PowerBook G3 Wallstreet Old World Mac Linux Installation

Well, I’m about five to eight years behind the curve on working with an Apple PowerBook G3 Wallstreet laptop.

PowerBook G3Wallstreet PowerBook G3 With Mac OS 9 Installed

A friend gave me the PowerBook to play around with a little. First things first, I decided to totally wipe out and reformat the hard drive. I had a Mac OS 9 CD that I had never used from an older Power PC 6100 computer that I owned during the 90s. Talk about a blast from the past; I remember purchasing the new OS 9 software, but never got around to installing it on the 6100 PowerPC. The operating system software disk sat in the desk for years after I had retired the old 6100 to the garage.

Well, now was the time to put this Mac OS 9 disk to good use. Plopped in the disk to the CD drive that is located on the right side of the PowerBook, as a slide in unit. The left side has a battery that also slides in or out. Believe it or not, the battery actually holds a charge. After I wrote all ones or zeros (can’t remember which it was) on the hard drive, I then formated it. Wow, a great big 4 Gigabytes! Ha ha… Any case; first needed to check if I had Internet access. Plugged in the Ethernet cable, clicked on "Browse the Internet" and I see Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 Macintosh Edition comes up on the screen. However, the Apple start page does not even display a single thing. Oops, it does show something, but you have to scroll all the way to the right side of the screen.

I had to get something better than Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.5 for this PowerBook. So, it was on an Internet quest for a browser for Mac OS 9 that would be able to display properly. Well, guess what, there really aren’t any browsers that can pull their own weight for the old OS 9 software. iCab is actually one browser that looks like it is supported for OS 9. It is a simple browser, but hey it’s free. There are other web browsers available that are legacy softwares that can be still downloaded. For example Netscape version 7.0.2 is still available at VersionTracker to download, and can be used with OS 9. The downside to using the old legacy web browsers is that there are a number of pages and websites that will not display properly with these old guys. Here is a link to an Apple forum discussion about Mac OS 9.2 Browser availability.

Wallstreet Apple Marketing

Back to the PowerBook.

The processor speed on this PowerBook is 266 MHz. This one has 128 MB of memory. Just enough to boot and do a few other things. Supposedly you can upgrade the memory to 512 MB with two memory cards, one 256 MB on the top and one 256 MB on the bottom of the CPU card. There is some doubt as to whether this really is the case for total memory. Apple states in their specs, depending on models, that some of the PowerBook models could go up to 512 MB. I don’t know for sure on this one. See: the Apple PowerBook page for more information. User manuals can still be downloaded from the Apple website.

Over at PowerBook Medic you can download, for free, a number of legacy Apple repair manuals for taking apart and repairing many of the older Macs. These manuals are great to learn how to change a hard drive or simply add more memory.

Speaking of taking Macs apart; I think this particular PowerBook has a problem with the PRAM battery. It tends to freeze up unexpectedly.

What is the PRAM Battery for?

Your Mac has a microcontroller/memory chip which stores data that is important to its successful startup and operation. This data is maintained when you shutdown or unplug the Mac by a battery which provides power to the chip. This chip controls the Parameter RAM (PRAM), Non-volatile RAM (NVRAM), the real-time clock and Apple Desktop Bus (ADB). Also the chip sends a constant signal to the power supply, and if this signal is not within specifications, the Mac will either shutdown or freeze.

Read more from: Mac PRAM, NVRAM, CUDA/PMU & Battery Tutorial What, When & How?

Here is another website that has information on what to do if your Mac shuts down unexpectedly and how to zap the PRAM circuit if it becomes corrupted.

Now, on to another Mac note. This particular PowerBook model came with a UH276 Macally CardBus PCMCIA to USB adapter for Mac. The CardBus PCMCIA to USB adapter for Mac is no longer manufactured but We Love Macs website has the cardbus drivers available for downloading for OS X v 10.1, OS X v 10.2, and OS 9. The We Love Macs website also has the cardbus PCMCIA driver download available for the PC.

