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November 2001



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Review: Mandrake Linux 8.0 PPC

by David Ozab,


Developer: Linux-Mandrake

Price: free download or $20 incl. shipping for a two-CD set

Requirements: PowerPC-based Mac, 96 MB of RAM, 2 GB HD

Recommended: G3-based Mac

Give Your Old Mac New Life

The move by Apple to Mac OS X is leaving many feeling left behind. Perhaps you have a pre-G3 Power Mac which won’t run it at all. Or you own an older G3 or iMac (I have a G3 350) and you worry about all of Aqua’s glitz and glamour slowing your computer to a crawl. Or you just aren’t ready to shell out $130 for a new operating system when you know you’ll be spending most of your time in OS 9. Thankfully there’s another way to experience a Unix-based OS with a mostly intuitive GUI, and best of all it’s free. With Mandrake, you can follow countless geeks and geek wannabes into the world of Linux.

My first experience with Linux was last year, when I agreed to baby-sit a PC for a friend who moved to Boston (I’ve since adopted it with his blessing). He had installed Mandrake Linux 7.2 before leaving it with me, and I quickly learned the first rule of installing Linux: “You will probably have to reinstall Linux.” The computer booted up just fine, but wouldn’t recognize either the keyboard or the mouse. My only option was to reinstall, and I’m glad I did because it taught me lessons that would make installing Mandrake PPC less of a headache. Don’t get me wrong, Mandrake’s reputation as the easiest Linux distribution to install is well deserved, which is the principal reason I waited for their PowerPC version before attempting to install Linux on my Mac.


Chances are, Linux will be sharing your computer with the Mac OS. In order to set this up, you will need to pre-partition your hard drive. This may involve reformatting, so make sure your drive is backed up first. Set up one partition for the Mac OS (either HFS or HFS+ format) and leave the other unformatted. Divide your disk space wisely; changing the size of the partitions later may require reformatting and reinstalling. Finally, reinstall the Mac OS (if you had to reformat) and restore your data before installing Linux.


Following the example set by LinuxPPC, Mandrake can now be installed from a CD (previous versions required making a boot floppy). Start by loading the Installation CD; the installation instructions can be found in the “doc” folder. I recommend printing these for reference before rebooting from the CD drive (by holding down “c” upon restart). You should see:

Welcome to Mandrake Linux PPC!

followed by a prompt. Hit the Tab key and you’ll see a variety of options, including “install-text” for a text-based installation, “install-video” for a graphical installation, “install-net” for a NetBoot graphical install, and “rescue” to go into text-based rescue mode. Most Mac users like graphics, so you’ll probably want “install-video.” The installer will now run and guide you step by step through the process.

Most of the instructions are fairly straightforward, but again, don’t be surprised if it doesn’t work the first time. In my case, it took three attempts to get legible video on my monitor (the first two times, I just got jagged, multi-colored, diagonal lines). As I reinstalled, I paid close attention to the options I had previously selected, and on the third try I found the problem. I had chosen Xfree as the graphical user interface (as recommended in the instructions) the first two times. On the third try, I chose Xpmac instead, and my video problem was solved.

Hardware Compatibility

Even when Linux is running, it probably won’t run 100% smoothly. One consistent problem I’ve had with Linux is sound card recognition. On my PC, the problem was an old soundcard that needed an older driver installed. On my G3, the problem was a fairly new soundcard (a Midiman 2496). I also don’t have a Caps Lock key at the moment; again, a minor problem that I’ll get around to troubleshooting when I have the time.

Running Linux with KDE

Your computer should now be split into Mac and Linux partitions. When you start up, you’ll hear the familiar startup chime, but then, instead of the happy Mac face, you’ll get the following options:

l for GNU/Linux
m for Mac OS
c for CD-ROM
o for Open Firmware

Choose Linux. After the OS loads, you’ll be presented with a login screen asking for your user name, password, and the X Window Program you’d like to run (if you had preset these choices during installation, you’ll bypass this step). Let’s start out with KDE.


