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If the idea of running Linux on a Mac appears too strange to contemplate, you're not alone. After all, most people buy Apple's computers for the OS, not just for the hardware. By running Linux on a Mac, you enjoy the freedom to buy an Apple computer (for its hardware, its good looks, or whatever other reasons you might have) and still run your favorite Linux programs. Or if you're new to Linux, a chance to learn more Unix, the base of the newest Mac operating system, Mac OS X.

  • Why Linux at all? Why not Mac OSX?
    • As many owners of older Macs have already realized, Mac OSX just isn't an option. Many older Powerbooks and G3 towers, for example, are not on the list of computers that can run Mac OSX at all, and computers like my own iBook2 run very slowly. There is, after all, a limit to how easily a computer can be updated, and Apple does not make it easy to do even that. The only real solution is to buy a new Mac, not something most people would want to contemplate. High end Macs are still too expensive for the average user to stay up to date for very long. And even if a user buys a new Mac, there is still the problem of what to do with the old Mac. Linux can breathe "new life" into older Macs, and make them useful once more.

  • How much harder is it to install Linux on a Mac versus installing Linux on a IBM compatible?
    • To be honest, it really depends on what sort of Mac you own, but there are certainly some unique difficulties to the PPC platform. The first difficulty lies in drive partitioning. There currently isn't a way to divide up partitions on a mac without deleting it first. (i.e., No partition resizing) This is common to any Linux install on a Mac, so I will have a separate section dedicated to this topic. The second difficulty, which is not immediately obvious, has to do with a change in Open Firmware made a few years ago, close to the release of the first iMacs, if I remember correctly. Newer Macs, appropriately called New World Macs, use a utility called yaboot, which is very similar to lilo both in its configuration and its installation. Macs made previous to this change are called Old World Macs and require a different program. It is important to determine which system you have to ensure your Mac will properly boot. This isn't very hard to do, and there are several people that keep track of these sorts of things online. Other than this, it's the usual game, trying to find out what hardware you own and looking for Linux support on the internet through forums or driver pages.

  • I use (insert your distribution name here) Linux. Is this available for PPC?
    • Find your distribution's website and take a look. Some popular distributions that actively develop for PPC are Debian, Gentoo, Mandrake, SuSE, and Yellowdog. Check out Distro Watch if you want to learn more about these Linuxes or find others available for PPC. Of the Linuxes I mentioned, only Yellowdog is exclusive to the PPC platform. The others will vary in their committment to Macs, so it would be wise to do your homework. Currently, Debian, Gentoo, and Yellowdog do the best in providing a wide selection of packages for PPC that are up to date.

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