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A Live Linux ISO for the Mac? 74

An anonymous reader asks: "My iBook is the strongest of my laptops, but it's not running my favorite OS. Knoppix and the various other live ISOs are nice for x86 machines, but (though OS X is nice, and I'm not disparaging it) it would be nice to have all the apps that come with KDE and GNOME, and to have them all available through a nice fluxbox or windowmaker desktop). I've seen smart people nearly cry trying to install Debian on their Macs, but then I've seen smart people nearly cry trying to install Debian in the first place. Knoppix has certainly made it easier to put Debian on x86 machines, but does such a thing exist for Macs? Mac OS X is a very pretty thing, and Apple has supported some great free software projects through it, it's just that on an older iBook (and older iMacs, even more so), a low-key GNU/Linux desktop moves more responsively, and has everything I need. If I could easily run a nice GNU system on them, old iMacs would be worth a lot more to me.".
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A Live Linux ISO for the Mac?

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  • by jeramybsmith ( 608791 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @06:21PM (#6037053)
    Nowadays if you want to turn any older USB mac into a single booting Linux machine I would suggest that no hair pulling is necessary.

    Most of the problems I see people still having has to do with repartitioning a dual-boot sytem.

  • Yellow Dog Linux. (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 25, 2003 @06:23PM (#6037061)
    Yellow Dog Linux [] home page, here's a review on OS News [].

    There really are no problems running Linux on Mac hardware. :)
    • by RevAaron ( 125240 ) <> on Sunday May 25, 2003 @06:44PM (#6037150) Homepage
      The poster isn't asking about Linux in general on Mac hardware- read it again. The poster is asking about a *live* distro for the Mac. If you don't know what a live CD distro is, it's the kind where you toss in a CD, and it boots a full Linux install. Sets up a RAM disk, perhaps a folder on your Mac OS HFS+ or Windows harddrive and is a usable system without having to do an install. Examples are Knoppix- like he mentioned, or DemoLinux.
  • by RevAaron ( 125240 ) <> on Sunday May 25, 2003 @06:46PM (#6037159) Homepage
    I don't know if there are any Live distros for the Mac anymore... There used to be a version for LinuxPPC though, a release or two their most current release (which isn't all that current anyway). I am not sure if it was on a bootable CD- I think it was a 100-200 MB file you downloaded and double clicked "Boot LinuxPPC Live" and bam, you were in. No need for a CD, although that was prolly doable too.
  • by Mordant ( 138460 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @06:47PM (#6037165)
    and you even want to run WindowMaker or Fluxbox, you don't need Linux.

    All you need is Fink [].
    • by Otter ( 3800 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @08:32PM (#6037702) Journal
      ...and doing it that way, you have those apps available in your normal MacOS environment. I haven't seen Knoppix, but I believe it works the way the old LinuxPPC LiveCD worked -- you rebooted from it into a normal Linux environment, minus your Windows/Mac apps. Especially given the hassles of HFS+ in Linux, simply running those X11 apps in OS X seems a lot closer to what the questioner wants.
    • by coolgeek ( 140561 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @09:41PM (#6038075) Homepage
      there are still some programs, like ImageMagick, that are total hair-pullers under OS X and fink doesn't make it easy either, cuz fink unstable is earlier than current distro of xyz app...
      • Fink is hellish for anyone not a Linux pro. I struggled mightily with it to get Windowmaker compiled using Xdarwin. It took FOREVER, and I cannot see anyone getting KDE working under OSX. Not worth the effort. It takes 20 minutes to compile Lynx on a G3 800 MHz iBook, forget KDE or something large like gimp.


        • by Mordant ( 138460 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @11:03PM (#6038402)
          KDE binaries are available via Fink.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          Actually, you probably shouldn't try compiling KDE, but rather use the KDE binary that comes from Fink:

          sudo apt-get install koffice

          will install all necessary KDE components and then you are up and running. Takes about 25 minutes. :-)
        • Compiling KDE from source took a little under two days on my really old ibook. That sounds hellish, but really isn't, because it just ran in the background and I noticed no noticeable slow-down (I wish my XP box at work could do that... it's so easy to bring it to its knees). It was also incredibly easy, largely thanks to finkcommander.

          the integration between KDE and OSX is absolutely beautiful.
        • 1) Your numbers sound kind of long. Try running the compiles at night. BTW are you counting the download time as the compile time?

