Installing Ubuntu 5.10 Breezy Badger on an Old World Powerbook G3 Wallstreet

As promised, here’s the story of how I eventually got Ubuntu Linux 5.10 Breezy Badger (the latest version as of this writing) up and running on my Powerbook G3 Wallstreet, a faithful old friend that’s been with me since 2002. Before I proceed I should mention that my two most valuable sources for this whole project were the Ubuntu Installation/OldWorldMacs wiki and’s Powerbook G3 (OldWorld) Ubuntu Install article. Read the full article (with over 50 comments and counting) after the jump.

I first tried to install Breezy on this machine a couple of months ago. I had previously had good experiences installing Ubuntu on a couple of older Windows PC’s and a New World ROM PowerMac G4/400 Gigabit Ethernet. However, the Powerbook install was complicated by the fact that it is an Old World ROM Mac. As such, you cannot install a Linux bootloader (such as yaboot) into the firmware the way you can with a New World ROM Mac, and you cannot boot the Mac directly from the Ubuntu Breezy PPC Install disc (download, 650MB ISO).

Read: installing Ubuntu Linux on New World ROM Macs (basically any Mac from the iMac onward) is very, very simple indeed. Just insert the Ubuntu Linux PPC disc in the drive, restart the Mac while pressing the “C” key, and the Linux installer just boots automagically. After installation, New World ROM Macs can boot Linux directly without having to first boot OS 9. Very slick.
Not so with Old World ROM Macs. On my Wallstreet, I had to partition the drive, install OS 9, and install/configure an appropriate Old World-compatible bootloader before being able to even boot from the Ubuntu PPC install disc. Following are the steps I took and the materials I needed:

  • Powerbook G3/250MHZ/192MB/4GB/13.3″ display Wallstreet with Orinoco WaveLAN wireless PCMCIA card
  • a broadband internet connection
  • Mac OS 9 Install CD (you can use Mac OS 8.1 onward)
  • Ubuntu Linux 5.10 PowerPC Install ISO, burned to CD (download, 650MB ISO image)
  • a copy of BootX, an Old World ROM-compatible Linux bootloader (download, 1.7MB)

1. Insert the Mac OS 9 Install CD into the Powerbook’s CD-ROM drive and restart while pressing the “C” key to boot from the CD.

2. When booted from the CD, launch Drive Setup from the Install CD’s Utilities folder. Create two partitions on the Mac’s hard drive; one just large enough to hold a minimal installation of OS 9, and the rest for Ubuntu Linux. In my case I created one 300MB HFS partition and named it “OS 9”. The rest of the Powerbook’s remaining 3.5GB leave unallocated for now — this will be utilized and properly formatted by the Guided Partitioning in the Ubuntu installer later on.

3. After partitioning, quit Drive Setup and install Mac OS 9 on the 300MB HFS partition. Instead of an Easy Install, custom install just the core system plus the Internet applications; you’ll need a browser to download BootX later on in the process.

4. After installation, reboot into OS 9, fire up Internet Explorer, and download BootX from the link above. Unstuff the BootX.sit file with Stuffit Expander included with OS 9. If you’re using OS 8.x, you’ll also need to update your Stuffit Expander version to be able to unstuff BootX. BootX consists of a Control Panel and a System Extension. Drag and drop these on top of the OS 9 System Folder. The Finder puts the files in their proper places.

5. Insert the Ubuntu 5.10 Breezy Install disc. Create a folder called “Linux Kernels” on the top level of the System Folder. From the Breezy disc’s Copy the file “vmlinux” from the Ubuntu Breezy disc’s /install/ppc folder to the System Folder/Linux Kernels folder. Copy the “initrd.gz” file from the Breezy CD’s boot folder to the top level of the System Folder. Rename the file to “image.ramdisk.gz”.

6. Now launch BootX from Apple Menu -> Control Panels. Verify that System Folder/Linux Kernels/vmlinux is the selected Linux kernel. Click the Options button, choose the “Use Specified RAM Disk” option, and select System Folder/image.ramdisk.gz as the RAM disk.

After specifying these settings in BootX, you’ll want to click the Save To Prefs button to, um, save your BootX settings to its Preferences file and have it use the same preferences each time you boot Linux.

A word about video kernel arguments: if you google around, you’ll find a lot of discussion about Powerbook G3 Wallstreet video issues with Linux. Most guides you find online recommend specifying kernel arguments in BootX to get video to display properly in Linux. For example, this one was suggested as a proper video mode for my model of Powerbook G3 wallstreet (it didn’t work in my case):


This single issue can become very confusing to the newbie, and was nearly enough of an obstacle in my experience to cause me to abort the whole project. This is because there appear to be over a dozen different possible video kernel arguments for the Powerbook G3 Wallstreet, and none appeared to work in my particular case. Fortunately in my case, I was able to install and operate Ubuntu Linux successfully without having to specify any video kernel arguments — the worst video issues I got were a few vertical lines of distortion during the installation process. Once Linux was installed, X and Gnome displayed just fine at 1024×768 pixels and thousands of colors, the default display settings for this model of Powerbook G3 Wallstreet. For the record, I found this site the most useful in terms of getting to understand the whole issue of Powerbook G3 video kernel arguments.

