Ubuntu 6.06 on 1.6 GHz PowerMac G5 (part 2)

Well, I finally got to a point where my OSX installation wasn’t doing a lot of work for me. As I have said in earlier posts, I have an Ubuntu 6.06 disc (see part 1) and a good friend with cable internet downloaded all of the Yellow Dog 4.1 discs for me after my failed attempt over dsl.

I have booted from the Ubuntu cd before, but was disappointed with the screen resolution topping out at 1024 x 840px. That wasn’t acceptable. So I started with Yellow Dog. Yellow Dog specifically makes Linux for PowerPC processors. With that in mind, I figured the video hardware they needed to support would be a fairly short list. They should be able to keep track of the very few video cards that Apple uses right? I guess they support other PowerPC computers, but for the general consumers Apple Computers and Microsoft’s Xbox are pretty much the only available PowerPCs on the market.

For starters I used the OSX install disc to boot and used the Disk Utility from there to erase my current 74GB OSX partition (along with some files I forgot to back up) and set a new OSX partition at 20GB while leaving the rest of the disk empty. I set the OSX partition at the end of the disk since I intended to install Linux on the front. I can’t say if the partition order really matters.

I installed OSX in its new 20GB home. I then booted from the Yellow Dog 4 disk. Anyone familiar with RedHat will find YD’s Anaconda installer pretty much unchanged. It is a great installation experience and definitely gives you confidence that this will work :). I think I did a ‘Workstation’ install, but after I did some manual editing of the application list, that might have all gone to hell. The installation went fine and on rebooting I had a boot option for OSX. Very easy and straight forward.

Problem number 1: Screen Resolution
I don’t understand the difficulty here, since my G5 is already two years old, supporting the hardware shouldn’t be difficult. However, the 1024px cap that I experienced in Ubuntu was there in YD. I attempted to alter the resolution from the ‘Display Resolution’ application as well as altering /etc/X11/xorg.conf but to no avail. I successfully changed the setting at one point only to find myself without a display. So it wasn’t really successful. Fortunately, I remembered the Control-Alt-Backspace feature for restarting X11 and it walked me through correcting the problem. So back to 1024. πŸ™

Problem number 2: Dual Monitor/Head Support
At that point I had also discovered YD’s ‘Display Resolution’ had a tab for dual-head or dual-screen set up. That’s pretty cool and definitely looks as simple to manage as OSX’s. Unfortunately, it didn’t jive well with the fact that my single video card had the ability to output two displays. In the error log I noticed an error stating that it was sending the data to a device already in use. So, it is likely that with two physically separate video cards this would be a snap. Alas, but not for me. πŸ™

Problem Number 3: I Hate RedHat and RPMs
Looking at my brand-spanking-new desktop was not inspiring. I was starting to remember why I had a bland response to my initial Linux install all the way back two years ago: RedHat’s main menues are sloppy and confusing and the RPM system sucks if you don’t know where to get dependencies (this state of mind is called ‘Dependency Hell’ for any of you that are newer to this than me). I realize that I can customize the menu, but I don’t want to do that and there are so many applications that seem to have similar names or would do similar things that it just doesn’t seem worth it. When I first used XFCE I was amazed how the makers took the time to group all of the System Setting applications into one dialog box. What a novel idea! KDE should get some credit for that as well, but KDE just isn’t quite my cup of tea. XFCE, for all of its limitations and faults, is a great desktop environment for people coming over from Windows and OSX. I think XFCE has even out simplified Apple. But anyway, RedHat’s implimentation of Gnome is simply revolting. Ubuntu has them beat with a much more organized menu from the start. I think the way Synaptic makes installing applications easy is the other important feature. Not much learning required. And so, Yellow Dog failed to meet my expectations. πŸ™

My next move was to install Ubuntu instead and see how the dice rolled. I had already screwed my OSX installation, I might as well try everything now. I started from scratch, erasing the whole disk and reinstalling OSX. Why? Because OSX, though it shows you one nice and simple partition, is actually creating two or 3 small partitions additionally that contain boot instructions for OSX (the equivalent of a Master Boot Record, I assume). From what I understand, the linux distros have to write to one of these specific partitions in order to alter the boot options. Actually, I did initially try to install Ubuntu right over the YD 4, but when it came time to reboot I did not see the boot option text. It booted straight into Ubuntu. No OSX. So, I went back and started from the beginning.

This is getting long, so I will finish up in a PART 3 soon.

