Ubuntu 12.04 on iMac G3 350MHz PPC750 512MB RAM

Situation :

- An iMac G3 350MHz PPC750 running Mac OS 9 with old browsers (not upgradeable) limited the ability to search the internet

- 64MB RAM was enough for running Mac OS 9, but if using Mac OS X 10.4 (latest Mac OS X for iMac G3) would be the case, additional RAM was necessary

- In search of recent software, Mac OS X 10.4, being at least 4 years old, would not be the first choice, and although some work would probably be necessary, Ubuntu 12.04 was thought to be tried

Homework :

- Additional RAM (a 512MB SDRAM was found and mounted)

- Ubuntu 12.04 "mini.iso" for PowerPC architecture (downloaded and burned to CD)

- Finding and reading documents about probable problems and their solutions (lots of documents were downloaded and read)

What was done :

- while pressing the power button, CD was inserted, "C" key was pressed and kept still until iMac started to read from CD and a black-white text screen was visible
(if the keyboard layout is not QWERTY, the key to be pressed may vary, being the third from left in the lowest row)

- a few seconds after the first screen, a second screen where the default selection was said to be "install" was visible, and "cli" was typed and "return" key was pressed
("cli" is the short form of "command line install")
(if the keyboard layout is not QWERTY, the keys to be pressed to type "cli" may vary, "c" being the third from left in the lowest row, "l" being the ninth from left in the middle row and "i" being the eighth from left in the upper row)

- "mini.iso" CD went on, asking questions about language, region, keyboard layout, etc., then partitioning, and so on
(needless to say that installation in such a system through the network lasted more than one hour)

- when prompted, "no automatic updates" was selected

- installation was completed and iMac went for a reboot
(time to take the CD out)

- iMac booted from the hard disk drive and a login screen was there to run Ubuntu 12.04 in the command line

- login was completed and "xinit" package was installed with the command
"sudo apt-get install xinit"

- the command "nano" was typed and entered to write an "xorg.conf" file;
the "xorg.conf" file was copied to "/etc/X11" folder with root privilages
(the "xorg.conf" file is as follows)
Section "Device"
    Identifier "ATI Technologies Inc Rage 128"
    Driver "r128"
    Option "NoInt10" "true"
    Option "CCEusecTimeout" "100000"
    Option "UseFBDev" "false"
    Option "XAANoOffscreenPixmaps"
    Option "SWcursor" "true"

Section "Module"
    Load "i2c"
    Load "ddc"
    Load "dri"
    Load "dri2"
    Load "record"
    Load "extmod"
    Load "freetype"
    Load "type1"

Section "DRI"
    Mode 0666

Section "Monitor"
    Identifier "iMac"
    VendorName "iMac"
    ModelName "Monitor Model"
    Option "DPMS"
    HorizSync 58-62
    VertRefresh 75-117

Section "Screen"
    Identifier "Default Screen"
    Device "ATI Technologies Inc Rage 128"
    Monitor "iMac"
    DefaultDepth 24
    Subsection "Display"
        Depth 16
        Modes "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"
    SubSection "Display"
        Depth 24
        Modes "1024x768" "800x600" "640x480"

- the command "xinit" was typed and entered; "X" screen was there
(time to select window manager, display manager, browser, ...)

What I chose :

- "fluxbox" as window manager (sudo apt-get install fluxbox)
"lxde" may be a good choice also (sudo apt-get install lxde),
but not "lubuntu-desktop" (sudo apt-get install lubuntu-desktop)

- "slim" as display manager
(if the choice will be "lxde", its own display manager -lxdm- will be there, making this step unnecessary)

- "dillo" and "firefox" as browsers

- "mc" as file manager (not a graphical one)
(if the choice will be "lxde", its own file manager -pcmanfm- will be there, making this step unnecessary)

- "hardinfo" to view system information and details

- "ssh" to connect to and to be connected by other computers

- "remmina" to connect to desktops of other computers

Feelings in short :

- Recent operating system with recent browser software running in a computer this old made us happy


  1. I like your methodical approach but you didn't mention the need for an Internet connection with the minimal install cd. I've been trying to install Ubuntu 12.04 on my iMac G3 Snow (500MHz) using the regular cd (ppc version), trying to make a bootable usb flash drive, etc. without success. Now with the mini.iso and Internet access provided via the Ethernet port, I only get as far as specifying the mirror details after which I get the result "bad archive mirror". Is there any advice you can give from your valuable homework?

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  4. Your xorg.conf configuration helped me tremendously with respect to the installation of Kubuntu 12.04 for PowerPc on my Indigo, slot-loading iMac G3, 512 MB RAM!
    And now I'm going to install fluxbox on this old machine, just like you did.
    I've got the Ubuntu 12.04 mini-distro, but I chose to give it a first try with the Kubuntu 12.04-CD, because I like the Kde-desktop, though it is slow on this oldtimer.
    The installing went fine, but then I had to adapt my xorg.conf-file, and your explanation was of great help.
    Greetings from the Netherlands!

    (My previous comments contained typos, so I deleted them)

  5. Thank you for another fantastic blog. Where else could one get that kind of information written in such a perfect way? I have a presentation that I am presently working on, and I have been looking for such info instead.
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  6. I have an iMacG3 350 Mhz and I tried to install Ubuntu 12.04 I have started ubuntu and I have created the Xorg.conf file, but when i Type the "xinit" command it display "Parse error on line 44 of section Screen in file /etc/X11/xorg.conf
    "SubSection"Display"" is not a valid keyword in this section.

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