7. Now comes the moment of truth — reboot the Mac, watch the extensions march, and BootX should soon interrupt the OS 9 boot process and offer the choice to continue booting OS 9, or switch to Linux. If you don’t make a selection, whichever is the default selection will be chosen for you in a few seconds.

Choose Linux, and you should leave the colorful and graphical world of OS 9 for the white-text-on-black environment of the Linux installer. Things should proceed smoothly, but if you suffer a kernel panic at this point (I did, several times), you need to reboot and add “root=ramdisk” (without the quotes) to BootX’s More Kernel Arguments field and try rebooting the Linux installer.

8. Now you should be making your way through the Ubuntu Linux installer. I’ve read some people complain about the fact that the installer is not graphical, but in my experience it was pretty self-explanatory and quite easy to follow, so I didn’t really care that the installer was not graphical. Just answer all the questions and supply all the information required by the installer and you’ll be fine.

The one thing I should mention is that when it comes time to partition the Powerbook’s hard drive for Linux, do use the Guided Partitioning option, and tell the partitioner to employ the largest free space on the hard drive as the space to be partitioned and formatted. The Ubuntu partitioning utility will automatically create at least two partitions; one for the root filesystem, and another for the swap area. Make sure to note the names of two hard drive partitions: one that contain Mac OS 9, and the other which has been designated as the target for the root Linux filesystem; you will need this information later on. In the case of my Powerbook, the OS 9 partition was hda8, and Linux root partition was hda9. Yours may differ.

9. Toward the end of the Linux installation process, you will receive an error message that the Grub bootloader could not be installed. This is not a big deal, because you have already installed a bootloader in Step 4 of this procedure. However, this is your cue for the trickiest part of installing Ubuntu Linux on an Old World Powerbook G3. If you don’t do this bit, your entire Ubuntu Linux installation will fail.

Here’s why this is necessary: the Linux kernel and ramdisk image on the Ubuntu Linux install disc will boot the Linux installer, but will not boot Linux after it has been installed on the Powerbook G3 Wallstreet. Therefore, after installing Linux but before rebooting the machine to run Linux for the first time, it is necessary to copy to the OS 9 partition the Linux kernel and ramdisk image that have been custom-created for this particular Powerbook G3 Wallstreet and installed on the root partition. This step is absolutely essential to being able to boot Linux after installation.

Note: I must acknowledge this page as the most helpful source of this portion of these instructions.

Press Option-F2 to call up a command line terminal. At the prompt, type the following commands followed by Return:

cd /target
mkdir hfs
mount /dev/hda8 hfs -t hfs

This command creates a directory named “hfs” within the /target directory, and mounts the OS 9 partition (/dev/hda8, which we earlier identified in step 8 ) in the /target/hfs directory.

cp boot/vmlinux hfs/System\ Folder/Linux\ Kernels/vmlinux
cp boot/initrd.img hfs/System\ Folder/ramdisk.image.gz

The first command copies the Linux kernel file “vmlinux” inside the /target/boot directory to the Linux kernels folder inside the System Folder on the OS 9 partition, overwriting the previous vmlinux from the Ubuntu PPC Install disc. The second command does the same to the initrd.img file in/target/boot, renaming it “ramdisk.image.gz” and overwriting the file of the same name in the OS 9 System Folder. I should point out, however, that in my case these commands did not work entirely as written; I had to manually cd to the /target/boot directory and copy the files from there to the /target/hfs directory. A minor glitch that was easily surmounted.

Once you have verified that both the Linux kernel (vmlinux) and ramdisk have been copied to their respective proper places within the OS 9 System Folder, you can press Option-F1 to leave terminal and return to the Ubuntu linux installer.

10. Reboot the Powerbook when prompted by the Linux installer. The OS 9 extensions will march, then BootX will pop up once more. Press the tab key to interrupt BootX’s process of automatic boot after a few seconds. Now you have to edit the “root=” kernel agument in BootX’s More Kernel Arguments field to point to the hard rive partition which contains Linux; in my case, /dev/hda9 (yours may differ). So my “root=” looked like this:


Once edited, click the Save to Prefs button so BootX remembers this root setting each time the machine boots.

11. Now click the Linux button, and the Powerbook G3 should being booting Linux for the first time and continue the installation until you finally get to a Login screen.

That’s it: Ubuntu Linux should now be properly installed and running on your Old World Powerbook G3 wallstreet. I welcome your comments and revisions to make these instructions even better and easier to follow. Let me know how Ubuntu Linux is running on your Powerbook G3 or other older Macintosh.


