Thursday, July 16, 2015

Compile a Custom Kernel on Debian

This post is mostly a note to myself in case I ever have to do this again, but if you can make use of it, please feel free!

So you'd like to compile your own kernel in Debian. There are at least a few valid reasons why. First, the reason I did it, is to test kernel patches. Second, you may want to configure your kernel to work around driver bugs. For example, see this Debian-PPC-mailing-list thread about compiling your kernel to get the Nouveau driver working on G5 Power Macs (long thread, but very interesting information). And third, you may want to test newer kernels from upstream to get a head start on bug squashing. In any event, here are the exact steps I took to compile my own kernel in Debian Linux:

sudo aptitude install fakeroot kernel-package libncurses5-dev #installs the development packages (about a gigabyte).

sudo aptitude install linux-source-3.16 #installs the source into /usr/src.

cd ~/Development #change directory into the "Development" folder in my home folder.

tar -Jxf /usr/src/linux-source-3.16.tar.xz #unpacks the source into current directory.

cd ~/Development/linux-source-3.16 #change to linux-source-3.16 directory; if you're applying patches, this is the stage to do it.

make menuconfig #configure your kernel options.

make-kpkg clean #clean stuff?

fakeroot make-kpkg --initrd --revision=1.0 --append-to-version=-custom1 kernel_image #compiles the kernel; the "--revision" and "--append-to-version" options may be redundant, but I just did them both; notice the "-custom1" begins with a leading "-".

sudo dpkg -i ../linux-image-3.16.7-ckt9-custom1_1.0_powerpc.deb #installs the kernel.

So there you have it! It should automatically make your new kernel the default, but if it doesn't you can add a new kernel section to /etc/yaboot.conf, placing it at the top above the "Linux" and "old" sections. Conclude of course by running "sudo ybin -v".

The actual compiling took eight hours on my G3 iBook, and not wanting to burn out my iBook compiling a kernel, I set up a desk fan to blow across the keyboard to keep temperatures sane. Here's a time saver, though: If you want to apply subsequent patches, you can go straight to the "fakeroot make-kpkg" step and this will only recompile the modules you're patching rather than the whole kernel. So that's nice.

Finally, if you want to test new development kernels, obviously you'd download the source from upstream rather than Debian's repository.

Debian kernel compiling reference link (h/t rican-linux).

Sunday, June 28, 2015

MintPPC and iLinux Back Up

In case you missed it, the MintPPC and iLinux sites were hacked. Also, in case you missed it, they're now back up!

The sites were compromised for several weeks because their owner, linuxopjemac, didn't own the server. As explained in a forum thread, he finally gained contact with the server administrator to regain access and was able to repair the damage. This is great news as there were a lot of useful files on those sites (xorg.conf, anyone?) and the MintPPC forums have always been one of the best resources available.

Also on the topic of service disruptions, Sevan's pkgsrc PowerPC server at is currently down for repairs. In the meantime, you can use

Monday, June 8, 2015

Three Questions About El Capitan

1. Is it faster than Yosemite?

2. Is it still spyware like Yosemite?

3. Do I have to worry about my parachute failing to unfurl?

Friday, June 5, 2015

iOS 9 is not OS 9

If you plan on scanning the tech headlines in the next several months, make sure you don't misread iOS 9 as "OS 9." You will be bitterly disappointed. You will be especially aghast at reports of new features such as multi-user support. In 2015.

For OS's that support PowerPC, we'll have to make due with what we got. Handily, TCH put a list together compiling every OS that ran on PowerPC through the present-day, so pay a visit to OS for PPC and go explore.

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

The End of the Road for MacTubes, et al?

MacTubes stopped working today. This is thanks to Google "upgrading" Youtube's programming API to version 3, which breaks all third party apps that relied on API v2. In addition to MacTubes, YouView and SMTube are also knocked out, and it will take some reworking of their code to get things working again. And even if they are under active development, to use API v3 they'll have to abide by new terms of service which prohibits downloading of videos.

So with MacTubes' last update being two-plus years ago, this would appear to be the end for this venerable app and saver of countless old Macs. The thing I'll miss most is its local playlist feature, where you could save playlists to your hard drive and have them display with videos' thumbnails in MacTube's browser. I haven't seen this feature on any other Youtube app.