The KDE Desktop (adjusted)

Looks kind of familiar, doesn’t it? Admittedly, I spent some time adjusting the settings to make them more Mac-like, and I had to move the icons to the “right” side of the screen. All these adjustments can be made within the KDE Control Center.

The open window demonstrates Konqueror, the KDE file browser. Note the combination of icon view and tree structure within the same window. You can drag and drop files from the tree to the icon window and vice versa, or you can split the icon view into multiple panels, then drag files between them. Konqueror also doubles as a lean and reasonably functional Web browser as an alternative to the feature-rich but bulky Mozilla.

At the bottom of the window is the Panel (KDE’s taskbar). Again, I’ve made some adjustments, adding an icon for Emacs (the classic GNU text editor) and XKill (which lets you stop processes that get stuck in a loop with a click of the mouse). I’ve also cleared some redundant icons off the desktop (mainly Mandrake’s bookmarks, which are also available in the Konqueror window and the Bookmarks menu).

KDE’s greatest strength is interface consistency. As with the Mac OS, all KDE applications conform to the same basic design (and Mandrake comes with a large selection of apps). This consistency comes at a price, though, namely the once-commercial Qt Development Library. If you consider yourself an Open Source purist, then perhaps you should try GNOME.


The GNOME Desktop featuring Nautilus


Those of you familiar with GNOME from its earlier incarnations in LinuxPPC, RedHat, and Mandrake 7 may now take a moment to get over the shock. It looks really different, doesn’t it? Well, that’s thanks to Eazel, a group of former Apple programmers from the original Macintosh project who set out to redefine the Linux desktop. Sadly, the Eazel project fell victim to last year’s tech slowdown, but they left GNOME with a new file browser named Nautilus.

Or Is It Gnautilus?

Taking over the functional yet plain GNOME File Manager, Nautilus brings a little slickness to the Linux desktop. It shares many features with Konqueror, which in turn shares many features from the older GNOME File Browser. Ultimately, it’s a matter of taste, and you can bring back the simple, classic, and totally geeky GNOME look quite easily.


Good ol’ GNOME

Therein lies the flexibility of Linux. You can use the full KDE package, the full GNOME package, or pick your favorites from each. There is nothing preventing a GNOME application from running in KDE or vice versa. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can install and try out one of the other included X-Window programs.

Installing Software

One of the biggest improvements in Mandrake 8 is the new Software Manager (a significant update of Mandrake 7’s RPMdrake). Along with KDE’s Package Manager (formerly Kpackage) and GNOME’s GnoRPM, Software Manager is a tool for opening RedHat Package Modules (RPMs), a one-click install method developed by RedHat that is much easier than the traditional method of unpacking tarballs (for those of you unfamiliar with Unix’s tar files, let’s just say that opening a tarball is about as fun as opening an actual ball of tar).


The Software Manager

You can either view packages by category (i.e. “Multimedia”) or look up a specific application in a list (i.e. emacs or ssh). Once you find what you’re looking for, select Install. Software Manager keeps track of which CD a package is stored on and will request it if it isn’t in the drive. Software Manager also keeps track of dependent files and will give you the opportunity to install them with one click, rather than having to look through the list of packages for them.


Package Dependency Alert

You can also use Software Manager to remove unwanted applications, leaving more room for the stuff you want to install.


What’s Unix without a terminal? Maybe OS X to an iMac user, but it sure isn’t Linux. There are a number of terminal emulators to choose from, each of which will bring the command line back into your GUI world.


KDE’s Konsole Running Shell

Here I’ve launched Shell (a terminal emulator), and used a secure protocol called ssh to log remotely into my University account. Looks like I have new mail. From here I can launch a mail program (i.e. pine) and read and send mail. Or I can use a terminal to manage my files, or unpack the aforementioned tarballs (sometimes you have no other option), or run terminal-based applications, including those I might create and compile myself. (The Mandrake CDs come packed with compilers.)

In general, I prefer the ease and intuitiveness of a well-designed GUI, but there are times when a command line is indispensable. Once you learn how to use it, you’ll wonder how you ever managed without it. I can guarantee that when you do run OS X, you’ll spend some time in a shell there too.

Are You Ready To Try It?