Yellow Dog Linux on G5 1.6GHz

I finally decided to go all-Linux and downloaded all 4 Yellow Dog 4.1 iso files this weekend. If I’m going to put Linux on the G5, it might as well be the most Apple-hardware specific type of Linux. I even have fantasies of checking out Compiz since all the rest of my hardware is so old and pathetic. Having Linux on my desktop as well as my laptop will allow me to move between the two of them more easily.

I can’t believe it, but I’m even starting to dislike working in OSX. It’s the little things. Does anybody know of a way to download one specific photo off of a camera using iPhoto? I don’t. The other day I was taking a pic off of my brother’s camera and I ended up spending 15 minutes downloading all 162 pictures. GTKam is so much more intuitive. More and more I am getting the feeling that OSX caters to the ‘For Idiots’ crowd. Not that they’re idiots, but they certainly don’t want to know very much about how their computer works or how and where it saves their data.

Okay, so it’s not really all that bad. Maybe I’m being way to subjective. Sometimes I wonder if I would have ever learned anything about Linux if I had bought a PowerBook instead of a G5 tower. Oh well. So I’m starting to prefer Linux over OSX. I’m still telling people that they should buy a Mac if they don’t want to worry about viruses. So I haven’t turned away entirely. Back to Yellow Dog:

I burned the first disk and tried to boot the G5 with it. It didn’t work, continued to boot into OSX and then caused a black-screen freeze or kernel panic as the Finder fumbled with the disk, unable to mount it. Once I got the disk out of the drive everything returned to normal. I guess I will download the first disk again and try it one more time. If that doesn’t work I’ll be extremely confused and frustrated. How hard can this be?

Internet Explorers 6, 5.5 and 5 on Linux

This is a pretty sweet and easy set up for web developers on Linux. Just download and double-click and IEs4Linux takes care of itself. It is running IE using Wine. Apparently this is the same old Internet Explorer application surrounded by some programs that allow it to run on Linux. They warn about security issues and not using it as your primary browser, but I honestly don’t know who’d think of doing that. Anybody that is using Linux and goes to the trouble of getting this to run IE on it isn’t going to use it for recreation.

How does it work? Looks good to me. For troubleshooting anyway. The fonts are weird but that’s expected. IE 6 gives me lots of bold type and the IE 5s don’t have that problem. They’re just not anti-aliased. These IEs also run as fast as they would on Windows as far as I can tell. Actually, on my Pentium II 266MHz laptop, they load faster than Firefox.

How do you get it? Well, no need to comprehend Wine, thank god. (Has anybody else noticed that there is no explanation on their site to even attempt installing a Windows app on Linux?) Just go to IEs4Linux and follow the instructions on that page. You will have to install Wine and Cabextract and then finally run their IEs4Linux file. You will be in IE heaven soon! Now, if only they had a set up package for OSX.

Ubuntu 6.06 on 1.6 GHz G5

I received a shipment of Ubuntu discs today from France from what I can tell. I have already downloaded Xubuntu and Ubuntu 6.06 so it wasn’t too exciting. However, I have not tried Dapper for the PowerPC processor. The last shipment I got was Ubuntu 5.1 and the stack included two PowerPC install discs upon my request. It was interesting to try out on the original iMac and seemed to work pretty well as far as live-cds go. However, I could never get my G5 to boot 5.1. It started out, but soon locked up. It may have been an error in the discs, but whatever. Dapper boots though. That’s all I needed to be impressed. I would really like to see how snappy it is once it’s installed. Needless to say I haven’t yet got up the nerve to install it on the G5.

One issue that jumped out at me was the maximum screen resolution of 1024 x . It would be nice to go a little higher. After looking around in the System Preferences I got the impression that, if you are hooked up to the internet, the system would go search for video drivers specific to the machine’s video hardware. So maybe that isn’t much of a concern. I just haven’t read much about running Ubuntu on Apple hardware. Maybe someday I’ll at least get so bold as to make the G5 a dual-booter with Ubuntu.

So check it out. Let me know if you are running Dapper on a PowerPC and what your impressions are.

A Few Xubuntu or XFCE or Linux Key Commands

These may or may not be common knowledge, but my top and bottom panels in Xubuntu disappeared on me and my contextual menu for the desktop didn’t work either. All of the open applications ran fine. I figured I would have to restart, since logging out wasn’t an option. However, I started poking around with some Control-Alt combinations and was delighted to find a few really important commands:

  • Control-Alt-Delete: Locks the screen, maybe turns on screen saver. (mine’s set to ‘blank’)
  • Control-Alt-Backspace: Log out of current user.
  • Control-Alt-Escape: Force Quit via your cursor turning into ‘Skull and Crossbones’. Left-Click on a window to force quit any application. Right-Click to cancel.