74 thoughts on “Installing Ubuntu 5.10 Breezy Badger on an Old World Powerbook G3 Wallstreet

  1. These instructions are gold. I got Ubuntu installed and running by following them closely. I’ll just add a small comment: I did run into a problem with GDM that appears to be caused by the PRAM battery being dead. The battery lasts about 5 years, so the chances are that your Wallstreet will have a dead PRAM battery. The result is that the date is reset to 1904 and you’ll get a brown screen of death after typing your password in the login screen. The fix:
    Happy Ubuntuing!

  2. I followed these instructions up to the OPT F2 copying of vmlinux to System- step 9. Whenever I tried to copy files to System, it said it was a Read only file system. How can I fix this?

  3. I’m running into the same trouble that nicholaspaul is. I’ve tried to change the file permissions using chmod but to no avail. I appear to be completely unable to access anything beyond the hfs directory. Any ideas?

  4. Hmm.. ok. nicholaspaul:

    Make sure the filesystem your os9 installation is hfs standard and not hfs extended. it appears to make a difference and the default file format for os9 is hfs extended.

    I’ve managed to get xubuntu installed but do not appear to have a gui. Still trying to figure this one out.

  5. Hi nicholaspaul and JeffHewitt! Thanks for your comments! Sorry it took so long for me to respond. But yes, I do believe that Jeff is correct, your OS 9 side needs to be formatted in HFS rather than HFS Extended. I mention this in Step 2 of the procedure I wrote, above. I do not believe that Ubuntu (or any other PPC-compatible Linux distro) can understand HFS+.

    Jeff — as for xubuntu not having a GUI, have you tried the instructions at ? I followed these instructions and got Xubuntu up and running with no issue.

    By the way, are you guys already using Dapper Drake? I got Dapper installed on a New World (just barely) Powerbook G3/333 Lombard, and with Xubuntu it’s a pretty decent machine. I’ll post an entry about it very soon.

  6. I to have stalled at the copy file vmlinux to System Folder. I reformatted my hard drive in HFS and it did not fix the problem. In your article you ststed that you had to manually move the files. I am a NEW BEE and unable to complete this operation. Help!! My powerbook G3 is a passive atrix mainstreet but it would be nice to run so modern software on it. OSX is out of the question so I hoped Ubuntu would be the answer. The processor is 233mh. To slow?


    ps I installed ubuntu on a PC no problem

  7. I also am looking to install Xubuntu, yep, xubuntu, that ol’ xfce thingy I don’t know much about but have read up a little on, sifting through the forums, thinking it is the right OS for my powerbook g3 233mhz adb (no usb no firewire). no bronze keyboard.

    downloaded the new Dapper Cds, both the normal and the alternate install, but my pb will have none of it. shows a disk read error icon.

    does this mean I need to perform the above process with repartitioning and bootX and etc? or just re-burn the cd?

    ~how greatly does an install of Dapper differ from Hoary? how much have things changed on the new CD? and the video issues?

    my powerbook isn’t hooked up to the web. but my g4 ibook with 10.4 is. I’ve got toast too, if that’ll make a difference. I’d like to hear back from anyone at this point…

    yas I am a total newbie. hardy har.

  8. I started installing Xubuntu on my G3 Wallstreet and everything went great.

    The only problem I ran into is that I did not fully read the instructions before installing and I rebooted before copying the kernel.
    I’ll re-partition and try again tonight.

    Alaoui, yes you do need to do the above.. our G3 233 powerbooks will not boot from these CDs. Also, use the Xubuntu alternate install CD, not the Xubuntu Desktop CD.. I kept getting a kernel panic on install when I tried to use the Desktop one.

  9. Well, I followed the above for Daper, only change I had to make was OPT+2 wasn’t working for me so I had to select it from the menu.

    I thought everything went fine, but when i restarted the machine it just goes right back into setup.

    I wiped everything and started from scratch and it does the same thing. Gets through setup fine, I copied the two files (even deleted them first before copying), set root=/dev/hda10 (the linux partition is 10 on my system), restart into Linux and it goes right back into setup.

    Any ideas?

  10. showson1
    If you copy the files when you reboot. Stop the bootx and change the preferances to uncheck box for ramdisk.image.gz Then on the bootx main page put the hda drive number in. then hit Linux

  11. No dice.. it doesn’t go into install again, but now I get cannot open root device “hda10” or unknown-block(0,0).

    I tried doing the entire setup from scratch again with same results..

  12. Ok, well this time I left the ramdisk set, set the hda number again and it restarted into the shell, no setup program.. strange. thanks for the advice!

