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Recently acquired my old G5 after I gave it to my Dad some 6/7 years ago to replace his ageing Windows XP machine. Somehow he managed to continue using the G5 up until 2018 when he replaced it with a new laptop. I eventually got round to picking up my old computer and forgot what a nice machine it is. I would love to have a use for it but of course browsers on 10.5 are long unsupported and even TenFourFox runs like garbage. 

 

I know there are Linux distros compiled for PPC but most articles/threads on that are very old and I was wondering if there was any 'fairly recent' support, decent browser support is probably most important. 

 

It's a late '05 DP 2.3Ghz with 6.5GB of RAM and I've got a spare SSD I can throw into it. 

Once upon a time it had a Gefore 7800GT (iirc) in it but I sold that off when I gave it to my Dad and put the original 6600 (??) in it. Is it worth replacing the 6600, I doubt I'll be able to find any G5 graphics cards for reasonable money but I wouldn't be adverse to flashing an old PC card if compatible.

 

Sorry lots of questions! Thanks in advance

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5 hours ago, DomA said:

I know there are Linux distros compiled for PPC but most articles/threads on that are very old and I was wondering if there was any 'fairly recent' support, decent browser support is probably most important. 

So, the bad news:

 

If you're looking for a "truly modern" build of Linux for your G5 you don't have very many choices anymore. Debian, which is the upstream source for probably the majority of desktop Linux distributions, officially shot its PowerPC port in the head in 2017 with the release of "Stretch". That means that most "friendly" Linuxi like Ubuntu/Mint/etc still available for Macs are old versions that aren't going to be supported much longer. Probably the closest thing to a mainstream distribution left that still supports PPC Macs is Gentoo, which has a substantially steeper learning curve than Ubuntu and friends. If you're willing to tackle Gentoo then it's still possible to put together a working and completely modern linux on a PowerPC Mac, but this *is* the point where I also need to point out that Free, Open, and NetBSD also have ports that run on the G5 with varying degrees of success so... if you really want to hack they might be worth taking for a test drive. (Broadly speaking they're going to be at about the same level of difficulty as Gentoo.)

Assuming you get Linux up and running on the machine I'd broadly hazard they might run... okay, but I wouldn't expect miracles. The slowest machine I run Linux on with any regularity is a ThinkPad T61 with a 2ghz-ish Core Duo 2, which lands it in roughly the same speed ballpark, and I wouldn't characterize its web browser performance as anything worth writing home about. (I usually use the Chromium browser on such slow machines because it does have a significant speed advantage over my otherwise preferred choice of Firefox; I have no idea if it's possible to compile Chrome on PowerPC Linux.) The big hit you're going to take, though, and I don't think it's avoidable, is that GeForce cards don't have any good open-source drivers, so you're unlikely to get anything beyond limited 2D acceleration for video. (And you might not even get that.) It looks to me like there wasn't an ATI factory option for the late 2005's, so unless flashed cards are an option (I have *no* idea if that's the case) this probably isn't an ideal machine to try to turn into a Linux desktop.

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I know https://www.adelielinux.org/ has committed to G3, G4, G5 and POWER9 support. Brand new distro and its creators are determined to support 32 and 64 bit PPC as a first class platform.

 

Void Linux has recently added support for 64 bit PPC made with the recent niche POWER9 hardware in mind, which G5 should benefit from; https://www.talospace.com/2019/01/void-linux-goes-power9.html?m=1

 

Those are the cutting edge options, all better than Yellow Dog Linux from what I’ve seen. No firsthand knowledge of either.

 

I’ll give Adelie a try when I have a Raptor Systems Blackbird all set up.

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If you have a 6600/6800 in a G5, you'll need:

Section "Device"
    Identifier "NVIDIA GeForce 6800 Ultra"
    Driver "nouveau"
    Option "ShadowFB" "true"
EndSection

in an Xorg conf file; on Adélie that'd be `/etc/X11/xorg.conf.d/10-device.conf`. You'll get basic 3D, but you won't be able to resize the screen resolution from X (as Xrandr crashes the chip). Assuming OF has the correct resolution, that shouldn't be an issue for you.

 

Firefox is a total dog on POWER right now due to lack of JIT.  Maybe some day the 10.4Fx JIT will be brought over to Linux.  (I was hoping to do that myself, but my schedule is eternally too busy for it.)  You can use Netsurf comfortably, but a lot of the 'fancy' web crap isn't going to work all that well in it.

 

That said, I used my iMac G5 as a daily driver until August 2018 with Adélie, and I found it more than "okay".  (That computer is now in my bedroom as a bedroom PC, and my daily driver is now a Talos II.)  Just don't have the expectation of running a bunch of fancy web crap.  Thunderbird, office stuff, Audacious (music player), Kate (text/code editor), Pidgin (chat/IM), KTorrent, etc all work quite fine on it.