As easy as Mandrake Linux PPC is in comparison to previous versions, it’s nowhere near as easy as the Mac OS. So you can’t just be the kind of person who uses a computer for what it can do; you have to be into the idea of tinkering for its own sake, and you have to have the time for a hobby. If that’s you, then what are you waiting for? Give Mandrake Linux PPC a go, and you might just give an old Mac a new lease on life.

Reader Comments (30)

Alexandre Gonçalves Jacarandá · February 1, 2002 - 09:41 EST #1
I've installed LinuxPPC in my iMac 233. I enjoy it very much, but I don't have support any more and I'll download MandrakePPC because I like this distribution.
Lit · March 2, 2002 - 22:21 EST #2
I loved Mandrake on x86 boxes, so I decided to try it with my old Mac. For some reason though, the CD refuses to boot. Holding C does nothing. Gah!
Paul · March 25, 2002 - 03:18 EST #3
Old world can't boot from the CD
Justin · March 28, 2002 - 00:42 EST #4
I am liking this distribution a great deal! I installed YellowDog originally on my iMac but was not happy with the distribution. Last night, I finally got around to blowing away YDL and installing Mandrake 8.0. What a difference! I think that Mandrake has the best application installer of any distribution.
Vin · April 4, 2002 - 00:04 EST #5
So if old world won't boot from the CD, how can we install it?

I have nothing on the drive.

Please help.
Hubert Legge · May 10, 2002 - 12:21 EST #6
I can't boot from a CD on an iMac. I have tried holding down the C key, tried going into the firmware and using boot cd:\\yaboot, boot cd2,:\\tdxi and cd2,:\\yaboot. Nothing has worked. I'm very keen to get this working after using Linux on PCs for several years now.

Any other possible methods to try would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
anonymous · May 10, 2002 - 14:43 EST #7

  1. Boot normally with Mac OS.

  2. Mount the CD

  3. Copy the images to the hard drive

  4. Reboot with the Mac OS CD in the drive

  5. Run the image that is on the hard drive

I have not tried it, but a buddy told me this would work.
Shane · May 16, 2002 - 21:35 EST #8
Greetings. I, too, am having trouble booting from a Mandrake 8.2 PPC CD on a PowerBook Pismo. Any solution would be greatly appreciated.
John Humphrey · June 11, 2002 - 23:58 EST #9
On older Macs, I sometimes found that having the CD in the tray and then booting with Command + Option + Shift + Delete would work.
Matt · July 13, 2002 - 23:57 EST #10
To those who cannot boot from the CD, try zapping the PRAM. Hold down Command+Option+P+R during startup, let the computer 'bong' 2-3 times, then let go to restart. Then try booting from the CD.
Matt · July 16, 2002 - 10:24 EST #11
Bong? No, that is not what i said, and it should only "bong" as it now says twice.
Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · July 16, 2002 - 21:06 EST #12
Matt - ATPM has a staff (me) who oversees comments—editing ones with awful spelling/grammer and deleting ones that are completely inappropriate. I chose to clarify your comment by indicating that when you hold down Command+Option+P+R, you'll hear the system chime (sometimes referred to as a 'bong' sound). Common advice by those who consider themselves Mac experts suggests that you should keep those keys held down and let the 'bong' sound chime 2-3 times before letting go.

My apologies if this edit rubbed you the wrong way.
Paul · August 22, 2002 - 14:46 EST #13
I have a PowerMac 8500, upgraded to a 400MHz G3. Which would be better to use, Mandrake or Yellow Dog, and why? Can anyone point me to a published comparison?

Philip · August 28, 2002 - 12:24 EST #14
I burnt and image of Mandrake Linux in HFS format from an ISO that I found on that is semi-readable on a PC, but it locks up my Mac after it boots into Mac OS. I'm a die-hard IBM PC user but a lover of linux.

I have a Mac 7500/100 and still don't know what OS version. I got a different distribution of LinuxPPC to boot from the CD but I can't get it to install.