  13. i installed Dapper to my Wallstreet 250Mhz without a hitch, past the copying of vmlinux and the initrd.img.gz files, and went on to reboot. From BootX I chose where my installation had occurred, which was hda10, but it can’t see it–gives an error to choose the the right root point and such. I’ve reinstalled twice now and have the same issue, and have verified that my installation is taking place on the root level of the partition hda10. what gives? I am using an alternate installation disc because of my RAM level, and will continue to retry with this disc and with a normal Desktop ISO tonight. any thoughts?

  14. just finnished the install on my wallstreet, the only problem i have is that it does not seem to have installed my nic or a gui. i figure i can apt get if i have a internet connection, anyone have any ideas how i install the network card?

  15. Hi Stephen — No GUI? That’s highly irregular. If you followed the above instructions precisely, then I can’t see why no GUI would be installed. Did you happen to have customized the Ubuntu installation options? Did you use the Server install rather than the Desktop install, for instance? For Dapper Drake (Ubuntu 6.06), there are different ISO images for the PPC Desktop and Server installs. Use the Desktop image if you want the GNOME Desktop, etc.

  16. as far as i am aware i have the desktop version i downloaded the alt version from ubuntu, i have also tryed xbuntu with the same problems.

    i have also just dl’d breezy badger ato give it ago, it detects my network card, but after partioning it copys some more files over and the the screen changes colour slightly and seems to repete the install again asking me to select my keyboard and language again, when it gets to the partioning screen for the second time it crashes at about 50%. if i try skipping the step it goes to it anyway and freezes again.

    all very strange 😦

  17. I’m trying to install Dapper (6.06.1) on a 7600 with G3 upgrade card and two disks – installing onto the second disk which has 3 partititions – OS9, a large HFS+ and extra space waiting for Ubuntu – more than 3Gb.
    At step 7/8, after rebooting, it gets down to “Begin: Waiting for root file system…” but eventually fails with “ALERT! Does not exist. Dropping to a shell!”and drops into the shell.
    I tried the “root=ramdisk’ option mentioned but was rewarded with an invalid syntax error early in the boot process.

    Does anyone have any ideas, please?

  18. With Ubuntu 6.06.1, to get around the “Begin: Waiting for root file system…” error, try using the “alternate installation” ISO image.

    The regular desktop image is now the “Live CD” image, and seems to fail on a Wallstreet. The alternate installation image uses the old text-based installation GUI, instead of the “Live CD” Gnome-based installation GUI. I’m still working through some issues where my ethernet plug is not detected, but the rest of the install went well once I found out about the alternate image.

  19. I ran into the same problem as Kirk. It installed Ok, but wouldn’t find the network hardware. I am hopeful that modprobe ???? will work., but don’t know waht to modprobe… Any ideas?

  20. hi!

    just installed ubuntu 6.10 on my wallstreet, everything works just great, without a problem. but pcmcia cards dont work. any hints?


  21. Hi trilly!

    Congrats on your successful install of Ubunto 6.10 on your Wallstreet! I can’t get PCMCIA detected on my Lombard running the same OS. I believe it’s a bug in Dapper Drake. I worked around the issue rather than trying to resolve it, but I believe the Ubuntu Mac forums have discussion on the issue. Good luck!


  22. Gonz,

    Thank you for the tutorial. It was completely straight forward. I am currently running Kubuntu Edgy Eft on this beast, but may opt out for another desktop environment like fluxbox, etc. I suppose we’ll see. It sure has given a new life this Wallstreet!

  23. Thanks to this post I installed successfully Xubuntu 6.10 (alternate install CD) on a PowerBook G3 Wallstreet Series II:
    Everything works fine, also pcmcia bus seems ok but I can’t test it because I haven’t any card. Some probelms with LAN in dhcp mode but ok with static IP adresses, I’m sure is a software related problem.
    Kernel argument “video=atyfb:vmode:14,cmode:32,mclk:71” is perfect for this machine.

    Thanks again Gonz.

  24. For those of you getting an error like:

    “Begin. Waiting for root file system… …
    ALERT! does not exist. Dropping to a shell!

    All you need to do is add the following line to your BootX “More Kernel Arguments” area.


    This is the most likely entry you should have to add. If that does not work, try hda8, hda7, etc.

    I am so very happy. Xubuntu 6.10 is running GREAT with networking on my Wallstreet Powerbook G3.

  25. Hi, I too am trying to install ubuntu (6.06 alternate) on my beige G3 desktop.

    When I get to the part where I have to copy the vmlinux file to the from the CD to the hard drive I have a problem in the shell.

    i followed the instructions step by step in the tutorial here:

    but when I have to change to the target directory, it tells me there is none! how do i find it?

  26. Nice!

    Finally, after a lot of trials, I was able to instal Ubuntu 5.10, thanks to these great instructions. These were my problems: forgetting to note the partition numbers; forgetting to use Standard format, and (heh) forgetting how to spell Kernels…

    Another thing is, in Step 6, it says to rename initrg.gz to inage.ramdisk.gz. At the end of the instructions, it says to rename it to ramdisk.image.gz. I had to go back and re-choose it in BootX’s option menu.

    Thanks again for these instructions, and Ubuntu is running great on my Powerbook Wallstreet, and my PCMCIA work too!

  27. Im kind of a newb with linux, let alone linux in a mac environment but just a few things. How is it possible to do aminimal install of ubuntu 510, as my powerbook only has a 2 gig hdd with 1.7 left after all partitions, i have suffered out of room crash on install which doesnt seem to install everything correctly. So i would like to try and do a minimal install (even no x windows and abilitiy to apt-get would be nice)

    Also someone up was havin invalid block, please bar in mind the tutorial has an error in the typing, in one section he uses image.ramdisk.gz and in another ramdisk.image.gz make sure you cp it as the same file as what you put in initially.

  28. HELLO,



  29. Hello selmersgarage!

    Glad that the instructions I posted were useful to you. You may want to review the portion about video kernel arguments; I suspect that you have to specify particular kernel arguments to allow GNOME/xorg to operate at your Wallstreet’s native 1024×768 resolution. Good luck!


  30. Not sure if anyone is still checking this blog but i have a powerbook g3 233 with only a 2 gig hard drive and 32 mb RAM. I want to install ubuntu. What are the minimum upgrades i’ll need to do to be able to install it? Is there any kind of external hard drive i will be able to run off it (since there is no USB)?


  31. Hi RFR — You could probably get by with a 2Gb hard drive, but you should probably install Xubuntu, a smaller, lighter version of Ubuntu Linux with the XFCE window manager rather than GNOME. Only 32Mb of RAM could also be a problem — I would bump it up to at least 128Mb. I’ve never tried to install Ubuntu on an external hard drive; it should be possible, one would just have to know how to specify the proper Linux root location in BootX. Good luck!


  32. Cool, thanks mate. I really want to do this for sport anyway so it is no big thing if it isn’t the fastest system in the world.

    Thanks again.

  33. Thanks for all the great tips , really got me heading in the right direction after days of bootx hell…….

    Laptop == Wallstreet 233 No Cache (“Mainstreet”), upgraded to 256Mb memory, 20Gb drive, 12 for Os9.2.2, 6 for Linux, 2 for ProDos

    Ubuntu (6_10 Edgy): to solve video live boot problem —- this was in yaboot.conf

    “file=/cdrom/preseed/ubuntu.seed boot=casper video=atfyb:vmode:14,cmode:16,mclk:63”
    Ramdisk size = 14024

    notes: ignore funky looking multi-screens, X will eventually appear after about 10 minutes, ignore Gnome error dialog

    Install went ok, used Guided Partitioning

    Since I have an HFS+ OS9 partition I couldn’t directly copy the vmlinux and initrd.img files to my OS9 partition; SO-O-O I … opted to when it moaned about yaboot/hfs , let it continue to install (about 1 hour to copy files, setup , skipped language packs etc…) , OK at “bootstrap partition” error ….

    What did, since I have a VM of Linux elsewhere was scp(ftp) vmlinux/initrd.img to the VM (could be any SSH/FTP server you have access to … guess you could do the same with a floppy ??) ;
    I had to wait for the install to finish (“configuring hardware” builds the right initrd.img file); also noted that until about 90% completed (“removing unneeded modules” ?) the symbolic link of vmlinux was to the powerpc64 binary, not powerpc (it is a Wallstreet I). Be careful to copy the correct real files.

    Note – installer crashed near the very end, couldn’t tell WHAT wasn’t done, but (see below)

    I then then rebooted to OS9, copied the boot files back from the SSH(ftp) server to the , set BootX params from / and Edgy booted into X, networking and Firefox works. YEA !!!

    Thanks again for getting me on the right track !! Off to track down what caused the install crash at 95% done….?

    Now if I could just get System Rescue to BootX …….


  34. Sorry, didnt know I was submitting HTML !! ignore the italics, they werent intended for emphasis: Corrected text here:

    SO-O-O I … opted to CONTINUE when it moaned …
    What I did, since I have a VM of Linux elsewhere …
    copied the boot files back from the SSH(ftp) server to the System Folder, set BootX params in[Control Panel]

    Thanks again !!


  35. It IS possible to write directly to a HFS+ Volume. I’ve done it on 5.10 Breezy multiple times.

    When you get up to:
    mount /dev/hda8 hfs -t hfs

    Simply change the line to:
    mount /dev/hda8 hfs -t hfsplus

    And you can write directly to your HFS+ Volume.

