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AndrewB's picture
Joined: 2005-12-18

I recently installed Gentoo on my Mac. And it has proved the best decision so far.
First off, the hardware can be found here

I have done a good few gentoo installs in the past few years, but non-on anything but the x86 architecture.
When I first considered installing Gentoo, I believed that I would loose allot of functionality of the hard ware. And as it has an ATI, May even be stuck in a Virtual Terminal for the remainder of my ppc/gentoo life. This review should show how easy and how much functionality you do really loose when you open source your Mac.

First off, I have always liked GNU/Open source at heart. I had a proprietary Operating system(MacOSX) but it was as open as I could make it at the time. All my applications were open source, and distributed under the GNU or alike licenses. For people that are stuck on MacOSX, I would suggest looking at applications such as;
Firefox, Thunderbird, Camino, Fink, The Gimp, X-Chat Aqua and darwinports.
[Apologies for the long list]

If you are not bound to MacOSX in anyway, I would totally suggest getting some open source operating system on there!

So back to Gentoo.
Naturally I was quite inquisitive to how it would all go, and if it would be harder.
Also not just that, but PPC architecture, to me seems unknown, it is not very supported under Linux, and you never hear of it.

First off I downloaded the Gentoo PPC minimal install disk off a Uk mirror. A list of mirrors can be found here.

My first install was onto a 20gig USB external hard drive that I have acquired. It is USB 2.0 so it is fast enough for an OS.
After running through the Gentoo Hand Book, I hit installing the boot loader and crashed and burned.

My second attempt I will go into detail.
Ok so now I have to part with the Graphically Brilliance of MacOSX.
First off, I start like a right smart arse. And do it as I would with any other distro, using cfdisk etc.
Words of warning, do not do this. Read the Gentoo hand book as it were a bible. First off you need to use a specialist fdisk application for the Mac partition and such like. This is called mac-fdisk.
This is used because the mac stores about 3 partitions, not accessible to the user. Apple_partition_map and Apple_Bootstrap, these are not picked up by cfdisk, or normal fdisk, so why the hell are the above stated even included!
So you partition your disk, then you can continue as normal [mke2fs etc].
Please also note, that you do need the Apple_bootstrap partition, and make it about 800k or more. I have always just made a / partition, this way /boot is included. But because the mac does not use a regular BIOS, it needs the above partition. DO NOT 'NOT MAKE ONE'.

The rest up until make.conf can be followed as normal.

I will show you my make.conf just now. In case the Handbook causes confusion.

CFLAGS="-O2 -mtune=powerpc -pipe"


As you can see the CHOST and CFLAGS are different to any x86 one.

Continue like normal [to the book]
Till you get to making the kernel.
Here is my gripe with Gentoo Foundation........
WHY THE HELL do you use the command make defconfig
It just clutters up the kernel in my opinion. It enables a load of heavy options, all as modules. It winds me up slightly.
You have the choice of looking at the old Gentoo handbooks, or just going with it.

I went with it, being the chicken that I am[first time anyway, since I have not]

So you walk through the rest. Thinking 'This is pretty easy...'
Till you get to the boot loader. I extend my hand to shake those who get this working 100% and first time!

Yaboot is possible the worst bootloader that I have ever met in my life! I favour grub, somebody port it quick....Before I cry! There are like NO alternatives.

As I said above, I did it on the ext hard drive first time, second on the hdd.
Yaboot doesn’t like ext hdd's. Yaboot doesn’t like you making your own kernel. Yaboot doesn’t like Macs. Yaboot doesn’t like you nor I.

First off, not that the config is not in /boot it is in /etc/yaboot.conf
That was my first few mistakes.
Secondly, don’t screw it over. Don’t actually try to customise it. Don’t assume it will help. Just use it straight and run.

Before you try to install it, also make sure you do below

 mount -o bind /dev /mnt/gentoo/dev
 mount -o bind /sys /mnt/gentoo/sys

These are vital for yaboot, and it wont run otherwise

As the hand book says, un-chroot and run yabootconfig --chroot /mnt/gentoo But then check the /etc/yaboot.conf. Check it against using yaboot manually. Because It probably hasn’t worked, and you have to do it by hand anyway.
A copy of my yaboot.conf
Once you have wrestled that crocodile, please do make sure you run
mkofboot -v
This configures the boot loader partition I said about earlier.
This is vital, unless you want to be chrooting back in from a live cd.
Once you have read the rest of the handbook, do a restart. DO NOT hold your breath though.

I had to chroot into the partition a few times to fix my yaboot.conf and such.

You finally have gentoo eh?
So get all your vital applications.
And given you read the manual....all the manual, you should have no problems with X, and such like.

emerge is used as follows

emerge *application*

Sometimes it can’t find the build for it, then use
emerge -s *application*

Man emerge is very useful, take a look through it, if its your first gentoo install.

You will notice a lot of things are masked by ~ppc so just add them to /etc/portage/package.keywords
And when in there make sure you put the group, and no version number
like this

net-wireless/ieee80211softmac ~ppc

Another large one is masked by *
so then its

media-libs/gstreamer ~*

Emergeing everything that you would like can take a good few days. I am still quite minimal, and it has been a good while now. So don’t worry bout getting everything there and then.

As I said about loosing out on functionality, this is not the case.
Airport Extreme is now [slightly] supported.
I will have to refer you to this site, as it is lengthy, and i’m not a guru on it.
So here is airport extreme
They are very temperamental though, you are warned.
Everything else works here.
For my Ibook, I found these sites pretty useful;
Sleep function, Multi button functionallity, Laptop help and just the whole ppc faq in general.

I started out thinking I would dual boot. And have to suffer with two full(ish) partitions. I have never gotten round to install MacOSX, and my gentoo partition is only 3.8G at the minute!

Any problems give us a post.
I hope this helped...

screen shot1

edit: screenshots

Joined: 2005-12-20

Wow, very nice review AndrewB, makes me want a mac even more now Laughing out loud

Although, it should really be in the Articles section Smiling

AndrewB's picture
Joined: 2005-12-18
"onlinebacon" wrote:

Wow, very nice review AndrewB, makes me want a mac even more now Laughing out loud

Although, it should really be in the Articles section Smiling

Not so much a review.
Moved it Eye

libervisco's picture
Joined: 2006-05-04

Maybe the title could be a little more descriptive.. though not necessarily. Sticking out tongue

I'd like to submit this to news sites.. and it's about to appear on homepage.

Great job Andrew!


The first distro i attempted to put on the mac was gentooppc. Took me like 4 hours of reading the same page in the handbook over and over just to get it to boot to the cd (turned out i had the wrong cd, the right cd did have a kernel problem though Puzzled) I'm running OS X currently and hope to switch to something free, so this should come in handy. Thanks.

Joined: 2005-12-20

Nihilanth, there is also opendarwin Smiling Which is cool and there is BSD too Sticking out tongue

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