Debian PPC  Installing Debian Linux On A Nubus Power Mac


Back To The Mauiholm

Debian Linux Homepage
Debian Linux CD Images
Linux/PPC For Nubus Power Macs
Install Notes For Woody On 8100
Notes From A UC-Davis Student

Video Fix For Debian 2.x (Potato)
Yellow Dog Linux On A 6100
MkLinux, we're still here.

Linux/PPC For PCI Power Macs
More Useful Linux/PPC Links
Power Mac 6100 Upgrade Guide
Sample system scan attempts (2003)

On This Site:

  1. Obtaining Software
  2. Formatting A Hard Drive
  3. Installing Minimal MacOS
  4. Adding Linux Support Files
  5. Installing Linux
  6. Configuring Linux
  7. Linux References



On the off chance anyone still has a Nubus-equipped Power Mac they want to install Linux on 14 years after I wrote this...

For several years, I used an old Power Mac 6100 and OS 8 to serve mail and web pages. It worked well enough, until I added too many AppleScript CGIs, after which system responsiveness and reliability sank. Although I'd been looking for an excuse to use an original copy of the "MkLinux for Macintosh" manual and CD I had on my bookshelf, it would have required more work to modernize and secure than I was willing to put in.

As it turns out, work on a Nubus-compatible monolithic kernel bore fruit, allowing you to choose from Debian or Yellow Dog Linux for PPC. While Nubus PowerMacs are dogs compared to current hardware, they can often be found for US$5 or so at yard or rummage sales, and multi-gigabyte SCSI drives are US$20 to US$40 on eBay.

Here, I'll describe the Debian Linux 3.0 (Woody) installation. Instructions for the Yellow Dog installation I'll pawn off to the link at left. The Debian 2.0 (Potato) installer doesn't always work. When it does, the resulting system has major video support issues with X. Unless you must use 2.0, I don't recommend it.


With a set of Debian PPC CDs, a download of the custom Nubus kernel and kernel/installer, and the instructions here or at one of the installation note links in the left column, you'll soon be in business. If you've never, ever installed Linux or a *BSD distribution, this will not seem very straight forward. But, if I can get you through the initial set up and point out a few small gotchas, you'll soon have a solid system that makes a much more capable server than the classic MacOS.

I won't be discussing configuration of the X Windows System. Really, you're better off using the built-in virtual terminals. X is not only a hassle to set up, but soooooo sloooooow on Nubus-based Macintoshes that it borders on useless. If you insist on X, then load up on RAM. My PCI-based Powerbook 3400 (180MHz) had only 64MB, and took about 30 seconds to launch an Xterm.

Hardware: To get started, you'll need...

  • A Power Macintosh 6100, 7100, or 8100
  • CD-ROM drive, internal or external SCSI
  • 2GB or larger SCSI hard disk
  • 16MB RAM (ideally, 72MB or more)
  • An Internet connection
You can pull off a minimal installation with a 700MB disk, but you'll have serious space limitations afterward. I also had access to another system for looking up information, downloading software, and burning CD-ROMs.

Installation Steps:
  1. Obtain Software
  2. Format A Hard Drive: 1 HFS and 1 'Free' partition
  3. Install Minimal MacOS 7, 8, or 9
  4. Add Linux Support Files To MacOS
  5. Restart Using MkLinux Booter & Installer Kernel
  6. Restart Using MkLinux Booter & Standard Kernel
  7. You're Cooking With Linux, Now