Sunday, November 22, 2015

Video Playback on PowerPC Linux

In my testing of Lubuntu and Ubuntu-MATE on my iBook G4 one things that I notice often is that when playing back video using mpv my overall CPU usage spike to the high 90s. The fan on my machine start spinning really loud and fast. I thought I would do a comparison of with Debian to see how they compare. Here are some of my findings.


iBook G4
1.42 GHz CPU
1.5 GB RAM

These findings are based on lxtask

LXDE and Openbox

Overal CPU average 50%-60%
MPV process 30%-40%

The fans not once came one and there only brief spikes to 80%-90% CPU usage.


Overal CPU average 70%-80%
MPV process 30%-40%

Even with the higher numbers due to XFCE being a heavier desktop than LXDE, video playback did not cause my fans to run. As much as I love Ubuntu based distros Debian is by far the better performer. I believe a lot of it is due how I set up Debian. When I installed the system I manually chose what applications and services were installed on my machine. Ubuntu on the other hand chooses for you what comes with the desktop. The advantage to this is you get a compete working system pretty easily. The cost of this is have a performance hit. On newer machines this may not be a big deal but on older G3 and G4 PPC machines it is a great deal. You get no more than 2GB of RAM on some machines, and a single processor for the iBooks and PowerBooks. I would never say stop using Lubuntu or Ubuntu-MATE, however give Debian a try. Yes it will take some more work than Ubuntu, however the benefits of running it are great.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Testing Lubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus

Now that Wiley has been released, development for Ubuntu 16.04 (Xenial Xerus) has begun. Daily images have already been posted. Both Lubuntu and Ubuntu-MATE have PowerPC images ready for testing. People over at the UbuntuForums have alreasdy begun testing the new images. Also there was hope that the radeon r300 bug was fixed if you looked at the Mesa 11.0.3 release notes. Xenial as of now comes with the Mesa 11.0.4 package. So here are my initial thoughts.


The install was pretty standard. There was nothing that stood out and to be honest this is a good thing. The installer should ask you the questions the app needs to build the system according to what you have requested. I noticed in Wiley that section the manages setting the timezone was broken and you needed to set the timezone after install. This has now been fixed.


The desktop had a realy nice default look to it. I made the panel dark using the Lubuntu-Dark theme. The panel apps I tried worked as well. I noticed in 14.04 that the weather panel app did not work. Now in 16.04 it is working. The system resource monitor worked as well. I like seeing the CPU and RAM usage plus the app launches lxtask when you click on it. A lot of the default apps that normall come with Lubuntu were not installed but this is something I expected since it is so early in development and there maybe changes as to what ships in the final release.


Sadly eventhough Mesa has stated this bug to resolved it is not the case. You cannot get 3D acceleration with radeon r300 driver with a default depth of 24. Graphics rendering has been an issue for PowerPC since moving to KMS. It is not a show stopper in using Linux on PowerPC, but it is annoying.

Browsing the Web

Firefox worked as expected. I install Midori, Qupzilla, Luakit, and Surf as well. Midori works great! It looks like even downloading files is working better. In the past there were times when that feature would crash. It is really good to see improvement there. Also uploading files is working as well. Luakit has gotten a little buggy. There were times when the browser crashed when I used it. It is something I have seen in 15.10 and I know there is an open bug report on it. Qupzilla has issues when trying to scroll down using the touch pad. Other than that it ran pretty well. Running Surf showed no issues that i could see.

My first impression of Lubuntu 16.04 are pretty optimistic. I will be checking in on it when the Alpha and Beta releases come to see how the distro is doing under PowerPC.

Friday, October 16, 2015

Linux from Scratch Journey part 1

I have installed both Gentoo and Arch Linux in VMs and real hardware. Both are the most customizable Linux distros I have worked on. You basically get a bash shell and build from there. However if you really want a customizable version of Linux that you can say you built then you should take the plunge and try Linux from Scratch.

Linux from Scratch (LFS) is a version of Linux that is built completely from source. What you get from LFS is a document that walks you through how to build your system. I just finish the section where you build your temporary tool-chain that you will use the build the system. The instructions were great. So long as you follow them exactly you should be fine. I am right now building an x86_64 based system, however depending on how successful I am I may try to build a PowerPC version on my iBook G4.

I will be adding posts as I work through LFS. Document both the success and issues that may arise.

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

First dive into BSD land

So I have spent the last few months working through FreeBSD and OpenBSD on my iBook G4 to see how well PowerPC is supported. It has been a mixture of challenge and frustration. I was hoping to make way more progress than I did, but in the future I hope to press on and report better news.

FreeBSD on PowerPC

The one thing that I really like about the BSDs is their initial installs are extremely simple and straightforward. Just like Gentoo, FreeBSD has a handbook that guide you though the set up. The documentation there is fantastic. FreeBSD uses a ports system for installing packages. This means compiling from source everything that is not in the base system. They do have precompiled binaries to install but they are not available for PowerPC. This is where things got really frustrating.

If you want to install Xorg on iBook G4 with a 1.42 Ghz CPU be prepared to wait for at least 2 days to compile. YES TWO DAYS! This is mostly because the process halts when it needs into install a dependency and it will ask if you want the default settings for do you want to change them. Then it will start to compile and install the dependency before it actually install the package you want. If a package has multiple dependencies then you can see why it takes so long.

There were ports that simply crashed and would not build. Packages like drm for graphics and even firefox would either fail to build or require some work to get going. I eventually got XFCE going but I needed to disable hardware acceleration and I had no browser to access the web. I never got chance to work on wireless access. Maybe sometime in the future.

So for a headless server FreeBSD could be used on PowerPC but there is a lot of work that needs to be done before I could recommend as a DE.

OpenBSD on PowerPC

OpenBSD uses a FAQ as their means of documentation. Like the FreeBSD handbook it is a great source of information. The install like FreeBSD was fairly simple. The one area I would recommend you deviate from the defaults is the disk partitioning section. The installer will recommend a partition scheme for you. This scheme creates multiple small partitions for /boot, /home, /usr, etc. The issue is that the chances for a partition (especially /usr since that is where the ports tree ends up) to get full pretty quickly. So I recommend doing a custom layout and have a swap and root partition only. You can find more info on to set up disks in OpenBSD here.

One advantage that OpenBSD has over FreeBSD is their precompiled packages are available for PowerPC. OpenBSD actually prefers you to install their packages over compiling ports. This is from their section in the FAQ on packages and ports,

IMPORTANT NOTE: The ports tree is meant for advanced users. Everyone is encouraged to use the pre-compiled binary packages.