What is BootX? What is Yaboot? Holding down C worked for me with the LinuxPPC CD but not with the Mandrake CD. If I buy a CD, will it work?
Wasin · September 21, 2002 - 12:05 EST #15
I have a G4 733MHz with a GeForce 2 MX card. I tried to install Mandrake Linux and it doesn't work. The video option (install-riva) doesn't work with mine. What should I do?
Salvador Galileo · October 24, 2002 - 10:43 EST #16
I had just installed the Mandrake v8, but the display appears unfaced. In the middle of the display, it shows the task bar and I don't know what I can do. My machine is an iBook 300 MHz with 64mb of RAM.
Dan Durgin · November 27, 2002 - 14:26 EST #17
I helped my Mac friend put Mandrake PPC on his 9500. After a lot of problems, I got the thing working...everything but the sound card and the ADB keyboard. The sound card I can figure out later, but I need a functioning keyboard. It will type normally in command line when xServer is not running, but in KDE, the "S" key comes out as "O." All the other keys are jumbled, too. Does anyone know how to fix this?
Mattnh · January 2, 2003 - 15:42 EST #18
I just can't get Mandrake 8.2 PPC to work with the video card in my QuickSilver G4 733MHz. Any ideas? The fbdev and such do not work...only install-failsafe video=ofonly and that sucks. I'm not the only one (see Wasin).
Martyn · July 13, 2003 - 13:41 EST #19
I have a Umax 603e 180MHz system and I'm trying to install anything on it other than Mac OS. I know that the SCSI CD-ROM works because I have tested it on x86 platforms and it worked the first time. However, I can't get the Umax to boot from the CD-ROM at all. Perhaps if I format the hard disk in one of my x86 machines, the system will be intelligent enough to realize that the system is in need of a new OS and then I can trick it into booting from the CD-ROM.

Failing that, I guess that I will reluctantly have to remove the SCSI CD-ROM and take a sledgehammer to the entire system for being so stupid and pissing me off so badly.

Actually, I just read something that has put me off installing Linux on this system:

It looks like my Umax system will have to be introduced to Mr. Sledgehammer anyway Damn shame! For a minute, I thought that you could use Macs for something useful.
Luis Audelo · November 6, 2003 - 14:48 EST #20
I want to install Mandrake Linux PPC 9.1 on an iMac, but I want only Linux--not Mac OS and Linux. How can I do this?
Chris Lawson (ATPM Staff) · November 25, 2003 - 00:50 EST #21
You cannot have a Mac that doesn't run Mac OS, as far as I know. The Linux bootloader must be run as a Mac OS application at least the first time it's used, which makes it impossible to completely remove the Mac OS from the system.

Mind if I ask why you want to completely eradicate Mac OS from the machine?

anonymous · December 12, 2003 - 20:14 EST #22
Hey Martyn:
Have you noticed that the article you reference to state that Linux on ppc is imposible referes to old world ppc and from the sounds of it, the person may have tried to instal New world versions?

From te article:
"The question I pose to you, my savvy friends, is whether I'm totally out of my depth and out of luck, or has anyone pulled off installing any type of Linux distribution on an OldWorld PPC as old as mine?"

So does that mean I should not try Linux on my dated 400mhz New World imac? NO!
Trinity · February 1, 2004 - 16:52 EST #23
I got Mandrake-ppc 9.1 working on my lime 400mhz G3 imac (new world) with yaboot. The default install installs one of the the mdk kernels. I suffered consistent system freezes with this kernel untill I installed the benh kernel from the CD. It's incredibly reliable now.
Really there should be more info as to what kernels are suited for what macs!
A few minor problems (presumbly unconsequential from what I'm told), I get is mouse and keyb modules are not found but they work fine (modeprob). Presumably, these sometimes show up as a problem (on startup) 'cause of how the benh and the regular mandrake kernel have these modules. Apparently one has them built in while the other doesn't and this leads to this report during startup in verbose mode. The other "problem", although I haven't seen any evidence of a problem, is that the saslauthd sometimes doesn't load up. I've seen two reports, "Invalid ELF header" and "undefined symbol". I've been told that building the benh kernel will not improve upon this and that I should disable the saslauthd.

