Solar Ricardo

Solar Ricardo

Friday, January 18, 2013

Linux MintPPC: New life for a G5

I recently inherited an old Mac G5PowerPC from a friend who is an I.T. specialist at a college. They were dumping a lot of old computers, and he was trying to find homes for some of them before they went to recycling. It's sad that so many perfectly functional machines get trashed every year- in a lot of cases by people who really don't need a new machine.

Well, admittedly, the old G5 has it's limitations, and there are no updates or new software that can run on it since Apple abandoned the PPC at OS 10.5.8. It is a bare-bones machine with no sound card, so I was wondering if it might not be of use as a dedicated machine for a future home-built CNC machine or a server for some yet-to-be-determined project, but in the mean time, I decided to see how it would run under Linux.

I went for Ubuntu first, which was a snap to install. Ubuntu is really newbie friendly and features a lot of features familiar to Mac and Windows users. However, the version for PPC turned out to be a little clunky, and lacked things like a flash plugin and a few other things that make it less than ideal.

Next, I installed Linux MintPPC, a version of the new Mint OS especially built for the Power PC. Wow. Nice! This stripped down Linux distro runs FAST on the G5. I did have some initial issues that required some forum surfing, some code modification and a few restarts, but once it was properly configured, it runs REALLY well. It comes with the usual suite of Libre Office Suite, Ice Weasel browser (ice weasel-firefox, get it?) etc. Many Windows programs will run under the WINE interface. So far, I have not been able to run myCNC on it, but I'm working on that.

If you are like so many friends of mine and have some sad old Macs sitting in the basement, you might want to give Mint a try. For a friend, neighbor or family member with limited resources, it would be a great gift. Or, it may give you a couple more years out of your old machine. If Mac OSX Lion is any indication, it may be time to take a break from your monogamous relationship with apple and see some other operating systems.