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News and Editorials

Distributions for the PowerPC

November 3, 2004

This article was contributed by Ladislav Bodnar

Judging from the number of inquiries and search requests for "ppc" or "powerpc" we get at, deploying Linux (or *BSD) on this powerful platform is not nearly as rare as some would like us to believe. Whether it is the attraction of elegantly designed and innovative Apple computers, or the sheer power behind the high-end pSeries servers, Linux on PowerPC is alive and well. Here is the list of current distributions that develop PowerPC editions of their products.
  • CRUX PPC. The PowerPC port of the CRUX Linux distribution is a contributed project by Giulivo Navigante. The original i686 edition of CRUX is designed to be a very light-weight operating system without GNOME or KDE (it uses WindowMaker instead) and the PowerPC port doesn't depart from this philosophy. The included software works best on G3 and G4 processors; it supports Pegasos II, dual CPUs, and also has some special features, such as CPU frequency scaling for laptops. One of the strength of the project is comprehensive documentation and active user forums available on the CRUX PPC web site.

  • Debian GNU/Linux and Ubuntu Linux. The Debian project has been providing a PowerPC port of their distribution since 1997. The latest stable version, Debian 3.0 "Woody" is well supported on Power Macintosh and PowerBook up to G4, Apus, CHRP and PReP machines, although installation on some of the newer iBooks and PowerBooks need additional, but well-documented steps to complete. Additionally, those who wish to dual boot Debian with Mac OS X will also need and an updated version of the yaboot boot loader, not available in Woody. The upcoming release of Debian 3.1 "Sarge", as well as the new Ubuntu Linux 4.10, have support for the Pegasos II boards and PowerMacs G5 (32-bit mode).

  • Fedora Core and Red Hat Enterprise Linux. Although the Fedora project does not provide official releases for the PowerPC architecture, their development tree contains a complete set of binary packages for the ppc and ppc64 architectures. This is, presumably, maintained as a base for Red Hat's enterprise offering which does include full support for IBM eServer iSeries and pSeries. The Fedora web site has no documentation about installing and running the distribution on a PowerPC, but contributed step-by-step instructions, mailing lists, and even an up-to-date repository of third-party Fedora RPM packages for PowerPC do exist.

  • Gentoo Linux, Source Mage GNU/Linux and ROCK Linux. These are all source-based distributions with PowerPC ports of their x86 releases. Gentoo Linux is probably the most interesting among them, for several reasons: it has an enormous amount of excellent PowerPC-related documentation on its web site, it provides a fully-functional bootable live CD, and it is actively developing 64-bit support for the ppc64 architecture. In fact, the Gentoo/ppc64 sub-project has its own development page with installation instructions, stage tarballs and even beta live CDs for PowerMac G5 and pSeries systems.

  • Mandrakelinux. Mandrakelinux has been developing consumer-oriented PowerPC editions since 2001 (version 8.0). The upcoming Mandrakelinux 10.1 is currently in beta testing and should be available within the next few weeks. It includes kernel and is designed to run on Power Macintosh G3 and iBook G4 machines. The iBooks are particularly well supported, with the only exception being the Airport Extreme wireless networking kit for which there are no Linux drivers due to unavailability of specifications.

  • NetBSD and OpenBSD. The PowerPC port, or "macppc" as they prefer to call it, has been an integral part of both NetBSD and OpenBSD for several years - in NetBSD since version 1.4 released in 1999 and in OpenBSD since version 2.8 released in 2000. The projects claim support for all PPC Macs built after 1995, with the exception of the very latest PowerMac G5 and iMac G5 systems.

  • SUSE LINUX. SUSE's foray into the world of consumer PowerPC hardware in 2001 was short-lived and discontinued after version 7.3. Nowadays, only the SUSE LINUX Enterprise Server family continues to support the architecture, especially the IBM pSeries systems (Power4 and Power5).

