Kubuntu Linux on an Apple G4 iBook

I’ve been using my iBook for nearly a year and a half now with Mac OS X. Whilst the hardware is fantastic, I’m not that impressed with OS X. Hardware support is of course spot on, but usability wise it leaves a lot to be desired. I know a lot of people swear by it, but I still prefer the more classic window systems such as KDE. I even find Windows easier to use!. To this end, I was contemplating buying a new laptop to put linux on as a replacement to the iBook. That was until I happened to notice that there were open source drivers for the Airport Extreme wireless cards that the iBook uses. This is a bit of a god send seeing as most laptops that I have been looking at have either poor battery life compared to the iBook, or are a bit out of my price range.

This entry is my documentation for installing Kubuntu on an iBook, which has given my trusty ol’ iBook a whole new lease of life. I chose Kubuntu as I have recently been a bit of a Debian convert, and I have been using KDE for a long long time and it has now become my desktop distribution of choice (with Debian on the servers of course!)

The first step is to download the Kubuntu 6.06 PowerPC CD image and burn it. This can be found on www.kubuntu.org.

Next, install the standard Kubuntu onto the iBook. To boot up from CD, press the ‘c’ key as the iBook turns on and you hear the gong. Installation is rather straight forward and just the same as installing Kubuntu on just about any hardware. You will need to have the iBook plugged into a network cable during the installation seeing as drivers for the wireless card need to be downloaded seperately.

Once Kubuntu is installeed, all that needs to be done is getting the wireless working. Only two commands are really needed to do this. One to download a package, and one to install it!

wget http://ubuntu.cafuego.net/pool/dapper-cafuego/bcm43xx/bcm43xx-firmware_1.2-0ubuntu1_all.deb
sudo dpkg -i bcm43xx-firmware_1.2-0ubuntu1_all.deb

Hopefully, that should be it. For more information on the wireless drivers, check out the Ubuntu Wiki page for bcm43xx. Reboot to make sure that everything is ok and then you can use all the standard tools to connect to wireless networks. Personally I use KNetworkManager which seems to work fine. I’ve been using my iBook and Kubuntu for a few days now and not come across any major problems. Bluetooth works well, the sound card gets detected automatically, and the function keys work to control volume and brightness.

The only slight niggles I’ve found are that it takes about twice as long to come out of hibernation as it did with Mac OS X (still, quicker than most systems I’ve seen, so not much of a niggle) and I can’t seem to get the wireless to come up automatically after going into hibernation, tho’ I’ll probably be able to overcome that soon. The other niggle is on the hardware… Where’s the right hand mouse button! 🙂 F11 and F12 are set up as middle/right mouse buttons by default under Kubuntu.

there’s still a few things that I haven’t tested on it such as graphics performance and some of the addons, but they aren’t important for what I need it for.

All in all, this has got to be the best laptop system that I’ve owned, and installing Linux onto my iBook has given it a whole new lease of life!