... Linux beyond x86

AnyTux step by step: Linux on NuBus PowerMacs

Stefan Lang, heavily inspired by Clive Menzies

This document describes the Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 ("Woody") installation on a NuBus PowerPC. The following procedure has been tested on a Power Macintosh 6100/66. However it should work on almost any NuBus based Power Macintosh computers.


  • A working MacOS has to be installed on the PowerMac.
  • The machine's hard drive must have enough unpartitioned space to take the installation. A minimal system without any special software requires about 300 MB, so you should have at least 400 MB for the file system and additional space, depending on your system's RAM size, for swap.

Stage 1: Installing Debian Linux booter

  1. Under MacOS, obtain the Apple MkLinux Booter from (thanks to Takashi Oe). It comprises three folders, the contents of which need to be copied to Control Panels (1 file), Extensions (1 file) and Preferences (2 files) folders - it's pretty self-explanatory.
  2. Download the latest Mach Kernel (version 2.4.27-040811 as of this writing) and the Mach Kernel with Debian Woody installer (version 021029 as of this writing) from
    Both kernels are gzipped and need to be decompressed to work with the MkLinux booter. If you don't have a tool to unpack gzipped archives under MacOS, download it to a Linux or Windows machine, do a gunzip there and copy the resulting uncompressed files to your PowerMac.
  3. Rename from "MachKernel-Debian-woody-021029" to "Mach Kernel" (note the space character, it's important) and place in the Extensions folder.
  4. Go to Control Panels and open MkLinux window, select Custom which opens lilo.conf and make sure it reads as follows

    # RAMDisk Debian Installer
    # mach_options= keyboard_sends_linux_keycodes=1

    It doesn't matter what else is in the file as long as every other line starts with "#". Save the file and exit.
  5. Restart your machine.
    Place a Linux readable CD in the CD-ROM drive otherwise it won't boot to the installation screen.
    When Apple MkLinux Booter comes up, press the "MkLinux" button which should take you to the Woody installation system.

Stage 2: Installing Woody

Choose the following from the menus

  1. Configure the Keyboard
  2. Partition a Hard Disk
    Use fdisk's "c" command to create partitions. All partitions created newly will then be of type "Apple_UNIX_SVR2", but you should not care about that. The only important thing is that your designated swap partition has to have the name "swap" else the installer will not recognize it.
  3. Initialize and Activate a Swap Partition
  4. Initialize a Linux Partition
    (more than once if you have multiple partitions).
  5. Install Kernel and Driver Modules
    Select Installation medium: network. The installer should configure your network automatically using DHCP or BOOTP if you accept the defaults; if not you will have to configure it manually. The files rescue.bin and drivers.tgz will then be downloaded and installed.
  6. Install the Base System
    Select Installation medium: network. The base packages will then be downloaded and installed.
  7. Reboot the System into MacOS.
  8. Go to Control Panels and open MkLinux window, select Custom which opens lilo.conf. Comment out the current rootdev line and add a new one similar to the following:

    # RAMDisk Debian Installer
    # rootdev=/dev/ram

    # boot from root partition on scsi hard drive

    Also uncomment the linux keycodes line as follows:

    mach_options= keyboard_sends_linux_keycodes=1

    In the new rootdev line, sda6 is the Linux root partion I used; replace it with the correct number for your machine. Save the file and exit.
  9. Go to your extension folder and replace the "Mach Kernel" with MachKernel-2.4.27-040811 and rename it "Mach Kernel".
    Save the previous copy of Mach Kernel in case you need to repeat the installation in the future.
  10. Reboot into "MkLinux" (which is in fact Debian). This takes you to Debian System Configuration.
    Configure your time zone and the password settings to meet your requirements.
    After that, go with the defaults until you get to Apt Configuration. Choose http and select a mirror site. Apt will then install and configure the Woody packages. Use "tasksel" and/or "dselect" to install packages. Personally I prefer building up from a minimal installation, so I only add my preferred tools "vim" and "aptitude" as well as "localeconf" here.
    After getting the list of packages required it will tell you how much is being downloaded and ask if you want to continue; the default is Y
  11. After the packages download you will be taken to Configuring Debconf. Generally accept the defaults and chose the locale you require.
    You will be asked to choose mail settings - you can reconfigure later.
    After installation and configuration of the packages has finished you will get a screen confirming that Debian is installed and pressing OK will take you to a login prompt: Debian GNU/Linux 3.0 debian tty
    Login as root. You can check that everything has installed correctly by typing: apt-get dist-upgrade (which will offer to install any missing packages)
  12. You now have a base system to which you can add your choice of packages to tailor Woody to fit your needs using "dselect" or "aptitude".

Congratulations, you have installed Woody on your NuBus PC.


This document is heavily based on and partially copied from Installation notes for Woody on Nubus PowerPC's using the Apple MkLinux Booter and the Kernel with Debian Woody installer by Clive Menzies in it's revision of 2003-06-06. He tested it on a Power Macintosh 8100/80. Modifications have been made to keep the document up to date, add some information and make the document fit into the style of the website.

References given in that document are

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