Getting Ubuntu 12.04 and wireless working on a PowerBook G4

I managed to snag an old PowerBook G4 from the scrap heap. Problem is, 10.5 is the latest version of OSX to run on it, and the latest version of Microsoft Word doesn’t run on it either.

What’s a guy to do? Install Linux on it, of course.

I installed Ubuntu 12.04 LTS (long-term release).

First, download the ISO on this page:

You are looking for the link that says:

Mac (PowerPC) and IBM-PPC (POWER5) desktop CD
For Apple Macintosh G3, G4, and G5 computers, including iBooks and PowerBooks as well as IBM OpenPower machines.

This is a live CD which is painfully slow, but should boot into a working desktop. The only caveat is that the wireless won’t work.

I used the button to install the live cd to the hard drive, then plugged a physical, wired network connection and ran:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get install linux-firmware-nonfree

Then I rebooted the computer, because it makes me feel warm and fuzzy (it's probably not necessary).

After you reboot you can use the gui in the upper right corner to connect to a wireless network.


How do I update the system software?

Get to the command line, then run:

sudo apt-get update
sudo apt-get upgrade

To update all the packages.


How do I right-click on this thing?

Middle-click is mapped on F11

Right-click on F12.  You can also right-click by making a "two-finger tap" on the touchpad.


How do I get the sound to work?

You don't?  This site lists it as a known issue, and has a help link, but it was no help to me.


How do I remap Caps Lock to Control?
This isn't a standard thing, but I have no idea why.  HOW OFTEN DO YOU NEED TO TYPE IN ALL CAPS?  Basically never, but I use control all the time, especially as a programmer.

Add the lines below to a file called “.profile” under your home directory (create the file, if necessary):

if [ $DISPLAY ]
# Add the 3 lines below to Convert caps-lock into Control
xmodmap -e 'remove Lock = Caps_Lock'
xmodmap -e 'keysym Caps_Lock = Control_L'
xmodmap -e 'add Control = Control_L'


How do I install Chrome?

You don't, there is no Chrome support for G4 (powerpc) processors.


How do I install Open Office?

You don't!  Apparently since Sun bought Oracle in 2010, Open Office is not under active development.  Instead, click on the shopping bag in the menu bar to open the Ubuntu Software Center, and search for LibreOffice (a fork of Open Office, which is under active development).

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