May 23, 2012

Linux MintPPC on an Apple iBook M7698LL/A

With May being the 11th birthday of my ancient Apple iBook from 2001, I wondered if it was possible to get it running a lot faster with something other than the originally installed OSX Tiger 10.4.11 operating system.

I'd never tried the various Ubuntu PPC distributions which came out over the years as I'd heard bad things about them. People were always reporting that the battery didn't charge or suspend malfunctioned. As for using the AirPort card to connect to the internet, you might as well forget that you even have one.

But then I found out about MintPPC 9 and, for a number of reasons (including the fact that I can't leave well enough alone), I downloaded and installed it on my iBook.

The installation took just over an hour and I was quite surprised that I didn't even need to add the Xorg.conf update which the MintPPC website recommends. I did it anyway just to be on the safe side although everything looked and sounded right straight away.

Unfortunately, that's where my joy ended.

MintPPC, even though it uses the LXDE desktop environment, was painfully slow to the point of being unusable. I only have 320mb of RAM in my iBook but I doubt that another 256mb would make any difference. I have the original 500mhz PowerPC G3 "Icebook" with 64mb of 66mhz RAM soldered to the board (not the later 128mb version) so it's never going to reach the dizzy heights of 640mb with only one extra memory slot available anyway.

Since owning my iBook (which I got from eBay for $40), I've upgraded the hard drive to 40gb instead of the original 10gb one, changed the CD drive to a DVD drive, and replaced the cable to the LCD (which, infamously, was one of the causes for a lot of product returns and a class action lawsuit for Apple due to the design flaw which pinched the wires in the hinge and made the display fail to light up). I've had this iBook apart several times and it was the worst computer for upgrading that I've ever had the misfortune to work on. But that's another story.

All the things which I took for granted with Tiger were impossible to get working with MintPPC. I had no wireless connection, no DVD playback, and, although I got used to VLC player crashing when playing flv videos on Tiger, it was set as the default for mp3 playback on MintPPC which was absolutely stupid because it crashed with those too.

AbiWord opened slower than MS Word and the same with Gnumeric compared to Excel. Even if it had been available, I don't think I would have had the patience to wait for LibreOffice.

I then started to get random freezes and couldn't even log out or shutdown properly. After several reboots things settled down more but this was a couple of hours in and I'd had enough. I also really hated the cheap and nasty look of LXDE.

So, without further ado, I reinstalled Tiger. It took about an hour to install and probably four more to do all the software and security updates. Putting all the software back on and adding my iTunes library took the rest of the day.

After all this, some good came of it. Tiger now runs a lot faster than it did before. I've deleted a lot of junk (especially music which I was bored with), and I probably won't ever bother putting VLC player or MacTubes back on because neither worked properly anyway.

My Apple iBook is now almost 100% functional. I can play DVDs easily, listen to music with iTunes 8.2.1, and surf the internet with Safari 4 or Camino 2.1. I discovered that using the "mobile" versions of the Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube websites made things even faster (although it's still impossible to play any YouTube videos which are converted to 3gp with my version of QuickTime).

If you are thinking of "upgrading" your iBook to MintPPC, don't! MintPPC is a nice idea and skillfully put together to get as far as it has, but unless you have a top of the range G4 iBook, it'll probably be useless to you.

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