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Debian GNU/Linux on Apple G4 iBook

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Life with an Apple G4 iBook running Debian GNU/Linux

I installed Linux on my 14 inch Apple iBook 1.33 GHz G4. I choose for Debian Lenny. Debian is a good distro and allows for easy updates. It comes with a good installer. Most of the stuff works right out of the box.

I don't need KDE or Gnome. I try to keep the number of installed applications small. This to avoid lengthy update sessions. I am a great fan of GNU screen, and prefer textmode applications. My favorite windowmanager is ratpoison.

Debian GNU/Linux with ratpoison and GNU screen solves the biggest issue of the iBook running Mac OS X: it makes the desktop very efficient to work with and totally free. Mac OS X makes the iBook visually more appealing, but a lot less efficient.

Dual boot Mac OS X and Linux on iBook G4

My iBook offers dual boot: either boot OS X or boot Linux.

Installing dual boot is easy:

  • partition the hard disk with the disc utility tool from the OS X CD
  • install OS X
  • install Debian

Hibernate the G4 iBook with Debian GNU/Linux

After installing Debian I was very curious about hibernation. It worked right out of the box!

Closing the lid brings the box to hibernate. Opening the lid brings it back to live. Also when the battery is running low, the machine goes into hibernation. After inserting the power cable the machine comes back up. Having had this experience twice, I am thinking about installing a battery monitor. Making it useful in my ratpoison-environment will be another challenge :)

when the machine comes back to life after hibernation, the wireless network connection needs to be poked. See below.

Wireless networking

There are a lot off different ways to get your wireless network connection up and running. My choice was to use wpasupplicant. This is very easy to do and don't require KDE nor Gnome.

Set up wireless networking with Debian on the Apple G4 iBook

It only take five steps to get your wireless network running.

  1. apt-get install bcm43xx-fwcutter: get software to install firmware
  2. wget http://downloads.openwrt.org/sources/wl_apsta-3.130.20.0.o: get firmware
  3. bcm43xx-fwcutter -w /lib/firmware wl_apsta-3.130.20.0.o: install firmware in /lib/firmware
  4. modprobe bcm43xxand check dmesg to see if you module is loaded
  5. apt-get install wpasupplicant: install wpasupplicant
  6. create /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf with proper contents:
    ctrl_interface=/var/run/wpa_supplicant
    ctrl_interface_group=0
    
    ap_scan=1
    fast_reauth=1
    eapol_version=1
    
    network={
          ssid="<ROUTER ID>"
          psk="<WPA2 key>"
          priority=5
    
  7. apt-get install wpasupplicant: install wpasupplicant
  8. create /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf with proper contents:
    ctrl_interface=/var/run/wpa_supplicant
    ctrl_interface_group=0
    
    ap_scan=1
    fast_reauth=1
    eapol_version=1
    
    network={
        ssid="<ROUTER ID>"
        psk="<WPA2 key>"
        priority=5
    }
    
  9. edit /etc/network/interfaces:
    allow-hotplug eth1
    
    auto eth1
    iface eth1 inet static
        wpa-driver wext
        wpa-conf /etc/wpa_supplicant/wpa_supplicant.conf
        address <your static ip-number>
        netmask 255.255.255.0
        gateway <ip-number of your gateway>
    

After this, reboot and if everything is OK, you will have wireless network.

If you don't use static ip-numbers but DHCP, you will have to adjust the last three lines in /etc/network/interfaces accordingly.

Bringing up the wireless connection after waking up from hibernation

After waking up from hibernation the wireless connection need to be poked. The following command does the trick:

wpa_action eth1 reload

Pasting with one button mouse in Linux

The iBook comes with a single mouse button. This makes pasting a new challenge. One solution:

  • edit /etc/sysctl.conf
  • use Fn-Apple-Click to paste

Put this in /etc/sysctl.conf:

dev/mac_hid/mouse_button3_keycode = 125
dev/mac_hid/mouse_button2_keycode = 126
dev/mac_hid/mouse_button_emulation = 1

Sound on G4 iBook with Debian GNU/Linux

I did an apt-get install alsa-base. After running Alsaconf the sound works. But don't plan to have a party playing music from your iBook. The speakers are of poor quality. My (much cheaper) old IBM R31 laptop sound much better.

CPU info

This is what proc has to say about the CPU:

processor       : 0
cpu             : 7447A, altivec supported
clock           : 1333.333000MHz
revision        : 0.1 (pvr 8003 0101)
bogomips        : 73.47
timebase        : 18432000
platform        : PowerMac
machine         : PowerBook6,5
motherboard     : PowerBook6,5 MacRISC3 Power Macintosh 
detected as     : 287 (iBook G4)
pmac flags      : 0000001b
L2 cache        : 512K unified
pmac-generation : NewWorld