iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

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iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby Super TWiT » 2009-08-07 04:47

Hi everyone, I installed Debian Linux on my iMac G3 and would like to share how I did it and some tips and tricks I found along the way. This tutorial is intended to be used by all who want to install Debian (or a Debian like OS) on their iMac G3 computers. I used the net-install cd (the preferred way if you have the bandwidth). The particular computer I am using is the original iMac rev. b with 384 mb of ram and a 60 gb drive. I also dual boot with Mac OS X. I must give a big thanks to google and forums just like this one!
BTW, another speed tip I found was to use the xfs filesystem. I use it as my /boot and /. It seems to make the computer faster. Every filesystem has its advantages and disadvantages so please read this entry from wikipedia for more details. The part about system failure policies being improved I am not sure about since the filesystem is journaling.

Preparing for Installation:
Before doing anything to your computer Mac OS 8 or 9.1 must be present to update the firmware on your iMac. Although Linux will probably run fine without the firmware update, its always a good idea to have the latest version. iMac G3 computers with tray-loading disk drives have their firmware update located here. Computers with slot-loading drives have theirs located here. If you can't update, don't worry.
Also, MAKE SURE you set your system clock to the proper time before installing. You can find instructions on setting the clock in open firmware here.
Please note that screen orientation and contrast/brightness/color settings must be the way you like if your are going to get rid of Mac OS or Mac OSX completely as there is no way to adjust it from Linux. Actually linux changes screen orientation anyway, so that first part may not matter.

Step 2: Burn an iso image of Debian for PowerPC. Be sure to burn it slowly as older disk drives can have a hard time with home made cds.

If you are planning on reinstalling Mac OS or Mac OS X please install it first. iMac G3 tray loaders must have all their startup partitions within the first 8 gb (this doesn't apply to slot loaders which don't have this limitation), so be sure to leave 51 mb for linux in the first 8 GB if you have a tray-loader.
Also, you should leave unpartitioned however much space you want your root partition to be and at least 500 mb for swap. (I have a 2 gb swap) This space doesn't have to be within the first 8 gb of the drive.

Step 4: Insert the cd into the drive of the iMac and restart it. While it is starting up hold down the c key to start from the cd. Once you reach the prompt hit enter. If you run into a blank screen start again and this time in the prompt type in:
Code: Select all
video=ofonly


Installing Linux:
Step 1: Run through the on screen instructions until you get to the disk partitioner. Instead of choosing automatic go down to manual. Here you'll want to partition your Linux install. BE SURE NOT TO MODIFY/MOVE PARTITION #1 ITS THE PARTITION MAP AND IF YOU DO ANYTHING TO IT, YOUR DRIVE WILL BE UNREADABLE AND YOU'LL HAVE TO REFORMAT EVERYTHING! I learned the hard way! :P

Step 2: Create a new world boot partition, preferably within the free space near the top, but it must be somewhere within the first 8 gb if on a tray-loader. This is where the boot loader will live. To do that select a chunk of free space and hit enter. It will ask you what size to make it and you'll say 1 mb. Now go into partition type and choose new world boot partition. Then, as a name, name it Apple_Bootstrap.

Step 3: Next, create a 50 mb /boot partition. This needs to be within the first 8 GB of your drive if on a tray-loader. I normally set this as an xfs partition.

Step 4: Create a swap partition of at least 500 mb. (Mine is set as 2 gb)

Step 4: Finally add your root partition. This is where all your stuff will live.

Step 5: Run through the installer again until you get to the spot where you select your software to install. I unchecked all the boxes as I found that I didn't even need a "standard system". If anything needs something not installed, it will install it. If you want gnome go ahead and install a desktop environment. However, gnome runs pretty slow for me, so I installed base system and installed another desktop environment later.

Step 6: Boot into your new install and login with the username root and your root password.

Optional Step: If you are low on disk space you can install localepurge and perforate to help conserve it by typing:
Code: Select all
apt-get install localepurge perforate


Step 7: Then type in:
Code: Select all
apt-get install xfce4 xdm


Step 8: Now type:
Code: Select all
nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf
and add the these lines:
Code: Select all
Section "Screen"
   Identifier "Default Screen"
   Monitor "Default Monitor"
   DefaultDepth 16
EndSection
Section "Monitor"
   Identifier "Default Monitor"
   HorizSync 58-62
   VertRefresh 75-117
EndSection
Section "Device"
   Identifier "Video Card"
EndSection
(Note by pressing command+o, hitting enter, and then pressing command+x you have saved and exited) This is a graphical setup designed to conserve my precious graphics card resources. 3D rendering isn't enabled by default, but I don't care as all I need is 2D rendering. If you want 3D rendering, then you should look into compiling the latest drm and the latest mach64 driver. The reason its not included by default is that it may still have some security issues.

Step 9: (if you don't have a 1 button mouse you can skip this step) type
Code: Select all
nano /etc/sysctl.conf
and add
Code: Select all
#Mouse emulation (button3 is the right mouse button and button2 is the middle mouse button)
dev.mac_hid.mouse_button_emulation=1
dev.mac_hid.mouse_button3_keycode=0x7d
dev.mac_hid.mouse_button2_keycode=0x7e
I have mapped right click to the left option key and the middle mouse button to the right option key. You can change these by typing in a command line environment the showkey command to show you each key's key code. You than can plug your own values into this example.

Optional: If you want to make mac os x (or mac os by taking the x out of this example) the default to boot type in:
Code: Select all
nano /etc/yaboot.conf
and add
Code: Select all
defaultos=macosx
to the file. Lastly, put this into the terminal:
Code: Select all
ybin


Reboot and enjoy your new system! Please if you find any mistakes with this let me know and I will try and fix them. Also, if you have any tips I would love to hear them.
Last edited by Super TWiT on 2009-11-22 21:14, edited 8 times in total.
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Re: iMac G3 Howto

Postby ghostdawg » 2009-08-15 14:18

Very nice Howto. I have installed debian testing on my G3 iMac and everything is running pretty good. The one problem I've noticed is the choppy motion when scrolling windows.

Is there a way to stop it? I have searched high & low for an answer but can't seem to find any. Maybe there is no fix.

Mine have 512mb of ram.

Sorry if I shouldn't ask questions here.
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Re: iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby Super TWiT » 2009-08-16 13:01

Yeah, I have this problem too. The problem is the video ram and video card being overloaded. I don't think Linux is taking full advantage of the card yet. If you put the default depth as 16 and turn on the software cursor function, those things take some strain off the card and they speed it up a little. Actually, using the xfs filesystem has really seemed to speed things up and make my computer more responsive, but actually I have no way to benchmark. I strongly recommend using it if you can. The options I talked about I put in my example xorg.conf file, so if you enable those it probably will help. At this point, my imac is my only computer, so speeding it up has been a priority. Actually, for most things its not that bad.
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Re: iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby Super TWiT » 2009-09-10 16:53

I was wrong about the software cursor function. It does not seem to speed up the computer. In fact, it seems it can slow it down and be really annoying. I took it out of my howto. Sorry everybody for that one!
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Re: iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby Bro.Tiag » 2009-09-10 18:36

Over the summer I scored another iMac (albeit older from last years eMac score). It is an Apple iMac G3/333 (Fruit Colors) Specs (M7440LL/A*), it has 64 MB of RAM.

OH, never mind, I just found the answer to my question of where the second memory slot was, Installing RAM on older iMacs (233-333Mhz models).

Anyhow, I am a bit suspicious, is RAM still available for iMacs of this vintage?

Cheers
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Re: iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby Super TWiT » 2009-09-10 18:49

I bought some ram for mine a year ago off of tigerdirect. They charged quite a heafty fine for it though. I think I saw some on newegg too. Also, ebay seems to have quite a bit of ram sticks.
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Re: iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby Bro.Tiag » 2009-09-10 19:35

Super TWiT wrote:I bought some ram for mine a year ago off of tigerdirect. They charged quite a heafty fine for it though. I think I saw some on newegg too. Also, ebay seems to have quite a bit of ram sticks.


Thanks.
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Re: iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby oswaldkelso » 2009-09-10 20:55

The max officially supported size is 256mb in each slot.http://www.crucial.com/store/listparts.aspx?model=iMac%20%28G3-233%2C%20266%2C%20or%20333%29&pl=Apple&cat=RAM I have heard that some of the later models(before the slot loaders) will take 512mb per slot, but its pot luck. You need at least 256 to be able to use it with any success. The cpu is sloooow so choose your apps carefully.
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Re: iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby Bro.Tiag » 2009-09-10 21:49

oswaldkelso wrote:The max officially supported size is 256mb in each slot.http://www.crucial.com/store/listparts.aspx?model=iMac%20%28G3-233%2C%20266%2C%20or%20333%29&pl=Apple&cat=RAM I have heard that some of the later models(before the slot loaders) will take 512mb per slot, but its pot luck. You need at least 256 to be able to use it with any success. The cpu is sloooow so choose your apps carefully.


Thanks I've read that too. This is just something to surf the web with for my Sunday School class and maybe view/use gnomesword/bibletime. Plus, I've a few mac users (read, and they're Snobs 'bout it) in my Sunday School class so it'd be cool to trick them into using linux. If it does not work out I've got a PII of the same vintage that I already know works fine for that purpose.

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Re: iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby wwsmurf » 2010-06-07 20:15

Had to use Xorg -configure to make a new xorg.conf file.
Fixed HorizSync and VertRefresh
Disabled all hardware acceleration. (bummer)

Got Xorg working on my iMac G3 (Lenny 5.0.4)

The screen is not really 1024x768. Some of the information is chopped off on the right but it's still usable.
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Re: iMac G3 Debian Linux Install Howto

Postby jwmollman » 2010-08-03 08:16

I have a quick question, and it may be stupid, but which partition will have the bootable flag. The "/" partition where "everything lives"?

Also, I keep getting an error that prevents me from continuing saying:

Failed to create a file system
The xfs file system creation in partition #3 of IDE1 master (hda) failed.


Partition #3 is the 50MB xfs /boot partition.
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