I have a number of internal hard drives just sitting around and thought I would see if this particular Mac could read and write to an external/internal drive. What I have is a $25.00 to $35.00 universal hard drive adapter from Apricorn that is designed for serial SATA or PATA parallel IDE hard drives to USB. You simply plug the universal adapter in the drive and then the USB cable into the computer. In this case, plugged it into the cardbus PCMCIA USB pigtail.

Once I installed the drivers for the cardbus, and rebooted the PowerBook, the external harddrive showed up on the desktop. See screen shot of the desktop with external drive on the display screen monitor. Cool; I was able to format the drive, and read and write to it. This particular drive was 120 GB in storage space.

So, now I had a fresh install of the operating system, and started playing around with it. I was able to browse the web and do a number of items. However, there are many limitations with this particular machine. It was at this time, I decided to try a different direction for the PowerBook.

Ubuntu – Xubuntu Linux for Old World Macs

Ubuntu is one of the easiest Linux distros to install. I have experience installing Linux on a PC, and thought it shouldn’t be too difficult to install on a Mac PowerBook G3. Well, there is more than meets the eye when it comes to the old world Macs. First off, you don’t simply install the Linux with a click of the mouse. You can’t just put a disk in and automatically go through the installation process. No, it requires doing a few things prior to even loading Linux. For example, you have to prepare the hard drive with the proper formating and partitioning. With only 4 GB of harddrive space, there is not much room for installation. The reason is, you need to have the Mac OS 9 operating system installed first on one partition, and set aside another section of the hard drive for Linux.

After downloading and burning a boatload of CDs with lots of Ubuntu
versions and Xubuntu (which is a streamlined version of Ubuntu, designed for less memory and smaller hard drives) versions, I discovered that there were only a limited amount of the versions that could be installed. The one I had successfully installed, after a dozen attempts, was Ubuntu v 5.10 Breezy Badger. It only took me two days, working in some spare time, to get it to load. I had to learn a little bit of Linux commands along the way. I have to say, I found the Flyback Transformer website that was quite helpful for Installing Ubuntu 5.10 Breezy Badger on an Old World Powerbook G3 Wallstreet.

I also have to say, this whole experience was an exercise for learning. There are even a few typos in the install procedure that are easily overlooked which were time killers. I suggest you read the entire procedure, including the comments from beginning to the end, before you try and tackle it yourself.

Here are a few important notes to be aware of:

Make sure you format the hard drive with hfs standard formating.

Make sure the filesystem for your os9 installation is hfs standard, and not hfs extended. It appears to make a difference; and the default file format for os9 is hfs extended.

If you don’t do this to begin with; when you go to make new directories, and copy files from one location to another within the Linux OS area, you won’t be able to do it, and you won’t know why. This tripped me up for the longest time. Also, I partitioned the hard drive for 1.1 GB for OS 9 and approx. 3.0 GB set aside unformatted for Ubuntu Linux. Reason for 1.1 GB was the need for more software in the OS 9 installed side of things.

The video was a little buggy. I ended up adding this line of code to the special BootX software addon that allows you to boot either Mac OS or Ubuntu Linux.


Note: That video command line is slightly different of what the Flyback Transformer website has.

Also, pay particular attention to typing details. For example the procedure calls out for copying and renaming the "initrd.gz" file to "image.ramdisk.gz." However, later on the file naming is accidentally reversed, with ramdisk first instead of image first.

Copy the “initrd.gz” file from the Breezy CD’s boot folder to the top level of the System Folder. Rename the file to “image.ramdisk.gz”.

cp boot/initrd.img hfs/System\ Folder/ramdisk.image.gz

note it should be:

cp boot/initrd.img hfs/System\ Folder/image.ramdisk.gz

Now for some additional feedback. Once I had finally figured out the installation procedure, I made another discovery that proved to be a little difficult to overcome. Remember I said the only installation that I could get to work was Ubuntu 5.10 Breezy Badger. Well, this version is no longer supported for updates, and there seemed to be no easy way of updating to a newer version of 6.06 or 7.10 Ubuntu or even Xubuntu. With that being said, I once again wiped away the harddrive and reinstalled Mac OS 9.

