Recycled Computing

Getting Xubuntu Linux Up and Running on Your Aging Mac

- 2008.06.04

I want to begin by saying that what I love about the Mac experienceis its operating system. Just the iTunes application is worth the priceof admission. (A built in database for your music collection -brilliant!) And I don't know how many times I've looked at some neatultraportable and said - "That would be really neat, except you wouldhave to use Windows." And that takes it right off the table.

However, occasionally I am given a piece of Windows hardware. Itusually doesn't work, and it's owner has moved on to another computer.I play with it for a while and then run back to the comfort ofcomputing with my Macs. But I can't help but wonder what it would belike to use some of the ultraportable computers in the PC market with adecent operating system.

In short, I began to think about Linux. And in between adding my analog records and cassette tapesto my iTunes library, I decided to have a little fun. By a little fun,I mean putting a third operating system on the mighty Pismo.

I know that there is some collective groaning out there. When youcan run Mac OS X 10.4.11 (Tiger) or 9.2.1, why would you needsomething else? As my boss said, when you have the best OS, why fiddlewith things?

But it's mainly 'cause I can, I replied. Besides, the world of Macis moving on, and I can't run Leopard on my Pismo unless I put in a G4processor. I can't replace the video card, and I already have to turnthe video display down to thousands of colors to run Cover Flow iniTunes. Zounds!

You can see that Steverino and the boys at Cupertino are marching tothe beat of the Intel chip and are going to leave PowerPC in therearview. What am I going to do when the Mac OS abandons me and I stillwant to use the trusty Pismo?

What I need is a new operating system that is slim, trim, and stillviable.

I know that I am thinking way, way ahead, but what the heck.

If you're familiar with Linux and know all about the KDE and Gnomesystems and the many various flavors that Linux comes in, feel free toignore my ignorant ramblings. Linux is an Open Source operating system,and it started as a sort of bare bones platform. KDE and Gnome startedas efforts to add some GUI polish to Linux.

Ubuntu Linux got my attentionas a version of Linux that can be installed on PowerPC Macs. Mr. Mike, ourhardware guru, recommended that I try Xubuntu, a version of Ubuntu that isbased on the Xkce system that is sort of a bare bones edition of Linux,which might be good for putting on my G3 Pismo. Mike ripped me a copyof Xubuntu, and I tried to install it.

Making It Work

Linux wants a different type of hard drive partition than the HFS+format that Macs use. After several misguided attempts to adjust myhard drive while running from the Xubuntu CD, I finally cloned myOS X system to my backup hard drive. I then repartitioned thePismo's drive. I had Disc Utility put OS X in the first partitionand left an area for "Free Space". According to Mike, Linux knows whatto do with "Free Space".

With my hard drive ready, I cloned my OS X system back from mybackup (thank you, Carbon Copy Cloner) andthen booted up the Pismo with the Xubuntu CD. Installation worked.However, when I went to boot up Xubuntu, I kept getting an input/outputerror. Much geek head shaking went on.

I took home a copy of Ubuntu to see if that would install. Over theweekend, while one of my sons visited Barnes and Nobles (yes, teenagerswho like books still exist), I looked over some of the Ubuntu books inthe computer section. Since most Linux users are converting fromWindows (I wonder why?), the books I skimmed had little to no advicefor Mac users. However, I did find some help in a text that recommendedI install the Free Space first and then install the Mac OS X next.This makes sense, in that the Linux bootstrapper will be first in line.Zounds!

I had to reclone and repartition and reinstall, but in the end itworked. I now have a PowerBook that uses Mac OS 9, OS X andXubuntu. It is a triple boot machine!

Now I have to figure out how to make Xubuntu work. I'll report back. LEM

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