Category Archives: Mac

How to install Ubuntu MATE Remix on a PowerPC Computer

PowerPC (actually an acronym for Performance Optimization With Enhanced RISC – Performance Computing) is an old CPU architecture that isn’t really used much any more.

Originally created in 1991 by Apple, IBM, and Motorola, the PowerPC architecture was originally created for personal computers and was/is best known for powering Apple computers from 1994 to 2006, before Apple transitioned entirely to using Intel processors.

I could go into more detail about the whole history of PowerPC CPUs and their uses, but that’s not what this post is about.

Mac OS? Nah, let’s go full-Linux

I originally recieved the mid-2005 iBook G4 from a relative as a Christmas present, Christmas 2013. The person who sent it actually hadn’t used it in a long time and had forgotten their password – so I was left with a bootable – but unusable iBook. Oh noes!

Luckily, I had read a post by Lifehacker from their “Evil Week” regarding breaking into Macs. Please note, this is not something I condone, unless you are breaking into your own Mac. Please hack responsibly.

So, I was able to get in, add a new user (my own) and continue using the iBook. Now, as you can probably tell from many of the posts on here, I’m a huge Linux/Ubuntu fan. As such, I wanted to install Lubuntu on the iBook – both because I prefer Linux, and because I wanted better performance. So I tried to dual-boot Lubuntu and OS X Tiger (what was on it when I got it.)

That didn’t go well.

I managed to accidentally erase the OS X partition, and then without realizing I had done so, completely overwrote it with Lubuntu. Hooray me.It really wasn’t that big of a deal, because I, like I said, prefer Linux/Ubuntu over any other OS out there.

So, to cut a long story short, I used Lubuntu 12.04 LTS for a long time, then tried upgrading to Lubuntu 14.04 LTS – and managed to break the system. It still booted and everything, and I could log in and use it, but the GUI, icons, and background were all messed up.

I then built my desktop, and had no need for the iBook any more – so away into storage it went. That is, until I read this post on OMG! Ubuntu! about someone porting the Ubuntu 14.04 MATE Remix to PowerPC. I knew that I had to try this out.

Initial Research

To start this whole project off I, obviously, read that post on OMG! Ubuntu! that I linked to above. I then downloaded the ISO from the G+ post linked on the OMG! Ubuntu! post.

Now, this is where the fun stuff starts happening. I knew that the iBook G4 that I had didn’t support USB booting by default – but I had read a while back that you could work your way through OpenFirmware and “hack” a USB boot.

So, I went a-searching on the internets, and came across this post from 2010 on Ben Collins’ blog describing exactly what I wanted to accomplish – booting an iBook G4 from USB.

In order to gain access to Open Firmware (which is what I would have to do to boot from USB) I had to press Command+Option+O+F and hold that while the iBook booted – until the Open Firmware screen came up.

Now, I originally ran into some trouble with the USB stick/LiveUSB-creator-software I was using in that it wasn’t actually installing the bootloader (a known bug in Startup Disk Creator.)

Screenshot from 2015-01-17 21:11:57

I ran the boot ud:,\\:tbxi command in Open Firmware, and was spat back

can't OPEN: ud:,\\:tbxi
Can't open device or file

Uh oh. Something’s not right here  – it should have booted.

The blog post by Ben Collins listed another method, so I tried that. Same thing – no USB boot and an error message. Strange stuff.

Anyways, I figured that it had to do with the bootloader error I was getting from Startup Disk Creator, and decided to try putting the ISO onto the USB stick via unetbootin. Flashed the ISO to the USB stick, booted the iBook into Open Firmware, and got the same error:

can't OPEN: ud:,\\:tbxi
Can't open device or file

Now, I’m not sure if this is a bug in both the Startup Disk Creator and Unetbootin software on Ubuntu 14.04 – but I do certainly find it strange that they both failed.

So, I turned to the ever-potent, ever-renowned, Disk Destroyer. That’s right – I used dd. (Crosses self and mouths 20 Hail Linus’).

It really wasn’t that bad, I was just extremely careful about what I was reading/writing to/from. I ran a simple sudo dd if=./ISO-FILE.ISO of=/dev/sdg command (dd is a very powerful tool – be extremely careful when using it. Double, triple, even quadruple check what you’re reading/writing to/from.) Your USB device will probably be different from mine (mine being /dev/sdg) – make dang sure you know what device you’re writing to.

