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Debian Businesses Apple

How to Install Debian on Mac mini 527

wikinerd writes "After the hype about Mac mini, a Linux consultant wrote a detailed guide on how to install Debian on Mac mini. The whole procedure takes about an hour, but you will need to erase the hard disk and learn to live without the AirPort Extreme, since it's unsupported. The guide also explains how you can dual-boot with Mac OS X and Debian and gives you ideas on how to set up your partitions."
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How to Install Debian on Mac mini

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  • Re:Yes, but... (Score:5, Informative)

    by idobi ( 820896 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:20PM (#11660071) Homepage
    Yes, You can install Virtual PC
  • by Jsutton1027w ( 757650 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:21PM (#11660079) Homepage


    Apple's Mac Mini is something which a lot of Linux users have been waiting for: An inexpensive, readily available PowerPC system in a small, quiet and attractive chassis.

    Debian is very popular on Intel i386 compatible systems. Due to the open source nature of the Linux kernel and the Debian operating system, it is possible to build the same software to run on the PowerPC processor found inside the Mac Mini. It's simple to swap your big, noisy old PC for the slim, svelte Mac Mini, and this page aims to show you how to do just this.

    Personally, I bought the Mac Mini as a replacement for my girlfriend's aging 1GHz Pentium-III system. Thanks to the portability of Debian and its advanced package management tools, making her new Mac look like her old PC took only an hour or so.


    The hardware specification is somewhat less than stellar by 2005 standards, but still perfectly adequate. One can choose between a 1.25GHz or 1.42GHz PowerPC G4, both running with 512K on-chip L2 cache and a 166MHz "MaxBus" front side bus. This is markedly less powerful than contemporary Intel or AMD x86 systems, but for the overwhelming majority of tasks this is more than enough processing ability. If you need more power, you can always stack a few more Minis on top;-)

    The advantage of the G4 used in the Mac Mini is that it produces very little heat relative to an x86 processor with comparable computational power, making it ideal for the small space inside the Mac Mini. The G4 used dissipates around 21W at 1.42GHz, and 18.3W at 1.25GHz.

    The other hardware in the box is also mature and reliable (or, if you're a glass-half-empty person, cheap and slow). The Mac Mini has an RV280 GPU ("Radeon 9200") with 32MB of dedicated DDR SDRAM. The RV280 doesn't have fancy features such as hardware geometry or lighting transformation, but it's more than adequate for people who aren't interested in playing the latest 3D games. The 3D hardware it does possess is supported by XFree86, which is excellent news.

    The system has a single DIMM socket which takes standard PC2700 modules, although it is slightly tricky to gain access to it. The largest available upgrade at present is a 1GB module, but I believe that the Mac Mini will also be certified for use with 2GB modules when they enter production. For the average Linux user, 1GB will be more than adequate. The 256MB Apple supply is far too little for MacOSX.

    For heat and noise reasons, Apple have chosen to use a 2.5" (laptop-size) hard drive in the Mac Mini, making end-user upgrades fiddly and expensive. The 40GB or 80GB hard drive supplied is unlikely to be large enough for everyone. Apple appears to be shipping a mix of 4200rpm and 5400rpm units in the 40GB size, but currently all 80GB units are 4200rpm. The 5400rpm drives are apparently faster, presumably due to their shorter head seek times. My unit has an 80GB Toshiba MK8025GAS.

    The Mac Mini uses Apple's "Intrepid" north bridge. It appears to be a very compact derivative of the eMac's motherboard design. This diagram illustrates the hardware in the Mac Mini as exactly as I can. Note that the MaxBus and SDRAM are clocked at 166MHz, and the internal optical drive is configured as a slave device on the same ATA-100 bus used by the hard drive. This is a cost-saving measure on Apple's part, as the Intrepid chipset has a second ATA channel that could be used for the optical drive.

    The Airport card and Bluetooth modules are mounted on an optional mezzanine card. If your system did not come with either of these options, the mezzanine card will not be present. I am told that the modem is not present on models sold into the educational market.


    It's quiet -- very quiet. But not silent. The only noise is the barely audible hum from the hard disk. Thanks to the fluid dynamic bearings, this isn't the annoying high-pitched whine that older 2.5" disks produced. I'm very pernickety about noise, and I find it quite acceptable.

