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Debian GNU/Linux on an Apple Powerbook 3400c


A couple years ago (2002-ish?) I bought a used Powerbook just to learn to install Linux on it. I got SuSE Linux 6.4 PPC installed without too much pain, although I had to heep around a small Mac OS 8 (Mac OS 7.6) partition to use as a bootstrap-- but then I never did much of anything further with it. Then, a few months ago (Late 2003) I decided to start over again and try to get Debian GNU/Linux (my favorite distribution of all time) working on it, and most importantly, booting directly. I read some newsgroup postings (which i forgot to document) which suggested it was possible on this model (the 3400c is an early "New World" Mac), so I gave it a shot. I got Debian installed, but I somehow totally screwed up the boot sequence (once again, forgetting to document what I did), so I get the [?] disk icon on boot. I could get into the Open Firmware, but didn't know what do do in it, so I gave up for a few months, and did more important things with my life for awhile. But today, I found a cool article on slashdot pointing to a low-level discussion of Mac OS X which included the following chapter: http://www.kernelthread.com/mac/osx/arch_boot.html which describes the Open Firmware Prompt. This inspired me to give it another try-- only this time, I will actually document what I do!

And it is worth noting, because I am prone to forgetting, that in order to get into the open firmware, I must press Option+Apple+O+F immediately at bootup.

Cool. I can make it boot directly into the open firmware prompt rather than trying to boot an OS automatically.

0 > setenv auto-boot? false

When I do printenv I see that boot-device is /AAPL,ROM and boot-file is blank, and boot-command is boot

If I type boot, the screen goes to the normal Mac grey, the mouse cursor appears, and in a few seconds I get the good ol [?] disk icon. Periodically it makes disk-access-attempt noises.

Ooh. Found a wealth of information at http://www.openfirmware.org/1275/mejohnson/

Apple offers a downloadable MacOS 8.1 boot disk from http://download.info.apple.com/Apple_Support_Area/Apple_Software_Updates/English-North_American/Macintosh/System/Mac_OS_8.1_Update/Disk_Tools_PPC.img.bin

But for some reason, I can't boot from it.

0 > setenv boot-device fd  ok
0 > boot FD: can't LOAD from this device

I set boot-device back to the default of /AAPL,ROM and held C immediately after typing boot and that allowed me to boot from the Mac OS installation CD. I think that has hard-drive partitioning utils... yep. PowerBook 3400 CD:Utilities:Drive Setup Folder:Drive Setup lets me reparition. I had one 2 GB partition labeled Linux, which was listed of type "Apple Unix SVR2" ... which doesn't sound right. I'm not sure why I had that. Perhaps I screwed up previously? Or perhaps that is what the utility calls EXT2? Or perhaps I read specific instructions somewhere to do it that way, and forgot about them. Well anyway, I am going to start by splitting the drive into a small Mac HFS filesystem at the beginning again, and a big one filling the rest of the disk (which I can delete and replace at my leisure.) I may need a real Mac OS installation if I want to use SystemDisk to "Patch" my Open Firmware.

Ah, I must correct myself. This disk has Mac OS 7.6, not 8.0.

Reinstalled a minimal Mac OS 7.6 on the little partition, and rebooted. Hmmm. very very long delay before it booted. I thought it was dead.

Hmm. I don't think this has anything to do with the fact that I now have a working Mac OS partition, but I just discovered that if I boot to the default /AAPL,ROM while a floppy is in the disk, it boots to the floppy. I'm not sure why I didn't think of trying that before :) So I can boot to my Debian PPC boot-disk just fine, but before I continue, I want to figure out how to get my Open Firmware patched. It turns out that Disk_Tools_PPC.img.bin can NOT be written to the floppy using the dd command. Instead, I have to figure out how to write it from Mac OS with Disk Copy 6.3.3 or later. (and how do I get that?) ... http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=60353 ... and how do I get that onto my networkless Mac OS 7.6 installation?

Downloaded Disk_Copy_6.3.3.smi.bin which is small enough to fit on a floppy (hopefully Mac OS 7.6 can read FAT formatted floppies... Yes, indeed it can!)