          2) Make sure to do the compiles piecemeal. If a program is going to require 40 dependendts then break the whole thing down into steps.

          3) As for hellish I've seen very few of their compiles fail and those that do usually work by the next update.

          4) Why aren't you just using the binary fink?
      • Or, you could just use the precompiled Imagemagick binary, found here: #imagemagick []

        Works beautifully. I use it on my development box for web based image manipulation, using PHP. The PHP code is totally portable to the production Solaris box, too.

        • Thanks for the tip...

          I've tried that build and I was unable to get it to recognize any Ghostscript implementation I installed on the system. (Of course, I used fink to install the various Ghostscripts) ImageMagick needs Ghostscript for marking up a graphic with text. Maybe it's worth another try...I sort of gave up mirroring my whole web server environment under OS X, and just stay hooked up to a trusty Intel box running Linux. Unfortunately, the subtle implication here is I can't camp out at the coffee

    • Not all of them, smartass. What if I need to use apps that require hardware drivers that are only available on Linux, like ALSA (Advanced Linux Sound Architecture) for instance? Incidentally, ALSA is going to be in the next Linux kernel (currently modules and other stuff). Fink will never give you access to the low level hardware functionality that some apps, particularly audio, require.
      • Umm.. you could just configure the kernel to include it, or not. If you require specific drivers, use the os that has those. OS X is not linux, and is not bsd, and it gets tiring telling people this, but it is only what you put into it.
    • I have to lend my support to the Fink suggestion. I run 10.2.6 on my G3 700mhz with 640mb. I can run the X11 with for OSX, OSX apps and KDE all at the same time and still can't even make her breathe hard. There's some truth to the rumors about the Mac processors, I guess, because she runs faster than my homemade P3 1ghz with 512mb ram running redhat. (Of course, they both run circles around the windblows garbage in my classroom at school that crashes at least 2 or 3 times per week causing my
  • by sonicsft ( 195337 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @07:43PM (#6037453)
    Debian isn't really as hard as the poster says. While it may take a little trial and error, and you might have to rtfm Debian has in fact come a long way. I got my iBook online with debian, everything working, in the space of one weekend. The trick is researching what drivers you need and compiling a kernel (like the benh fork) before you try futzing with things. While there are a few random quirks with getting linux up in general, like how do you right/middle click, etc...They can be easily solved by doing a 30second google. But I have to say Apple has a history of not liking people doing strange things to their macs, if a live CD came out that made installing linux as easy as installing MacOS X then it would draw some negative attention from Apple I think. On the otherhand when my ibook suffered a logicboard melt down (semi-common occurence on my model) I sent in my ibook with debian still on the drive, and it came back fixed, good as new, with the boot loader still functioning and debian still on the drive.

    • if a live CD came out that made installing linux as easy as installing MacOS X then it would draw some negative attention from Apple I think.

      That would be old, pre-Jobs Apple thinking, which did give them a tendency to arbitrarily clamp down on people modifying their (then) relatively closed platform, even when said clamp-down interfered with the company's interests. I don't really see that happening now. An easy, CD-bootable Linux distro would be another reason for people in a specific market to buy an

    • maybe on newer machines... but i had one hell of a hard time installing debian 3.0 on a powermac 5500/225. (yellowdog wasn't stable on this machine! maybe they should look into that? although i think it was a problem with BootX.) now, even though i got it loaded up, i still have to ssh in whenever i turn it on and reset the keycodes for the ADB keyboard... it is harder on older machines than new ones. i didn't have a problem on a powermac g4.
    • if the debain install is easy now. I would hate to see what is was like before, the only way it could possibly get harder is if two guy's with baseball bats started kicking the shit out of you when you tried to install it.

      p.s. I run Madrake 9.1...:D
      • I installed debian over 3 years ago on my B&W G3. The biggest gotchas were figuring out how to get the old skool open firmware to book off of other partitions (thanks Everything2 for that info) and realizing I had to use a PPC kernel fork if I wanted the latest and greatest (I belive the above poster mentions the benh fork). Now with the new world ROM, getting it to book its a snap. You select the icon and boot. Also, I've run in to less trouble with Debian on the Mac because of the unified hardware. Ap
      • I really don't find debian install to be such a pain. Autodetection for the NIC driver and complete removal of dselect are pretty much the only changes I could wish for. I am not denying that first-time setup may involve a *bit* more thought than RH/SuSE/MD, but once operational (~1.5hr process for me, usually; most of that is downloading) the system is much easier to maintain. You know exactly what modules are compiled, what packages are installed, where everything lives, and how to fix it if it breaks. I
    • When I installed Debian on my iBook last year it wasn't easy due to a problem with the IDE drivers in the kernel.