This flashed the ISO to the USB stick, and I pulled up Open Firmware again. Again, same error.

However, since this was the last idea I had to get this working, I was determined to get it working. I read through all the comments on the Ben Collins blog post, trying all the solutions – nothing worked.

I was giving it one last go and decided to switch USB ports on the iBook. Up until now, I had been plugging the USB stick into the port closest to me – so I switched it to the other USB port, closest to the screen – and it booted! I got a yaboot prompt and was able to boot the iBook – albeit with a lot of graphical issues.

The Installation

There’s a common issue with running Ubuntu (and it’s offspring) on many old PPC Apple laptops – the ATI Rage 128 Graphics.

This chip causes many issues, from graphical corruption, to general slowness, to entire failure to show anything at all on the screen! Fortunately, the fix is relatively simple from yaboot (Yaboot being the Linux bootloader on PowerPC systems.)

Normally, when you get to the Yaboot prompt you would just hit enter and it would, by default, boot the LiveUSB. However, to fix the graphics issue enter live video=offb:off video=radeonfb:off video=1024x768-32 radeon.agpmode=-1 and press Enter. This disables the radeonfb framebuffer, sets the video parameter 1024x768-32 (resolution?), and finally forces PCI mode (a work-around necessary for 3D acceleration.)

If this doesn’t resolve the graphics issue try reading the page on the wiki – PowerPCKnownIssues. Even if this solution works for you, I suggest you at least skim that page – it will help you with a plethora of issues.

While you’re booting, you may notice an error message regarding Firmware file"b43/ucode5.fw" not found:

Sorry about the potato quality - This was taken after dark and the light wasn't the best

Sorry about the potato quality – This was taken after dark and the light wasn’t the best

This is simply the airport card complaining about not having the firmware – not something that is going to cause any problems with the installation.

Go ahead and continue on with the installation, the system should continue booting just fine.

Note! When booting other versions of Ubuntu (vanilla, Lubuntu, etc.) you may run into this error and have it actually halt the boot. If this happens, change the yaboot parameters to include b43.blacklist=yes as part of the yaboot command. The full solution to this issue is beyond the scope of this post, but feel free to comment and I’ll try to help!

When presented with the Preparing to install Ubuntu screen, you’ll notice that the Download updates while installing option is greyed out. That’s fine, it’s something you can really only fix after you install.


Once you’ve got the system booted from USB & running without crazy graphic weirdness there is pretty much nothing left. Once I had booted from the USB stick & set the yaboot flags I was able to install just fine – no more hackery required.

Just set up your system the way you want it as prompted, and let the installer run! Once installed, reboot. I was able to just reboot, and it pulled right up.

Fixing the WiFi

When you reboot you should see the yaboot prompt and then be able to boot. Just let the system boot, you shouldn’t have to interact with the system until you get to the login screen.

Log in, and when possible, pull up a terminal (Ctrl+Alt+T).

Now, you’re going to need an Ethernet connection for this next step. You can technically download everything you’d need on another Ubuntu/Debian machine – but it would be more pain than it’s worth.

Just connect the iBook to your router/network hub for a quick sudo apt-get update and then sudo apt-get install b43-firmware-installer.

This will download and install all of the necessary drivers for the Airport Extreme WiFi card in the iBook G4. Once the drivers are downloaded & installed, you can reboot again, and you should be able to use your WiFi!


Once you finish installing the drivers you can continue on setting up your system as you wish.

The instructions I wrote here are my personal experiences with the iBook G4. The issues and solutions may vary between devices.

Now, keep in mind that although Ubuntu MATE is not a Beta piece of software, PowerPC support still is. There is an Ubuntu Forums thread regarding installing Ubuntu MATE Remix on PowerPC which is pretty active and should help you with any issues that may arise.

I have noticed a few bugs – the most major being that when I suspend the laptop by closing the lid and resume – I’ve lost WiFi capabilities and the ability to run sudo! This, and the Mesa issuing false colors in games cropped up in Pinta (as noted here) bug are ones that I’m working on figuring out a solution/work-around to. If I do find (a) solution(s), I’ll post about it here.

Hope you found this post useful! Please feel free to leave a comment down below with your experience & any questions/solutions you may have!

