Wondering what to do with an old Mac mini

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Wondering what to do with an old Mac mini

Postby Marrea » Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:36 pm

Back in 2005 I bought one of the original Mac minis - G4 1.25 GHz, 256 MB RAM, 40 GB hard drive, with OS X Panther 10.3. Until yesterday I hadn’t used it for some considerable time and I was somewhat disappointed to say the least to discover (a) how slow it seemed compared with my (getting on for) three year old i5 650 3.20 GHz, 4GB RAM Windows 7 desktop, and (b) how impossible it was to update any software on it because I kept coming across “needs OS X 10.4 or later”.

To avoid having to resort to redeploying the white box as a doorstop I was therefore pondering whether it might be feasible to completely replace Panther with Linux. So, I thought I would seek advice on whether this would be a sensible move, ie would Linux run faster on the Mac mini’s meagre spec than Panther and, if so, what flavour of Linux would suit it best, bearing in mind it has only 256 MB RAM? Would I have more choice of Linuxes if I tried to upgrade the RAM to 1GB? I am a little (no, make that a lot :roll:) hesitant about the putty knife procedure but am willing to have a go if it will be of benefit.
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Postby towy71 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 4:45 pm

I would have thought that Precise Puppy from LXF167 would work OK on that spec according to the write up in the magazine
still looking for that door into summer
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Postby Rhakios » Thu Feb 21, 2013 6:32 pm

Didn't know Puppy was available for PPC. However a quick FWSE shows a distro called PowerPup, so there we go.

Edit: Hmm, last updated 2009.

I suppose there's Debian and Yellow Dog.

Edit: Hmm, again, even Yellow Dog looks like it's no longer actively supported, just some community and enthusiast support.
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Postby johnhudson » Thu Feb 21, 2013 9:12 pm

With 256Mb I would assume you could run a modern LXDE distro on it.
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Postby towy71 » Thu Feb 21, 2013 10:39 pm

Doh! didn't notice the G4 bit <slap_forehead_smiley>
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Postby Marrea » Fri Feb 22, 2013 10:49 am

Thanks for all the suggestions guys. I suppose my preference would be to run something like Xubuntu or Lubuntu, but apparently even they require at least 384 MB RAM for the desktop CD.

I think my first step should be to attempt to upgrade the RAM to 1 GB (the sticks seem to cost between about £15 and £22 depending on where you buy them). I have checked with my other half but he doesn’t have the necessary type of putty knife in his toolbox so we shall have to get one. However, he has kindly offered to try and open the case carefully for me. We’ve looked at various videos on YouTube etc and there seem to be various techniques. Some people simply free one side and then the other, other people start at one side and work round all three sides, others insert a razor blade first to make a bit of a gap to insert the putty knife. We’ll just have to experiment and see how we get on. :wink:
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MAC

Postby scooter » Sun Feb 24, 2013 11:01 pm

Hello,

I have Debian PPC running on a G3 with 650mb ram; you can do a netinstall and load as much, or as little as you like.

All good fun !!!

:wink:
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Re: MAC

Postby Marrea » Mon Feb 25, 2013 4:59 pm

scooter wrote:I have Debian PPC running on a G3 ...


Thanks for that, scooter. I'd be well pleased if I could get Debian running on my Mac mini.

We've been looking for a suitable putty knife but there is not much of a selection locally where we live. We bought one this morning but I'm not at all sure it is going to be flexible enough for opening the case. :roll:
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Postby jlturriff » Tue Feb 26, 2013 1:36 am

DistroWatch.com has a nice search tool that lists a bunch of distros that run on PPC, some I didn't expect.

http://distrowatch.com/search.php

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Postby Marrea » Tue Feb 26, 2013 4:30 pm

Thanks for the link, jlturriff.

Much to my utter amazement (and his!) :shock: , hubby has now got the case open with no dramas. :wink:

I have accordingly just ordered a 1 GB stick from Crucial. Once that arrives and is installed I can then turn my attention to which distro to try first.

(We used the razor blade technique. Inserted that first on one side to make a bit of a gap, slid the putty knife in, released that side, moved to the opposite side, again inserted the razor blade, slid the putty knife in, released that side. All that was then needed was a very small amount of extra tweaking on the first side - and that was it. Job done!)
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Postby Marrea » Wed Feb 27, 2013 9:32 pm

The memory arrived this morning (those Crucial boys are pretty quick!) and has been installed. However, we then discovered that putting the case back together was rather more difficult than opening it. So much so that it took us numerous tries to get the blooming thing to snap together and unfortunately during this struggle a copper clip fell out, leaving us wondering where it had come from. I managed to find a photo on the net which shows where it should be (see below - I have arrowed the offending item) but puzzlingly there seems to be nothing for it to clip onto. We have tried to put it back where shown but it is more or less hanging in thin air. Can anyone confirm exactly what this clip is for and whether anything dreadful will happen if we haven’t put it back correctly?

Image

Uploaded with ImageShack.us


Annoyingly (why I wonder, does one start these things :roll: ), having finally firmly snapped the case shut, we are now going to have to open it again because I am pretty sure the PRAM battery needs to be replaced. On every reboot I have had to re-set the date and time which I think is a pretty sure indicator that the battery has had it. After all, it’s been in there for about seven years.
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What to do ??

Postby scooter » Wed Feb 27, 2013 10:27 pm

Hi Marrea,

You could start with this link

http://www.debian.org/ports/powerpc/


Cheers :P
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Postby Marrea » Fri Mar 01, 2013 11:28 am

Right, the machine is now sorted. Yesterday we re-opened the case, replaced the PRAM battery and successfully shut the case again. The copper metal clip hopefully is in the right place!

Following scooter’s suggestion, I have decided to try the Debian netinst CD first and see how I get on with that, and will download a copy later today.

As I have no experience whatsoever of installing Linux on a PowerPC I have started reading through the Debian installation documentation (which I never bothered to look at previously when installing Debian on a Windows PC!).

The first thing that is new to me is yaboot, which I have not come across before. If I understand correctly, this is the bootloader used to boot Linux on PowerPCs, rather than Grub. What I am not sure about is whether I will need to take any special action re yaboot or whether it is dealt with automatically during installation. My intention is to get rid of OS X Panther altogether and only run Linux on the Mac mini, so I won’t be dual-booting.

Also there is a section in the Debian Installation Guide which talks about invoking OpenFirmware by using Command+Option+o+f while booting. I think this is referring to a manual boot if your CD drive won’t boot automatically, so hopefully I won’t have to get involved in that.
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Postby lok1950 » Fri Mar 01, 2013 5:35 pm

RE that copper clip it could be Apple's way of detecting whether their warranty is voided.

Enjoy the Choice :)
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Postby Marrea » Fri Mar 01, 2013 6:26 pm

lok1950 wrote:RE that copper clip it could be Apple's way of detecting whether their warranty is voided.


:D :D :D
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