As for the person wanting a comparison between YDL 3.0.1 and mandrake-9.1. I've tried both distros repeatedly. YDL didn't let me boot OSX after installing YDL untill the third install. Yes, OSX did boot before YDL was installed. My palm 125 didn't work (and I went at it for hrs with irc help [I tried both pilot-link and Kpilot clients]) nor did my Epson color Stylus 670 printer. Graphical log-in was a black screen. I had to reinstall it and stipulate a text login and perform startx to start up X, and sync and then halt -h commands to shut down manually (or reboot). Both things I was not made aware of or else I wouldn't of even wasted my time.

Despite the saslauthd thing, Mandrake-ppc is great on my imac. My Palm works great, although KOrganizer that is very slow. My printer works. I haven't tried setting up my externel USB burner yet with xcdroast yet though. Xine for some reason quits on startup but then again YDL dosen't even come with it if I remember (makes you wonder why they left it out). In responce to this, I was told to use MOL, which doesn't even come as default (YDL). Mandrake comes with it. In YDL's defence, yum seems so much less daunting than Mandrake's command line install, but Mandrake provides easy to use graphical way of intalling and upgrading, something I don't recall finding on YDL 3.0.1.

One thing that Mandrake-ppc 9.1 bugs me is that it didn't recognize my sound card so I have no sound. I'm working on that.

As for Mandrake-ppc not being a serious project, I don't see any evedence of that, although I don't like that there is no 9.2 ppc version while there is one for intel people. From what I've seen Mandrake's help articles quite often take into consideration ppc differences and provide alternative procedures.

Overall YDL seems slimmer compared to Mandrake-ppc but less daunting to install apps using yum. While, Mandrake has been accused of having evrything but the kitchen sink, I like the latter. You can fine tune what you install to some extent during install.

Over all Mandrake-ppc 9.1 was the way to go for me.

If someone could help me with setting up the sound card that comes on the lime G3 400mhz imac, I would appreciate it. Maybe getting KOrganizer to work faster and settingup a lassie 52-24-52 CD burner (supposed to be supported).
Clion · April 3, 2004 - 00:48 EST #24
I attempted to boot from the CD by holding the Command+Option+P+R keys as another user recommended. I waited for my Mac to 'bong' three times and attempted a CD boot by holding down the C key. The 'Folder ?" appeared as though my Mac was looking for something to boot from. My Mac did boot, but into OSX.

What I am doing wrong?

Lee Bennett (ATPM Staff) · April 3, 2004 - 18:30 EST #25
Clion - Comand-Option-P-R is for resetting PRAM and I don't imagine it will have any bearing on whether or not you can boot from a CD. Are you certain the CD is one that can be booted from? Try booting normally then going into the Startup Disk preference pane. Does a valid System show up for the CD in that preference window?
Mac Deniefe · August 19, 2004 - 01:55 EST #26
I have installed several linux's on mac but the best and hardest is debian. Debian will work with old world and new world machines. Unfortunately macs are 2nd class citizens when it comes to linux distros. Most are not up to date compared to what is available to pcs. Still if you are up for the challenge of debian's installer (very difficult) and the administration once install is complete you will have a really strong linux system on your mac. I'm posting this in case anyone is still searching for a mac distro. Debian works!! It's painful to get installed and working right but it works!
grab jab · August 25, 2005 - 19:54 EST #27
what is old world and new world
mogthemoogle · December 3, 2005 - 21:32 EST #28
Old world is before g3s and new world is g3 and above
Bruno · February 21, 2006 - 16:01 EST #29
New comer to pengouins, I got stuck on installing Debian on a 4400 (603ev 160MHz), old word mac. The video display or the video card could not be validated by the X-Window installer. Tried many configurations. Abandoned. I am thinking on switching to Mandrake. Version 8.0 : it seems that it will be hard to have its CDROM booted ! What about version 9.1? There it seems that 9.1 is not good either for old word macs......

Any idea ? fro my 4400
Bruno · February 22, 2006 - 00:37 EST #30
The same answering to himself. I found a contrib where it seems that 9.1 is suitable for old mac cdrom initial boot.

I am going to try this.

What about version 10.1 ?

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