OpenBSD also has Xorg as part of its base system which is a huge help in setting up the DE. I was able to get lumina and xfce working but there was some performance issues that need to be worked on. It looks the radeon r300 driver is supported under 5.8 (current), which is set to release soon.

Apart from a DE, OpenBSD is superb platform for networking. Setting up OpenBSD as a simple router/firewall is pretty straight forward. OpenBSD's pf is an amazing packet filter. There are also plenty of great packages that will help turn OpenBSD into a pretty powerful application layer firewall. I have been really enjoying learning this aspect of OpenBSD even if it is not strictly PowerPC related.

I have yet to try out NetBSD and it is on my list. I will post more on BSD as time permits.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

turning off ipv6 under Linux

Anyone familiar with networking know that the available number public ipv4 addresses is pretty much dried up. So as time goes on the move to ipv6 will only grow. However at least in parts of the US home users may not want to switch just yet. My local provider has ipv6 enabled but the performance is horrible. Pages and downloads simply drag or just stalls. Since the OS will prefer ipv6 over ipv4 when available the only option is to disable it. First check to see if you are receiving an ipv6 address by pulling the interface info from terminal

rican-linux@xubuntu-MacBookPro:~$ ifconfig wlp3s0
wlp3s0       Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr
                   inet addr: Bcast: Mask:
                   inet6 addr: fe80::225:ff:fe4f:4961/64 Scope:Link
inet6 addr: 2602:306:8b30:a310:225:ff:fe4f:4961/64 Scope:Global
inet6 addr: 2602:306:8b30:a310::43/128 Scope:Global
                   RX packets:41182 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:624154
                   TX packets:21081 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
                   collisions:0 txqueuelen:1000 
                   RX bytes:36444300 (36.4 MB) TX bytes:2165921 (2.1 MB)

Now to disable ipv6 globally you will need to add this statement to the end of the /etc/sysctl.conf file, net.ipv6.conf.all.disable_ipv6 = 1. Then run the command as root sysctl -p /etc/sysctl.conf. This will disable ipv6 on your system.

Hopefully in time as more places have better ipv6 support this option will not be needed.

Martin Winpress helps keep PowerPC going with Ubuntu-MATE

A great thank you needs to go out Martin Winpress.  First he is part of the team that has given PowerPC users another great Desktop Enviroment to choose from with MATE. Second he has produced a solid distro that has PowerPC support in Ubuntu-MATE.

15.04 was a horrible release for PowerPC under Ubuntu. The release came with a version of xorg that was broken under PowerPC. Many users in the Ubuntufoums were really worried about weather or not it would be fixed. Then the same bug hit Sid right after Jessie was released. Thankfully it was fixed in Debian and the fix made it in time for the 15.10 release of Ubuntu-MATE.

Another fix that made it to Ubuntu was the javascriptcore-gtk bug that crashed browsers like midori and luakit. Now you can browse the web with these lightweight browsers under Ubuntu.

The install for users with the radeon r300 driver is the same as I documented here. Sound, wireless, video playback all worked. One issue I saw and this is because I was testing on my iBook G4 is when you play video with mpv the fans kick off after a minute. This does not happen on my PowerBook G4, but it has a slightly better video card and CPU.

There was an issue with powerd crashing when I plugged in my iPhone, but it looks like that issue has been resolved.

One of really great features that come with this version of Ubuntu-MATE is an app developed by Martin called MATE Welcome. This tool gives you access to documentation, access to the community pages, and allows you to install apps.  You can find more info here.

Another tool is MATE Tweak. It allows to change your window manager without having to logout and back in. It also allows to change your DE layout to with a selection of options. If you like a traditional Windows feel then select the Redmond layout or for OS X choose Cupertino.

With 15.10 there is better iOS support. In 14.04 and even in Debian Jessie if you are running iOS 8 or later shotwell fails to import your videos and photos from your iPhone. This issue is now resolved in 15.10. I am running iOS 9 and can import my photos into shotwell on my iBook G4.

In conclusion I am really excited about Ubuntu-MATE and the option it gives PowerPC users for a modern, secure operating system. If 16.04 is a continuation of I am seeing then the next LTS version of Ubuntu-MATE will be a distro to recommend.

Screenshot with the Cupertino layout:

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

KDE is awesome!

It has been a while since I have posted anything. I have been working on getting FreeBSD working on my iBook G4 and will be posting on that shortly. I wanted to share my thoughts on running a higher end DE in Linux. Most of my posts have been on PowerPC. These machines are older and are better ran more lightweight DEs such as LXDE, XFCE, or even MATE. Running DEs such as GNOME or KDE really do not make much sense on a G4 machine that the most it can have is 2GB of RAM.

However, if you have a more modern machine with good specs then you could go for a more powerful DE. GNOME has been my DE of choice for a while. It is also the DE that my wife really enjoys. One of the features that I really like about GNOME is the keyboard integration. GNOME make it really easy to launch apps and move between workspaces with a few hits on the keyboard. It just has a really clean to look to it. However I have always wanted to try out KDE. So a few days ago a grabbed a Kubuntu 14.04 and 15.04 ISO and went on my way. I was blown away.

The first thing that I noticed right about KDE was how beautiful of a DE it is. Everything from the panel layouts, how notifications are displayed, and the look of the application really show that a lot of work has gone into making KDE aesthetically pleasing. It is also one of the most customizable DE I have seen. Some people would say that is way too customizable and I can how you can get lost in all the options. However, for me I it is not an annoyance at all. It also has a lot of compiz like features built into its window manager, kwin.

If you decide you want to give it a try I would suggest going with Kubuntu 14.04. Normally I would prefer Debian, but the current stable release does not have all the plugins for KDE. So for example I the KDE network-manager applet is not in Jessie so you need to the GNOME applet. If you are using Sid then the plugin is there.

I am currently running Kubuntu 15.04 on my 2009 MacBook Pro and even on this older machine KDE runs well. Now 15.04 is running the newer Plasma5 version of KDE. It is still pretty experimental, which is why I recommend the 14.04 version. One drawback I have found with Kubuntu is using Kontact on a Mac that is a little outdated. It is a productivity suite that manages email, contacts, and calendar. It is very resource intensive so I choose not to use to manage my email.

If you are running KDE in Debian you can choose not to install this suite if you desired. This is an advantage that Debian has over Kubuntu. However Kubuntu does give you an more straightforward out of the box experience. This may be important if someone does not want to spend time installing packages to get the DE working.

