Wednesday, 12 March 2008

Ubuntu on a 1998 iMac

One of my interests (sometimes borne of necessity, sometimes not) is the reuse of legacy computing hardware, and I've had couple of experiments on reusing such hardware. One, reusing an old G3 powerbook, wasn't that successful. The reason being software base. OS X 10.2 doesn't have that many usable applications, and computers are useful for their ability to run a range of software.

Basically, it only really worked well as a Google (or Zoho) docs and calendar terminal. Useful, interesting but not worth crossing the street for.

The second, more recent attempt, building a home linux machine was much more successful. Reasonably modern operating system, reasonable software base, and one which will give me one of my favorite writing tools, kwrite.

A couple of days ago someone gave me an old original 1998 233MHz iMac because they knew I liked playing with things like that. Well it could have run OS X 10.2 or possibly just 10.3 rather slowly, but after the powerbook on 10.2 I wondered if there was a middle way.

So yesterday evening I installed Ubuntu 6.06 for PPC on it. The installation was utterly smooth but jaw achingly slow, taking close on three hours. Ok I read the paper, watched the news, ate dinner and talked with Judi while it was installing, but it was still slow.

Rebooted it, and up it came, linux on an iMac. Due to the install taking so long, I couldn't do much in the way of performance testing, so I conteneted myself with starting open office. It came up, slowly, but it came up. Didn't test it writing anything so the jury's out on usablity.

If it turns out to be a half decent experience it might be a viable solution for schools who invested in these quite nice machines and yet have been left behind by being shut out by Apple restricting recent versions of OS X to recent hardware.

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