  • Yellow Dog Linux. The Fedora-based Yellow Dog Linux by Terra Soft Solutions is probably the best-known Linux distribution for the PowerPC. In development since 1998, the company has created a useful product with many user-friendly enhancements. The recently released version 4.0 has support for PowerBook G4 and PowerMac G5 processors (32-bit only, although a full 64-bit edition is currently under development), the Mac-on-Linux emulator for running Mac OS 9 and Mac OS X from within Linux, auto-partitioning and auto-yaboot configuration, as well as support for most hardware found in the above-mentioned machines. However, unlike the distribution's previous versions which were always made available for free download, Yellow Dog Linux 4.0 can only be had from the company's online store or through its newly introduced subscription service at

  • Other projects. To complete the list, here are a few less well-known projects that also develop for the PowerPC platform. Poland's PLD Linux Distribution maintains a repository of RPM packages in its ppc directory tree, but unfortunately, the distribution's web site lacks any information about its current PowerPC activities. The Slackintosh projects compiles PowerPC packages from Slackware's source files. Those interested in live CDs will be pleased to know that, besides Gentoo, the SystemRescueCd project has also built a live CD for PowerPC (not yet stable). Finally, there are two active PowerPC development efforts going on in Japan - one of them is Happy MacLinux designed for m68k Macintosh computers, while the other is the more popular and up-to-date Vine Linux.

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Distribution News

OpenBSD 3.6 Released

OpenBSD 3.6 has been released. "This is our 16th release on CD-ROM (and 17th via FTP). We remain proud of OpenBSD's record of eight years with only a single remote hole in the default install. As in our previous releases, 3.6 provides significant improvements, including new features, in nearly all areas of the system..." Click below for more.

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SUSE LINUX Professional 9.2 is available

SUSE LINUX Professional 9.2 has officially been released. Click below for a preview of new features, and places where you can find this release.

Full Story (comments: 1)

Mondo Rescue shut down by legal hassles

Mondo Rescue is a well-regarded, GPL-licensed "disaster recovery" tool for both Linux and Windows. The project's web page currently reads: "Due to legal actions brought about by against one of our developers, Mondo as of now is terminated." The details of these actions are hard to come by; bits of information can be found in the Mondo Rescue forum, and, for the other side, in this mondo-devel posting. The end result, however, is that Mondo Rescue seems to have been shut down - for now. (Thanks to Rick Moen).

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Musical Linux for productive people

StartCom Linux has released an add-on CDROM, called StartCom MultiMedia Productivity, meant to be installed in addition to StartCom's latest released distribution, StartCom MultiMedia Edition. The additional CD comes with an autorun installer and a advanced set of audio and video manipulation programs.

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Fedora Core

The fifth release candidate for Fedora Core 3 was released last weekend. This is the probably the final release before the final FC3 release.

Fedora Core 2 updates:

  • freeradius (new version 1.0.1 fixes bugs and security problems)
  • libxslt (upstream release 1.1.12)

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Ubuntu has introduced the Hoary Hedgehog into the wild. Hoary Hedgehog will be the next release of Ubuntu GNU/Linux and will include daily updates from Debian's development branch. A final release of the Hoary Hedgehog is scheduled for April 2005.

The first Ubuntu Conference has been announced. This will be no fleeting affair; it takes a full two weeks, from December 5 to 18, in MatarĂ³, Spain. Here is some additional information.

Ubuntu has announced the release of the Warty Live CD. The Live CD contains a snapshot of everything in the Ubuntu 4.10 but in a bootable trial form.

A new mailing list for all Russian speaking Ubuntu users has also been announced.

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New Distributions

CCux Linux

CCux Linux is especially optimized for i686 and higher processor architectures. For package management it uses the RPM format in connection with the apt tools, which give it automatic dependency resolving when installing new software and therefore makes the installation of new software much easier. CCux Linux joins the list with the Alpha 0.9.4 release, dated October 14, 2004.

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Distribution Newsletters

Debian Weekly News

Debian Weekly News for November 2, 2004 is out. This week's edition has trip reports from Systems 2004 and Kansai OpenSource, successful dist-upgrades from woody to sarge with a real i386, and more.

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Gentoo Weekly Newsletter 1 November 2004

The Gentoo Weekly Newsletter for the week of November 1, 2004 is out. This week's edition looks at the Linux World Conference & Expo in Frankfurt, and other topics.

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Ubuntu Traffic #09

Ubuntu Traffic #09 is out, with a summary of the most important mailing list and IRC discussions involving the Ubuntu GNU/Linux distribution during the week of October 16 - 22, 2004.

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DistroWatch Weekly, Issue 73

The DistroWatch Weekly for November 1, 2004 looks at SimplyMEPIS, OpenBSD and more.