P.S. I didn’t have to restart after all.

An ‘Eject iPod’ Button for Xubuntu (XFCE)

iPod Mini Silver

Using an iPod with Xubuntu is not as slick as using an iPod with Ubuntu. It will mount automatically just fine, but the right-click-unmount action doesn’t quite do the job. I had been using this routine for attaching/unattaching my iPod. Everything seemed to work fine, but I guess unmounting isn’t all that can be done. The ‘No Access’ flashing sign did not go away and change to the regular directory list on the iPod’s screen. The command to ‘Eject’ the iPod actually causes the screen of the iPod to go back to the list screen like it would after being unmounted in Ubuntu 6.06, OSX or Windows. This post is a brief description of how to make a button on the top panel of Xubuntu to avoid using the Terminal every time you want to thoroughly eject your iPod.

Xubuntu Program Launcher Setup Screen

  1. Right-click on the top panel (or whatever panel you’d like) and select ‘Add New Item’ and then select ‘Program Launcher’. You will get a screen like the one shown above.
  2. In the ‘Name’ box give the function a name like ‘Eject iPod’. Give a description if you like. In the ‘Command’ box type this:
    eject /dev/sda
  3. Make sure ‘Startup Notification’ and ‘Run in Terminal’ boxes are unchecked. Leave the generic icon for now. Hit ‘Close’.
  4. Now, simply hit that button when you are ready to disconnect your iPod and wait for the ‘No Access’ symbol to change to the iPod’s normal user interface before disconnecting.

If you really want to get fancy you can create your own icon for the mounted iPod and the new ‘Eject iPod’ button. (Actually, since I drew them I guess it’s my artwork, so I am making two iPod icons available for download. They are the Silver Mini shown above and a Black Nano. Help yourself. They were made with Inkscape and are SVG files.) This will make the purpose of the button unmistakable. To do this you must replace the file ‘multimedia-player.svg’ (you have to name your new icon that in order to work) in
/usr/share/icons/(name of icon theme)/scalable/devices/

Be sure to backup the original system icon before doing this. In order to move your custom icon to that folder you will need root privileges via the ‘sudo’ command and that means using the Terminal. First, save your custom icon onto the desktop as a plain .svg file with the name ‘multimedia-player.svg’.

Open the Terminal application and type the following:

sudo mv /home/(your user name)/Desktop/multimedia-player.svg(enter a space here)/usr/share/icons/(name of icon theme)/scalable/devices/

hit enter

Again, you will need to enter your password. ‘Sudo’ gives you short-term root priveledges, ‘mv’ stands for ‘move’ and the first directory is your new file, the second directory is the destination. Now right-click on the iPod Eject button, select ‘Properties’ and add “/usr/share/icons/(name of icon theme)/scalable/devices/multimedia-player.svg” to the icon input field to update it with your new icon.

Changing The Default Browser in Ubuntu (Debian-based) Linux

To get to the straight poop skip to the red text below.

I’m a web designer of sorts and I like to have a good variety of web browsers on whatever machine I’m using. At work I have a most excellent setup with OSX having Firefox, IE 5, Safari and Opera. Then I use Remote Desktop to run an XP box with IE 6 and Firefox. Between IE 6, Firefox (OSX and Windows) and Safari the bases are covered for a web designer who is trying to reach as broad a customer base as possible.

At home I mostly use my old Gateway Solo running Xubuntu 6.06. I have Firefox by default. Once upon a time this old laptop with an 8GB hard drive was dual bootable with Ubuntu and Windows 2000, but rebooting sucked. Maybe when I get the cash together to get a more powerful laptop I can use Qemu to run a virtual Windows machine to test IE. Anyway, for now I just wanted an additional browser that might show things a little differently. So I installed the Dillo browser that I had been introduced to with Damn Small Linux and Feather Linux. It will at least show me what happens when my style sheets don’t work. Dillo is really small and aside from resolving DNS addresses is very fast compared to our more graphically inclined browsers. So it works great. However this brings us to the title of this post.

After installing Dillo I soon noticed that any hyperlink that showed up in my e-mails in Thunderbird would now open in Dillo upon clicking them rather than Firefox. I didn’t really want to use Dillo that much. I went to Xubuntu’s ‘Preferred Applications’ and it insisted that Firefox was my ‘Preferred’ web browser. So I went to the internet to learn more. I found an excellent blog post on this very subject here: The Gnuru. You can read that blog post (and it looks like there are many more gems there as well) or you can continue with my attempt to simplify what you need to do. I will try to make it clear for those that might need a little more help.