  36. After much trail and missing hair, I succeeded in getting xubuntu on my wallstreet G3 Laptop 233 mghtz model fortunately with a 20 gb hd and 256 mb ram upgrade . Note to others attempting this “patience” it took several reboot’s for the drive to actually kick over to hda9 in my case also to avoid screen glitches use the no driver option in boot x once your sure every things set. Xfce takes a little getting used to using the f11 & f12 keys for mouse buttons. But it breathed new life into an otherwise over the hill laptop it actually makes me considering getting the 129 dollar battery and pram battery for this beast just so the kid can use it for homework browsing etc

  37. I just installed Ubuntu 7.04 on a Powerbook G3 Wallstreet 233 with a 20GB hard drive.

    I put OS 9 on an 8GB partition (so I cold also load OS 10.2.8 for other uses).

    Your instructions above were great, but the install kept crapping out after loading eth0. I knew it wasn’t the ethernet connection, so I looked into the specs in yaboot.conf. Therein I saw that the ramdisk size prefered was 104576, and a kernal arg specified boot=casper to apperently direct he boot to the kernal in that directory.

    I am not wildly fluent in Linux, so take this for what it’s worth. The install worked with the ramdisk size increased and the boot=casper kernal argument. Whether it was either of these or just dumb luck I don’t know. I made no further experiments to test it. I just ran with the install.

    The rest of the process was a bit buggy. It took a few boot tries to get the installed Linux to run with the specs above, but eventually it did. Specify the ramdisk image and add root=/dev/hdaXX to the kernal args.

  38. For briandtaylor:

    (I know this is a long time after you first wrote, but I’m just now trying to install Ubuntu on a PowerBook G3, Series 1, and I think I see your problem.)

    You wrote:
    From BootX I chose where my installation had occurred, which was hda10, but it can’t see it–gives an error to choose the the right root point and such.

    IIUC (and I think I do, because I have that part seemingly working), is that you don’t point BootX to where you installed Linux. Instead you copy the Linux kernel and initrd.gz from your fresh install of Linux to the MacOS partition where BootX lives.

    IIUC, the problem is that the MacOS and BootX cannot read the Linux partition, thus you move the kernel and initrd to a place where they can read them.

    Hope this helps.

  39. “9. Toward the end of the Linux installation process, you will receive an error message that the Grub bootloader could not be installed. This is not a big deal, because you have already installed a bootloader in Step 4 of this procedure. However, this is your cue for the trickiest part of installing Ubuntu Linux on an Old World Powerbook G3. If you don’t do this bit, your entire Ubuntu Linux installation will fail.”

    I’m not having that problem, my problem is that yaboot gets installed, and there’s no mention of a Grub or lilo boot loader failing. Damn I wish it would. I get the install all set, the Kernel & boot files copied OK. I reboot… Yaboot is loaded, and eventually the iMac hangs. on the loading of the kernel in the second stage.

    233 MHz PowerPC
    512MB RAM
    Mac OS ROM 3.1.1
    Mac OS 9

    “Help me, Obi-Wan, you’re our only help”

    I’ve gone through many tries with out help…

  40. Hi Matt: you’re installing on an iMac, which is a New World ROM Mac. These instructions are for Old World ROM Macs. These instructions don’t apply to you situation. As i noted at the start of my instructions, Ubuntu installation on New World ROM Macs is much more straightforward – basically just install and follow the onscreen instructions. Good luck! – Gonz

  41. Gonz,
    Thanks for the replay, but this may be an early iMac that is OldWord. I’ve tried to install ubuntu the “easy” way, but again, it seems to get stuck while loading the kernel, and does not boot properly. I’ve also installed ubuntu many times before. I’m more of an x86 guy than a PPC. This is more for the challenge. And a challenge it is has been.

    Again, this puppy is old. It originally came with 32MB of memory, a 4GB hdd, and a 233 MHz PPC processor. I upgraded the memory to 512MB and the HD is a 30 GB now. However, the references I’ve seen do claim this to be an “Old World” Mac. I’ll have to see if maybe the ROM OS need, or can be upgraded.

    Any and all help or ideas are always welcomed. Thanks again for the response. Again, this is my first mac/ppc experience.


  42. Where have you been?! It’s nice to know I’m not alone in the old world. It’s been a long journey to your blog…. but all is not lost. I know a lot more about all the flavors of Linux than I did weeks ago.

    I have a stack of burned CDs that have piled up from my quest to put Linux on my Lombard. I’m glad to hear Ubuntu can run on my old world powerbook.

    Now, I will clear a spot on my desk to start fresh with your “How to”. I’ll keep you posted… no pun intended. Can’t wait!

    Thanks for all your information and hard work!


  43. Well …… Hmmmm

    I discovered that my Lombard will install ubuntu by holding down the C key. Now I’m not sure if Lombard is old world or not. Anyway, I’m up and going.

    After all my weeks of pain, I discovered that the only problem was the way I was burning my CDs. I slowed the burn speed down to 12x and Presto!

    So, I running the latest Unbuntu …. 7.04 PPC ….. I love it!