  • by FunWithHeadlines ( 644929 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:25PM (#11660116) Homepage
    It's nice to see all the excitement about the Mac Mini, and it is a cool box that is cheap but without cheap parts. But let's remember that a Mac Mini is basically just a Mac in a new box. If you can install Debian onto a Mac Mini, you can do it for any Mac.
  • Debian and OSX (Score:5, Informative)

    by puregen1us ( 648116 ) <> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:28PM (#11660140)
    The main bonus of Debian has always seemed to me to apt.

    I have OSX. I have apt. I just installed fink, and got apt with it. I installed Apple's X11 and I run GNOME in full-screen mode. I like the way it runs with Aqua. The desktop is the same in both. I use LyX a lot, but don't like the Aqua QT version so I use the X11 version with GNOME it works better, but when I click "View DVI" it switches back to Aqua and opens TeXShop because I like that program.

    I love that kind of interoperability. I get the best of both worlds. I can apt-get install stuff, and still get nice OSX software running alongside it.

    If I did want debian on my powerbook I would install Ubuntu. I has a great install process, has a clean desktop even my parents could use, and runs well. But I wouldn't give up my Airport Extreme card for it.
  • Re:OK (Score:4, Informative)

    by lspd ( 566786 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:31PM (#11660166) Homepage Journal
    The biggest disappointment is that sound doesn't work yet. In the Ubuntu forums there are some comments [] on forcing the snd-powermac driver to work with the Mini, but I haven't had any luck with it using Debian's 2.6.9 powerpc kernel.
  • keep in mind (Score:1, Informative)

    by Neuropol ( 665537 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:35PM (#11660208) Homepage
    currently there is no intrepid audio support.

    i can live without bluetooth and the apple modem support, but no audio ...
  • Re:Why ? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:37PM (#11660227)
    But the Mac mini doesn't *have* a 64-bit PPC. It's processor is a plain old 32-bit G4, not a G5.
  • Re:Slackware? (Score:3, Informative)

    by faedle ( 114018 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:39PM (#11660245) Homepage Journal
    Well, for starters: how much do you know about the Mac hardware? Apparently, very little.

    Slackware, officially, only supports x86 processors.

    The Mac dosen't use an x86 processor.

    Debian, on the other hand, does produce a PowerPC Linux distro.
  • Yellow Dog (Score:5, Informative)

    by Phat_Tony ( 661117 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:39PM (#11660249)
    Yellow Dog Linux, based on Fedora Core, also supports [] Mini Mac already, although they don't support Airport Extreme (yet) either.
  • by gotr00t ( 563828 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:40PM (#11660254) Journal
    It seems that with the officially supported version of X11, Apple has made it sound like it expands the functionality of OSX so that it is able to run any app from any *NIX platform. However, this is terribly inaccruate.

    X11 is a windowing server, nothing more. What Apple is probably talking about is the fact that a lot of graphical *nix apps use X11 library routines to facilitate their graphical interface, and Aqua does not support these calls. Although the presence of X11 on OSX does make porting apps over to OSX easier(e.g. OpenOffice), it is still (usually) nontrivial.

    Either way, it does _NOT_ mean that X11 makes OSX binary-compatible with the other *NIX'es.

  • Re:but why? (Score:3, Informative)

    by puetzc ( 131221 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @01:42PM (#11660273)
    I built a mini-ITX computer for my wife about a year ago. My specs were 1) Small and 2) Quiet. I used a Ontonashi fanless case from [] to satisfy #2. The only OS installed is Debian unstable. My total cost was $600-700 without CD burning capability. If the Mac-mini had been on the market, I would never have bothered, and I doubt that I would have worked with Debian either (as much as I like if for my use). The mini, with OS-X would have been easier to support, smaller, and lower cost. I will probably buy a mini for my college bound daugher soon. You could build a mini-ITX for less, but you wouldn't get all of the features in the mini.
  • Re:OK (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:03PM (#11660437)
    dunno about ubuntu but in debian sid, i just modprobe snd-powermac -v and it works. (Debian 2.6.9 ppc)
  • Re:Why ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by b17bmbr ( 608864 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:07PM (#11660466)
    not true at all. my old bondi blue 233mhz/160mb ram runs osx slowly, but yellowdog 3 runs rather well. the only problem is the small hard drive and cd-rom. ppc linux runs rather fast. in fact, my 700mhz G3 ibook dual boots between panther and yellowdog. i use it at school and need the linux partition as os x can't access novell netware servers. now, i'm trying to figure out how to run os x under linux via mac-on-linux. but as for linux/ppc performance, linux wins. as for darwin alone, don't know.
  • by raulmazda ( 87 ) <.gro.ruzal. .ta. .mada.> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:30PM (#11660632) Homepage
    "Airport Extreme" is really just the Apple name for a broadcom chip. Broadcom does not provide documentation for their chip, the OS X driver is binary only.
  • Re:Debian on PPC (Score:2, Informative)

