Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What is a Linux distribution?

A Linux distribution is a collection of software that runs on the Linux kernel. The word “Linux” literally refers to the Linux kernel, which is the part of the operating system that interacts with the hardware and manages running programs. A distribution includes the Linux kernel, but also includes hundreds of programs (e.g. Firefox, X Windows, and the gcc compiler). A kernel without any programs to run on it is useless.

So how do distributions differ?

  • Hardware support. Although all distributions use the same Linux kernel, the compiled kernel that distributions ship does differ.
  • Each distribution uses a different installer, which also affects hardware support.
  • They don’t all include the same software. (However, for the most part a core set of programs are included with all distributions.)
  • Some distributions are more agressive about including the latest versions of software and the kernel, while others may tend towards more conservative releases.
  • Some distributions install the same program to different places in the directory tree.
  • Configuration files can be stored in different locatsion.
  • Probably the most important difference to the end user is in package format. Red Hat (and many other distributions) use RPM (Redhat Package Manager) files to install new software. Debian uses the DEB format.

How are distributions the same?

  • The basic applications: every distribution contains bash, tcsh, perl, awk, sed, grep, make, gcc compilers, a vi clone, emacs, X Windows…

Q: What hardware is supported?

Consult the distribution list for the classes of PowerPC systems supported by each distribution.

Q: Does PowerPC Linux work with HFS Extended/HFS Plus drives?

Yes. HFS+ support was added to the Linux kernel early in the 2.6 series.

Q: Will PPC Linux work on my Power Mac with a G3 processor upgrade card?

Yes, if your Power Mac already can run PPC Linux, it will work fine with a G3 upgrade card, with full support for the cache.

However, Power Macintosh 6100, 7100, 8100, and PowerBook 1400 will not work. Even though those machines can be upgraded to have the G3 chips, they’re still incapable of running PPC Linux. The G3 upgrade cards only give you a faster processor; they don’t provide Open Firmware or the PCI bus found in the later Power Mac and PowerBook models.

Q: Will PowerPC Linux ever run on the Power Mac 6100, 7100, 8100 or PowerBook 1400 or 5300?

There is currently experimental work under way to make this happen. This will likely not stabilize for some time, and non-kernel hackers are recommended to run MkLinux, the Mach-based Linux derivative.

Q: How does Linux boot on my PowerPC?

Owners of older (non-colored) Power Macs should use BootX (an extension) or miboot (which pretends to be a Mac OS System file) or quik (for the daring who have mostly-unbroken Open Firmware).

Owners of new Power Macs with nicer Open Firmware (Blue G3, iMac, iMac DV,
iBook, G4)



PReP machines (older, mostly IBM and Motorola PPC-based workstations) have
a boot loader built in to the kernel, but it is still the firmware’s job to
begin execution of the kernel. CHRP machines can use Open Firmware, quik, or
yaboot (recommended) to boot the kernel.

Q: Will PPC Linux interfere with my Mac OS installation?

No. PPC Linux should have no effect on a Mac OS installation. The only
component of Linux that has any regular involvement with the Mac OS is the

Q: Can I run my Mac software under Linux?

Through the use of a software runtime environments, yes. Mac-On-Linux (“MOL”) is a Linux
application which provides a Mac OS environment, allowing the Mac OS to be run
as a Linux process at near native speeds. It’s GPL’ed, of course.

Q: Can I run software (applications, binaries) for Intel-based Linux
on PowerPC Linux?

No. Programs compiled for Intel hardware (or any other processor) will
not run on PowerPC-based Linux. If you can get the source code (which is
frequently the case with Linux programs), you will most likely be able to
compile the program on PowerPC Linux (even if you’re not a programmer). If
the source code is not available for a program, then you’ll need to contact the
group or company that developed the software and politely encourage them to
make a version for Linux on the PowerPC.

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