As much as I love to use Linux....

I'll probably read this later and say "what the heck was I thinking", but at the time (0430 Saturday morning), I felt I should say something.

The performance is terrible on my G4 iMac. Slow, slow, slow, at least with Ubuntu 7.04. 7.10 and 8.04 cause other problems with the iMac that I'll not get into here.

The biggest problem (I believe) is driver support. The video support works in just the most basic of fashions. None of the 3d acceleration works, so all of the eyecandy that's available doesn't work. The power management for the display doesn't work, so you leave the backlight on the LCD all the time. The WOL functionality doesn't work. A bunch of other stuff that, in the grand scheme, isn't that big of a deal, but put together, just annoyed the heck out of me.

So, since all of the G4 LCD iMacs shipped with OSX, I decided to reinstall it on this machine. It works fairly well, with some caveats:

10.3 (Tiger) has its own share of problems, but it is what shipped with this machine, and since I'm cheap, I'm not going to shell for 10.5. Yet. It's the last PowerPC version going to be manufactured, so it may come way down in price if I wait until the next version. That being said, I have worked through most of the stupidity of Tiger, and am fairly happy with the finished result.

The monitor now goes to sleep as expected. I have the openVPN server running on the machine again using an older version of tunnelblick which has a compiled version of openVPN included. Apache (1.x, unfortunately. I think I can upgrade it, but I'm not too worried right now) is running on the machine. OpenSSH server is running. Synergy for desktop control. Windows shares are talking. Everything that I had on the Linux box, I have on OSX 10.3. Older versions of most of it, yes, but functional versions. And the desktop is much more responsive.

The biggest problem with 10.3 is that most of the applications that I want to use are currently complied for 10.4 and later. Apparently there was some sort of major architectural change that happened at 10.4 that I'm not completely clear on. Something major, however, as most everything that I wanted to use I had to download previous versions.

Perhaps in the future I'll give Linux another swing on the iMac. Right now, however... I can see the allure of OSX. A lot of the power of the UNIX (BSD, techically) OS with the polish of a great MacOS UI.


kozmcrae said...

When you're ready to try Linux on the iMac, do some Googling around to match a distribution to the hardware. I understand the iMac is woefully under powered. If that's the case you're better off with a distribution that uses XFce as the desktop. Five minutes on Google can save five hours of frustration. Good luck.

CaptSlaq said...

It wasn't really frustration, more just learning the lay of the land, so to speak.

I dual boot my work laptop with Xubuntu/Windows so I am familiar with the XFCE environment. I like it fairly well, actually. I use it to troubleshoot layer 2/3 problems on customers networks, and Windows to troubleshoot share/printer problems. This set up works well for me, but even it has some driver support issues with the video.

When I initially installed Linux on the machine, it wasn't going to be a desktop. It was replacing a laptop (also running Linux) with a blown LCD that was doing some file serving and hosting a webserver and shell access. When I got it home, I found a nice place for it to live that would allow me to use it as a desktop along side my gaming rig, so I went with a desktop distro of Ubuntu. If I wasn't using it as a server (leaving it on 24/7), I think that, performance aside (which probably would have been tolerable if all the services were disabled), it would have been a great desktop machine.

Thing is (as I described in the post) that the video drivers for the PPC Mac hardware still need some work, and I'm not the one who has the knowledge to reverse engineer them. I truly believe that just that one point alone would help the performance of the Xserver immensely.

Linux is touted as being "small hardware" friendly. I've seen it, and on x86, it's completely true. My first Linux box was a Pentium 266 with 64MB RAM. It didn't run a desktop, but it served up PERL driven CGI pages all day. Worked great, and never broke a sweat unless I was compiling something, which since I was running Slackware at the time, I did it a lot.

For the Mac PPC hardware I have to hedge a bit, and I feel that I can point with some certainty at the driver support. I'm not meaning this to disparage the work that's already been done, far from it. Apple/NVidia/ATI aren't letting the community have enough specs to write good drivers for the hardware yet. I don't know that this will ever happen, short of a miracle or someone up high stepping out and saying "We're doing this for the community". I'd like to think that Apple would do this for their old hardware, particularly since they aren't supporting PPC with the next generation of OSX. The reality is that it probably won't happen while Jobs is at the wheel.

kozmcrae said...

It looks like this guy: http://coldfrontramblings.blogspot.com/2008/03/update-in-imac-linux.html
is doing something similar to what you're trying.