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Old 06-03-2005, 03:24 PM   #1
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Favorite Mac Linux Distribution?

I'm normally an OS X guy, but ever since switching to Mac a few years ago I've missed having a hobby machine with Linux on it. I'll be inheriting a G3/400 iMac soon, and would like to stick Linux on it. From my x86 days, I'm a fan of Debian (I like apt-get). What Linux distributions has everyone found to be best on Mac hardware, and why? I checked out the Ubuntu live CD last night and was pretty impressed, so I'm learning toward that right now.

There's an additional, perhaps problematic factor in my search: I will likely lean toward whatever distribution supports a D-Link DWL-122 wireless USB NIC out of the box, since using cat5 isn't an easy option for me right now. From the Googling I've done it seems all PPC Linux distributions can be made to work with this NIC, however no one really mentions which provides the easiest experience (YDL for instance requires a kernel recompile). I don't have the NIC yet so I can't easily experiment with the Ubuntu Live CD to find out.
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Old 06-03-2005, 04:00 PM   #2
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I have used ubuntu on my iBook and it works very well. Even supports the screen brightness and volume controls on the keyboard.
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Old 06-03-2005, 10:06 PM   #3
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I had Ubuntu on my Pismo for a while. It was very usable, and most things were supported "out of the box." If I recall correctly I did have to find my monitor refresh rates. But that was about it.

I eventually switched back to OS X on my Pismo, but did also run YDL on there for a while as well. The primary reason I went back to OS X was familiarity and switching. At work I use Windows, at home I primarily use OS X, and tossing a third OS in there was more switching than I wanted at the time.
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Old 06-05-2005, 08:29 PM   #4
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NetBSD also runs very well on the Macs I have tried. Probably needs a bit more tweaking than some of the Linux distros out of the box, but it runs very well. It's obviously not Linux, but it's as unix-y as it gets. Do give it a look.

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Old 06-05-2005, 10:51 PM   #5
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I think I'm going to go with Debian. At first I was looking at which distro would support my wireless USB NIC with the least hassle, and using that as a determining factor. However a friend gave me enough cat5 to reach the new machine, so it's no longer a factor.

On a side note, I tried Ubuntu on both my iBook and PowerMac; it was pretty impressive. It's nice to know there's alternatives for PPC hardware as they age.
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Old 06-07-2005, 10:16 PM   #6
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Gentoo is my recommendation. It's not walk in the park to set up the first time but you will not have the mysteries down the road because you will know exactly what is installed on your system. Its extremely easy to keep up to date and there is a lot of flexibility--you can keep things at the bleeding edge or not bother with updating very much at all, you can install KDE, GNOME, or some old fashioned window manager. trying out all kinds of games and apps is easy, unlike the neverending kludgefest that is trying to get anything to compile on OS X--thank god for Fink, at least we have some package control on OS X.

Linux and multimedia has been, in my experience, a total disaster on x86 or ppc, regardless of distribution. audio/video quality has been hit or miss and software upgrades (mplayer/vlc are equally unreliable--put the DVD in and anything can happen! screen turns blue, freeze,etc) have usually been of the one-step-forward-two-steps-back variety. (i.e. one thing fixed and another breaks.)

I only use free Office software (Abiword/OO/gnumeric) and it's way better on linux--OS X fonts look like hell to me regardless of aliasing/subpixel hinting setting. Gnome/X11 fonts look nice and big and clean.
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Old 06-07-2005, 10:28 PM   #7
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Debian PPC... http://www.debian.org/ports/powerpc/
I guess, well.. once I went Debian there was no turning back.
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Old 06-08-2005, 01:33 AM   #8
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I had to struggle getting X working, but after that everything was smooth with Debian. I appreciate YDL's attention to Mac details, but I simply can't return to RPM hell ever again. apt-get is plain and simple.
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Old 06-12-2005, 03:22 PM   #9
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Well, I'd like to add my 2 cents. I have tried 4 ppc-linux distros. I currently own 3 Macs, and I have a different linux system on each one. As you may guess, I don't use linux for real work but just for fun, to learn about how the system works (and if Apple really manages to break its neck and we all have to look for a new home, I'll be prepared). So here's a quick and dirty rundown on the distros:

1. Yellow Dog: that was my first attempt at linux on a Mac. It's good to have a distro that is so totally targeted at Macs. But YDL packages tend to be severely out of date (this may have changed with the 4.0 release, though). There is no community to speak of, so if you have problems, you're basically on your own. If you like the idea of installing a Redhat-based system, you might as well go for

2. Fedora Core 4. You'll have to download 4 or even 5 CD images. Installation was very straightforward, hardware detection worked wonderfully. I was very impressed how well everything worked - but the rpm system is a disaster. Fedora offers 3 methods to upgrade things; I could not get one of them to work. There's a lack of really good, structured documentation, but since many problems will not be ppc-specific, but general fedora linux problems, there's a large user base.

3. Ubuntu: If you want something that "just works"(TM), try Ubuntu. The installation process is very clean and easy, and on my system, most hardware was detected right away. After a reboot, everything came up and functioned wonderfully. Again, some packages will be out of date, and if I haven't missed anything, you're basically stuck with the status of the release you installed, there's no real upgrade feature, so you'll have to wait for the next release. There's a pretty good forum with a lively community.

4. Gentoo: This is not for the faint of heart. It took me a couple of days to just get my first installation to boot - you have to configure and compile everything yourself, including the kernel, and I found the amount of choices a bit overwhelming. Gentoo is, AFAIK, the only linux distro that has a fully working 64-bit version, that's why it's running on my G5. Once the system is installed, the upgrade procedure (portage) is just amazing, and if you're willing to run "development" stuff, you'll have a bleeding edge system. Since you have to compile every package yourself (or since portage compiles everything for you), remember to upgrade on a regular schedule, or you'll end up with an install fest that may take several days. You'll inevitably run into trouble every now and then with packages that won't compile, but gentoo has a great user base and amazing forums, so you always find help.

You should know that some hardware still isn't supported by any linux distro: airport extreme won't work, sound on the G5 won't work (it may work very soon), and if you want to mirror your display to an external source, that may be very difficult or plain not work. Hope this can help you a bit. Have fun installing linux on your Mac!
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Old 06-13-2005, 12:52 AM   #10
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Apt is available for fedora/suse/etc.
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Old 06-13-2005, 01:13 PM   #11
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I decided on Ubuntu as well... I found it was a nice "flavor" to start with since I don't yet have the know how to compile as you would with Gentoo, or the patience to download the other two ones... And the bonus of having a bootable CD is very practical.
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