Below is a screenshot enjoy!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Ubuntu-MATE fits my MacBook Pro nicely

I have been an OS X users for years. I was always happy how it performed. Then came Yosemite and all changed. It was just one issue after another. Safari performance was poor, my garmin would no longer work. Then came the news that iPhoto was being replaced with Photos. This new change meant that syncing photos from the iPhone to the MacBook will now require sending your picture to iCloud. No longer was there direct sync from phone to machine.

It was then I decided to move to Linux on my MacBook. Now I have been using Linux on my PowerPC machines, but kept my MacBook running OS X. So now came the decision of what distro to use.

I first started Ubuntu 15.04, but I was not happy with Unity. There was issues that made some web pages barely readable, software center was having css issues and suspend was not working well on Apple hardware. Then I went to Ubuntu-GNOME and still the same issues. Then finally I went with Ubuntu-MATE.

Ubuntu-MATE  works great on this machine. All the issues I had with the previous flavors of Ubuntu were gone. Plus all the features that Ubuntu-MATE team have added like one-click compiz activation and multi panel layout so if you are looking for OS X or Windows layout setting it up is pretty simple. The performance has been great so far. I could not recommend this flavor of Ubuntu more highly. Thanks to Martin Winpress and the team.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

A simple TrueCrypt alternative on Linux

A lot of people who were security conscious use TrueCrypt for disk encrytion. Sadly it was discovered to contain security vulnerabilities and for a while now it has been deemed unsafe to use. Thankfully there is an effort to audit the code. So hopfully this may be resolved in the future. Till then there is a really simply way to get portable disk encryption under Linux.

First verify that the package cryptsetup is installed. If not then install it, sudo apt-get install cryptsetup. Once this is installed use the command fallacate to create a file of a paticular size (for example 100M).

rican-linux@lubuntu-powerpc:~/Public$ fallocate -l 100M test.img
rican-linux@lubuntu-powerpc:~/Public$ du -h test.img
100M test.img

What the command did was creat the file test.img and allocate 100M of disk space to it. The extension is really not needed you create a drive without it. The next steps will be to use the disk utility that comes with the Linux desktop you installed to make this file into a loopback drive then create and encrpyted partion using LUX.

First open the disk utility and select attach image.

Then goto the directory where the file is located. Before you select the file uncheck the read-only option on the bottom, then select attach. The file should now be seen as a loopback drive in the disk utility.

Once mounted use disk utility to format the loopback device with ext4.

Once the device is formated to created your encrypted partition select create new parttion.


Then enter the passphrase used to encrypt the volume. Be sure to make it complicated! Now you have a portable encrypted filesystem.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

Running VMs on G4 machines with LXC

It is really fun testing out different distributions. You get to see their differences and their strength/weaknesses. The one drawback is the need to keep installing ISO over and over again. I have seen people with G5 machine run qemu to host VM guests. However on G4 machine I do not think there are enough resources to really to this with taking some type of perfomance hit. Then I came across using Linux Containers (lxc) and it was exactly what I needed! So what lxc offers is virtualazation at OS level rather than on the hardware level via hypervizors. QEMU, Zen, KVM,and VB all viritalize the hardware, meaning each VM has its own dedicated hardware. Now if you have more than one core and few Gigs of RAM than this is no issue. However G4 machines at the max have 2G of ram and most are single CPU. This greatly limits what can be accomplished using hypervizors. Since lxc virtualizes on the OS level you guests will share your resources. On my iBook G4 with a single 1.42 GHz cpu and 1.5G of RAM running an instance of Debian as an lxc container performed really well. Below I will walk you through the install and set of lxc on PowerPC.

Install and Initial Setup

The following packages were the ones I used to get lxc working.
sudo apt-get install lxc bridge-utils libvirt-bin debootstrap
These will get you lxc working and allow to connect to your home network. Once you have these package installed there are somethings you need to check. First you want to be sure your kernel has all the correct configuration for lxc. The command to use is lxc-checkconfig. This will verify your kernel configuration. The output should be same as below,
rican-linux@iBookG4-Debian9:~$ sudo lxc-checkconfig
[sudo] password for rican-linux:
Kernel configuration not found at /proc/config.gz; searching…
Namespaces —-
Namespaces: enabled
Utsname namespace: enabled
Ipc namespace: enabled
Pid namespace: enabled
User namespace: enabled
Network namespace: enablede
Multiple /dev/pts instances: enabled
—- Control groups —-
Cgroup: enabled
Cgroup clone_children flag: enabled
Cgroup device: enabled
Cgroup sched: enabled
Cgroup cpu account: enabled
Cgroup memory controller: enabled
—- Misc —-
Veth pair device: enabled
Macvlan: enabled
Vlan: enabled
File capabilities: enabled
Note : Before booting a new kernel, you can check its configuration
usage : CONFIG=/path/to/config /usr/bin/lxc-checkconfig
All the settings should show enabled. LXC comes with predefined templates that you can use to install containers. These templates can be found in the /usr/share/lxc/templates directory. Since this is on a PowerPC machine you can only install templates that support this architecture. Which leaves you with Debian, Ubuntu, Gentoo, and OpenSUSE. Right now I have been able to successfuly create containers for Debain and Ubuntu. There are some issue with the other two that I am looking into. Now to create a container the command to run is lxc-create. So to create a Debian container this is they syntax to use,
sudo lxc-create -n container_name -t debian
One the proces is complete a root password will be given that you should change one you launch the container and login. Before that step you should set up the networking so that you container can access the internet.


The process I used to manage my network connections is libvirt. It basically creates a vitual bridge so your VMs in the LXC containers can access the network. If you have libvirt already installed then to see if you bridge is ready run this command sudo virsh net-info default. The output should be as below,
rican-linux@iBookG4-Debian9:~$ sudo virsh net-info default
[sudo] password for rican-linux:
Name: default
UUID: d57736ba-96cc-4798-aefa-1a046fdb1de8
Active: yes
Persistent: yes
Autostart: no
Bridge: virbr0
If the active field is set to no then enable the bridge with this command virsh net-start default. The field should be now set to yes and you should see the interface if you run sudo ifconfig -a.
rican-linux@iBookG4-Debian9:~$ sudo ifconfig -a
virbr0 Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 52:54:00:4a:83:be
inet addr: Bcast: Mask:
RX packets:454898 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:897541 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:0
RX bytes:77865967 (74.2 MiB) TX bytes:1259670602 (1.1 GiB)
virbr0-nic Link encap:Ethernet HWaddr 52:54:00:4a:83:be
RX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 frame:0
TX packets:0 errors:0 dropped:0 overruns:0 carrier:0
collisions:0 txqueuelen:500
RX bytes:0 (0.0 B) TX bytes:0 (0.0 B)
The ip address shown is controlled by this configuration file, /var/lib/libvirt/network/default.xml. This file also controls the dhcp scope of the virtual network and where you can set static reservations. You can read more on this on the Debian Wiki here.

LXC running and VNC setup

Now that lxc is install, a Debian container is created, and the networking is set,it is time to run the container and set up VNC. The command to start a container is the following,
sudo lxc-start -F -n container_name
The -F option puts you in the console on your terminal session. Once you login you want to be sure you have an ip address and can reach the internet. Once that is verified, next is to run sudo apt-get update && sudo apt-get upgrade so that the latest packages are installed. Then install the DE you want to login to. The best choice that does consume too much resources is LXDE. The command to install is simply sudo apt-get install lxde for Debain or sudo apt-get install lubuntu-desktop for Ubuntu. Finally it is time to install the VNC server. Follow the steps below,
Install the server
sudo apt-get install vnc4server
create a non-privilaged user
adduser test
su test
as the user start and stop the server
vnc4server :1 -geometry 800x600 -depth 24
vnc4server -kill :1 -geometry 800x600 -depth 24
edit the xstartup file
nano ~/.vnc/xstartup
add at the end (Debian)
/usr/bin/lxsession -s LXDE &
add at the end (Ubuntu)
/usr/bin/lxsession -e LXDE -s Lubuntu &
restart the server
vnc4server :1 -geometry 800x600 -depth 24
The server will ask for a password when it is launch for the first time. The password will be used to login via the VNC client. On the host there are a few choices for a vnc client. There are two good command line client vncviewer and vnc4viewer. When they are installed to start the session using vncviewer by entering the following,
vncviewer ip address:1
enter password
The session should open in a window and you are done! If you want a gui client then remmina is a great choice. Below are some screenshots. If you want more info on lxc check out the Debian Wiki here

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Noobslabs is an awesome site!

I am currently running Debian Testing (Stretch) on my iBook G4. I posted a brief review of the install here.  I like spending time tweaking it out. Putting in new wallpapers, themes, and icons. Another tool I love is conky. This tool is light system monitor that displays statistics on your desktop. It is very customizable and people have shared their configurations for people to use. Sometimes these configurations are hard to implement and require some tweaking. I do not mind tinkering but sometimes I just want something to work on install. Well I came accross Noobslab and found my answer! This site is designed for people who new to Linux specifically Debian based distros like Ubuntu and Mint. They have PPAs to install themes and icon sets which make setting up themes on your Ubuntu or Mint install so much easier. They also have great start up scripts for conky as well that work any distro. They have some really great designs to choose from and you can download a wired or wireless setup depending on which interface you wish to monitor. Getting this working on my iBook was extremely simple. If you are looking for a nice conky set up then this is definitely a place to check out!.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Ubuntu fustrations

There is has been a growing frustration over at the Ubuntu Forums over support for PowerPC. Lubuntu 14.04 LTS is exremely buggy. There are serious issues with firefox, and video playback software like vlc and mpv. Bug reports have been placed here and here. The latest 15.04 release is completely unusable . I installed Ubuntu-MATE 15.04 on my iBook G4 and yaboot failed to install complete making my system unbootable. 15.04 is only a standard release an not LTS, so why not say we are not releasing a PowerPC version for this release cycle till these bugs are resolved? It will at least show there is a desire to get a working PowerPC image out there. I am not trying to bash Ubuntu, I really do want to see Ubuntu produce a reliable PowerPC version. Right now Debian is the most stable PowerPC distribution of Linux. I am typing this from iBook G4 running Debian Testing (Strech).
Nevertheless, I understand the a lot of these issues could be upstream related. I know some guys with G5 machines that are having issues not only with Ubuntu but with Debian Jessie as well. This really saddens me because Jessie works great on G4 machines. The G5s are just as good as a lot modern machines today. I really do hope Ubuntu can get some these issue squared away. Ubuntu-MATE is a great distro and would I love to see a fully working PowerPC version.

UPDATE I: It looks like the firefox issue has been resolved. The most recent updates comes with firefox 38. This version fix all the firefox issue htat have previousl reported. I running Ubuntu-MATE 14.04.2 on PowerMac G4 and so far firefox is running great. I plan on posting a walkthrough on how I set up my PowerMac. Christian Zigotzky has done some great work with Linux on PowerPC. He was able with some hacking to Ubuntu-MATE 15.04 PPC working with some great Compiz action.

PowerBook gave up the ghost

Well this morning I finished manually upgrading my PowerBook G4 to Jessie. I verified all was good then I rebooted. The boot loaded showed everything was fine, then black screen...nothing. Hmm so I thought maybe I did something wrong? So I turned it off and tried to reboot but it would not even go to apple chime. So I unplugged waited for some time and tried again...still no chime. I fear that my faithful PowerBook has breathed its last...

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Compiz on Lubuntu 14.04

I reinstalled Lubuntu 14.04 on my iBook G4 to see if I can get compiz working on it. The first thing I did was install mesa packages that were patched to enable 3D acceleration on radeon r300 drivers. You can find them here. Then you will need to install the following:

rican-linux@ibookG4-lubuntu:~$ dpkg -l |grep compiz
ii  compiz                                  1:    all          OpenGL window and compositing manager
ii  compiz-core                             1:    powerpc      OpenGL window and compositing manager
ii  compiz-fusion-bcop                      0.8.4-1.1                             all          Compiz Fusion option code generator
ii  compiz-gnome                            1:    powerpc      OpenGL window and compositing manager - GNOME window decorator
ii  compiz-plugins                          1:    powerpc      OpenGL window and compositing manager - plugins
ii  compiz-plugins-default                  1:    powerpc      OpenGL window and compositing manager - default plugins
ii  compiz-plugins-extra                    1:    all          transitional dummy package.
ii  compiz-plugins-main                     1:    all          transitional dummy package.
ii  compiz-plugins-main-default             1:    all          transitional dummy package.
ii  compizconfig-settings-manager           1:    all          Compiz configuration settings manager
ii  libcompizconfig0                        1:    powerpc      Settings library for plugins - OpenCompositing Project
ii  python-compizconfig                     1:    powerpc      Compizconfig bindings for python

Once you have these installed open compizconfig and enable the following

  1. composite
  2. opengl
  3. gnome compatibility
  4. copy to texture
  5. expose
  6. desktop cube
  7. rotate cube
  8. animations
  9. window decoration
  10. application switcher
  11. maxiumize
  12. move window
  13. resize window
  14. place windows
  15. ring switcher
After you have at least these settings then enter the following compiz --replace ccp &

You will also need to set these to get the cube working goto:

general options ->Desktop Size 
  Horizontal Virtual Size =4
  Vertical Vitual Size =1

Now you can hit super+s to see the expo and CTRL+ALT+L Click to rotate the cube. Most of the plugins work, wobbly windows, fire paint, and show mouse options work as well. I am still working change the default theme (If anyone has suggestions please share!)

Friday, April 24, 2015

Testdriving Gentoo Linux

So I have now Gentoo Linux installed and running on my iBook G4 for a little over a week. I have been wanting to give it a try for a while. Gentoo like Arch is a very  DIY distro. You basically install just as base system and from there it is up to you what you want to install. The fact that you are building your own custom Linux system is the big appeal for Gentoo and Arch. The drawback is that it involves a lot of patience. Both Arch and Gentoo have great documentation that if you pay attention and follow will help get your system going. So I am going to through some of my thoughts about the different stages of getting the system up and going.

The Base Install:

So when you boot from the live cd you get a shell and from there you build your base system. It is very important that you follow the PPC Handbook closely for a successful install. This is an invaluable resource in getting your system going. The handbook will help get you get you hard drive partitioned and formatted but it will also walk you though important concepts in Gentoo such as it package management system Portage. Portage unlike apt or yum install packages by downloading the source code and compiling locally on your system. There is part of the base install that you may need to deviate from the Handbook. In the end where you are setting up Yaboot and preparing to boot into the system you need to create your yaboot.conf file. When you do you need to change the device line to hd:. You conf file should look like this:

rican-linux@ibookG4-gentoo ~ $ cat /etc/yaboot.conf
## yaboot.conf generated by yabootconfig 1.0.8
## run: "man yaboot.conf" for details. Do not make changes until you have!!
## For a dual-boot menu, add one or more of:
## bsd=/dev/hdaX, macos=/dev/hdaY, macosx=/dev/hdaZ



If you do not do this yaboot may not boot properly. Also there is a bug that will not allow yaboot utility to install on the base system so to update yaboot.conf with the ybin command you will need to do it from the live cd.

Configuring the Kernel

What appeared to be the most stressful part, but was actually not as bad I originally thought was setting up and compiling the kernel. Basically you are setting up what features you want turned on from what type of Video hardware to if you want routing features you want on. Make sure you start with running this command make pmac32_defconfig. It should help with getting most of the PPC features turned on. While you are configuring the kernel it would be good to visit the Gentoo PPC FAQ section on setting up wireless. There are some kernel settings you nee to verify so why not do that part now rather than later and have recompile. When doing this part it is critical that you follow the handbook. It will guide you though.


I have decided to install XFCE as my DE. The first thing you will need to do is install Xorg, then once you get it installed you will need to install the XFCE packages. You can verify everything is working by running startxfce4. If all is good then the next thing would install a display manager. I used lightdm as my display manager, but you there are plenty of DMs you can choose from here. Also you still need to enable KMS once you have the DE installed or you will experiencing your DE freezing. You should not set the yaboot parameters until Xorg is installed or the system will freeze on boot. This means that you will need to boot into the live cd to apply the changes the yaboot.conf file. Here are some screen shots for my desktop..


If you have enabled the proper setting while you were configuring the kernel the next set is to download and install the firmware. My iBook uses the Broadcom BCM4318 chipset and usually it is just a simple few steps:

sudo apt-get install firmware-b43-installer
sudo modprobe -r b43
sudo moprobe b43

Now in Gentoo you have to manually grab and install the firmware. Thankfully the PPC FAQ points you a great resource here that walks you through. Once you have followed the instructions you can verify by running dmesg, you should see the follwing

rican-linux@ibookG4-gentoo ~ $ dmesg |grep -e b43 -e Broadcom
[   16.106492] b43-pci-bridge 0001:10:12.0: enabling device (0004 -> 0006)
[   19.719625] b43-phy0: Broadcom 4318 WLAN found (core revision 9)
[   19.761647] b43-phy0: Found PHY: Analog 3, Type 2 (G), Revision 7
[   19.761676] b43-phy0 debug: Found Radio: Manuf 0x17F, Version 0x2050, Revision 8
[   19.785836] Broadcom 43xx driver loaded [ Features: PMNL ]
[   26.661593] b43-phy0: Loading firmware version 666.2 (2011-02-23 01:15:07)
[   26.681602] b43-phy0 debug: Chip initialized
[   26.682597] b43-phy0 debug: 32-bit DMA initialized
[   26.682640] b43-phy0 debug: QoS enabled
[   26.701989] b43-phy0 debug: Wireless interface started
[   26.702046] b43-phy0 debug: Adding Interface type 2
[   28.967573] b43-phy0 debug: Using hardware based encryption for keyidx: 0, mac: 44:e1:37:b4:aa:70
rican-linux@ibookG4-gentoo ~ $

Then run ifconfig to verify you see the wlan0 interface. If not run the command again with the -a option. If you do see it then all it means is that you need to turn the interface on ifconfig wlan0 up if not then you may need to a reboot or verify that the b43 module is active. At this point you need a tool to manage your network connections. Your best choice is NetworkManager, and to install you just need to execute sudo emerge -av net-misc/networkmanager. After it compiles and installs you will notice that there is no gui applet that you would normally expect to see. This is because the applet is another package that needs to be installed(sudo emerge -av gnome-extra/nm-applet). However NetworkManager has a command line tool you can use as well. Just execute nmtui and from there you can join your wifi network.

Final thoughts

Getting Gentoo to work too a lot more effort than Debian or Ubuntu. However if you love challenges and want to learn how an OS works from the ground up then you will definitely get that with Gentoo. Video playback was great with mpv however smtube is not part of the Portage tree. They did have minitube but it would not work (looks like a google api issue). 3D acceleration works if you set the default display to 16 in xorg.conf. The two biggest issues for me was one the cdrom would not auto mount for me and the install time for packages. It take a really long time to install anything  big since Gentoo is downloading the source code and compiling on the local system. There are definite advantages to doing this normally, but for iBook or even later PowerBook this may be way too time consuming. If you have a later dual core Powermac G4 or G5 then you may have some benefit of Gentoo on your system.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Luigi does it again and new OS on my iBook

Luigi Burdo has done a great service in showing how the PowerPC platform is not dead but can still be used in 2015. The video he shared with the Mac Mini running Ubuntu MATE was fantastic. I called it at the time the best Linux on PowerPC video on the web. Well Luigi just raised the bar again with this latest one. In the following video he is displaying Lubuntu 14.04 on Powermac G5 Quad Core with a RadeonHD 6570 video card. Watch and enjoy!

Also I have been using my iBook G4 as a testing machine. Trying different distros and applications. Mostly I have been testing with Debian and Ubuntu, but i have been thinking about trying others as well. Luigi is reporting success with OpenSUSE 13.2 if anyone wants to try. I have decided to install Gentoo. I just got the GUI up and working and still doing more tests before I go into a full review. It is more work to get, but if you have any familiarity with Arch then it is a similar process. More on Gentoo to come!

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Adventures in MATE, Lubuntu, and Debian Jessie

It has been a few weeks since I have posted anything and they have been busy ones! I have been putting the iBook to the test loading Lubuntu 14.04 and 15.04, Ubuntu-MATE 14.04 and 15.04, also Debian Jessie. So here is a quick run down of my thoughts on these distros.

14.04 Lubuntu and Ubuntu-MATE

The install of these distros was as expected. No real hiccups to report. I did notice that some web pages did not load correctly in firefox but they would fine on Iceweasel in Debian. There were not many but it was annoying. Also without some compositing (ie using compton) video playback was choppy. Now one thing that di1 d excite me was in the Ubuntu-MATE release notes there are patched .deb files for mesa and .deb files for Compiz. So obviously I installed them to see if I can get some sweet 3D compositing! Well it was a little buggy but I did get the cube up! (see screenshot below).

15.04 Lubuntu and Ubuntu-MATE

Beta1 of Ubuntu-MATE ran really well. I have posted a really nice screenshot of my desktop with Numix based themes and icons. However Beta2 was a total bust! When I upgraded MATE it crashed my system completely. Lubuntu would not even load the live iso and MATE would crash when I try. There is active bug report on Launch Pad detailing it. If you are similar issues please post them there.

Debian Jessie

I am huge fan of Debian. My PowerBook G4 is running stable due to its reliability. I first ran Jessie months ago and was caught by surprise with some of the issues I ran across. Now coming back to it with a lot more experience with Linux on PowerPC it was a much smoother experience. There have been some great improvements since the last time I ran Jessie. Getting KMS going is not the pain it once was due mostly to know what parameters to set on boot (see my previous post here). Video playback was great and overall there is not much negative to say. There two areas that got annoyed me. First was the sound. You need to enable the snd-aoa-i2sbus module to enable alsamixer, however even after I got that working there was no sound. I need to install the pauvcontrol package to finally enable sound. Second there has been a long standing javascript bug that broke GTK web browsers in Ubuntu and Debian Jessie. Finally there is a patch that fixed this issue! Hopefully will be making it to both the Debain and Ubuntu repos soon. Also it looks like Jessie is set for official release on April 25. I will be looking forward to it!

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Ubuntu-MATE on my iBook G4!

So I have been wanting another PowerPC machine to some more testing of different linux distros on. My current PowerBook G4 has been my main laptop for a few months and I am pretty happy with Debian on it right now. So I have been searching craigslist and ebay for any good deals on iBooks. I was able to get an iBook G4 1.42 GHz for about $96 on criagslist. I was excited to bring it home to begin the job of getting Linux to run on it. It had  768MB of RAM so I ordered a 1GB stick from OWC, it should be arriving this week. So here are my thoughts on 15.04 MATE

1. Install
    The install was very straight forward. However to boot into the live iso you will need to this at yaboot (see graphics section below for detail):

live radeon.modeset=1 video=radeonfb:off video=offb:off video=1024x768-32[enter your screen resolution] radeon.agpmode=-1 

The CD Rom has some issues so I decided to go with a USB install. On iBook G4 macines this means booting into openfirmware and running a command like this: boot usb1/@1:2,\\yaboot. There is great information on USB booting on the UbuntuPowerPC wiki if you want more detail. Once you get the installer going it is pretty standard and simple.

2. Wireless
    The Ubuntu Community Documentation Site has a really good walkthtough on installing firmware on Broadcom wireless cards here. Once I identified my chipset I was able to download the proper driver: sudo apt-get install firmware-b43-installer

3. Sound
    Begining with 14.04 there are known issues with sound on PowerPC Macs. There are some ibooks and powerbooks requires modules to be recompiled. There is an extensive discussion thread on the Ubuntu Forums here. Thankfully this was not the case with either my iBook G4 or my PowerBook G4. I just need to delete the file /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist.local.conf then I need to load the correct module by running this command: sudo modprobe snd-aoa-i2sbus. I then ran the command alsamixer and set the PCM channel to 80. Once that was set I added the snd-aoa-i2sbus module to the /etc/modules so it would load on boot. There is more information on sound issues at the UbuntuPowerPC wiki. This issue is also exprienced on Debian testing (Jessie).

4. Graphics
    Since 14.10 you need to enable KMS if you have a radeon video card (see this bug thread). KMS has been known to be buggy so in the past you had the option to disable it. Now without it you will have issue like no XVid playback. I entered the following on my iBook to enable KMS on the second yaboot screen on boot: 

Linux radeon.modeset=1 video=radeonfb:off video=offb:off video=1024x768-32 radeon.agpmode=-1 

When you login you will need to these paramters to the /etc/yaboot.conf file. You add them this way:

        append="quiet splash radeon.modeset=1 video=radeonfb:off video=offb:off video=1024x768-32 radeon.agpmode=-1"

        append="quiet splash radeon.modeset=1 video=radeonfb:off video=offb:off video=1024x768-32 radeon.agpmode=-1"

One you add these setting using nano, vi or whatever editor you use. You wil to run the following command sudo ybin -v to apply the changes. You should see the following or something similar if KMS is enabled.

:~$ cat /var/log/Xorg.0.log |grep -e drm -e dri2 -e radeon -e KMS
[    31.499] Kernel command line: root=UUID=cbe24412-5af3-4fd4-8a99-179d70cf2b66 ro quiet splash video=radeonfb:off radeon.modeset=1 video=radeonfb:off video=offb:off video=1024x768-32 radeon.agpmode=-1
[    31.522] (II) xfree86: Adding drm device (/dev/dri/card0)
[    31.806] (II) LoadModule: "radeon"
[    31.806] (II) Loading /usr/lib/xorg/modules/drivers/
[    31.901] (II) Module radeon: vendor="X.Org Foundation"
[    32.124] (II) [KMS] Kernel modesetting enabled.
[    32.127] (II) Loading sub module "dri2"
[    32.127] (II) LoadModule: "dri2"
[    32.127] (II) Module "dri2" already built-in
[    32.144] (II) RADEON(0): KMS Color Tiling: enabled
[    32.145] (II) RADEON(0): KMS Color Tiling 2D: disabled
[    32.145] (II) RADEON(0): KMS Pageflipping: enabled
[    33.081] (II) config/udev: Adding drm device (/dev/dri/card0) card0 /sys/devices/pci0000:00/0000:00:10.0/drm/card0
[    33.081] (II) config/udev: Ignoring already known drm device (/dev/dri/card0)

Having KMS enabled does not mean that you will have 3D acceleration. There are issues with the Mesa r300 driver that will require you to set the default screen depth on you xorg.conf file to 16. However this will limit your display. There are patched deb files for Mesa that fix this issue. However they are only for 14.04 version of Mesa. If you want them you can download them here. There is also more information on configuring graphics on the UbuntuPowerPC wiki as well.

5. Performance
   The desktop, while not as fast as my PowerBook running LXDE on Debian, performed well. Moving the mouse around was a little sluggish at times, but I am thinking that could be either the trackpad or maybe I needed more RAM. Video playback using mpv was as great. I was able to get some decent 720p playback on some videos. Since I was running 15.04 version I was not able to really use the patch for r300 mesa driver needed for 3D acceleration. This means that some of the games I wanted to play like Supertuxkart was just not possible. Web browser was good with the exception that firefox could load certain pages that would load fine on Debian using iceweasel. I am seeing the same issue with Lubuntu 14.04 so I do think it is an issue Ubuntu-MATE specifically. So if you have an iBook, PowerBook, and especially a Powermac G4 or G5 give Ubuntu-MATE a try!

Monday, March 2, 2015

Making LXDE look good!

LXDE is light and fast, but it leaves much to be desired when it comes to design. It is not at all as flashy as GNOME or KDE. It is the trade off for having a desktop that can run on old hardware. This does not mean that it is not customizable so that you can really nice looking desktop as you surf the web, edit documents or whatever else you do. I will share you somethings I have done to spruce up LXDE.

Panel Settings

When you right click on the panel one of the options you get is to modify the panel settings. There you change the placement of the panel, its background, and what type of applications and applets you wish to display. I personally like to have a little transparency on the panel.


LXDE does not have compiz as a feature but there are some good compositing tools you can use. If you are running Debian Whezzy you have the option of running xcompmgr. It gives you some basic compositing effects and allows you have a 3D dock if you prefer. It runs on the command line and you have to set it to launch on startup. You can plenty of of information in the Arch Wiki on xcompmgr. If you running Jessie or lubuntu 14.04 or later you can run a fork of xcompmgr called compton. Compton is not available in Wheezy if it was I would be using it. It is more stable than xcompmgr. The Arch Wiki has more great info on how to use plus the Lubuntu blog has a great post on how to use it on LXDE as well. To install just enter sudo apt-get install xcompmgr or sudo apt-get install compton in the terminal.

Themes and Icons

LXDE comes with a few predefined set of themes and icons. However you can add more to further customize your desktop. A good place to look is there you can search and download what ever set of themes and icons you like. They come compress so you would need to extract them. The uncompressed folders need to be placed in ~/.themes and ~/.icons directories (you will need to create them if you have not already). Remember that since they have a "." at the beginning of the folder name that will be hidden in you home directory. So in order to see what is in them on the cli you need to enter ls -a and in your file manger you will have to use CRTL-H. Once you have them in those directories then goto applications (LXDE icon on the panel) -> prefrences -> customize look and feel there you can set the themes and icons to the ones you selected. I chose Numix-N_OB and Nitrux for my theme and icon set.


Guake is a top down terminal. It runs in the background and you use F12 to launch. It is awesome if you want to do quick terminal editing. You can install with sudo apt-get install guake.


If you are looking for a nice application dock then docky is it. You can have as a 2D or 3D (be sure to compositing enabled for 3D). There are multiple options for themes and applets you can use. To install is as simple as sudo apt-get install docky.

Here are some screenshot my LXDE session:

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Adblocking with Qupzilla!

Recently there has been some controversy over Adblock Plus allowing Google pass through their filters for a fee. This has annoyed many people who use adblock for specifically to block them. A really good alternative has arisen for both Firefox and Chrome called uBlock. I have used it and can testify that it works great. Which brings me to a Qupzilla's native adblock plugin that is simply fantastic! It is on by default it is easily customizable. Just go to tools -> Adblock to make changes.

Then you can make configuration changes to the plugin. Can you see your current subscriptions also you write your own! Under Options you can add a new subscription from either a list of predefined one or add one yourself. You can also remove and update your current subscriptions. It has has made improved my browsing greatly. If you are using Qupzilla take the time and look at this feature.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Ubuntu MATE to be an offical flavor soon!

Congrats to the Ubuntu MATE Team!It looks like their 15.04 release will the first as an Offical Ubuntu flavor. People who are looking for more a traditional desktop look on Linux should check out Ubuntu MATE. I posted a previous video by Luigi showing Ubuntu MATE on PowerPC. So if you have a G4 or G5 there is a PPC ISO you can grab and install.

read more here
visit The Ubuntu MATE site
PowerPC ISO here

UPDATE: Ubuntu MATE will officially support PowerPC in 15.04! See their blog.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Best Linux on PowerPC video on the Web!

Luigi Burdo, a frequent poster on the Ubuntu Forums, posted an awesome video of his G4 MacMini running Ubuntu MATE PPC. I usually visit youtube to see Linux on PPC videos. The ones I have seen have really been not that great. Mostly it is just complaints on things not working. No one really posted a video sharing what Linux could be if one placed the work in. Well Luigi did and it has inspired me to post one of my own soon. So please check it out!

Lightweight browsers Part II: Luakit and dwb

These next two browsers are extremely light and fast. They also consume minimal RAM and are not as CPU intensive as other browsers. This makes these ideal for older machines with lower CPU and RAM running.  A challenge to be addressed is that both are vim based browsers so they are heavily keyboard driven. There is a normal or command mode when execute commands like opening a URL in the current tab or opening a new tab, bookmarking pages, performing searches and much more. If you need to type in a web page (like a Google search for example) then you would need to enter the insert mode by using 'i' on the keyboard. People who are not familiar with vim will have a bit of a learning curve. However, if take the time to learn these browsers can make web surfing on an old PPC or even Intel based machine a fast experience. You will still need a browser like iceweasel/firefox for some sites like Facebook.