  44. Thanks for the great instructions. It took me a while, and a few stumbles along the way were definitely my fault, but I finally got Ubuntu installed on my 233mHz Wallstreet G3. At least, I think I have it installed….

    When I tried booting into Linux for the first time after the install, I got all the way through starup, until “Starting GNOME Display Manager”, where the boot process failed, because apparently I ran out of space. Here’s the error:

    “GDM could not write a new authorization entry to disk. Possibly out of space. Error: No space left on device”

    I have a rather measly 2GB hard drive, and I thought I could get by on that, but alas I guess not. Any advice? Cheap hard drive resources? I really wanted to just glimpse the GNOME GUI, on the old ‘book. 😦

  45. @ Alan McDaniel: Glad that you worked out your issues getting Ubuntu Linux to run on your Lombard. 🙂

    @ Matthew Clark: it definitely sounds like 2GB isn’t enough to get a working Ubuntu Linux installation on your Wallstreet. If you want to upgrade the hard drive on the cheap, I would recommend or I was just able to purchase an 80Gb 2.5-inch external USB 2.0 hard drive from NewEgg for $58 bucks shipped, which I thought was a good deal. If you still want to try squeezing Linux on that 2Gb drive, I would recommend you follow the directions to install Xubuntu rather than the default Ubuntu Linux distro with the GNOME display manager. GNOME is a huge thing, whereas the Xfce Desktop Environment in Xubuntu is designed to run on low-end systems such as the Walstreet. Don’t know if 2Gb would be enough to successfully install Xubuntu, but you have a better shot with that than with the defalt GNOME-laden Ubuntu Linux distro. Hope this helps! Good luck!

  46. Many many thanks to the author and to Kevin Moloney : I also managed to install Ubuntu 7 Feisty on my Wallstreet 233 – 20Gb BUT even though it complained during manual partition that it didn’t have a neworld partition upon which it could install yaboot, and even though I supplied the system with one of 1Gb that it mounted obstinately as /home…. I was unable to have him create the yaboot and thus I end up missing the ramdisk.img in the /boot volume…
    If Kevin could come back and detail for us the end of the process that he called “buggy” that would be great cause apart from that the system seems to be doing great…

    Many thanks again

  47. These instructions are great although there is an error in step 5 or 9. Make your choice.

    In step 5 I read: “Copy the “initrd.gz” file from the Breezy CD’s boot folder to the top level of the System Folder. Rename the file to “image.ramdisk.gz”.”

    In step 9 I read: “renaming it “ramdisk.image.gz” and overwriting the file of the same name in the OS 9 System Folder. ”

    In step 9, the file is not overwritten because the file created at step 5 does not have the same name. A new file is created. In order to overwrite as it should, the command must be
    cp boot/initrd.img hfs/System\ Folder/image.ramdisk.gz
    cp boot/initrd.img hfs/System\ Folder/ramdisk.image.gz

    It takes me a while to find the error …and to boot.

  48. (I am replying to myself)
    Here is the way to success with a Wallstreet G3 (20GB 196RAM) and Ubuntu 7 : copy vmlinux into System Folder & ramdisk.image.gz into Syst Fldr from CD (casper, ppc) and fire BootX with ramdisk size >= 104752 and launch the install once rebooted on the CD BUT MAKE SURE TO BE CONNECTED TO INTERNET since without it the procedure would fail and Nautilus would not launch in the end. At the partition step, make sure to create a /boot partition in ext2 or ext3 of at least 60MB, a good /swap of 500MB and a / partition of as much as is left and check to reformat them. Once install is over, call the file explorer and copy with appropriate renaming the 2 files needed for OS but this time you’ll find them in your /boot partition (and not the /boot folder under the main / filesystem) (this partition will replace the /boot folder once you reboot after the install). Reboot. Enjoy !

  49. Your guide has been very useful, I’ve installend in Xubuntu 6.10 on a Wallstreet G3 (96 RAM:@ 4GB/266). Many thanks for taking the time to post this (otherwise I’d be in a complete lost). everything was pretty straight forward (with a couple screw ups on my account). The only real problem was when it couldn’t detect the right video card but it was solved after a minor tweak of Xorg. Again many thanks.

  50. Thanks for the great Howto. I tried to install Ubuntu 7.10 and it stops because it doesn’t recognize the cd-rom correctly. There is no device file under /dev and i don’t know which module to load manually to get the cdrom working. Has anyone an idea?
    Thank you! Marc

  51. I just completed a install of Ubuntu Linux on an Old World Wallstreet PowerBook G3. The details found in this article were excellent for getting to the final stages of evaluating the whole PowerBook G3 conversion to Linux.

    I had a few problems along the way, but when dealing with old computers that is to be expected. Here are the details chronicling my PowerBook conversion experience.


    Note: There were some issues that need to be addressed from the standpoint of memory, hard drive requirements, and PRAM battery issues that also must be looked at up front when dealing with old computers.

