Thursday, July 21, 2016

Getting Linux on an iLamp iMac with Nvidia Graphics

ILamp iMacs (G4s) are maybe the most notoriously difficult Macs to get a Linux desktop on, mostly because of the GeForce graphics they were afflicted with came with. Since I don't have one and haven't tried to put Linux on it myself, I haven't posted anything about it, but PPC Luddite reader Gary R. via email shared a very concise set of instructions on how to get Ubuntu running on his, so I thought I'd post it here.

Here I quote Gary very liberally:
This is how I got Ubuntu to work:

Download Ubuntu 16.04 minimal install iso for ppc.

Install system utilities and Ubuntu Mate

When finished, reboot

At yaboot type: Linux nomodeset single

When you reach root, type: visudo

Below: root ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL type: username ALL=(ALL:ALL) ALL (as per your instructions)

Hit Control o, hit return, then exit

nano /etc/modprobe.d/blacklist-framebuffer.conf

comment (#) nvidiafb, uncomment vesafb

write, save, exit

nano /etc/modules, add nvidiafb

write, save, exit

nano /etc/initramfs-tools/modules, add nvidiafb

write, save, exit

update-initramfs -u

nano /etc/X11/xorg.conf and add:
Section      "Screen"
     Identifier   "Default Screen"
     Monitor     "Default Monitor"
     Device      "Configured Video Device"
     DefaultDepth 16
write, save, exit

nano /etc/yaboot.conf and add to the append lines to read "quiet splash video=offb:off nomodeset single"

write, save, exit

ybin -v

Type "passwd" and add a root password


You should come to a screen that says "Enter root password for maintenance or Control D to continue"

Hit Control D and you should get the Ubuntu Mate desktop
And scene. Gary adds he has to boot into rescue mode as it seems necessary with the nvidiafb and it's the only way to have shutdown, suspend, and reboot working properly. He also likes MATE, and after playing with the latest release on my Debian Sid install, I like it, too. So there.

Thanks again to Gary R.


  1. MATE is a great DE. I found an iMac Lamp for $50 on Craigslist. It is pretty tempting.

  2. When installing Stretch, I can't manage to get Yaboot to work. Even if it's configured for the right partition, the right disk and kernel, it always ends up telling me "Unknown or corrupt filesystem". Should I try something else? I'm still using Wheezy because of that, and the fact that in Jessie, KMS requires you to disable acceleration for a radeon 9000.

    1. I haven't heard of any KMS fixes in Stretch that would make it work with the 9000 any better. That said, if you do want to install Stretch, Debian's recommended approach is to install Stable first and then upgrade to Testing. Using the Testing installer should only be done to test the installer for bugs.

      This is the second time I've heard Yaboot in Stretch has corruption problems, but I don't know what causes it. I've yet to try the Testing installer.

    2. No luck for stretch, then.. All i have are GF2mx's and r128's else than my 9000.

      Not sure about which kernel version broke the drivers for the 9000, but I'll keep the 3.2.81 I built myself for now with UMS support.

    3. Dan it is also hitting Ubuntu-MATE 16.10.

  3. Left on a black screen with blinking cursor after following above instructions however I still have access through ssh if anyone has a suggestion to why and how I can fix it thanks.

    1. i had the same results the first run through, so i ran 'X -configure' to generate a xorg.conf file, copied it to /etc/X11/xorg.conf and edited it to add 'DefaultDepth 16' in the appropriate spot, and i can now see it!...curious about the guy below who said he got it working with the 'normal ubuntu installer' and glxgears was working good..

  4. iLamp 700 and 800Mhz iMac with Nvidia Graphics

    you can use live cd/dvd/usb/firewire
    Lubuntu, Ubuntu-mate 16.04 even 16.10
    and install from it too
    its some info in Ubuntu forum apple about how get live cd/dvd to work and install

  5. hi

    on my iLamp (1.25ghz/17") the normal ubuntu installer works fine; withe nativ sound and 530 fps on glxgears.

    with your solution i only get around 50 fps (vblank_mode=0)

    1. wow, 530fps? just ran glxgears after a fresh lubuntu 16.04 install following these directions to get into the desktop, got around 16 fps...would like to get this thing working like yours

  6. Same here: black screen with white, "non-psychedelic" cursor. Can "Ctrl-Alt-F2" into a console, but unable to start a desktop from there.

  7. Works for me on an iMac G4! Thanks so much!

  8. works for my 20yr-old iLamp
    just perfect