    by TotoLeFoobar ( 256317 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:34PM (#11660679) Homepage
    Fink is nice, but I simply find Debian more practical for my needs.

    For example, I like how Debian has mirrors all over the world. Source Forge has mirrors here and there, but most countries have strict limits on the speed of international connections, even with a neighboring country. (Where I currently live, my home Internet connection is 16k/sec for international, 96k/sec for national, 200k/sec for movies stored at my ISP's tera-byte drives^W^W^W^W^W.)

    And finally, well, I'm lazy and I find Linux more simple. It answers my needs and I like how the community works, which is open and decentralised. :-)
  • Firewire problem? (Score:4, Informative)

    by Dr.Zap ( 141528 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:40PM (#11660723)
    From the article:

    A few odd problems I've discovered:

    * If I plug the firewire port into the firewire port on my PC, it seems to interfere with the PC's power supply. It's like holding down the "reset" button on the PC. This makes it impossible to use "firewire target disk mode" on the Mac Mini.

    However, I'll wager that if he used a 4 pin Firewire cable and it would have worked fine. The 6 pin cable supplys power as well as data, and both the PC and the mini are supplying power. It's probably a ground loop.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:41PM (#11660728)
    that uses a win32 driver, so only wortks under Linux/x86, not Linux/PPC
  • by andreyw ( 798182 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @02:56PM (#11660873) Homepage
    Well. Debian on my 200mhz 604e certainly isn't any worse than Debian on my 200mhz Pentium Pro (runs quite good here) - so it will certainly run better on your G3. Key things you might want to do to improve X11 performace is to add an accelerated video card (something stupid like ATi Rage Pro will do).

    For OS X (which unfortunately is out of my league, DUE to the 604e, unless I want to run 10.1) I suggest looking at XPostFacto, which should take care of your installation issues.
  • by dr.badass ( 25287 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:05PM (#11660968) Homepage
    It seems that with the officially supported version of X11, Apple has made it sound like it expands the functionality of OSX so that it is able to run any app from any *NIX platform.

    Nobody, not even Apple, has said this.

    "Easy to port X11 applications
    With the complete suite of the standard X11 display server software, client libraries and developer toolkits, X11 for Mac OS X makes it even simpler to port Linux and Unix applications to the Mac." -- Apple's X11 Page []

    What you might not realize is that there are already a significant number of X11 apps that have already been ported. This is what the OP was basing his statements on.
  • Re:Why ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by MemoryDragon ( 544441 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:14PM (#11661037)
    Woever wants to have a decent remote acces... Face it OSX is nice, but it is lousy if you want to have remote access... There is VNC, which is a pain, there is Timbuktu or the Apple remote thingy, both highly expensive. On the Linux side you have FreeNX which is excellent. Those who want to have never versions of the favorite Linux tools, newer than 2000 I mean, both Fink and Darwinports lack new version of many programs, and they lack many programs generally.
  • Re:Why ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by As Seen On TV ( 857673 ) <> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:31PM (#11661182)
    64 bit support on the application level(photoshop, etc.) for Panther has no performance benefit because the operating system really just breaks the instructions in half.

    Um. You really don't understand how 64-bit computing works, do you? When a program is compiled to a 64-bit ABI, the instructions are not, themselves, 64-bit words. Rather, the program just uses 64-bit pointers, allowing it to address more than 2 GB of virtual memory.

