Which linux distro for a mac?
November 14, 2005 5:14 PM   Subscribe

What linux distro is best for Macs?

I justified the purchase of my Mac by convincing myself that it would be a good tool to learn Unix type stuff and get an awesome GUI as well. Now I find myself feeling the urge to install Linux on it. But, the perrenial question - which distro? I have my eye on Gentoo, and on the PC, it took the most time and typing, but the least trouble, to install and get running, but I found compiling everything from scratch was not worth the cycles.

Also, I'd like to dual boot with OSX.

I have a 14" iBook G4. Will linux for Mac retain the iBook's instant-sleep feature?
posted by sid to Computers & Internet (18 answers total)
i recently successfully installed ubuntu (hoary hedgehog IIRC) on an ancient 'toilet seat' iBook. for years the 'standard' was yellowdog, but since i switched to OSX i havent really had the need to boot linux, so not sure anymore what the cool kids are using.

on the iBook, sometimes the video hardware doesnt get reinitialized right after waking up. back in the day when i was running yellowdog on a TiBook sleep/wake/etc was very spotty but by now i'm sure its probably working mostly okay (thanks to Benjamin Herrenschmidt, who did a lot of hacking on this stuff)
posted by joeblough at 5:31 PM on November 14, 2005

I ran LinuxPPC before OS X was launched, and then used Yellow Dog Linux for a while, but my advice on running dual-boot on a iBook G4 would be: Don't. You are running a Unix client as good as they come. Install X Windows, and you with a bit of googling for the right switches can probably build any app you don't have already.

Anyway, YDL is basically repackaged RedHat, but was generally about a year behind x86 packages. If I ignored my own serious warning above, I'd run Debian. In fact, I think I'll go install that on my old B&W G-3. But only because it crashes constantly under OS X.
posted by McGuillicuddy at 5:34 PM on November 14, 2005

I assume you've already seen the top three google hits for "ibook linux", but just in case, this one is really good:
iBooks Love Linux

If I were you, I'd skip the whole dual booting thing, and instead load Linux in a virtual machine, like QEMU.
posted by Laen at 5:36 PM on November 14, 2005

I liked Debian. Ran it even on Nubus Macs, as well as more recent makes and models.

Still, even as a Linux nerd, OS X is so good that there's rarely a compelling need to boot Linux.
posted by NucleophilicAttack at 5:38 PM on November 14, 2005

I work for a company that develops a well known Linux distro, and my Mac owning coworkers don't use it, they use Debian. So I figure that's your best bet.
posted by cmonkey at 6:02 PM on November 14, 2005

You know you can install X11 from the OS disc.
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:20 PM on November 14, 2005

Also, I'd like to dual boot with OSX.

After using Suse and Red Hat Enterprise extensively, I would go with ubuntu (debian.)
posted by The Jesse Helms at 6:23 PM on November 14, 2005

I currently use Gentoo on my 12" PBG4 and run it as my home server (email, web, etc) - thanks for the tip scruss.

The only issue I've had with it is its terrible timekeeping; I force-update the date via NTP every hour. There's probably a fix for that; if someone else knows it, please share!
posted by lowlife at 7:22 PM on November 14, 2005

I don't know why people are so down on dual-booting. It's always worked fine for me.

And seconding the vote for Ubuntu. Try it out on a LiveCD first, what have you got to lose?

I would be surprised if the instant sleep thing worked though.
posted by AmbroseChapel at 8:03 PM on November 14, 2005

Response by poster: I'm doing it more for the nerdly exercise - I understand that it doesn't get much better than OSX in terms of desktop-ready *nix OSes. I have had horrible luck dual booting linux distros on my PC, with the shining exception of Gentoo, but it really is a pain to wait for all my apps to compile from scratch. That being said, I've never tried ubuntu, maybe I'll give that a whirl.
posted by sid at 8:16 PM on November 14, 2005

Also keep in mind that you can install several window managers on top of Apple's X11 implementation, and run them (a bit clunkily) beside the Apple Finder. A couple years ago, I built Gnome "because I could", and didn't have to install a flavor of Linux to do it.
posted by mkultra at 6:46 AM on November 15, 2005

Ubuntu or Debian/testing
posted by Sharcho at 7:18 AM on November 15, 2005

An alternative to dual booting would be to install Fink which lets you apt-get open source software on OSX.
posted by Sharcho at 7:23 AM on November 15, 2005

dual booting is fine but why bother when you can run osx simultaneously at near-full speed under mac-on-linux? even better, mol can run osx full-screen in its own framebuffer console.

using gentoo right now on my pismo and it rocks. kubuntu (or regular ubuntu, if you prefer gnome) is also decent.

with gentoo you can now get complete hfs/hfs+ support, but it's easy enough to make that work on another distro as well.
posted by dorian at 8:37 AM on November 15, 2005 [1 favorite]

oh yeah and the close lid-->sleep thing works perfectly for me. which amazed the hell out of me. but it's probably because I was very careful in the kernel config, installed pbbuttonsd, and that other thing (maybe not pmud, but the thing that replaces it...?)
posted by dorian at 8:41 AM on November 15, 2005

Has there been any progress in 802.11g? I wanted to dualboot but remember reading that there were no drivers and no info on the card Apple uses (with my older 12" pb at least).
posted by Utilitaritron at 3:59 PM on November 15, 2005

Utilitaritron -- it's possible but not pretty.

until the reverse-engineering of the broadcom chipset is complete, you're probably better off using a usb or pcmcia adapter compatible with both linux and osx (e.g. ralink rt2x00)
posted by dorian at 8:31 PM on November 15, 2005

I've found my ibook getting more and more sluggish with each OS X upgrade, despite a memory increase, so I'm looking forward to trying out Ubuntu.
posted by mecran01 at 9:13 AM on July 9, 2006

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