Hmmm. The file loses its magical Macintosh filetype, and I cant run it. Installing hfsutils on my Linux box so I can write the file in Macintosh format... Grrr. Making a Mac formatted floppy worked fine, but the file still can't be run. I can use hfsutils hattrib command to set the type and creator flags, except that i don't know what I need to set them to to make it executable. So I copy SimpleText to the floppy and look at it with hls

james@gilgamesh:~/dl/mac$ hmount /dev/fd0
Volume name is "Floppy"
Volume was created on Thu Jan  8 11:39:24 2004
Volume was last modified on Fri Jan  1 22:47:56 1904
Volume has 588288 bytes free
james@gilgamesh:~/dl/mac$ hls -l
f  ????/????         0    771584 Jan  8 11:40 Disk_Copy_6.3.3.smi.bin
f  APPL/ttxt     58766         0 Nov 22  1996 SimpleText

So I ran hattrib -t APPL Disk_Copy_6.3.3.smi.bin and that changed the icon so i could actually execute it from the finder, but then it fails saying "The application program Disk_Copy_6.3.3.smi.bin could not be opened, because an error of type -39 occured."

Trying a new tack. I think I can get the powerbook's ethernet card working, and I think the system disk has an ancient version of netscape on it. I know at one point in the past I had internet working on this thing through Mac OS.

Yep, got TCP/IP working. Woo! My web-site is pretty in Netscape 3.0! ... OH! Dur, Duh, Doy! The file Disk_Copy_6.3.3.smi.bin is a compressed file, not an application. It does not matter what it's attributes are. I just had to open it with Stuffit Expander... but now when I try to run it, it says: "Disk Copy could not update the disk image driver. Please unmount all disk images and try again." And how do I do that?

Good info at http://www.netbsd.org/Ports/macppc/SystemDisk-tutorial/

When I double-click on Disk Tools PPC.img it starts the automounter, but then says: "The Mount Image operation did not complete. (-50)". There is another window underneath it that might have useful info, but I can't see it, and it goes away immediately after I close the alert :P

Perhaps the unstuffed disk image can be written to a floppy with dd . Unfortunately, how can I get the unstuffed file onto my Linux box? I instead downloaded the Linux version of Stuffit Expander. http://www.stuffit.com/unix/index.html

james@gilgamesh:~/dl/mac$ ~/tmp/bin/unstuff Disk_Tools_PPC.img.bin

Disk Tools PPC.img.info 
Disk Tools PPC.img.data 
Disk Tools PPC.img.rsrc 
/home/james/dl/mac/Disk Tools PPC.img.info ..
/home/james/dl/mac/Disk Tools PPC.img.data ........................................
/home/james/dl/mac/Disk Tools PPC.img.rsrc ...
james@gilgamesh:~/dl/mac$ ls -l
total 5080
-rw-r--r--    1 james    james     1220058 Jan 11  1998 Disk Tools PPC.img.data
-rw-r--r--    1 james    james         128 Jan 11  1998 Disk Tools PPC.img.info
-rw-r--r--    1 james    james        1668 Jan 11  1998 Disk Tools PPC.img.rsrc
-rw-------    1 james    james      771584 Jan  8 10:29 Disk_Copy_6.3.3.smi.bin
-rw-------    1 james    james     1222016 Jan  7 15:05 Disk_Tools_PPC.img.bin
-rw-------    1 james    james     1955619 Jan  8 14:30 stuffit520.611linux-i386.tar.gz
james@gilgamesh:~/dl/mac$ dd if="Disk Tools PPC.img.data" of=/dev/fd0
2382+1 records in
2382+1 records out
1220058 bytes transferred in 83.509385 seconds (14610 bytes/sec)
james@gilgamesh:~/dl/mac$ mount /floppy
mount: wrong fs type, bad option, bad superblock on /dev/fd0,
       or too many mounted file systems
james@gilgamesh:~/dl/mac$ hmount /dev/fd0
hmount: /dev/fd0: too many b*-tree node records (Input/output error)

No luck. That puppy doesn't look formatted at all.

Aha! Back to Mac OS 7.6, I figured out why I could not install Disk Copy 6.3.3. I was trying to run it from inside the disk image. After I copied the installer to the hard drive, and un-mounted the distribution image, it worked. Nice. Now I am writing Disk Tools PPC.img to a floppy.

Now I am booting from the Mac OS 8.1 boot floppy. Now I need to download the SystemDisk image from ftp://ftp.apple.com/developer/macosxserver/utilities/SystemDisk2.3.1.smi.bin ... oops! Netscape 3.0 now says "The Application "Netscape Navigator&tm; 3.0" could not be opened because "ObjectSupportLib" could not be found." I must download the file first in 7.6 and then reboot into 8.1

I ran Systemdisk and patched my Open Firmware. The version number is still 2.0.1, but here's to hoping something is different!

According to ftp://ftp.netbsd.org/pub/NetBSD/NetBSD-1.6.1/macppc/INSTALL.html my version of Openfirmware supports the following types of boot-media.

So my goal is to get my Debian-woody PPC CD to boot.

work in progress...