Linux on a Pippin console

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Following on from running MacOS on a Pippin console (see http://www.applefritter.com/node/view/3510), I've been trying to install Linux. I've been lucky enough to buy a ROM 1.3 update and PCI slot adapter off eBay so the Pippin that I'm using is almost as up to date as they get. I'm limited to 13MB of RAM (1MB of the 14MB is reserved for video RAM) which is enough to run Linux and a few services but not enough to install it from one of the standard PPC distros...

Naturally I have ignored all information about minimum memory sizes and supported platforms because those rules don't apply. Pippin hardware is strange; according to TattleTech or any other reporting utility, it is a combination of NuBus and PCI architectures. Open Firmware is not 1.0.5 (ROM 1.3 updates it to something identified as "PipPCI2") but I can't generate an OF console prompt. However Linux can run on some of the (awful but similar) 5xxx and 6xxx PowerMacs so it ought to run on a Pippin if I can work out which kernel to use.

I've spent three or four evenings investigating the three Old World boot loaders (Apple Mklinux, BootX, miBoot) and a variety of installer kernels for popular distros (I have no intention of rolling my own at this time). BootX seems the most promising loader and displays useful diagnostics if Command-Option-O-F is pressed on startup. miBoot doesn't report as much as BootX but here's a sample of what happens when I try to boot from a Debian Woody (miBoot) floppy (see http://www.applefritter.com/node/view/4906). Whichever kernel I use, I find that the Pippin hangs on "Entering PPC Supervisor" or earlier.

I have a horrible feeling that none of the standard ram-based installer kernels will ever work on a Pippin. BootX reports that ramdrive size and location are both nul sized, whatever boot loader options are applied; MacOS is also unable to create a ramdrive on the Pippin. Alas this is consistent with Pippin architecture which uses the driver .rdrvr to mount the built-in the 128KB flash storage, thus, by my theory, preventing later use of a ramdrive. Unfortunately I don't yet have a full BootX diagnostics report because I'm too lazy to configure a serial console until it is absolutely necessary. I'll also have a look at hacking the Pippin System Enabler to disable activation of the built-in flash drive.

One of the NuBus Mklinux sites has an interesting recipe for installing updates on a RAM challenged Mac so perhaps one of the more experienced Linux users here can help me out with an alternative installation procedure. My idea is to install a small footprint (eg Debian Woody) workstation onto an external disk using another PPC Mac and then attach the disk to the Pippin. Can I use a NuBus Mac or does it need to be PCI? I don't know which kernels will work with the Pippin. Can I install a selection of kernels and then work my way through them using the boot loader? For Old World Macs, is the kernel that is installed on the Mac system disk the "active" kernel when Linux has booted or is the OS transferred to a kernel on the Linux system disk? Can I install Linux onto a Zip cartridge initially and then use dd or a blind SCSI copy to copy the installation partition to a hard disk?

Phil

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Jon
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Joined: Dec 20 2003
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I could go into a bit of dept

I could go into a bit of depth about getting Linux on the Pippin, but I don't own one so my advice would be conjecture. Anyway, several early OF version Macs default to OF over serial console until otherwise reconfigured. There is some info on http://www.netbsd.org/Ports/macppc/ that deals with working in OF on older Macs. Look under the "NetBSD/macppc Information", the first three of the four links should prove useful. Waiting on a serial console may cause more headaches than going ahead with it.

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Thanks for your comments, Jon

Thanks for your comments, Jon. I'm familiar with the NetBSD pages on Open Firmware but I was reluctant to move the furniture around to allow a serial console. I have one working now but the results are only partially promising.

The OF prompt confirms that the firmware version is PipPCI2 and the default variables are the ones that you'd expect for an early PCI Mac. Unfortunately most changes to variables using setenv are overwritten by the defaults whenever the Pippin reboots into MacOS. At least the serial console works so I'll have a look for resources on installing Linux on a headless Mac.

Phil

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Jon
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Sounds like you did your home

Sounds like you did your homework already. Mac OS Have you checked to see if it's an extension that reset the variables, or MacOS itself? I'm guessing that it might be an Enabler or such that could possibly be ResEdit'd to either not do mods, or put in the mods you want. I'm guessing that the Pippin arch is gonna need something like BootX to start Linux, so MacOS is gonna be needed in most cases, right?

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I am not in this world to live up to other people's expectations, nor do I feel that the world must live up to mine. - Fritz Perls