      At that time booting the Linux kernel off a CD would prevent the IDE bus from being seen by the kernel once it was running. The only solution at the time was to copy the kernel and bootloader onto an empty HFS partition, and boot off that via Open Firmware.

      If this kernel problem hasn't been resolved as of yet, a live CD will cause problems.
    • I agree that Debian was hard for me to install, as well, but that was only becuse of two bugs, which if fixed, would have made Debian trivial to install.

      Bug 1: The installer used a 2.2 kernel, whereas the system I installed used a 2.4 kernel, which meant that software IDE RAID was interpreting the drive names differently (hda versus hdc). This mean a lot of (dis/en)abling drives in the bios and screwing with some grub file to make it all work. The trivial solution was to use a current 2.4 kernel in the ins
      • Bug 2: I use a realtek ethernet card, which was enabled via a kernel module, which required me to change some text file so that the system would load the module on boot. In fact, every single time I upgrade the kernel, that file needs to be edited. I don't know if that's Debian's fault of Linux's fault, though.

        I'm guessing you're talking about /etc/modules.conf. If so, then instead of editing that file, add your text to /etc/modutils/aliases, and run the command update-modules. Note the text at the top of

    • A live CD (Score:4, Interesting)

      by jbolden ( 176878 ) on Monday May 26, 2003 @08:11PM (#6043027) Homepage
      If a live CD came out that made installing linux as easy as installing MacOS X then it would draw some negative attention from Apple I think.

      Why? Apple makes pretty close to 100% of their profits on hardware sales. Software is just a way to sell hardare. They have had no objections to the Unix crowd that likes the iBook/Linux combination. Linux customers are customers that pay them lots of money and then they don't even have to support. Its hard to see Apple's downside.
  • by trouser ( 149900 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @08:08PM (#6037580) Journal
    I'm running YDL on my 500Mhz iBook . Easy to install, easy to configure, all up quite good. Hardware support is fine. I haven't got the modem working yet but I believe others have.

    But Debian's package management is absolutely superb. The Debian install is a little tricky and I believe there are a few quirks to the iBook setup. It'll probably take a few days before you have all the hardware working properly.

    Ease of installation is probably somewhat overrated. Ideally you only install the operating system once. Day to day use of the installed OS and particularly package managaement, upgrades etc are much more important, and in my opinion Debian is the clear winner here.
    • Ideally you only install the operating system once

      OK, but none of us live in an ideal world. The closest we can get is a world where we get everything installed and running, and then think "hey! I should have put this/that/theother on its own partition!".

      It's by tearing down and re-building what we've done that we learn how Linux (or any OS, for that matter) works.

      • I guess I did my tearing down and rebuilding a long time ago. I know what I want and where I want it. Once I've built the base system I don't change anything other than to install/remove/upgrade packages (including the kernel).

        I installed Linux on my laptop. I installed it where I wanted, the way I wanted and it works pretty much as expected. There are old versions of some apps on the distro, eg Apache, which I'd like to upgrade but nobody is creating RPMs for my old version of YDL. Maybe I've misunderstoo
  • OS X on a G3 (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrTangent ( 652704 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @10:19PM (#6038224)
    I'm running OS 10.2.6 on my G3 and it runs pretty damned well, all things considered. Granted I have 1 gigabyte of SDRAM and fairly fast 7200 rpm ATA/133 drives but I'm impressed with the speed on my "lowly" 400 mhz G3 Power Mac tower. I think OS X can run adequately on any 300mhz+ G3 (iMac, iBook or Power Mac). Granted you don't want to play graphics-intensive games on it, but you wouldn't be interested in Linux (or to an extent Macs) if you wanted to play games anyway.

    In summation, has the original poster even tried to run OS X on the iBook? I'd give it whirl before dismissing it as a possibility.
    • Re:OS X on a G3 (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Davidge ( 71204 )
      I recently bought an old G3 PowerBook (WallStreet) 233 (Series II) for my wife. It came with 64Mb of RAM and a 2Gb HDD, and seems to run OS X 10.1 quite well (all things considered).