The following description is found on the website:

dwb is a lightweight web browser based on the webkit web browser engine and the gtk toolkit. dwb is highly customizable and can be easily configured through a web interface. It intends to be mostly keyboard driven, inspired by firefox's vimperator plugin.

What makes this browser appealing is the fast page rendering. While you are in command mode you type 'open url' to open a web page. If you want to open a page in a new tab then you would type 'Open URL'. Also to goto the settings page you enter the following 'Ss'. A complete list of the command options can be found on man page or you can see them here. Some drawbacks I found are moving through tabs and using extensions. There are times when moving between tabs would just not work unless I used my mouse. This at times got pretty annoying after a while. Also I wanted to use the adblocker extension, but I could never get that to work. It could be that debian stable did not seem to have all the features in its distro. It could be that on an distro like Arch you get a better experience. Here are some screenshots.

The following is from the Luakit site:

"Luakit is a highly configurable, browser framework based on the WebKit web content engine and the GTK+ toolkit. It is very fast, extensible by Lua and licensed under the GNU GPLv3 license. It is primarily targeted at power users, developers and any people with too much time on their hands who want to have fine-grained control over their web browsers behaviour and interface."

This browsers is so customizable! Want adblocking no problem. Want watch videos  with mplayer or mpv instead of the browser no problem. All they configuration is done in the Lua language on configuaration files. There is a great YouTube video explaining what you can do with luakit. If you want lightwight, fast, and a customizable browers then give luakit a try!

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Lightweight browsers Part I: Midori and Qupzilla

Debian comes with iceweasel (ie repackaged Firefox) by default. It is stable and run well, plus with some tweaking of the config you can get some improved performance. However it does consumes CPU cycles since it is a heavy browser. These next two post I will be presenting four lightweight browsers that you can to supplement your web browsing.


As its web site suggest midori is "a lightweight, fast, and free web browser". It renders pages fairly well even heavy graphic pages. It does have some nice features like colored tabs and ability to use greasemonkey scripts. However it does have its issues. Downloading files can be at times buggy, however uploading files works fine. Sometimes it renders pages as a mobile site. Also it logs you out of gmail if it is idle for a long period of time. The midori web sites explains some of these issues in their faq. Personally I do like using it due to the speed but it does annoy me when pages like Ubuntu Forums comes up as a mobile site. Here are some screenshots:


Qupzilla is a lightweight qt based web browser. Like midori it renders pages pretty fast. It has password manager that defaults to holding your passwords in plain text but you can change it to hold them in an encrypted database (I do not know why encrypted is not on by default). It has no issues rendering pages, however uploads and downloads at times either fails or crashes. I usually use wget to download so this is not an issue for me. The stability in page rendering make qupzilla my default browser besides iceweasel. Here is a screenshot :

Midori is available in the stable repository and Qupzilla is available in Jessie repository.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Mount your iPhone on Debian Wheezy.

One thing that was giving me issues with Linux was mounting my iPhone. When I would just plug it into my powerbook it would throw up errors and my iPhone would constantly ask me if I trusted this device. So after much researching I once again needed to learn the lesson that one must begin with the wiki and usually to find you answers. All I needed was to do a search on the wiki for iPhone and lo and behold this wealth of information appeared. It gives pretty detailed instructions on getting iPhone to mount in Debian. I have not tested this in Ubuntu or any other Debian based distributions, but I would not be surprised if it worked on them as well. The one downside I discovered was that I could only share my music via Rythmbox but not my photos or video I created on my iPhone. I tried using dropbox but apparently it is not working on Debian based on what I learned on this thread I started. However I was able to grab my photos and videos if I put them on google drive. If anyone has a better way to share iPhone photos or videos please share.

UPDATE: Apparently DropBox is dropping support PowerPC Macs you can read more at The PPC Luddite blog.

UPDATE II: I found this on Planet Debian. This blog mentions that using an applicaton called shotwell to copy pictures and vidoes you made on your iphone to Linux. So I wondered is this app available for the PowerPC architecutre? So I ran 'apt-cache search shotwell' and there it was! So I installed the application on my powerbook g4 and launched the application. I was then able to see my photos and videos and also import them! Happy Day!!!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Debian backports

Debian has three primary distributions, stable, testing, and unstable. Wheezy is the current stable distribution.  The Debian community takes its time testing before they release their stable distributions. On an older machine like apple powerpc, running a stable distribution makes a huge difference. What you get is an OS the will run and is less like to crash on you. However the price of stability is that you will not get the latest software. This is no deal breaker but if you do want the latest it will mean a little more work.

Sometimes there is a need for a newer version of an application than the one that is in stable. I was wanting to use an extension for libreoffice that will give networking device images similar to what you will find in visio to make diagrams. However the extension would work not with the current version of libreoffice I had installed. Libreoffice would crash every time I tried to use the extension. So I needed to get a newer version.

There are a few ways to get newer software on Debian. You can always go grab the source code and compile it. Just be sure that to look up what software dependencies it needs to be sure you can get them or it will not compile. There is a great "how to" on the Debian forums on how to properly compile a package on Debian. Now before you decide to go down that route you should look to see if there is a package available in the Debian backports repository. Here is an excerpt from the Debian wiki on backports:

"Backports are recompiled packages from testing (mostly) and unstable (in a few cases only, e.g. security updates), so they will run without new libraries (wherever it is possible) on a stable Debian distribution"

Now not all the software on testing has been backported to stable so you would need to check first. I verifed that there was a backport for libreoffice by doing search for the package on the debian site. Now to install packages that backported from testing you will need to do the following:

   1. edit your sources.list file to add the backports repository by running the following command 'sudo nano /etc/apt/sources.list'. then enter your password and add the following lines at the bottom:

# wheezy-backports
deb wheezy-backports main contrib non-free
deb-src wheezy-backports main contrib non-free

   2. save (CRTL+o) then exit (CTRL+x). update apt by running 'sudo apt-get update'

   3. then install the backported by typing 'sudo apt-get -t wheezy-backports install package'

The '-t' option tells apt from which distribution to get the package in this instance from 'wheezy-backports'. If you want more info on stable/testing/unstable or other distributions in Debian go to the FAQ here.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention you can also install new packages from testing and unstable by adding their repositories to your sources.list file then running 'sudo apt-get update'. However I would caution against doing that since you may get dependencies that might break stable. If you do decide to go that route backup your system in case you need to roll back.