Update on $30 Mac PowerBook G4 – Back to Lubuntu

The above image shows Lubuntu running on my Mac PowerBook G4 Aluminum.

I’ve been using OS X 10.4.11 on my PowerBook. It can run some pretty good modern software like git, the latest Firefox, Eclipse 3. It’s fine for development work, but not YouTube. I can sync to my Dropbox folder on another Linux machine using rsync and/or nfs. But it started to have problems with bad blocks on the hard disk. OS X can’t exclude bad blocks without expensive 3rd party software. So, I decided to switch it back to Linux until I decide to spend the money to replace the disk with an SSD. Excluding bad blocks is a simple process in Linux and I’ve already done it with this machine to fix the problem in the past.

I’ve been using Red Hat and then Fedora since 1993 before most people knew what Linux was. But, Fedora dropped support for 32-bit PowerPC several years ago. The options now are Debian or Ubuntu (actually Lubuntu, the LXDE version of Ubuntu). There are others but I don’t consider them good options. Ubuntu is not my favorite distribution because they don’t give back to the Linux community or cooperate with the rest of the community. Most new Linux developments are sponsored by Red Hat and developed in Fedora, and then made available to the rest of the community. Ubuntu mainly puts some polish on top of Debian to create Ubuntu. Debian is doing the heavy lifting to create the core system that Ubuntu is based on.

Anyway, Debian did not work. There is a problem with the graphics driver that prevents it from running X. None of the suggestions on the support site worked either. But, Lubuntu does work. I had to work around one problem with the graphics driver, but then it worked. The LXDE UI, which has been heavily customized for Lubuntu, is simple, fast, and memory efficient (< 100 MB base memory usage) but also very nice looking (attached). The whole thing runs significantly faster than OS X, especially network access. People say that the BSD (Max OS X) network stack is faster, but it’s not. There is only one use case where it beats Linux and that is FreeBSD with the Apache web server.

Below is my desktop with Firefox, PCManFm file manager, Task Manager, Gvim, and LXTerminal.


There are multiple vim packages in Lubuntu which are available to install.

  • vim
  • vim-gnome
  • vim-tiny
  • vim-athena
  • vim-gtk
  • vim-nox

I was not sure at first which one I should install. I wanted the one that would look consistent with the other applications on the desktop. That turned out to be vim-gtk.