Running Fedora 16 on old ppc computers

Fedora 16 on ppc and ppc64 is again up to full speed. Standing ovations to the ones making it happen.

I found sharkcz‘ method to install fedora 16 on a ppc64 system running older versions of Fedora or RHEL, and was inspired to dig out two old 32bit ppc boxes from the attic.

I started out with my good old IBM B50. The 7046-B50 is a CHRP 604r (32bit ppc) running at blazing 375MHz. It has that 16MB-should-be-enough-for-everybody OpenFirmware limit, so it can’t boot newer Fedora install media. It may be able to boot Karsten’s Fedora 16 ISO image once he gets a 32bit version available :-)

The latest Fedora version that installs through normal media is Fedora 9. So I installed a minimum package set, and yum-upgraded through f10 and f11 to f12. From there I ran sharkcz’ installroot trick, and got a working f16 environment using the mash package repo.

To get a clean boot, better add lvm2 and e2fsprogs to the rootfs. Also, bind-mounting /sys, /boot, /dev and /proc into the installroot while installing makes it possible to chroot into it, and run yum self-hosted.

Not that hard, but it took a few hours to loop through the upgrade cycles. I had to run dracut with -H to get an initramfs small enough to boot.

Blinded by success, I took an Apple G3 iBook that I got for free. This white laptop is equipped with a 750FX CPU running at 700MHz and 384MB RAM. It had no PSU, but I found one at DX that worked fine.

The iBook installed without problems with the standard f12 network installer CD. Booted again with the standard f12 CD1 in rescue mode, and shrinked the root lv to make place for another fedora instance. Then did the yum installroot trick again as described above. Finally found that the new root would not boot. After a lot of silly debugging, I found that the “pmac” IDE driver that I needed is not probed automatically via udev, as it does not support libata. So, how do you make dracut probe another driver? Via the boot option rdinsmodpost, and I guess you had never heard about that either.

After a bit of trying and failing, I got a working XFCE desktop. Now, if I only had an airport slot-in unit, I could have used this on the go. If you are content with epiphany for browsing and abiword and gnumeric for office apps (or just use emacs for everything), this is actually working.

iBook running Fedora 16
The iBook running Fedora 16

3 Responses to “Running Fedora 16 on old ppc computers”

  1. klaatu says:

    Wow, amazing and exciting. I can’t wait to try it on the iBooks and half-dozen G4 towers I have lying around. Thanks for the work on this!

  2. ihateapplemicrosoftfacebook says:

    Inspirational! I couldn’t get Fedora 16 working on a Powerbook G4 1.25Ghz. Fedora 12 worked well. (of course no flash and proprietory things). In the end I finally installed Debian 7.5.0 Wheezy on the G4. Took a bit to get wifi working and have HTML5 for youtube, Gnash is already installed so only added lightspark.

    Going to upgrade ram from 512mb to 2GB. It’s a wonderfully fast machine, people are wasting valuable resources if they throw out these perfectly good machines!

  3. ihateapplemicrosoftfacebook says:

    And the biggest lesson I learned is Proprietory software is what makes these machines ‘obsolete’ to many people. Non-free software increases the amount of computers we throw out. It’s a real shame.

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