    Besides, you can't even run Photoshop on Linux, so I don't understand how putting Linux on your 64-bit Mac could possibly improve your life.
  • by Cap'n Crax ( 313292 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @03:45PM (#11661288) Homepage

    I bought a 17" Powerbook. While I'm fairly happy with it, they are a bit hacker-unfriendly in some respects.

    The UJ-825 "SuperDrive" in mine is RPC-2 with a vengeance, for example. It won't even read the raw data from an out-of-region DVD, making even VNC useless, and it doesn't look like any firmware hacks will be forthcoming.

    Also, because Broadcom will not release specs on the Airport Extreme, no "monitor mode" is available, so passive wardriving is impossible without using a 3rd-party wireless card.

    Maybe someone smarter than me will eventually reverse engineer and fix these problems, but it's not looking too good so far. IMO, Apple needs to get back to it's hacker-friendly roots. []
  • by Macka ( 9388 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:08PM (#11661469)

    No SSH server

    Open up the System Preferences app. On the "Internet & Network" row, click the "Sharing" icon. Look down the Services list for "Remote Login" and enable it. Done !

    Autoupdate keeps on telling me I need 40mb of updates for an iPod and I don't own one.

    Highlight the update when it appears in the list, then goto the Update menu option and choose "ignore update".

    Image and font rendering isn't as good as pango/xorg

    You have sky high standards mate. Image & font rendering are stunning on Mac OS X, and from the few pango'd screenshots I can find I can't see any difference

    Expose is nice but more of a gimick than a useful feature

    Huh? You're joking. Try using Mac OS X for some real work and get your screen a bit busy. Multiple terminal app windows, a brower or two, mail, etc and you'll soon discover just how useful it is. Especially if you map the Hot Corners of the screen to the different functions. Parking my mouse pointer in my Top Left corner exposes all app windows in the same group. Top Right exposes everything. Bottom Right exposes the Desktop, and Bottom Left turns on the screen saver.

    I'll give you the point about the DVD Region locking. Discovered that pain in the ass when I went to the USA recently and grabbed a DVD in the airport to keep me amused on the flight back. Only allows you to switch Regions 4 times before you're stuck. Boo hiss :-(

    Don't you think you're being just a touch nit picky with the rest though?
  • Re:but why? (Score:2, Informative)

    by lost_n_confused ( 655941 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:15PM (#11661521)
    Of course, the equivalent PC is only $200 at Walmart. And it includes the keyboard and mouse at that price (Mac Mini doesn't).

    Do some /. readers even read the thread before they post their 2 cents. Let me give you an example. The Corvette is an exceptional sports car for the price. Na ah I can buy a Geo for $9995. The Geo isn't a sports car and is not even close in form or intended use. When you are going to argue a point read the posts it will open a whole new world to you. Look at the points below and look at your post and then ask why did you ever speak.

    Things people have said about the Mac mini that make it attractive to them

    1) A low cost
    2) Energy efficient
    3) A full measure of ports Firewire, USB, DVI
    4) And the big one SMALL SIZE
    5) Video card that isn't using shared memory
    6) From a tier 1 vendor
    7) Well built from a vendor known for quality of their hardware and software
    8) High resale value
    9) Extremely quiet
    10) Looks good

    Now lets look at your $200 Wal-mart computer

    1) Check it is cheap
    2) Nope it is as energy efficient as a 1950 Buick
    3) Limited output of non legacy ports. No Firewire No DVI
    4) It is the size of a 1950 Buick
    5) The video card is a shared memory video card
    6) What tier vendor is the Wally World Computer from? Is the company one that anyone other then their customers have heard of?
    7) What is the quality? Can the Wally World Computer Company even spell quality?
    8) Resale value equal to the box it came in
    9) Sounds like a vacuum cleaner
    10) Looks like a Yugo

    I can see your totally right a Mac mini isn't the same value as your $200 Wally World PC. Now I know why I wonder why there is even a voting process in America.
  • by polyp2000 ( 444682 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:24PM (#11661595) Homepage Journal
    I think this is where I read it ...

