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mulling a switch from x86 to PPC linux
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nalf38
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Joined: 22 Nov 2003
Posts: 27

PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 5:08 am    Post subject: mulling a switch from x86 to PPC linux Reply with quote

Forgive me if this is already out there somewhere in Gentoo forum-land. I searched, but wasn't really sure which keywords to use.

I've been linux-only since 2000 and Gentoo since 2003 but never had the means nor the inclination to buy a laptop. But my not too distant future includes a lot of travel (US-only). I can't exactly lug my desktop with me everywhere I go, and it looks like a very inexpensive laptop is in my future. My desktop is a 2Ghz Celeron with 784 megs ram, and that setup is more than adequate for the applications I use on a daily basis. My "new" laptop will probably not be as robust.

I came across a sale of G3 iBooks for around $350, and here are the specs:

Processor: G3 500MHz
Memory: 128MB
Screen Display: 12.1" in. 1024x768 maximum
VGA: ATI Rage Mobility 128 with 8MB SDRAM
Drive: CD-ROM
Hard Disk Drive: 10.0 GB Ultra ATA
Modem: Integrated 56K V.90 modem
Network: 10/100 Network Ethernet
Firewire: 1 Port
USB: 2 Ports

I'd love to get input on if you all think that is enough power to sufficiently run the following apps (not necessarily all at once, but that would be nice) without a ton of lag:

KDE or Gnome
OpenOffice.org
Firefox

I'm a fairly vanilla kind of user and my needs are straightforward. I'm amenable to spending a few extra bucks to upgrade the RAM on the laptop, but that's about it. I have seen a 400mhz x86 laptop with 92meg ram running kde/openoffice, and my experience was that it wouldn't acceptable for my needs.

I'm also curious about any thoughts on using wifi with ppc linux. Is it easier/harder than getting it running on x86, or is it a matter of just buying the right wifi card?

Thank you in advance
NL
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ruben
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Joined: 04 Jul 2003
Posts: 462

PostPosted: Tue Oct 11, 2005 12:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've run linux exclusively on an iBook G3 800Mhz for 2 years. I did max out the ram though and had 640Mb in total. I took some time 25 seconds to go from gdm to a gnome desktop which is ready for use, but gnome, firefox and openoffice were definitely fast enough to be usable. (in other words, just the startup of programs was sometimes a bit slow, but using the programs was definitely not -- /me not native english speaker) Since sleep worked perfect on that laptop, i rarely shut it down.
As to wifi, if that laptop supports it, you'll be able to use an Airport card, which is built-in (meaning, that you need to plug it in somewhere under the keyboard). The airport is an orinoco card, and works without problems on linux. Alternatively, you could also use an usb wireless card.
In any case, it's probably better to wait for a reaction of someone who has such a 500Mhz iBook.
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gen2
Tux's lil' helper
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Joined: 10 Jan 2003
Posts: 82
Location: West Coast, USA

PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 5:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

After much gentoo-ing on ppc laptops (clamshells, ibook2's) I can offer this (and it's just opinion, not trying to start a war with the sometimes-a-little-sensitive ppc people):

GOOD:
The 500mhz ibook is unbeatable in temperature, quiet-ness, and portability. I personally very much like this model for those reasons, it's light, sleek, mostly silent, doesn't burn the thighs after hours of use. And usually gets reasonable battery life too! Excellent hardware.

BAD:
ppc arch does not have "full access" to the gentoo portage tree. There are a LOT of apps that won't compile at all, or will be unstable on ppc. Something in the range of 1/4 to 1/3rd of all apps, though I don't have numbers to back that up. It's a LOT, and this can be a total showstopper for people needing specific function (like the exotic RealOne player that Real isnt helping us with -- Java JRE also presents complicating factors depending on your needs. There are many more).

Getting everything (sound, special keys, etc) to "just work" on ppc MAY not be easy. For some, it is, for some, it definitely is not (check the volume of ppc book traffic on the forums, it's significant and rolls repeatedly over similar problems). Kernels are a moving target, compatibility for certain features (e.g. orinoco monitor mode) may appear in one kernel version and disappear in another. There is no more ben-h tree (something that helped "stabilize" the ibook kernel experience for a lot of folks), so we ppc-bookers "get what we get when we get it", and we are NOT first to be served. Lots of ppc-people will groan over this, but IMHO, that's the facts. This doesn't mean you will be affected, but you MIGHT BE.

The answer to your issue, as always: IT DEPENDS. Being a non-hardcore-user may help you in ppc world. Not like you'll be pentesting (a very non-ideal activity for books lacking pcm slots).

I started out on gentoo-ppc, on powerPC 9600's, and G3's of all kinds (and g4's), towers and books. Used it for some time before trying x86. When I finally got x86'd, it was as though the gentoo/linux heavens opened up. Everything from top-to-bottom got a LOT easier to deal with, documentation for problems was much more voluminous and available, you name it, it's all "easier and better" by definite margin.

This persons opinion: ppc is not worth the "hassle" (oh I hear a flame comin) if you have a choice. It works great, it's wonderful, ppc is excellent, long live the ppc'ers (I'll be one of em) BUT the x86 experience of linux, while generally noisier, hotter, and heavier is....better. Much Better.

Really though, save your flames, ppc-ers, it's just my opinion, and I'll still be loving my ibook500 and g3s and g4s while you tell me I'm trolling against ppc, and don't know what I'm talking about! But I'll be happily reading them flames from a Dell Latitude. Viva Gentoo!
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JoseJX
Retired Dev
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Joined: 28 Apr 2002
Posts: 2774

PostPosted: Sat Oct 22, 2005 6:34 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

The lack of "full access" to the portage tree is mostly limited to binary applications, there's really nothing we can do about that. As for packages that aren't keyworded, you're more than welcome to submit bugs. If you don't submit bugs we're certainly never going to know that there is a problem. The java issue is on its way to being solved, once the new IBM-jdk/jre 1.5 makes it into the portage tree, we'll have a java plugin on ppc.

Most of the problems people are having are related to incorrectly configured kernels. Recently, the default configuration shipped with the ppc kernel changed. I'll be updating the docs as soon as I get a chance to reflect this, but 99% of the kernel problems people are having can be fixed by doing
Code:

make defconfig

before running menuconfig to set some defaults.

Pesonally, I find that the smaller community of PPC users tends to solve their problems much quicker than the larger x86 community and with more civility.
_________________
Gentoo PPC FAQ: http://www.gentoo.org/doc/en/gentoo-ppc-faq.xml
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VanDan
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Joined: 30 Sep 2002
Posts: 586
Location: Australia

PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I've set up Gentoo on a 500Mhz iBook, and I can tell you now - you need more memory than 128MB - particularly if you want to run ... say ... Gnome and a web browser.

Memory aside, the processor is quite fast.

Quote:
KDE or Gnome


Ha!

You can run something lightweight like XFCE4 or Enlightenment-0.17 nicely. In fact, you'll even get hardware acceleration on this particular iBook, so when Enlightenment starts using OpenGL to render the desktop, window borders, special effects, etc, it will be sweet :)

Gnome will be a bit laggy ( especially with 128MB ), but ... acceptable. I don't use KDE at all, so I can't really say what it would be like.

Quote:
OpenOffice.org


Ha!

OpenOffice.org will 'run'. It will be pathetically slow. It will be basically unusable with 128MB. You can run Abiword and Gnumeric inside 128MB quite well, but for OpenOffice.org, you want an extra 128MB at least.

Quote:
Firefox


Yeah by itself, Firefox will run well. Again, you probably want some more memory. There's a pattern emerging here :)

Quote:
I have seen a 400mhz x86 laptop with 92meg ram running kde/openoffice, and my experience was that it wouldn't acceptable for my needs.


That's right :) Most of this performance problem is due to the RAM. Give that x86 512MB, and will be acceptable.

Quote:
I'm also curious about any thoughts on using wifi with ppc linux. Is it easier/harder than getting it running on x86, or is it a matter of just buying the right wifi card?


Get an original Airport card ( not the 'extreme' one ) from Ebay and you'll be fine. If you get an Airport Extreme, you have to run MacOnLinux to get the network card going, which will not be pretty on this system. I don't know what it would be like getting other cards running - I suppose if you find a USB one that works under Linux, then it should be basically as easy to get going under PPC as under x86. But don't quote me on that. Get an original Airport card.

You also want to check the condition of the battery. Batteries aren't particularly cheap, and after you buy yourself a new one, and some RAM, and an Airport card, etc, etc, your iBook well end up costing you less like $350 and more like $550.

Oh yeah. And that hard disk is just too small ... for me anyway. Can you find an iBook with a bigger hard disk and more memory ( and an Airport card )?
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sktrdie
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Joined: 13 Mar 2005
Posts: 153

PostPosted: Tue Oct 25, 2005 8:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I would suggest to buy additional ram...
for anything else looks fine...
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