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Installing Debian on a PowerPC eMac

Blog 2019/11/22

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Installing Debian on a PowerPC eMac

emac-debian

Though Debian no longer officially supports 32-bit PowerPC, it is still unofficially supported via ports.debian.org.

Unfortunately, the unofficial install cd doesn't support the yaboot boot loader, which means you can't complete the installation.

However, a working install CD for Debian 8 (Jessie) is still available for PowerPC, so we can first install Debian 8, then upgrade to the unstable powerpc port.

I used the netinst CD. Note that the package mirror selection step will fail (Debian 8 packages have been moved to archive.debian.org, which breaks the installer). When this happens, select "Go Back" and "Proceed without selecting a package mirror" (not sure of the exact wording there). The install will proceed normally, but you will only have access to the packages on the install cd.

After rebooting, edit /etc/apt/sources.list to use ftp.ports.debian.org:

deb http://ftp.ports.debian.org/debian-ports main

Then apt-get update and apt-get dist-upgrade. You will be prompted about not being able to verify many packages. We will fix tis momentarily.

When the upgrade has finished, reboot.

The console hangs at "fb0: switching to nouveaufb from OFfb"

My eMac has an nVidia Geforce 2 MX graphics card, and it appears modern kernels cause the framebuffer to stop updating when the nouveaufb driver is used.

However, the terminal is actually still working: it is just that the framebuffer is no longer updating.

Wait a moment to ensure you system has finished booting, then (blindly) log in as root and reboot:

root
<your password>
reboot

When the system reboots, interrupt it at the yaboot prompt and issue a custom boot command:

Linux nomodeset

When the system finished booting, disable the nouveau framebuffer in order to avoid screen lock-up. Edit /etc/yaboot.conf. Insert a new (indented) config to the main image=... stanza: append=nomodeset.

For example, if your yaboot.conf looks like this:

image=/boot/vmlinux
	label=Linux
	read-only
	restricted

Edit it to look like this:

image=/boot/vmlinux
	label=Linux
  append=nomodeset
	read-only
	restricted

Run ybin to deploy your config change to the boot partition, then reboot to test.

apt-get complains about not being able to verify packages

This happens because debian-ports uses a different keyring. apt-get install debian-ports-archive-keyring should fix this issue.

So, no X11 then?

Sorry, I haven't figured out how to get this working yet :(

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@cellularmitosis cellularmitosis commented May 2, 2020

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