For the 0.5 percent of the folks who to which this tidbit pertains — that would be the Linux-on-PowerPC crowd . . . er, group . . . er, trio — the Fedora Project released the alpha version of its Fedora 17 PowerPC version. The release notes are here.
Many long-time readers of this blog who are not family (and even those who are) know that I’ve always had a soft spot for older Macintosh hardware, and those of you who admit to knowing me for a long time know that I’ve had several PowerPC machines running various distros, mostly Debian and Fedora, but a couple of OpenSUSE boxes, too (while it lasted, the G4 tower ran great on OpenSUSE’s PPC version before they gave it the heave-ho). I even mourned briefly against the demise of the PowerPC architecture, but I understand that if 0.5 percent of the Linux community is using a particular architecture, it’s a good idea to probably put resources elsewhere.
So it became Debian who kept the flame alive, until Fedora picked it up again. Thanks, Fedora, and now I’ll try this on the eMac that’s collecting dust in the corner.
(Larry Cafiero is one of the founders of the Lindependence Project and develops business software at Redwood Digital Research, a consultancy that provides FOSS solutions in the small business and home office environment.)
Those of you outside my family who regularly read this irregularly scheduled blog know that I often sing the praises of the PowerPC processor and often rail against the indifference that many distros pay toward this great platform.
Of course the reason for this is simple: I’m a Mac guy from way back — from the circle-the-wagons days — and when I made my conversion to GNU/Linux it was Debian on an iMac. That was a couple of years ago, and during that time I have warmed up to other platforms and other distros; as I’ve written before, I even sing the praises of Dell from time to time (especially on their accessibility when it comes to maintenance, but I digress).
One of the reasons I owned Macs for so long is that I feel the quality of machines that Apple produced (not all, but most) running the PowerPC — especially the New World Macs — have a longevity that deserves any given distro’s attention.
Debian. Fedora. OpenSUSE — that’s who’s still developing for the PowerPC. Ubuntu dropped it with either 7.10 or 8.04, I believe (though I keep getting notes from the Ubuntu folks saying I’m wrong — but the fact remains Ubuntu was very public about dropping PowerPC support during a debate in which I took place and lost).
However, with the latest from Fedora and OpenSUSE for the PowerPC, I believe that this battle to keep the PowerPC relevant is being lost. An update from Fedora 9 to Fedora 10 on an Indigo iMac was all but unworkable and an install of OpenSUSE 11 on the same machine was impossible.
There are other factors involved: For example, both Fedora and OpenSUSE have no Live CD version for the PowerPC — and I understand that this may not be possible — and net installs are something that you’d rather not send a new user (heck, I don’t like doing them).
So while I have Debian back on the Indigo iMac in question and Fedora 9 running faithfully on a Blue & White G3, I have to admit that I’ve lost the patience to babysit the constant care and feeding the PowerPC machines. And, regretfully, I will have to put my PPC advocacy on the back burner as we move forward.
Goodbye, old friend.
So while we at Felton Linuxworks won’t turn away folks who want to convert their New World, pre-Intel Macs to GNU/Linux, I will give them the whole lowdown on how most distros aren’t paying attention to the platform, and why.
(Fedora ambassador Larry Cafiero runs HeliOS Solutions West in Felton, California, and is an associate member of the Free Software Foundation.)
In Mac circles — or more specifically, in those Mac circles where GNU/Linux is spoken — there are references to the types of machines with PowerPC processors being “Old World” and “New World.”
Generally, “Old World” revolves around those PowerPC Macs which come in two colors: beige and black (with the exception of the PowerBook G3 Lombard with the Bronze keyboard and the FireWire connections — I think this one belongs in the next category). Thank heavens for BootX and quik, which allow those of us (and yes, I still own Old World hardware) to boot GNU/Linux.
The “New World” Mac — whether it’s just a voyage over the PowerPC line of demarcation or whether it’s a brave, new one — “comes in colors everywhere,” as the iMac ad with the Rolling Stones song attested to so many years ago. From the iMac on, these color-laden machines have the distinct GNU/Linux advantage of working with most distros through the miracle of yaboot.
It begs the question: If the original PowerPC machines up to the iMac are “Old World,” and those that have come after are “New World,” what do we call the Macs that now come with Intel processors?
I think I have the answer.
Call them “Other World” Macs, of course.
The term “Other World” Macs covers a lot of bases. To those of us who remember the dopey clean-room technician disco dancing promo from Intel — and Apple’s ad setting them aflame — it harkens back to a bittersweet time when Apple aficionados were both circling the wagons while thumping their chests to take on all comers (God, how I miss the Power Computing reps clad in khakis at ’90s-era Macworlds, or being a proud MacMarine back during that time . . . but I digress. But those of us who go back that far understand that today’s Intel Macs are Porsches with Chevy engines).
To those who caught the wave after Apple rebounded at the end of the ’90s and through the first half of this decade, you’ll notice that the new Apple zeitgeist — both the trend away from computers to “appliances” as well as the trend toward being “all encompassing” — consists of making your hardware seem obsolete so you, well, buy another Mac, regardless of whether the technology on your desk (or on your lap) really is obsolete. To wit: There will come a day — soon, I understand (and as soon as 10.5, I’m told, but I can’t confirm that) – when the latest version of OS X will not work on your PowerPC-based Macs. So then what do you do with your perfectly good hardware running an OS that Apple implies is outdated?
So that MacBook and that MacPro share a name with what you’re using, if you’re using a PowerPC Mac, but with the exception of high quality hardware, little else is the same between the Intel Macintoshes and the ones that come before it.
And when you can’t use the latest 10-point-whatever on your machine, the solution is to switch to GNU/Linux.
[Note: I've ranted enough in the past about the technical superiority of Mac hardware, and I'll gladly spare you the stump speech. But Mac hardware does last forever and those distros which turn their backs on the PowerPC platform -- hello, Ubuntu? -- are making a big mistake because these machines are going to be around for a long, long time.]
The new Macs are, well, different than those released earlier in this decade — better, arguably, but different nonetheless, and hence they deserve another informal designation. Unless someone comes up with something more official, I’d stick with “Other World” for its other-worldly nature.