Additionally, I could use this internal drive as the main drive and then add on an external harddrive with the USB cable. As the prices of solid state harddrives come down, or even the price of USB drives that do not require an external power cable, it would be very easy to add on for storage capacity. I saw an 80 GB hard drive at Newegg.com for $54.00. Memory upgrades would cost somewhere between $50.00 and $120.00 to max out the memory. I could install OS X, up to version 10.2 I believe. That would add another $50.00 dollars or so to the price. Add to that a new PRAM battery for $30.00, and you can see you could put a little bit of money into this machine. This places the total somewhere around $200.00 to outfit it. Yes, you can spend less, especially if you have an old hard drive just sitting around. Also, it is important to note that this Wallstreet PowerBook had the CardBus PCMCIA card for USB. That makes it much easier to add an external hard drive. If you have to replace the internal hard drive, the costs could be significantly higher. Also, bear in mind, the hard drive for the operating system needs to be no more than 8 GB in size. So if you install a new hard drive, make sure you are less than 8 GB for the partition for the operating system. You can have more than one partition, so storage can be increased.

So, is it worth doing something with this PowerBook G3 computer? It all depends on what you want to do with it. Good luck on your quest

By-the-way, checkout the new Apple MacBook Pro. This is a truly amazing machine for business or personal use.

Jim Warholic is president of Professional Web Services; provider of Internet marketing services for B2B and B2C companies, SEO services, online branding, and business solutions.

Ubuntu and Xubuntu Installation Requirements

For those of us that have older Intel Pentium I, Intel Pentium II, Apple PowerPC, and AMD microprocessor computers just lying around, collecting dust, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to put those computers to good use using new easy to use graphical interface desktops with free Linux operating systems such as Ubuntu and Xubuntu, especially for Internet browsing and free online word processing and spread sheet use or even as a business server application?

The following question was asked by a reader.

Would it be alright to install Ubuntu on a 3 GB Intel Pentium II 333 MHz processor?

Installation of Ubuntu Linux Software all depends on what you want to do with it. Do you want it for desktop use with graphical installation, or as a server (non-graphical installation)?


Minimum System Requirement

Though, the minimum system requirement is: 256 MB of Ram and 3 GB of available hard drive space for Ubuntu, my gut feeling is you are tight on your available hard drive space. Here are some more system requirements information on the bare minimum requirements and the recommended minimum requirements for installation in order to be able to run well.

Note: The minimum requirements are only likely to allow a server (non-graphical) installation to run well. The recommended minimum requirements should allow you to run a graphical installation of Ubuntu well.

FYI, I have Ubuntu installed on an AMD Athlon 40 GB machine for testing purposes. This is actually a dual boot machine between Windows 2000 Professional and Ubuntu; with an 80GB hard drive partitioned down the middle.

I have a number of Open Source programs like Open Office, and even powerful graphics, photo organization, and picture editing programs such as Google Picasa installed on the Linux Ubuntu system and am using a little over 6 GB of storage on the Ubuntu installed side.

However, with that being said, you could install Xubutu, which is designed for installation on older computers with less disk storage and slower processors. Xubutu is designed to use less system resources.


For Xubuntu: To run the Desktop CD (LiveCD + Install CD), you need 128 MB RAM to run or 192 MB RAM to install. The Alternate Install CD only required you to have 64 MB RAM. To install Xubuntu, you need 1.5 GB of free space on your hard disk.

Once installed, Xubuntu can run with 64 MB RAM, but it is strongly recommended to use at least 128 MB RAM.

Xubuntu on Wikipedia

For those with an Apple PowerPC you can download version Ubuntu 7.10 Gutsy Gibbon or Xubuntu 6.10 Edgy Eft. Turn your old Apple laptop into a new useful word processor and Internet browser.

