Recently, my co-worker Kevin got a new work laptop. Being that I have a super sexy awesome workstation, I was never privy to a laptop. A laptop though, is very useful. For a while now I've felt like my only recourse to get my productivity back on track is to change my environment. In the case of my job at ID, my office. A laptop helps me do that, I could, and did pick up and move to working in Kevin's office with him. When I feel like telling Kevin something, or asking a question, I no longer have to get up and walk around the corner, or open an IM window. This helps me keep my concentration on what I'm doing.
When Kevin got his new macbook, I was able to aquire his old iBook G4. As some of you might know, an iBook G4 isn't the best laptop in the world, but it's not the worst. This machine was a 1.2Ghz PPC with 700ish Megs of Ram.
I'm a Linux guy, I'm productive in Linux. Linux is put togeather well and almost all software on the system is free. I could have kept OS-X on the machine. Technically I could have run all the programs I needed (Firefox, Emacs, and Terminal), but I really don't want to deal with an os without a real package manager, and with a poor excuse for a default terminal. I like my machines useful out of the box. Apple the company, don't get me started.
Appologies to Mac fan boys. The hardware is great.
Anywho. Thus began my quest for a good PPC Linux.
My first attempt was Ubuntu, while not officially supporting PPC, they do have it. This was great and worked fine for about a day, at which point it quit booting, randomly. Ok, one down, my next step
Yellow Dog Linux:
My next attempt was Yellow Dog. YD was at one point the official mac Linux distribution. It installed fine, but I then found that it was running Gnome 2.18. This is o o old. I'd like something a bit more current
While I hear good things about Arch, the modern world required that Installation and hardware detection be simple. After that it can be Gentoo hard for all I care. The problem of difficult hardware detection and installation has been solved. This may have only been the PPC install. I went through installing Debian and Redhat over a decade ago and don't wish to go back to the age of grabbing a six pack to complete an install
When I found out that Open SUSE supports PPC officially, I thought I'd give it a go. The install was simple, and looked great. The system itself ran fine. My only issue was wireless. The SUSE wiki should be updated with this info, which I will try to do later if it isn't on there, but I needed to run bcm43xx-fwcutter to get the firmware for the wireless on the laptop.
With my operating system installed, I moved onto personallization and setup. The biggest issue with this iBook is the small amount of RAM. For web development using firefox, firebug, and web developer toolbar, 700 Megs isn't enough. It get tore up.
I tried using XFCE, which worked fine, but was setup strange under OpenSUSE, it looked more like openbox. I tried Enlightenment, but found that it only had E16. The best solution for me was actually IceWM. This is extremely minimal, but still didn't free up enough ram.
Finally I decided if I could try using VNC and just using the laptop as a head. VNC was slow, even over the network. Same with X forwarding. This was until I read about using compression in SSH and using the blowfish cypher. This was the solution I was looking for. It's fast over the wired network. Emacs and Firefox run almost as fast as the do on my workstation (they technically are running on my workstation). The only thing I had to do on the iBook was install the same themes so everything looked right. Now I have an alias setup on the iBook.
alias remote="ssh -X -C -c blowfish mymachine.com"
This lets me type "remote firefox", along with key authentication, firefox pops right up and runs smooth.
The machine is useable, and should be for some time. Since the ram for firefox and emacs is the ram on my workstation, I can run gnome in it's full glory, and some apps like gwibber, that I couldn't get running on PPC, run fine through X forwarding. It's now like I was on my workstation, with a tiny screen.
I had never gotten sound working and decided to tackle it. Following the guide at http://en.opensuse.org/AudioTroubleshoot