So you need to switch your debian-based (Ubuntu, Kubuntu, Xubuntu, etc.) Linux back to Firefox for default web browsing?

  1. Open the Terminal application (Applications/Terminal or Applications/Accessories/Terminal).
  2. After the ‘$’ sign in the terminal, type the following green text:
    sudo update-alternatives –(two dashes precede ‘config’ here. I just couldn’t get two dashes to display as two separate dashes for some reason.)-config x-www-browser

    Hit ‘Enter’. ‘sudo’ means that you are asking to do the following action with the root user’s priveledges. You will be asked for your password. The cursor will not move while you type the password. When done hit ‘Enter’ or ‘Return’.
  3. There will be some semi-legible text generated. Focus on the text similar to the picture shown below.
  4. terminal screen for x-browser default change

  5. At this point enter the number next to the browser that you want to be your default web browser and hit ‘Enter’ or ‘Return’. You will then most likely see the following output correlating with the browser you specified, not necessarily Firefox.
    Using `/usr/bin/firefox’ to provide `x-www-browser’.
    Just close the Terminal window when you’re done.

That’s all there is to it. Please let me know if my instructions were helpful.

Xubuntu 6.06 loses wireless device after install

Xubuntu 6.06 desktop
Last week the sluggishness of Ubuntu 5.1 on my Pentium II laptop aligned with the new release of Xubuntu 6.06 (and the rest of the Ubuntu family) lead me to wipe my hard drive clean and start over with a fresh install. Xubuntu 6.06 is a big improvement. I now have support for my sound card on this old laptop and Xubuntu is a very small install that’s relatively snappy and startup and shut down are faster as well. Exactly what I wanted.

The weird thing is that the LiveCD booted and my wireless card was up and running just fine. After the install my pcmcia card stopped working. Why it worked while booting from the cd but not from the fresh install seemed very odd. The ‘Network’ application only showed a modem device. eth0 was nowhere to be found. The problem, after a few hours worth of piddling around, reading and trying a reinstall (hoping that it was just an install glitch) turns out to be some sort of ‘clean up’ program that runs after the installation is complete. This clean up application removes files that were not needed for the installation or are biproducts of it. I can’t remember the name of it. Anyway, the issue is a ‘pcmcia-cs’ file that needs to be reinstalled. If the laptop you are using also has an ethernet plug, simply plug it in for internet, run Synaptic and search for ‘pcmcia-cs’. Install that file and your problems are solved. If, like me, you have an old, crappy laptop that DOESN’T have an ethernet port on it, find a computer with internet and download this file:
pcmcia-cs file

One of the cool features of the Ubuntu 6.06 family is the ability to double-click on .deb files and get the option to install it via Synaptic. Do that to the above file once you have it downloaded. You may have to restart to get your pcmcia support working. Of course, I have to say that I in no way guarantee that this action will correct your problem or that it will not have a negative effect on your system. That said, let me know if this solved your problem. It certainly solved mine.

Apart from that the new Xubuntu is a wonderful experience. Mounting my iPod Mini isn’t a problem, though it isn’t as cool as how it automounts and has a new iPod Nano icon in Ubuntu 6.06. Ubuntu has also improved how the iPod is unmounted to the point that the iPod screen actually returns from the ‘no access’ blinking screen to the iPod interface screen once it’s unmounted. In that regard Xubuntu is a little bit of a step back (but I fixed that issue), but the performance difference is entirely worth it. I was hoping to use Damn Small Linux or Feather Linux as my new system, but installing them to a hard drive turned out to have some problems that I certainly cannot resolve. Xubuntu is easy to install and customizing it with Synaptic is a breeze. Again, let me know if this helped repair your pcmcia functionality in Xubuntu 6.06.

Burning ISO files as boot disks with OSX


So you’re interested in GNU/Linux as either an operating system to install or a ‘live CD’ to use for formatting and retrieving files from hard drives. Either way you will need to be able to download ‘.iso’ files and burn them to a cd in order to get anywhere. It doesn’t take many cd-coasters to realize that whatever method of disc burning you are using isn’t doing the trick.

I’ve yet to have a Linux-box that is recent enough to have a cd-burner and the PowerPC version of Ubuntu 5.1 that I have, although it works fine on the old iMac G3, doesn’t appear to work on the perhaps more sophisticated G5. So, the only experience I have at the moment is using OSX 10.3.9 to burn ISOs to disc. I sure couldn’t find a lot of information about doing this in OSX when I needed to know how.

