This is a brief description of how I installed Linux on
an Apple iBook (May 2001).
In oder to understand this ddescription you will require some basic
knowledge of Linux commands, the usual editors and installation procedures.
Before you start with your installation,
there a a couple of things you have to decide
about: the Linux distribution, the installation process, the kernel, etc.
I will not elaborate different possibilities but just describe what I did
and the problems I encountered. Whatever you do, you will probably
run into your own, very peculiar problems because your iBook is not the same
as mine or this website does not refer to current file versions anymore.
Just take this document as a kind
of guideline through the whole process and make your own experiences.
Drop me an email if this text was useful to you.
Ingo Naumann, May-June 2006
Here is what I want to install and how:
Linux distribution: Debian
Installation method: network installation
This requires a broadband internet connection. I will assume for the
rest of this document that your iBook is connected to somebody
who provides an IP address via DHCP (e.g. a router).
Dual boot: yes
This means I kept, or rather reinstalled, my old Mac OS v10.1 and
installed a boot loader (yaboot).
Step 1: Backup
No further comment on that.
Step 2: Linux LiveCD
A Linux LiveCD might come in handy. Since my machine only has 128MB RAM, I prefer the
Finnix distribution. Another option I tried is
the LiveCD (PowerMac!) from Ubuntu. By the way,
if you are looking for an easy solution rather than installing "pure" Debian, you might
want to install Ubuntu on your iBook anyway. Choose the "Alternate Install CD" if
your system does not have enough memory.
You find a list of other distributions here.
Start your iBook with Mac OS X (it still works, does it?) and
download the following four files from
Amendment: It seems that the above link is broken, so you have to work around this step. Try to download
the yaboot software from this page and the images from the Debian site.
Sorry for the inconvenience.
Copy the files into your Mac OS X root directory (/).
This requires root user privileges. (Need
Step 4: Hard disc partitions
Reboot your iBook and press "alt","Apple","o" and "f" at once after
hearing the start sound. You have never seen that screen on your iBook
before, haven't you?
However, welcome to OpenFirmware ("o" + "f")!
The next step is to start the boot manager with the following command:
Since your hard drive might be partitioned in a different way,
try to replace the "5" with the number of your main data partition
(probably 5 or greater - just give it a try).
Having done that, choose the installation kernel by typing
"install" or "install-safe", at least one of
them should work. You will then enter the Debian installation
menu, I assume that you are familiar with it already. Follow the
installation steps until you reach the fdisk menu (mac-fdisk)
which allows you to modify the partition table.
Keep all the funny little Mac partitions and only delete the big
Apple_HFS partition. Create four new partions: A new Mac
partition, a linux swap partition (e.g. 500 MB), a linux partition
and a linux home partition. To learn more about Debian hard drive
partitioning on PowerPCs,
After leaving the installation procedure check the file
/target/etc/yaboot.conf: "boot" should link to your
is the link to ofboot.b ok?
Here you will find another example of a yaboot.conf.
If everything is fine, initialize the bootstrap partition with the command
mkofboot -v -C /target/etc/yaboot.conf
and -- reboot!
Optional step: Network install from a minimal CD
If the last step does not succeed or if you -for whatever reason- want to restart
the installer you may want to download
a so-called "netinst" CD from the Debian website. Burn the CD, restart the computer
pressing "c" (or choose "c" in the menu) and follow the instructions.
You usually do not have to
do the whole partitioning thing again.
Step 5: KDE
Here is an example of a
XF86Config-4, located in /etc/X11/. I had to perform the changes manually
since the configuration tool did not work properly. I recommend trying
the configuration tool first and if it doesn't work, have a look
at the changes and comments in my XF86Config-4 file. You can choose the
default values in most cases. Set the value for horizontal sync to be
59-63 and vertical refresh to be 43-75. Use "/dev/input/mice" as mouse