One of the nice things about Linux is that it’s not limited to one hardware platform. Mac users who want to give Linux a shot don’t have to run out and buy an x86 machine; they can simply put their Apple on double-duty.
One Linux distro for PowerPC machines is Yellow Dog Linux (YDL). Yellow Dog is a Red Hat-based distribution for the PPC architecture that has its own GUI installer and administration tools.
We installed YDL on an iMac DV with 256 MB of RAM. To install Yellow Dog on a Mac with only one hard disk, you’ll need to make a complete backup, reformat and reinstall your MacOS (if you want to keep it), and then install Yellow Dog. The entire process will take you at least two to three hours.
Thankfully, Yellow Dog had no problem with the Logitech mouse and Microsoft Natural keyboard attached to our Mac. The GUI installer is fairly intuitive, though Mac users will probably find it a bit more complicated than the MacOS install.
Yellow Dog comes with two software CDs and one CD of source code. It comes with most of the programs that you know and love on x86 Linux, though we were surprised to find that the default Home/Office install doesn’t include the GIMP.
However, since the GIMP wasn’t installed, we had a perfect excuse to try out the Yellow Dog Update Program (YUP). All we had to do to download and install the GIMP was type yup installgimp, and a few minutes later we were good to go. YUP also performs system updates as well, which makes keeping current very easy.
Don’t want to give up your Mac programs? No problem. Yellow Dog comes with Mac-On-Linux (MOL), a program which allows the MacOS to run under Linux. Mac-On-Linux isn’t too difficult to set up and it’s part of the default Home/Office installation. However, the instructions that come with the Yellow Dog install manual are slightly inaccurate and very unclear. While an experienced Linux user will be able to troubleshoot this, a Mac user who wishes to convert to Linux will probably get very frustrated. There are some specific HOWTOs on the Terra Soft Web site.
The default kernel for YDL is the 2.2.19 kernel, though a 2.4.4 kernel is also included for those who want to live on the edge. KDE 2.1 and GNOME 1.2 are included, and YDL comes with five database packages.
We really like that Terra Soft offers YDL with or without support. While the $30 price difference might sound like a lot, if you’re having trouble getting the distro installed, the support is worth the extra money. By the same token, Linux gurus who want to run Linux on the Mac don’t have to pay for something they’ll never use.
The only thing we weren’t impressed with is the YDL manual. It’s short, skimpy, and doesn’t provide newbies with even a clue of what to do after Linux is installed. We hope that Terra Soft will produce a more detailed manual for future versions.
Yellow Dog is a faithful pooch that will have your Mac doing Linux tricks in short order. We give it a big thumbs-up for anyone with a Mac and a hankering for Linux.