Best regards, Jim Warholic

PS – Installation of Ubuntu is easy.

Microsoft Attacks Open-Source Linux Operating System

By now everyone has heard about Microsoft making a huge carte blanche public statement about the over 235 patents being infringed upon by the open-source operating system Linux.

Linux has made huge inroads, particularly in the computer server market place, where the handling of online data and websites can be very effectively performed by a computer running Linux OS. Whereas, with users of Microsoft server software having to pay hundreds of dollars for software licenses has caused many of the large companies to start using the free Linux operating systems in the market place. Imagine hundreds or thousands of computers that a corporation does not have to pay the licensing fee for each computer license. The savings is substantial for these companies. But, the loss for Microsoft is equally huge when figured out over the entire globe and the millions of computers that will not have the Microsoft licenses tied to them.

So, what does Microsoft do? They have their legal department play a marketing ploy and try to scare the world into stop using Linux. Big business becomes a big game and Microsoft is no small player when it comes to playing this game. I find it extremely interesting that Microsoft can get upset with Apple Ads that poke fun at the comparisons between Windows Vista and Apple OS X and then go out and play the patent infringement gambit, without bringing a lawsuit against anyone. First off, anyone can make a blanket statement that says, “your company or institution may be infringing on 235 patents.” But, it is another thing to bring a lawsuit against a company with specifics of what patents are being infringed upon. Microsoft to this date has not filed a lawsuit. So, are they testing the waters?

In my estimation, Microsoft is worried about the impact that Linux and other open source programs such as Open Office by Sun Microsystems, Inc. are starting to have around the globe. It was just last year that the French parliament said good bye to Microsoft and “will start using desktops and and servers running Linux, Mozilla’s Firefox Web browser, and OpenOffice.org, a free open source alternative to Microsoft’s Office software.” See Newsfactor article. Additionally, as the open-source community builds on the designs of others, Linux comes in a number of flavors, and is becoming easier to use and install. See article on Ubuntu Linux Free and Easy Install OS.

The world is getting tired of being charged for every new round of software upgrades from Microsoft. People are retaliating against the stranglehold that Microsoft has had across the global computer world. Computer hardware has dropped like a rock in pricing over the years, but Microsoft still charges about the same prices or more for software and operating systems. Unlike Apple, where they have one software operating system, Microsoft has at least seven Vista software titles to choose from. Now, I know that every company is entitled to recoup their research and development costs, and no one should be able to dictate what will be charged to the end users, but Microsoft may have pushed the button a little too hard with the world.

It would not surprise me to find out that Microsoft actually was the one who copied the open-source software into their OS. Sometimes the ones that cry the loudest are actually the ones that are guilty of patent infringement. Part of this latest round of patent infringement claims come from a license agreement between Novell Suse Linux and Microsoft. Now, Microsoft is trying to flex it’s new muscles and try to claim that anyone distributing another version of Linux is guilty of patent infringement. However, in other articles online, there is something quite interesting in the open-source license called the GNU General Public License. Some are saying that Microsoft might have actually hurt themselves by entering into the agreement with Novell. Apparently, the license may have opened the door for protection to everyone, distributing any version of Linux or other open-source softwares.

If, pursuant to or in connection with a single transaction or arrangement, you convey, or propagate by procuring conveyance of, a covered work, and grant a patent license providing freedom to use, propagate, modify or convey a specific copy of the covered work to any of the parties receiving the covered work, then the patent license you grant is automatically extended to all recipients of the covered work and works based on it.

See story: Moglen: SUSE Vouchers Have No Expiration Date! (Unlike MS’s Patent Bullying)

Time will tell what will happen on a larger scale. However, as a consumer, I get to vote. I can choose to try downloading open-source software and try it out. The Internet has made it easy to try out new software programs. I think open-source softwares are great and provide a means for new derivative works that build on the foundation of others. Firefox and Ubuntu Linux are but a few of the new software programs available for Windows OS and other operating systems.

Jim the Web climber and Internet marketer.