You may notice, though, one Youtube downloader conspicuously absent from the list of broken apps, and that's youtube-dl. It's still going strong as ever, and fortunately for us Mac users, Adam Albrec's GUI frontend for youtube-dl, PPC Media Center, has also just been updated to version 5.0. The new version can stream or save to disk as always, but now also has an MP3 converter so you can save videos as MP3s.

On the Linux side, I'm still using youtube-dl in combination with my trusty script:

mpv --framedrop vo --cache 8192 --cache-initial 410 $(youtube-dl -gf 18 $(xsel --clipboard))

This requires you have mpv and xsel installed in addition to youtube-dl. I've also been meaning to look at youtube-dlG, a graphical frontend for youtube-dl similar to PPC Media Center, only for Linux.

And if you can believe it, Youtube on Mac OS 9 isn't dead yet as YTBfC has been updated to work in the brave new world.

In a couple of other software updates to note, Adam Albrec's PowerPC Security Mode has been updated to address some Finder lock-up problems, and leopard-webkit recently released a slew of important security fixes.

PowerPC still has a pulse.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Debian Jessie Turns Stable

I know it's hard to hear me over the din of the roof-raising Debian release parties, but I'll try.

Debian Jessie turned stable today, so what does it mean for PowerPC users? It's been a two-year, sometimes harrowing ride for Jessie, but now that it's turned Stable, I think it's... okay. On Mac models where it works well, like my aluminum Powerbook, it's great and a nice improvement over Wheezy. Unfortunately some models experience serious bugs out of the box, but the good news is there are workarounds. On that subject, I've just updated my Debian install guide taken from my own experiences installing on a few different Macs.

Yes, there's a major sound bug affecting my G3 iBook, and according to reports, several other models, but there's a workaround. There are some severe graphics bugs, but there are workarounds. I'm hoping this is a time of transition for PowerPC Linux, where the right bug reports and testing will lead to a better-out-of-the-box experience around the corner.

I've seen people write that we shouldn't bother filing bug reports on KMS because KMS on PowerPC will never be fixed. I'm going to test that theory. I have a black screen of death issue with my iBook that requires disabling KMS, so I'll file a bug report on that and see where it goes (UPDATE: here's the bug report). On the sound bug front, a developer doing I2C work just popped in on the Debian PowerPC mailing list and offered to work on it, with the right assistance. If there's anyone with an afflicted machine who can compile custom kernels, I'm sure he'd appreciate your help. If it's gonna be me, theeeeeeen I guess I better learn how to compile custom kernels (UPDATE: I just compiled a custom kernel and am helping to debug kernel patches. Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!).

Also, a shoutout should go to Ubuntu MATE's PPC maintainer for making patched Mesa binaries available that also work on Jessie.

Here are a couple of screenshots of my iBook's Openbox desktop (my Powerbook ain't all purtied up yet):

Openbox menu

Openbox Desktop

Monday, April 6, 2015

Set Up That Server You Always Wanted To

You've probably read about servers, and if you've never run one before, thought it sounds like a cool thing to do. You also may have a spare PowerPC Mac lying around doing nothing, which is why this post is about you (yes, I can see you). I have an old Sawtooth that I just can't quit—they're terrific machines—and I wanted to write a post on how I set it up as a headless file/bittorrent server that's so simple anyone can do it.

The first consideration is the hardware. Electricity consumption is one reason, and hard drive space is another. If you're lucky enough to have a Sawtooth, they offer the best balance of the two. Mac Minis consume the least power but may have limited hard drive space. A laptop with say a broken screen would also be a low-power alternative. Sawtooths use about 50 watts at idle in their basic configuration, and subsequent Power Macs used a bit more until G5s came along idling at 150 watts. So a G5 is a bit impractical for our purposes.

So now that you got the hardware, what do you do with it? You could set up a music server, a print server, or a backup server among other things. I wanted a bittorrent server because I'm on a private tracker for classic films and need to seed a bunch of films long-term without taking up space on my Powerbook. I also wanted something I could sync backups to via Unison. Finally I wanted to sleep the computer at night, so I'll be doing this on OS X and not Linux.