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Just to note I made a mistake in my first post. It's a DC 2.3. 

Obviously it doesn't matter vastly to me if there's quite a bit of trial and error, I have a Windows desktop for more demanding tasks and my early '08 MacBook Pro (in my opinion the best keyboard on a notebook ever). That's only got a 2.4Ghz C2D, if I can get a similar browsing experience to that I'll have no qualms. 

I've seen that 7800GTX's can be flashed to work. Is that worthwhile to get better hardware acceleration? 

 

Curve ball though - am I jumping the gun on ditching OS X completely. Can it me made a usable experience? My Dad used it with a combination of 10.4Fx and Safari (certain websites would give 'old browser' errors I'm 10.4Fx). YouTube would play at 480 iirc but it pretty much rendered any other simultaneous task impossible. 

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19 hours ago, DomA said:

Can it me made a usable experience? My Dad used it with a combination of 10.4Fx and Safari (certain websites would give 'old browser' errors I'm 10.4Fx). YouTube would play at 480 iirc but it pretty much rendered any other simultaneous task impossible. 

 

This is subjective. You can get a leaner browser than TenFourFox (leopard-webkit is often suggested for 10.5 on PPC). You won't ever get around the problem that, this machine was made during a dark age when IE6 and Flash ruled the web browsing world, and requirements for web sites have scaled significantly since then.

 

For perspective, early HTML5 CSS3 demos that showed off what you could do with multiple 3D transforms were done on high end, vintage 2009 Intel Mac hardware. It's been awhile since I've seen the feature abused as such, but I don't think the expected hardware for the post HTML 4.01 Transitional web has really changed all that much since then.

 

Going back to when I worked for a big search company the first time, I prefer a workflow where I have a cheap laptop (Chromebook-ish) that does all the web browsing and I treat my desktop machines as special purpose, networked servers. There, I mostly just share files and run software that's not possible anywhere else. In an Apple world, that's largely AppleTalk, with some rare instances where distributed rendering or compiling with old tools can be made useful.

 

I should keep the editorial aside. These are your machines. Do what you'd like! :)

 

19 hours ago, DomA said:

Curve ball though - am I jumping the gun on ditching OS X completely.

Not necessarily, I mean it's awesome to try new things and see what works and what doesn't, as long as you're not easily frustrated.

 

I've heard testimonials that the web browsing experience is better on 64 bit POWER on Linux even with its current limitations. As stated above, there's some significant software development work to be done to make it as good as it can be.

 

19 hours ago, DomA said:

I've seen that 7800GTX's can be flashed to work. Is that worthwhile to get better hardware acceleration? 

Bear in mind that you have an old-ish machine, and an old machine with a slightly better GPU isn't going to get the ROI you might think. If you can be patient and find one cheap, that's the bar I personally set where I feel it's worth it. If it's costing as much as a new machine, essentially anything above $90, then I wouldn't do it.

Edited by nglevin
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Unless you're specifically running demanding games (which you probably won't be on PowerPC Linux) spending money on video cards is probably a waste. Having basic 3d features *present* is beneficial for features like Compiz, but even incredibly ancient low-end hardware has enough oomph to handle shoving the texture planes around. My kid's educational computer is a C2D Q6600 with Intel GMA... X3100? and it does fine. I'm pretty sure a Geforce 6600 can outrun that. As long as the Nouveau driver actually works I doubt you'd see a meaningful difference between any of the cards supported in a 2005 G5 under Linux.

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Thanks for all the info/advice. I don't really have anything to lose as it's pretty much a throwaway computer. I can put 2 drives in it, one with 10.5 and another with a Linux distro and see how I go. Realistically I'm not going to use it as a main machine but I want to do something with it. I would use it as a media/file server if it wasn't totally overkill and draws loads of power for such a task. I've got an ancient Intel Pentium ULV laptop that runs as a media server and it draws 11W. My G5 has the 1kW PSU and I imagine at idle it's draws over 100W 

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Be sure to let us know how it goes. Installing a PPC Linux on one of my useless old Aluminum PowerBook G4s "just for the heck of it" has been on my to-do list for a long time but I have this feeling I'll never get around to it. (I actually used to run PPC Linux "in production" many, many years ago, but I've never installed it since on anything newer than a Titanium G4.)

If you're really ambitious it might be fun to see if you can get Mac-On-Linux running. (QEMU KVM is also a possibility.) It'd be really whack if you could get OS 9 running in it. ;)

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  • 4 weeks later...

Unfortunately my G5 has been nothing but trouble since I started to use it again, I put a fresh install of Leopard on it to start with but it was kernel panicking left, right and centre. I reinstalled, chopped/changed RAM, PRAM etc etc and still issues. Its been enough to put me off the idea at this point. Maybe I'll come back to it when I'm less annoyed with it!

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