sam tygier
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Why run linux on a powerbook?

So cool, Mac OS X Panther 10.3, pretty and Unix. Yes it is very cool, but I have succumbed to the temptations the other side. No not the dark side, the Linux side. "Why? how could that happen?", I hear you type. Well, I have always enjoyed finding out how things work. I used to love taking things apart, and sometimes I even put them back together. If something was broken it was fair game, and once or twice I have figured out what was wrong and fixed it. Occasionally the broken bits could be hacked together into something useful. Broken radio plus diskman equals portable music without head phones. I also have one of those CD-wallet-with-speakers-built-in things, but it had no DC in, and i don't like batteries. A few wires and a bit of solder later and it plugs into an old ACDC adaptor.

So were am I going? Well at some point a few years ago I became aware of the open source community. They do this with software. If you want to look in side and see how it works you can. If you want to mix two bits together you can. If you want to link everything together with scripts then you can. It seemed that the easiest way into this culture (this was pre Mac OS X, when I had my iMac) was a thing called Linux. After some research I found that I could set up a dual boot system and run Linux on my iMac. Not many people do this, so it was not greatly catered for. There are hundreds of Linux distributions, but only a few run on macs. I got a friend (he had broadband and I had dial up) to download Yellowdog (about version 2 I think) for me, in exchange for some radiohead bootlegs. It turned out to be quite usable as a desktop system, lots of free applications, very stable (especially compared to Mac OS Classic) and not really that difficult to use. After a while I deleted my Mac OS partition and went all Linux.

I happily ran Yellowdog through a couple of versions on my iMac for about a year. It could do everything I wanted to do. I gradually go addictted to bash, and the gimp, and all the free software that I could download and compile. I delved into a bit of C programming and learnt lots about computers.

In 2003 I went to university and rather than try to carry my iMac around the country, I used some money that had been put away for me when I was little, along with some other funds I managed to gather, and bought a shiney new Apple Powerbook G4 15" 1GHz, with enough harddrive to carry my entire CD collection. It came with Mac OS X 10.2 Jaguar, which I upgraded to Panther after a few months. Apple definatly know how to make good software, so good you don't even need two mouse buttons (although along with a scroll wheel they make some stuff easier). iTunes is very handy when you have 10 days worth of music. It lets you find and play anything very quickly, and the party shuffle combined with rule based play lists saves you having to choose songs if you don't want to. The power of UNIX all underneath, its stable and can do lots at once. And once I had found fink, I could install some the stuff I missed: Freeciv to soak up time; tetex to write lab reports; the Gimp for photos.

But somehow something was missing. I really like Linux. I like how much you can play. I like the idea that a program does not have to display on the same computer that it is running on. Over the summer holiday (during which I am deprived of broadband) I decided that I would have to switch back to linux. I did some research and found that Yellowdog was just about to release a big new version 4, and once I was back online and had done my back ups I switched. I felt at home back in Linux

Then I got around to building my Via Epia box, something I had wanted to do for a while. Obviously it was going to run Linux from the start, and would give me a chance to try a few distibutions. Yellowdog is based on Red Hat, and now Fedora, so I first tried Fedora Core 3. Then I tried ubuntu, and was amazed at how simple and powerful it is. I am not convinced by the compile everything gentoo approch, the conservative debian approch, nor the pay lots of money comercial distro approch, so I have decided to stick with ubuntu for a bit. I am currently running the hoary developement branch which is stable most of the time, and full of new goodies.

I was convinced enough with ubuntu hoary, that I decided to give it a go on the powerbook. The development is far more open and pacey than with Yellowdog, and apart from a few problems that you expect of a dev branch it is very usable. Looks like Yellowdog have a bit of work to do to keep their place as top powerpc distro.

So in conclusion, although Mac OS X is wonderful and amazing, I prefer Linux. Partly because I can play more. Partly beacuse of the politic and community. Partly because of the software.