    WEP encryption []

    In addition if you google for "Broadcom Military" you will find quite a few references to their relationship.
  • Re:Why ? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:32PM (#11661677)
    16, 32, 64 and further BIT CPU's are not calculated by their opcode size, they are calculated by the amount of addressregisters available. a 64 bit CPU can easily have an 8bit opcode. The old Amiga 68k had 32bit and it had opcodes which were 8bit, 16bit and 32bit long. Now the PowerPC for example has 32bit opcode cpu-mneomonic but that's just because of the nature and design.
  • by argent ( 18001 ) <peter&slashdot,2006,taronga,com> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:35PM (#11661706) Homepage Journal
    I have to say, I personally wouldn't replace Mac OS X with Linux. On the rare occasions where a piece of Linux software really is the best tool for the job (eg. GIMP, Ethereal) it's usually easy enough to get it up and running under Apple's X11.

    Indeed. Maybe back when Macs were running Mac OS 9, or even OS X 10.0 and 10.1, there might have been an advantage to Linux... but since Jaguar came out I've been hard-pressed to come up with a reason to run FreeBSD, let alone BSD's adopted cousin Linux. People talk about running Linux on a Mac laptop and I look at them like they've grown an extra head... Apple's laptops are uninspiring if you don't get to run Apple's software on them.

    If in a few years Ocelot requires more beef than the Mini can provide (unlikely, my daughter's running Panther on a 1999 iMac and it's actually faster than with Jaguar), you'd do way better with Darwin than Linux.

    I can maybe see an advantage to the Mini hardware for a little while, but as soon as someone comes out with a nice slab case for your Mini-ITX boards, maybe 8" by 10" but only an inch thick, why spend more for a less expandible box?
  • Re:Why? (Score:2, Informative)

    by c0bw3b ( 530842 ) <cobweb@xmi t t e r . cc> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @04:48PM (#11661800) Homepage
    not to mention that you can't use all of the hardware in the Mac Mini under Linux. Like the Airport extreme.
  • Re:Why ? (Score:2, Informative)

    by mabinogi ( 74033 ) on Sunday February 13, 2005 @05:24PM (#11662012) Homepage
    ok, so I'm replying to myself...

    10 seconds on google found this [], so I guess I probably wouldn't be removing OS X afterall. But I can still definitely see why one would want to.
  • Re:Why ? (Score:5, Informative)

    by kitzilla ( 266382 ) <.paperfrog. .at.> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @06:11PM (#11662337) Homepage Journal
    Honestly, who wants to run Linux on a MAC when they are able to run MacOS-X on it. Doesn't make much sense to me.

    I'm tempted to mod the parent as both overrated a troll, but I'll respond instead. And this is coming from someone who is typing on a dual G5 with two other Macs in view.

    The general answer is that it could be the user simply *likes* Linux or Debian (for a host of reasons that really don't need explanation to most Slashdotters).

    It could also be that the user is philosophically committed to Open Source software, or doesn't have the means or inclination to commit to an OS that doesn't come bundles with something as basic as a decent FTP client.

    It could be the user has older Mac hardware that feels sluggish with OS X. Apple has done good work optimizing OS X since its first release, but it's still pretty heavy.

    It could be that the user is building a server and has no need for the desktop goodness of OS X.

    It could be that the user was given or acquired a Mac box cheaply, but is committed to Linux.

    It could be that the user has acquired a Mac without an operating system, and finds the investment in Panther unaffordable.

    In the case of the Mac Mini, it could be the user has need of Linux in a small form factor.

    It could be that the user has a Linux application need and wishes to take advantage of the PPC platform's modest power and cooling requirements.

    It could be that the user is committed to Linux, but appreciates Apple's design ethic.

    Really, one could go on and on, but here are a few answers to your question. I suspect, however, your comment was rhetorical.

    It's "Mac," not "MAC," by the way. And there's no dash in OS X.

  • Re:Why ? (Score:3, Informative)

    by shking ( 125052 ) <> on Sunday February 13, 2005 @09:11PM (#11663721) Homepage
    You don't happen to have old hardware around?

    The latest version of OS X runs great on my Powermac 7600 (early 1996), thanks to a G3 upgrade and XPostFacto []. As long as you have a decent amount of memory, you'll have few problems. 512mb of ram seems to be the "sweet spot"

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats