The following is the beginning of a feature story published in this month’s issue of Linux Journal. As one person has already told me, it’s definitely “geeky, but fun.” so read on …
The concept’s great: what would it be like to have a pocket-size device that I could plug in to just about any Macintosh and by simply rebooting the computer be running a full-blown Linux installation? There are oodles of Linux OSes for Intel architectures, of course, but the Mac, until very recently, has been built around the Motorola architecture, so the number of choices are rather fewer.
One of the few Linux OSes for the PowerPC is called Yellow Dog, from Terra Soft Corp.. It costs about $60 US for the install CDs and documentation or $30 US for the “geek edition” (that’s just the install CDs), or you can download it for free from the Web site.
And, let me answer the obvious question: because Mac OS X already is a UNIX (basically FreeBSD with lots of added stuff, much of which you can find in Darwin, www.apple.com/darwin), why bother with a Mac Linux? The answer is that although Mac OS X is a splendid mating of a UNIX operating system with all the graphical goodness of Apple’s user interface design, it’s still not Linux. If you’re in a Linux environment and want to run KDE or GNOME, you don’t have to graft it onto Mac OS X if you can run a Linux designed for the Mac platform instead. Besides, isn’t it kinda cool anyway?
Anyway, I had a spare Apple iPod, a first-generation 5GB device that worked via the Firewire interface rather than the more modern USB connection, and I was assured by the folks at Yellow Dog that I could squeeze YDL into as small as 1GB. I have plenty of space on a 5GB device. Of course, I already had a gig of music and audio books I wanted to preserve, so the first test was to see if I could repartition the device to grab 3GB for Linux and keep 2GB for audio and iPod content. The perfect stealth Linux device, right?
So, one afternoon I decided to take the plunge and hooked up my iPod to my PowerBook computer and inserted the first of the YDL 4.1 install disks and restarted the Mac, holding down the C key to force the device to boot off the CD-ROM, not the internal hard disk. When prompted, I typed in install firewire and away we went.
The article continues here: Yellow Dog Linux Installs Neatly on an iPod.