The other day I acquired a hardly used PowerMac G4 from someone who was going to throw it out. Imagine that? It’s got a 450Mhz PPC CPU, 256MB of RAM, a 20GB hard drive, and AGP video. Certainly this nice little machine can be used for something… But what?
Though I could probably get away with an install of OS X Tiger, I knew in my heart that it would be wrong to use the Tiger install disk that I have to install it on a second machine. Actually I just thought it would probably run too slow, but hey it’s still illegal and that’s not how I do things… right? Right. So it was just a question of whether it would be Linux, NetBSD, OpenBSD, or some other free OS. I decided to try NetBSD first.
NetBSD has supported PPC for a while, just one of the many architectures supported by the ultra portable BSD. The story here is fairly short and somewhat funny – I was able to install the OS but never figured out how to get it to boot. Lesson learned: Knowledge of Open Firmware is essential when you’re dealing with an Apple PPC machine like the PowerMac G4. I found this site and this site to be helpful, as well as the install notes for NetBSD. Oddly though, even following the notes to the letter I was unable to boot the OS. I gave up after seeing that my Open Firmware 2.4 system might not be supported at all due to what might be a “broken” Open Firmware. In hindsight I think I was just using the wrong device designation in my boot command. I might try it again.
In part II of the Golden Apple Project I try out Terra Soft’s Yellow Dog Linux. Which operating system will win the right to run on my shiny old G4? Stay tuned to find out!