      I ran YellowDog 2.3 on it for a few days to see how it performed, and in general, it ran pretty well too.

      OS X 10.2 however would not install (or maybe it would but after waiting over an hour and not getting past the first two dialogs, I gave up - I presume this was more to do with the pitiful amount of RAM more than anything e
      • Re:OS X on a G3 (Score:4, Informative)

        by MrTangent ( 652704 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @11:51PM (#6038594)
        OS X generally needs at bare minimum 128 megs of RAM. I'd go at least 256 megs if I were you.

        According to [] your Powerbook is an original Powerbook G3 (see bolded quote below) and therefore isn't supported in OS 10.2. However, you might try checking with [] because there are "hacks" available that enable "unsupported" Macs (old clones/beige, etc.) to run OS 10.2.

        From Apple's OS X Requirements Page [] Quoted here:
        Mac OS X Version 10.2 requires a Power Mac G3, G4, G4 Cube; iMac; PowerBook G3, G4; iBook; or eMac computer; at least 128MB of physical RAM and a built-in display or a display connected to an Apple-supplied video card.
        Mac OS X does not support the original PowerBook G3 or processor upgrade cards. Verify your hardware is supported from the list below
        As with processor upgrades cards, this particular Powerbook, while officially unsupported, can probably be made to run OS 10.2 with a little ingeniunity and research. This page [] (cached, since the site seems to be down right now) might help you out.

        Also you might want to upgrade the processor to a G4 in that Powerbook and gain OS 10.2 support, not to mention an extreme increase in speed (+Altivec support!) by buying one of these Crescendo G3 or G4 upgrade cards []. I've personally bought stuff from Sonnet and can very much recommend them. I buy all my Mac stuff generally from the fantastic (and fast/cheap/honest) [] but you can find Sonnet Mac upgrade peripherals at just about any Mac reseller. If you do upgrade the Powerbook, be sure to pick up some RAM (I'd max it out to 512 megs if I were you) while you're at it. OWC/Macsales have very reliable and extremely cheap RAM. Just make sure to get the right kind by checking with one of the sites I provided.

        Good luck.
        • by Anonymous Coward
          The original powerbook g3 was a derivative of the 603 based powerbook 3400 and is not supported under Mac OS X. The Wallstreet powerbook is supported.
          • by Anonymous Coward
            It could be done on that original PB G3 using Xpostfacto []

            But certainly you would need to upgrade the RAM from 64 MB for OS X...
      • I've installed 10.2 on my Wallstreet 300 with 64MB and hoo-boy! it can be slow. It's possible that I moved RAM from another laptop when I installed it, because I do seem to recall once having RAM-related problems. When I used it more regularly, it had 128MB and while it wasn't exactly peppy it was certainly more usable.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I Googled for... livecd ppc linux gentoo/experimental/ppc/livecd/nostages/gentoo-ppc -1.4_rc6-120403.iso
    • No, it wouldn't. Gentoo uses livecd's to get you into the "install environment". The gentoo install process is alot more interactive then any other distro's installer. We chose this method of installing because you need a minimal GNU environment to compile and install everything. You could boot it on an imac and in theory set up a ramdisk and everything else, but I think the asker was clear in what his intentions/needs were.
  • KDE and GNOME (Score:3, Informative)

    by Akito ( 222802 ) on Sunday May 25, 2003 @11:13PM (#6038431) Homepage
    use fink [] if you want to install these, combine it with the apple X11 [] distro and you have one smoothe integration of GNOME (my favorite) and 10.2
  • drop your pants and go to [], yes you have to roll your own iso, BUT it's slackware for ppc! (i use it on my ibook 600) otherwise check out gentoo or yellow dog for out-of-the-box goodness. dont forget to install pmud [] for all your apple power management needs.
  • Gentoo? (Score:5, Informative)

    by justMichael ( 606509 ) on Monday May 26, 2003 @12:21AM (#6038695) Homepage
    I'm not sure if this has everything you are looking for but, Gentoo [] has live CD's for PPC.

    Here is some info []

    Here are the ISO's []
    • Re:Gentoo? (Score:3, Informative)

      by zojas ( 530814 )
      I second that! I run gentoo on my 700MHz ibook, it's way faster than OS X (even with 640mb ram!)

