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SvenFischer
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Joined: 05 Feb 2003
Posts: 1033
Location: Berlin

PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 7:51 pm    Post subject: normal ati graphiccard to run linux only Reply with quote

Dear Users,

i have a G4 to install Linux there, but the old PCI graphiccard sucks. So i want to install one of those old ATi 9600 or 8500 AGP cards, but they are too expensive for an old PC if they are mac editions. The main question is, if i can use a standard version instead of special mac edition to run linux?

Thanks,

Sven
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eccerr0r
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Joined: 01 Jul 2004
Posts: 7188
Location: almost Mile High in the USA

PostPosted: Mon Aug 10, 2009 11:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I'm no expert on mac hardware but I think the answer is 'no' based on what I know... someone is welcome to prove me wrong...

The problem here is that these graphics cards have firmware on them. The PC and Mac versions are not compatible because they can't run each other's firmware routines.

However in Linux, Linux doesn't use firmware... or does it? I have found on occasion that Linux ATI drivers still depend on what's programmed by the firmware upon bootup, and this initialization is necessary for the driver to work properly.

I don't know if it's as easy as getting a PC version and reflashing the Mac firmware onto it. Else there would be no way to see anything on the screen before Linux (and possibly X11 or fbcon) loads.
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Atha
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Joined: 22 Sep 2004
Posts: 168

PostPosted: Tue Aug 11, 2009 11:34 am    Post subject: FCode firmware vs. PC BIOS firmware Reply with quote

It's true what eccerr0r wrote.

PowerPC based Macs use Open Firmware instead of the PC BIOS or the new (U)EFI BIOS. PC graphics cards have PC compatible firmware whereas the Mac Editions have Open Firmware compatible firmware, that is implemented in FCode.

You can read http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Open_Firmware for brief information about FCode and the Forth programming language used with Open Firmware.

Unless someone writes a Forth program that acts as a translator between the graphics BIOS (x86 machine code) and the Forth interpreter from Open Firmware (FCode is architecture independent, it could theoretically also run on Non-PowerPC hardware), you cannot use a PC graphics card in a Mac and vice versa.

Cheers, A.
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