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Customizing OS X Icons

Most people who have used OS X know about the ability to change icons by right-clicking on the program and selecting Get Info.

While this does technically change the icon, it would take forever to do that for each icon, and you would inevitably miss some of the icons, only to see the garish difference later. And, as luck would have it, it would be in the middle of a presentation or something of the like!

Say hello to CandyBar! This awesome little app runs officially on any OS X version from 10.2 on up through 10.8, and I believe it works beyond 10.8, though I’m not sure. While the app isn’t technically supported, it still works fine! I used it on my iBook G4 and it worked great, other than a minor problem that I quickly resolved. You can read the developing company’s official blog post on the support here.

You can download the newest version from the above link (which provides a Serial Code) or you can get it from MacUpdate at, which also supplies the same Serial Code. The version that supposedly works for 10.2 and I know works for PowerPC 10.4.11, Candy Bar 2.5.1, can be downloaded here: However, this version doesn’t have the free code available, though the trial/freeware version works the same as the full version (as far as I can tell.)

As for how to use it, it’s really simple! You start up CandyBar and it loads in the icons of pretty much everything on the system. If an app is in the Applications folder it will show up in the “Applications” tab. The Applications tab will take a little longer to load than the default icons tab, as it has to work through all of the apps, but once it comes up you just drag the icon you want into the well of the app you want to change (in png/ico/icns format, I’m pretty sure all of them should work.) Once you’ve swapped out the icons you want select either Apply System Icons or Apply Application Icons button, depending on which tab you’re in.

You can also customize the volume images as well as customizing icons in an app. Those two functions behave basically the same, except that with the application customization you have to drag the app into the program.

The minor problem I said I ran into was that certain icons wouldn’t show up correctly when applied through CandyBar. You can check out this question on the Apple Stack Exchange site that was what I followed to get it working (and yes, for those of you who astutely recognized the stack exchange flair on the side of the blog, the asker of the question was in fact, yours truly, RPi Awesomeness. That’s how I got this working originally.)

One caveat on the answer. The program (on the question, not Candybar) only allows you to load up to 250 icons at a time. Beyond that you would have to wipe your library (inside the app, you can export and they will be fine) and start anew.

All in all, this is a great app for those who want to customize their system without having to get all nitty-gritty inside the system files on their Mac.

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End of Year 2013 – New Year 2014 post AKA Finally! A New Post!

I’ve been really busy with school and general life lately, but I’m going to try from now on to have a new post at least every two weeks, hopefully more often!

So…catch up time! I’ve lately been working on creating a Python code snippet recorder using SQLite and XML and I’ve had lots of fun with that, aside from the billions of headaches that debugging has caused me. I’ll post it to the blog as soon as its complete. I’m currently working on implementing the ability to add a record to the database. Next up beyond that is adding a curses window to make it look nice.

Got an old Mac for Christmas! Kind of a joke really, but it allows me to test out software on a Mac, even if it is an old iBook G4. So you might see an occasional Mac/OS X post on here, though mainly it will be Linux, as I much prefer Ubuntu to any other OS’ I have used. I’ve been setting that up over the time since I got it, setting up my software, wiping files (no clue why they were left on there…), and general setup stuff. In all actuality, the person who gave me the Mac actually forgot to take the password off their account, effectively locking me out of my gift! However, with my mad-hacking-genius skills (and a little help from Life-Hacker and the Mac forums), I broke into the computer and set up a new account for myself! (And immediately after, encrypted my HDD so it couldn’t happen to me!) I learned the way from a Life-Hacker evil-week post, here. Remember, this is only for breaking into your own system if you lock yourself out, I do NOT condone or support in any way the unlawful breaking-and-entering of anyone else’s system.

I also might post the occasional web-comic when I get ideas. I have yet to decide on a name, but I do have about 3 strips ready to go, so expect something soon!

I have recently acquired an Arduino, or rather a Funduino (which is really the same board, just a different brand, as Arduino’s design is open-source) and I am planning on using that for projects, namely robotics. Thus, you can expect updates regarding that in the near future.

The Raspberry Pi camera is something I plan to being to begin experimenting with soon, possibly in coordination with the Arduino project, we’ll see.

So, yeah. That looks like about all I have for this post. Until I get something on, hang ten guys and I’ll be back with something interesting eventually!

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