  1. Download the .iso file that you are interested in. My first was actually a set of four or five Fedora Core 4 discs.
  2. Then in OSX go to ‘/Applications/Utilities/Disk Utility’ and open that application.
  3. In the menu go to ‘Images’ and click ‘Burn’.
  4. Browse to the .iso file that you wish to burn to disc and double-click.
  5. Insert blank CD-R disc and hit the ‘Burn’ button. I usually don’t bother with ‘Verify’ since you’ll know soon enough if it doesn’t work and generally there are few problems unless you have a janky internet connection that causes problems with your download. I take it that if you are downloading something like Fedora Core that you are on broadband and that you won’t have any problems.
  6. Insert the disk into the computer on which you’d like to install (You’ll have to set up your PC to boot from the CD drive via the BIOS settings. If your PC is too old to boot directly from a CD you will have a whole other beast on your hands.) and boot or reboot that machine to see the fruits of all of this labor.

That’s all there is to it. If you poke around a bit you will see that the Disk Utility application is a very powerful tool for creating iso files as well. However, I don’t have much use for all of those features. You are now on your way to the world of creating boot discs. No doubt you will have the envy of all of your friends.

iPod as OSX/Windows/Linux USB drive

iPod MiniTake advantage of your iPod as a cross-operating system file transfer or backup usb drive. If you’ve read my ‘About’ page you know that I employ OSX and Ubuntu Linux at home and use WindowsXP at work as well. Having a usb drive to plug into all three of them is what makes using three different operating systems livable. Hopefully this short post can save you all of the time I spent reading on the net about this idea. In the end it was so simple I vowed to start my own site where I could give advice to other power users that don’t want to sell their soul to the tech-geek gods.

First: What is the operating system you use to alter the music/video content of your iPod? Windows or OSX? I use OSX. If you use Windows this is going to be very easy. In the iTunes preferences make sure your iPod is set to ‘use as external drive’ or whatever (sorry I don’t have the exact wording).

Second: Something to keep in mind is the file system that the two different operating systems employ:

  • Windows: FAT32 or NTFS
  • OSX: HFS+

When an iPod is first used on either operating system it is reformatted with either a 3-partition HFS+ file system or a 2-partition VFAT (which I can only assume is another name for FAT32 or some relative of FAT32) file system. (The iPod may technically not be reformatted depending on the format it is initially formatted in. The difference is irrelevant to the issue at hand.)

Linux uses its own file system (usually ‘ext3’). However, Linux has been working with Windows for a long time and apparently it has no trouble reading FAT32 file systems. The same goes for OSX because, let’s face it, when you’re 3% of the personal computer market you adapt to work with the competition. So, you guessed it, if you already use Windows to manage the content of your iPod you don’t have to do a thing. Just plug your iPod into either a Linux or OSX box and it will mount as a removable drive. With Linux this experience can vary depending on the version of the Linux Kernel being used as well as the distribution of Linux. With Fedora Core 4 I had to manually alter a text file to allow the system to mount the drive. However, with Ubuntu 5.1 usb drives mount automatically. (NOTE:If you think the word ‘terminal’ is usually associated with some sort of illness, I recommend installing Ubuntu.) In OSX you’ll see a generic usb drive icon instead of the iPod icon. That’s easily corrected with a simple trip to the ‘Get Info’ window of the iPod and copy/paste of the correct iPod icon.

Now, for those of you using OSX to manage your iPod content. You need to reformat your iPod for Windows. Don’t worry, you can still use your iPod with iTunes in OSX. I do it all the time. File transfers are a little slower with FAT32 (VFAT) but the benefits of going between operating systems outweighs the cost in file transfer speed. The other issue has to do with file name length and possibly a limited use of certain characters in file names. Seems like a small cost.

The trick is finding a Windows box to use for the reformatting. Find a friend with Windows and bring a $7 six-pack of beer with you.

Next, you’ll need to download the appropriate ‘iPod Updater’ for Windows from Apple.com. Try this page:


This will have to be installed on the Windows box. Then you’ll plug in your iPod and start the program to reformat your iPod. NOTE: Backup any music or files you have on the iPod prior to this step. Reformatting will erase the iPod’s drive and create a new file system. If you have music on the iPod that you don’t have on your computer, download this applescript to pull those songs off of your ipod πŸ™‚

Import iPod Audio Files Applescript

Once that’s done you’re ready to go. The reformatting is easy. You will now be able to take files in between different operating systems.