Before you go completely headless, you'll want to set up a few things on your server with a monitor attached. First, give it a static IP address because you'll have to forward ports to it and you don't want your router intermittently changing the server's address. To do this, go into Network Preferences, and under the TCP/IP tab choose "Configure IPv4:" "Manually". Then fill in an IP address your router hasn't already assigned as well as your router address. You can see an example below:

You'll also want to install a VNC server which will let you control your headless Mac from your other computers. VNC stands for Virtual Network Computing, and in practical terms it means you can display your server's desktop on any other computer with a VNC client. So this server business doesn't have to be all SSH commands and terminal outputs. It can be point and click just like any desktop.

OS X's Preferences has something smilar to VNC called Apple Remote Desktop that's compatible with VNC clients, but people complain it's slow and I also don't see any SSH options, so it's not secure. A pure VNC server has a remote login option so your sessions will be secured through SSH. The best server for PowerPC is Vine Server (OSXvnc). There's a slightly updated version at this TestPlant page, and manuals, too.

So once you've installed that and any other software you want to operate, like a bittorrent client, you're all set to go headless.

The next step is to forward ports on your router so it knows which computer to send all the traffic. In your router's administration, forward port 22 to your server's IP address as TCP only. Port 22 is for SSH. For VNC, forward ports 5900 to 5909, also TCP only, to your server's IP address. I've also forwarded a port for my bittorrent client, Transmission (the same port number you set in Transmission's preferences).

Finally it's time to download a VNC client, and the one and only choice is Chicken (formerly Chicken of the Sea VNC). Other clients may be just as good, but none can match its dock icon, a chicken popping out of a tuna can. If you already have Tenfourbird, TenFourFox, and Cyberduck, this will look right at home among them. Don't forget to check Chicken's SSH tunneling option and that Chicken's SSH host is not just the IP address but username@IP address, like dan@ Also, you should already know to have a strong password, but I'll reiterate it anyway. Especially with port 22 open, you should have a strong password.

Now when you click connect you should see the server's desktop on your client desktop.

(the password is actually longer than that graphical string indicates)

As for putting your new server to sleep on occasion, you can set Energy Saver preferences on some Macs to have the power button sleep the computer, but if your Mac is in a hard-to-reach location there's another alternative. It's called Wake-On-LAN*, and it's a simple packet that sleeps and wakes your computer over the network. There's a WOL utility conveniently called WakeOnLan that works on Tiger through Snow Leopard but reportedly not on Lion. I read there are also several iOS apps for this. I also read, though I haven't tried this, that you can forward port 4343 and sleep/wake your computer from outside your network, assuming you know your network's IP address. In either case, you must check "Wake for Ethernet network administrator access" in your server's Energy Saver preferences.

*I believe this only works on ethernet-connected servers in Tiger and Leopard. Wake-On-Wireless was enabled in Snow Leopard.

Speaking of using servers from outside your network, you can control Transmission remotely as well, but I won't go into that here. Skip over to OS X Daily for more on that.

If you want to do all this on Linux, the good news is there are graphical VNC clients. The bad news is I don't know of any graphical server programs, so you have to set it up through the command line. Also, setting up a static IP address requires editing configuration files, so it's a little more involved. Though hopefully not insurmountable.

That's all, folks!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Some Linux News

If you've been perplexed and flummoxed by the crash-on-startup problems with webkit browsers, a fix appears to be on the way. This Ubuntu bug report has several links to other various bug reports on the same problem, so if you want to delve in deeply, go crazy. There are also patch files for testing posted here. The Debian bugs marked resolved indicate the patches will migrate into Testing soon, so hopefully our Long Webkit Nightmare will be over.

You may have heard of Ubuntu Mate, which as the name indicates brings the Mate desktop to Ubuntu. In a bit of good news, they've announced their 15.04 release will officially support PowerPC. If you want to test their beta, go visit their download page (they prefer you choose the torrent download). Also, check out this screenshot sent by rican-linux of the Mate desktop + Numix theme:

Mate screenshot

Finally, there's a new fork of Debian as a fallout from the whole systemd debacle. Now that Debian basically requires systemd, an association of system administrators has left the Debian project to produce a fork promoting init freedom. Their project is called Devuan and they promise a seamless transition from Debian 7 to Devuan 1. We'll see. I wonder if they'll support PowerPC and other architectures.