For around 1,200 U.S. dollars, you can run Linux/PPC with
the X Window System on Apple’s iMac computer system.
By Dave Whitinger
Chris Shepherd brought home a shiny new iMac on the afternoon of
Thursday, January 21st, 1999 with the sole intention of using it as
a Linux workstation. The next day he took it to work, put it on a
network with a T1, and had Linux/PPC running on it.
The installation was much like the Intel install — set up
partitions, download the booter, kernel, and ramdisk, boot the
Linux kernel, and run the Red Hat installer. It was over in about
10 minutes, and he had a complete Linux installation, with a few
limitations: It only had 8-bit color, and no sound.
By using some of the latest
available kernel patches and the latest version of BootX (the
Mac equivalent of LILO for Intels), he had the ability to use
32-bit color and play 8KHz .au files through /dev/audio by
Using BootX, he is able to choose between MacOS 8.5.1 and
Linux/PPC at boot-time. The two co-exist pretty well, and a MacOS
extension called MountX allows mounting ext2fs partitions from
MacOS, while Linux (of course) can conversely mount Mac HFS
Currently, he uses the AfterStep window manager, although the
KDE that comes with Linux/PPC’s R4 distribution is very intuitive
and very stable.
The performance is great, roughly on par with a Pentium II/266.
The iMac ships with an IDE hard drive and 32 megs of RAM, which he
did find to be problematic when running Netscape and GIMP
simultaneously. He suggests upgrading to 64 or 128 megs of RAM to
prevent swapping to the IDE disk.
Chris is working to aid in the Linux/PPC efforts for iMac
installation. Users who have a stock iMac and are willing to
install Linux as a test can find the kernel and extra support from
iMac, now available for U.S. $1199, includes a
Pentium-toasting 266MHz PowerPC G3 processor, 32MB SDRAM, 6GB hard
disk drive, 24x CD-ROM drive, built-in 56K modem, 10/100Base-Tx
Ethernet, two built-in 12Mbps Universal Serial Bus ports and more
— plus Mac OS 8.5.1 and a ton of great software.