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Minor distribution updates

Buffalo Linux

Buffalo Linux has released v1.5.0. "Changes: Buffalo 1.5.0 is a 2 CD relaese. The main reason for going to 2 CDs is to provide both kernel and 2.6.9. The new 2.6.9 kernel has issues with some video drivers. The GNOME bundle (gnome-2.6.1-buff-9.bz2), containing 85 packages, was moved to the second CD, along with another 250 packages from Slackware current (30 Oct). These additional packages provide other desktops such as KDE-3.3.1, BlackBox, FluxBox, WindowMaker-0.80.2, and other useful utilities. Firefox-1.0PR and Thunderbird-0.8 were added to the first CD, with over 80 other package upgrades."

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Kontron to bundle MontaVista Linux Carrier-Grade Edition with TCA platforms

Kontron has announced the signing of an OEM agreement that puts MontaVista Linux Carrier Grade Edition (CGE) into Kontron's next generation of Advanced Telecom Computing Architecture (ATCA) and Advanced Mezzanine Card (AMC) platforms.

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Quantian release available

Quantian begins a new Quantian series based on Knoppix 3.6 and the corresponding clusterKnoppix release. The iso file of about 2.0 gb contains updates such as new Linux kernels 2.4.27 and 2.6,7, openMosix based on the 20040808 patches to 2.4.27 as well as a kernel shared memory migration patch, KDE 3.2.3, R 2.0.0 and numerous other updates among the over 1900 Debian packages that comprise Quantian. Click below for additional information.

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Salvare has released v0.1.5. "Changes: Apart from bugfixes, the major change is an "install-debian" command which will start an included (and exclusive) Debian installer. It also includes improved bootstrapping code to allow it to boot from a floppy and CD or from a floppy and network. Beta USB support and much improved hardware detection were added."

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Source Mage GNU/Linux

Source Mage GNU/Linux has released v0.9.3 for both x86 and PPC architectures. "Changes: This version uses a kernel. NPTL has been removed. There is native support of udev and static /dev. It now installs a bootable system. yaboot, lilo, and grub have been tested with or without a separate /boot partition. All software have been compiled using stable sorcery/grimoire, with few patches."

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VLinux version 1.0 is now available (

Version 1.0 of VLinux has been announced. "VLinux Bioinformatics Workbench is a Linux distribution for bioinformatics. It is an easy to use, no installation required, CD-based distribution based on Knoppix 3.3. It includes a variety of sequence and structure analysis packages, and it's an Open Source project released under the GNU GPL license."

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Newsletters and articles of interest

PDA Freedom with OpenZaurus (Linux Journal)

Victor Castro explores OpenZaurus in a Linux Journal article. "Despite Sharp's cancellation of its Zaurus SL-6000 PDA in the US, the Sharp Zaurus continues to have a strong following among Linux gurus in the US and all over the world. No one proves this point better than the people behind the OpenZaurus project. The OpenZaurus Project provides an alternative to the original Sharp Zaurus ROM for different models of the Sharp Zaurus Personal Mobile Tool."

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OpenBSD 3.6 Live (O'ReillyNet)

Federico Biancuzzi interviews several members of the OpenBSD team about the upcoming OpenBSD 3.6 release, on O'ReillyNet. "FB: At the moment the [SMP] code works on i386 and amd64 platforms. Which platforms do you plan to support in the future?
Niklas Hallqvist: Loose plans, not any guarantees made: alpha, ppc, sparc(64), and maybe mvme88k :-) Maybe the new mips port? Who knows. This is work that probably must be done just because it is fun. There's hardly a large demand with funders around the corner. And today, unfortunately, there's not much time left for fun projects anymore. I was very lucky to get paid to do part of this fun work; otherwise it might not have happened.

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Distribution reviews

Six Weeks with Ubuntu Linux (OSNews)

OSNews reviews Ubuntu 4.10. "I was really impressed with the Preview Release. I originally only installed it to see the then brand-new Gnome 2.8 desktop and, as I expected lots of problems within a totally new distribution that I never had heard of before, I planned to reinstall FC2 on the same day. But though there were a few rough edges in the Preview Release, it surely had good beta quality. There were no show-stoppers for me and so I just kept it, "apt-getting" myself through September and October."

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First Look: SUSE Linux Professional 9.2 beta (NewsForge)

NewsForge reviews SUSE Linux Professional 9.2. "Novell recently opened a limited beta of SUSE Linux Professional 9.2, and I've been using it for my work/production machine ever since I got my hands on the five-CD download. No, using a beta release of an operating system as your production system is generally not a good idea. Yes, there are bugs, as expected in beta software. There are also improvements and refinements, as is also to be expected. But overall, well, read on and see."

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