      I documented my install []

    • Re:Gentoo? (Score:4, Informative)

      by deque_alpha ( 257777 ) <> on Monday May 26, 2003 @01:43AM (#6038973) Journal
      Gentoo currently has the closest to what you are looking for ATM, though it really isn't all that close. It is a "live" system, but minimal at best. Just enough to get an install going pretty much.
      I ditched OSX on my iBook in favor of Gentoo about 6 months ago and haven't looked back. Gentoo does a lot of stuff with the Live CD's on x86, and I really don't know why, but the interest just doesn't seem to be there. Hit the various #gentoo (especially #gentoo-ppc)forums on Freenode and try to rustle up some people. I'm sure they will have good answers as to why it hasn't really been done, but I expect most of them will be along the lines of "Nobody wants to".
    • Re:Gentoo? (Score:1, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I'll have a new kde/gnome enabled ppc livecd up in a few weeks :-)

      Pieter, PPC gentoo team lead
    • Gentoo + MoL == a verry happy G4 owner. ( most my shit is intel, but this allows me to use that g4 instead of thik it was a nice play toy ).
  • Define Smart Please (Score:3, Interesting)

    by tyrione ( 134248 ) on Monday May 26, 2003 @04:01AM (#6039345) Homepage

    If I can help an endearing woman watercolor artist/housewife, back in the late 1990's while working for Apple Enterprise Tech Support get Openstep 4.2 on a Toshiba Laptop with all the bells and whistles any 'smart' person with IT knowledge of hardware, device drivers and basic understandings of BIOS within the x86 realm should sure as hell know how to get Debian to install.

    God how hard is it to download the disk images, burn them and boot off of CD? It's self explanatory.

    And yes no distro seems to match even NeXTSTEP/Openstep's Installation process that now is part of OS X--that's a credit to the brilliance of the folks I as a peon was lucky to have bagels and cream cheese or playing foosball with (EOF Team were awesome players by the way)--but damn if you can't handle that for sure what hope is there for the general consumer to be able to install, outside of the RedHat world or SUSE world?

    I'm trying to figure out what's stopping you from downloading the latest Trolltech source, compiling it for OS X and using OS X's xfree86's Quartz optimized X Server, then either compile KDE from source yourself by changing some of the configuration flags, or seeing if there are available packages already via Fink.

  • Not hard at all (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Debian is really a lot easier to install on an ibook than it is on x86 hardware. There's no fuss setting up XF86 or finding out about device drivers; all hardware is well known.
    Install Debian, grab the latest benh kernel if your ibook is less than a year old (I don't know whether older ones need it too), compile with the .config which comes with BenH's patch, and on you go.

    If you fail to get it right, a question on the debian-powerpc list is bound to get an answer within a few hours; the ibook is one of th
  • You get me a PPC, and i'll consider porting a few Morphix modules to it. Problem with Mac's is that they are so damn expensive, but it would make an interesting challenge, as livecd ppc booting was certainly possible last time i checked. Oh well, shouldn't offer this, as before i know it i'll actually be forced into making one... Cheers, Alex de Landgraaf
  • Gentoo Linux (Score:1, Flamebait)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Gentoo [] has a PPC Live CD that will boot on any G3 or G4 Mac... the purpose of their live cd is more for installation purposes though than anything else, there's no X.
  • Okay, it's not live...

    but I've successfully run Debian and FreeBSD from a Virtual PC image. It's like having a spare unix.
  • No, I will not. :-)

    (If you don't understand this, you obviously don't know who I am.... Those who do will laugh. Those who don't will read my bio and then laugh. )

  • This may be a stupid question, but why is all of the discussion being had about laptops as opposed to the other apple proucts (i.e. my DP 867 tower)? Is there something specific about running linux distros on an ibook that is that much different than a tower? Or is it just that its so stinking cool to have an apple laptop running linux?

    I only ask because I am seeing a ton of discussion concentrated on the laptops, when I would think the same information should work on a tower.

    Please forgive my ignoran
  • I am running OSX 10.2.6 on a fairly modest PowerMac G4 500MHz, 256MB SDRAM, and I'd say that it performs fairly well. One thing, however, is that the Aqua GUI isn't as resposive as I'd like it to be on the lowly ATI Rage128 video card in the machine. Nonetheless, I really do not see the point of running even a Live Linux ISO, as OSX is quite sufficient in the *nix department. And now that the X11 beta is out, I really wouldn't see much use of running Linux on a Mac either. There are many options availab

Q: How many IBM CPU's does it take to execute a job? A: Four; three to hold it down, and one to rip its head off.