Xubuntu on an iBook (nope…)

Update: Well, I thought I had it working, but after several failed boots I gave up and installed Fedora 8 instead. It worked right out of the box, with the exception of the tap-click thing, right-click emulation, and the eject button. Not too bad.

I’ve got an old 12 inch dual-USB iBook that’s been running various flavors of Linux, most recently Fedora 7. That was working fine, but it seemed a little slow. Rather than upgrade to Fedora 8, I decided to try something allegedly better for older hardware. Xubuntu, a derivative of Ubuntu using the Xfce desktop environment, is supposed to be lighter-weight and faster. This is my little story about getting it running.

The first thing it to get an install image to burn to a CD or DVD. It turns out that PPC is no longer an officially-supported architecture at Ubuntu, and apparently at Xubuntu too. So, when you go go get Xubuntu, there are only i386 and amd64, no PPC. If you search for “ubuntu ppc,” you’ll eventually end up at this Ubuntu & Apple forum, where a lot of clicking may lead you to this Xubuntu 7.10 download page. If you’re reading this sometime in the future, maybe you’d want to click up the directory tree to get to a different release. So, install image in hand, I got started.

I already had Fedora on the iBook, so I didn’t need to do any of the initial prep stuff. I also removed OS X long ago, so didn’t need to worry about dual-booting. I had a separate /home partition, so could easily keep my data intact. So, I booted up the install CD and…nothing. Just a blank, black screen after some boot stuff. Back at the Ubuntu forum I found this list of PPC known issues. I guess that’s a drawback of using something that’s not officially supported – it might be broken. So, I followed the instructions at the known issues page. Reading it now, it seems clear, but it took me a few tries. Here are the steps:

  1. Boot up the install disc, which should involve pressing c at a prompt if you have Yaboot installed.
  2. At the second prompt, type in one of the kernel names (hit tab for a list), followed by break=top. The break=top should dump you to a command line thing – maybe try another kernel if not?
  3. At the prompt, you need to load the ide modules so your drives will work. Type modprobe ide-core (or is it idecore, or ide-disk?), hit enter, then exit and enter again to resume booting.
  4. The Live Installer should boot up. It’s possible to try out Xubuntu right from the CD – no need to install if you think it sucks, pretty neato. After the install, it won’t boot up though, for the same reason as earlier. So, do the same process again.
  5. You could go through that every time, but there’s a better way. Edit /etc/initramfs-tools/modules using your favorite editor and sudo, adding ide-core on a line. To make that stick, you’ll need to run sudo update-initramfs -u.
  6. Reboot to find out if it worked.

So, the downside has been that it wasn’t easy to install. On the plus side, all my hardware works, including the internal AirPort card. The trackpad was set to notap by default, and the eject/F12 button is set to right-click, which I prefer. It seems more responsive that my Fedora install was, but I probably could have managed that with some intelligent package selection.

Avatar photo

By isaac

I like cats. he/him