Installing Xubuntu on an iBook SE with a broken CD drive: possible?
August 1, 2006 4:08 AM   Subscribe

Installing Xubuntu on an iBook SE with a broken CD drive: possible?

I'd like to install Xubuntu on my old clamshell iBook SE (Graphite), but the CD drive on it is broken.

Would it be possible to install it from my other iBook? I'm guessing this might be possible over the network, but am not entirely sure how to go about it, and can't find any specific instructions online. (And I'm loathe to just jump in and try, in case I do something daft and end up installing Xubuntu on the wrong iBook!)

So, can I install over a network, or would I be better off borrowing a USB CD drive and trying to boot from the Xubuntu cd that way?

The old iBook is running OS 10.2.8 and the new iBook is running 10.4.7, in case that matters.
posted by jack_mo to Computers & Internet (9 answers total)
You could maybe connect the 2 iBooks using Firewire target mode. Basically, you'll mount the iBook-to-get-Kubuntu as a Firewire drive on the keeper-iBook, and use the good CD drive to install from.

1) Turn off the iBook to install onto.
2) Connect both computers with a Firewire cable.
3) Start the Kubuntu-iBook and hold down the T key until the Firewire logo appears on the screen. The drive should now be mounted on the other iBook...
posted by john m at 6:14 AM on August 1, 2006

Response by poster: The older iBook doesn't have Firewire, unfortunately (should've mentioned that, sorry!)
posted by jack_mo at 6:24 AM on August 1, 2006

If you can run debootstrap from whatever's currently on the iBook, you may be able to install Xubuntu that way. I used this to install vanilla dapper from a Debian unstable system. Be warned, though, that it is not for the faint of heart. If you haven't installed Debian systems at least a couple of times in the past, I definitely wouldn't recommend it. You'll have to set up a lot of stuff by hand that Ubuntu's installer would magically take care of for you.

If that route isn't available to you or seems like a bad idea, some kind of USB drive is probably your best bet, yeah. It may not have to be a CD-ROM drive; if you have the ISO for the install CD, you may be able to write that to a USB drive that's big enough, and boot from that. (Full disclosure: I think I've heard of people doing this. I've never done it myself. So I might be wrong.)
posted by brett at 10:37 AM on August 1, 2006

Response by poster: Thanks brett - I think debootstrap might be a bit much for me, but it looks like the USB drive route might be do-able (they're pretty cheap nowadays, aren't they?).

Would I need to do anything special to make the drive bootable, or just copy the .iso onto it and hit Option during startup, then select the USB drive as the startup volume? I'm not certain it'll work though - I remembered that I had an old USB CD drive, but it can't be chosen as a startup volume (either by hitting Option during startup or via System Preferences).

So, if it's not possible to boot from a USB device, is there any way of doing it from my new iBook over the network?
posted by jack_mo at 11:28 AM on August 1, 2006

Response by poster: (Further Googling confirms that Power PC Macs can't boot from a USB device...)
posted by jack_mo at 12:15 PM on August 1, 2006

Are the hard drives easily accessible in the iBooks? You could take the hard drive out of the old iBook and put it in the newer one, install Xubuntu, then transplant it back.
posted by Pryde at 2:47 PM on August 1, 2006

pryde's suggestion is a good one. If that won't pan out either, consider recruiting a local Debian guru to assist you with a debootstrap install. Contact your local user group for details.
posted by brett at 7:20 AM on August 2, 2006

Response by poster: The hard drives don't match (and I would've thought the installation would take into account the processor, sound card, &c. too, all of which are completely different on the two machines?)

I think asking a favour of an expert might be the best way to go, brett.
posted by jack_mo at 3:30 AM on August 3, 2006

Linux in general is pretty good about handling hardware changes, and as long as you can get it to boot to a command line you can fix any problems. About a year ago I had a PII laptop with no CD drive and did a similar trick--I took the hard drive out, used a laptop IDE to USB adapter and hooked it up to my P4 desktop (which boots from USB) to get the install done.

I did need to edit the bootloader (since it was looking for a USB drive), and maybe run the X config app (not sure), but that was it. It does look like the iBook's drive is a pain in the butt to reach though.

A local expert probably is the way to go.
posted by Pryde at 11:06 PM on August 3, 2006

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