Resurrecting some PowerPC-based Apple computers with Debian GNU/Linux

I recently had the opportunity to acquire a couple of unwanted PowerPC-based Apple computers which I graciously accepted. The computers in question are a 2002 Power Macintosh G4 (Mirrored Drive Doors) and an original G4-powered Mac Mini.

I had a bit of a soft spot for the designs of these machines growing up and I didn’t want to pass them up. A big plus was that both machines are in very good condition despite their age with the Power Macintosh just requiring a hard drive.

I’m honestly not sure exactly what I’ll use the Power Macintosh for at the moment, but the Mac Mini’s size and low power consumption makes it the ideal candidate for a nice new file server for my house once I pair it with an external drive enclosure.

After bringing them home and giving them a quick cleaning I immediately set out to install Debian’s PowerPC Port on them. I set their host names to “Phoenix” and “Bennu” which derive from both Greek and Egyptian mythology and symbolize birds associated with ‘rebirth’. I thought that was a nice touch considering these machines now have a second lease on life.

I also decided to install a light window manager (specifically i3) on them both even though I plan on running them as headless servers. This lead to the discovery of a couple easily fixable issues.

  1. The Power Macintosh’s Radeon 9000 graphics card is apparently well known to freeze the system when accelerated graphics is enabled. There is a small mention of it within the Debian PowerPC/FAQ Wiki.

    This was fixed by simply generating an xorg.conf file via Xorg -configure and adding Option "NoAccel" "True" to it.

  2. The Mac Mini’s sound did not initially work, but the solution was easily found on the Internet and consisted of adding snd_aoa_i2sbus to /etc/modules.

Overall, I am pleased with how everything turned out and they both run great. If you ever get a chance to rescue old hardware and bring them back into service you should definitely consider it.

I’d love to get some opinions on what to use the Power Macintosh for though (maybe a test server or something).

Please feel free to leave your comments and suggestions below. If you liked this article, please also consider sharing it with your friends.


From: Herminio
2016-02-20 20:57

For sound you only need the snd-aoa-i2sbus module. Here is a post I did not running Ubuntu-MATE on my iBook G4 here

From: microfracture
2016-02-21 15:45

Hi Herminio,
Thanks for the information! I've updated my /etc/modules file as well as the information within this post.

From: Herminio
2016-02-22 01:23

Glad I can help! Two other great sites I would suggest are these

From: microfracture
2016-02-22 05:25

I will check them both out.
Thanks again for your help. It is very much appreciated. :)

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