    I’m not sure if I am going to max out the memory and upgrade the hard drive and possibly install a version of OS X that would work on this PowerBook or not.

    Any case, thanks for the helpful tutorial here.

    Best regards,


  52. My macpowerpc wallstreet won’t boot up after I installed UBUNTU BREEZER. A picture of floopy disk with the ? mark sign on the bottom shows after 10 minutes it turn itself off. Any one know manual booting for linux or what to do from here?
    Thanks in advance .

  53. Ok. I did it finaly. Following instruction (stick to it) I found a bug in it. First copy of initrd.gz you suggerst to name “image.ramdisk.gz” (step 5). A copy of initrd.gz made during installation process (step 9) you suggest to name “ramdisk.image.gz”. So consequently, after rebooting WS, and starting BootX – one should choose new ramdisk in “Options” (step 10). New one is “ramdisk.image.gz”. And everything is working. Of course one should have a beer or two – to pass configuration process. But this is additional value ;))

  54. One more thing is passing commands in step 9. If MacOS partition is formatted as hfs+ (extended) – proper mounting command skould be

    mount /dev/hda8 hfsplus -t hfsplus

    It works.

    Ah, I almost forgot – Wallstreet 233, 12″, 128MB/12GB.

  55. now it finally also runs on my wallstreet. puhh!

    this hfs+ brake my neck once. Then i was shocked the cp didn’t work until i found that I’ve got a German System so the correct folder name is “Systemordner” (one word!!)

    nevertheless: Thank you very much – works finally!

  56. Thank you! Your instructions work!
    My os9 was on mount /dev/hda9 hfs -t hfs instead of mount /dev/hda8 hfs -t hfs. This was the only change. Much better than os9!!

  57. Hi, and thanks, for a great tutorial

    is my firts time in linux world

    I follow your instructions and all run fine until the step 9.

    when I call the console “option-F2” my PB G3 266 show me a black screen, I try with “ctrol-option-F2” but the console dons’t work

    any ideas?

    I can’t understand how to make this step manually

    thanks in advance and sorry for my poor english


  58. Hi Gonz,
    Thany you for the instructions – they helped me to install ubuntu 8.10 on my old wallstreet. However, two problems remain:

    1) When I follow your instructions step-by-step, I won’t be able to really use the installation – just because the wrong RAMdisk image is used with BootX. In step 6 (and 6) you tell us to

    Rename the file to “image.ramdisk.gz”.

    And at the end, in step 9, you tell us to

    cp boot/initrd.img hfs/System\ Folder/ramdisk.image.gz

    Either, the same name should be used in both steps, or the instruction to change the name in the bootloader BootX is missing.

    2) Installing 8.10 from the “PPC Alternate” image leaves me with only a command line interface, no GUI. Any idea whether the GUI can be added manually later (and how), or what other flavour of ubuntu I should use to install? The Kubuntu / Xubuntu versions seem to exist for AMD64 and i386 only…


    1. Hi Christian,

      I’m glad that my instructions were of some help. I’m aware of the ramdisk naming inconsistency that you pointed out, but no longer recall which is the correct one. However, if you read through the comments to this post, I think you’ll find several people who noticed the same issue, as well as how they corrected the issue.

      After installing PPC alternate, which gets you to a command line, you have the option of installing the full GNOME desktop manager (Ubuntu default), which I wouldn’t recommend on a Wallstreet because it’s too slow. I recommend installing Xubuntu, a lightweight desktop alternative using xfce. Just type “apt-get install xubuntu” at the command prompt, and of course you’ll need an internet connection.

      Hope this helps!

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  60. I followed the instructions until point #9 and everything went OK!
    No Grub error!
    It finished installing, restart and could Log In perfectly.
    Thank you very much!

  61. everything went well until the copy stage 9 – tried to get a console but Ctrl+opt F2 got me nowhere but blanks screen. Went back into menu and tried to execute shell but then it said it didn’t recognise the /boot files, no such directory etc. HELP! I’m going crazy and gray over this!!!

  62. Thank you for share quite good informations. Your net is so coolI am impressed by the data that you’ve on this weblog. It shows how well you understand this subject. Bookmarked this website page, will appear back again for more. You, my buddy, ROCK! I discovered just the data I already searched in all places and just couldn’t locate. What a ideal website. Such as this web site your site is one particular of my new favs.I like this information shown and it has provided me some type of inspiration to possess success for some cause, so retain up the great function

  63. This thread just keeps on going! I followed the instructions and ran into the same problem when trying to perform the file copy. RESOLUTION- I removed the hdd from my G3 Wallstreet and connected to a Suse 11.3 machine via a USB to IDE adapter. Logged in as root, deleted the old files and copied the two new files over manually. Installed back in my Wallstreet, set the root path and it booted right up! Now up and running on Ubuntu 10.10 PPC!!

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