic Package Manager and at the top you’ll be given the option to upgrade to 9.10. Click it, sit back for 40 minutes and have a beer. When it finishes, you’ll have 9.10.
That’s it! Everything should work: Wireless, Touchpad (F11, F12 are middle, right -clicks), sound, video, etc. From here you can do almost anything you want, my plans include ditching GNOME for Fluxbox and figuring out a better way to right-click. Keep in mind though that GNOME works great even given the age of the hardware.
This process is almost not deserving of a How-To, but as a guy who’s not very old and can still remember when it took some effort just to get a PCI ethernet card to be recognized, this is a pretty big deal! The Ubuntu folks really have their shit together, big thanks to them and the thousands of contributors to all the software for making this installation so painless.
Oh and if you have any problems, check out the PowerPC FAQ. Good luck!
Some issues I’ve come across so far:
- Fluxbox is significantly snappier than GNOME, but is difficult to use without an external mouse.
Some Boring Stuff
This section used to be at the top, but given how much traffic this post gets and I can only assume everyone is interested in the iBook G4 Ubuntu install, I’ve moved it down here:
The other day I decided I wanted to “get back into Linux” so to speak. I’ve been an avid user since 2002 but the last year or so I haven’t used it much outside of work.
I remember my first distro: SuSE. Back then it wasn’t openSUSE and if I recall correctly wasn’t entirely open source. I didn’t care at the time: I bought it off the shelf because it came with a book. I fiddled around with various distros since then on everything I could I install it on, finally settling on Gentoo at my desktop OS. I loved it. Sure, it took 3 days to get a graphical display running (not including compile time), but I learned a ton. Even though Linux had advanced pretty far by the time I got into using it, it was still a pretty Big Deal if you could get it installed on your box on the first try without having to modify anything or go out and buy new (or more commonly: old), Linux-compatible, hardware. Gentoo was a totally different deal because you build it from scratch, but because of it, I now know more than I’ll ever need to about handrolling init scripts and compiling a kernel from scratch and all that things that I could only learn to do because I was 17 and had nothing but time.
As I started college I switched over to Apple laptops starting with OS 10.2. OS X had so many of the development features I liked without any of the hassle, so it soon became my main OS. I kept my Linux servers going for a while, but as their hard drive size and computing powers became more trivial and my computing needs became more mobile, I phased them out. Still, I never stopped using it: most of my work as an Assistant IT guy starting in my sophomore year of college was working with Linux boxes and I was even given time to resurrect an old iMac G3 and throw Yellow Dog on it. Every job since has been working on a site powered by Linux, so I’ve never been too far away. Still, tonight seemed like it was time.